Cranberries after midnight

It just doesn't seem that long ago that I was eulogizing Chester Bennington of Linkin Park with a story linked to the eventual production of Ki-Chan: Demon Hunter, and now I'm doing it all over again, but this time for Cranberries lead singer Dolores O'Riordan. But just as I did last year, I want to illustrate for you how music can shape your life.

It's 1998. I'm nowhere near 12.

I have my own television set in my bedroom. We moved around too many times when I was growing up, so this is only the 3rd time in my life I've ever had my own room, but the 2nd time ever I didn't have to share. And that's a good thing...

Because I have the worst insomnia.

After the concussion in 1995 that inspired Ki-Chan, I had a rough couple of years where insomnia plagued me. When I did sleep, my dreams were vivid, and often, Ki-Chan and her group were waiting for me, unless I was having one of my stress nightmares, or if I was sick. Sometimes I would just sit there and cry, hoping to tire myself out enough to pass out.

Yes. Eleven years old and I have stress nightmares. I've never talked about this publicly before, so let me paint a picture.

We had just moved in 1996 after spending two years in New Jersey, where I was concussed four times in one school year. We were living in Reading, Pennsylvania in a gated community called "Flying Hills" where my next door neighbor was a Neo Nazi skinhead. The neighbor across the street were members of something called WASP and a neighbor down the road would later be arrested for being with the Ku Klux Klan. The community hated the fact that only my dad was 100% White and the fact that we had two beater cars, detracting from the look of the neighborhood, so they would send police officers to threaten my mom with towing our cars for being parked in a restricted area. And each time, my mom would produce the lease, showing we had the legal right to be there. Puberty was starting, so this was my second year of having gross old men my grandpa's age coming to the patio window and shaking their nude wieners at me while I studied in the living room. Since your backyard was part of the Flying Hills golf course, they would also pee in front of me. Our neighbors called DCFS on my mom because I was being homeschooled and they thought that was "child abuse" so the state of Pennsylvania sent us a case worker and a written threat that if my grades didn't exceed - not meet, I said exceed - that of my public school peers, the state would put me in Foster Care, force me back into public school and separate me from my brother, likely forever since the mortality rate of foster kids in that area was amazingly high. My life was a living Hell, but hey! At least I'm not in New Jersey, and if you don't mind the constant smell of pee or the fugly wallpaper, our townhouse was actually pretty nice. And you know, for being a bunch of pedophile racists, those Nazis sure did keep the neighborhood clean and pretty. Who knew a Nazi could garden so well?

So yes. I had stress nightmares. If I wasn't dreaming of Ki-Chan dealing with demons, then I was dreaming of myself, being in a dark, cold Hell.

Easing my night terrors, my parents saved up for a tiny TV/VCR combo for my room, which was every tween's dream in the late 1990's. So we hooked up the N64 and a cable box, and I was all set. No more fights in the living room over the TV set when I wanted to watch wrestling and my dad wanted to watch his copy of the musical Cats, now I could enjoy RAW on my own TV set while he binged on Broadway on the large TV!

One other thing I could watch was VH1, which I would do after my usual night terrors if I wasn't sleeping through the night. At the time, VH1 and MTV both played music videos, but overnight, the two channels would play the *AHEM* forbidden music. The songs that didn't always make the future TRL show or the daytime playlists between episodes of Behind the Music. Unadvertised rock and Euro pop would make their way to the overnight playlist, mixed in with "Alternative" songs that were being yoinked for one or another controversy. Madonna would make her way here once in a while, especially after her Frozen LP (Now I'm thinking of a Gothic Elsa.) and the songs chosen were like the music world's dirty little secret.

I'm already used to this of course, because my mom and my godmother used to jam to underground music when I was little. *Pushes up glasses* I was into Rob Zombie when he was with White Zombie thankyouverymuch.

So it's 1998 like I said. I can't sleep, and I'm not mentally damaged enough to cry right now. So I pod the volume down to the number "one" and put on VH1.

And one of those dirty secret bands are playing.

The Cranberries.

Now at this point, VH1 all but disowned The Cranberries. The only song they played during the daytime was"Linger" but they would never tell you who played the song. Gone was the usual white with black outlined text, telling you the band name, song name, record label and year, and they would often play the song just slightly before the first chorus. No TV specials aired, no Behind the Music episodes played, they wouldn't even tell you if they had the song at all on the website!

But tonight is special. It's just now Tuesday, and everyone who has ever listened to the radio knows about "two for Tuesday" where every other act has two songs played back to back.

So after midnight, I get a treat. The videos for Zombie and Linger are playing back to back. The vocals of Dolores O'Riordan (And can we talk about what a kickass last name that is??) are ranging from alluring and melodic to powerful and charging.

So I'm podding the volume up from one to four. I know I'm not supposed to after hours, because I might wake everyone up and I'm supposed to be asleep. But I think it'll be fine.

Because my mom is buying the cassette tape.

Now today when you think of the song "Dreams" you probably are thinking two things.

1. Is that REALLY The Cranberries?
2. I want to buy a car.

But at one point, you couldn't even hear this song without bribing the DJ on your favorite radio station. Nobody in Reading would agree to play The Cranberries before 8pm, and VH1 and MTV would barely if ever address the band's existence.

Now I was puzzled. I had read the lyrics on Yahoo and Altavista and didn't come across anything objectionable. The lyrics were primarily clean, give or take a few metaphors about violence, but there was nothing in their lyrics that wouldn't fit with the networks at that time.

In contrast, the song "Tubthumping" was being played about 99 times a day on both networks, is all about drinking and contains the lyric "pissing the niiiight awaaaayyyy ~ pissing the niiight awaaaayyy" and nobody said a peep. The Backstreet Boys had lyrics I had to ask my mom about that were expressly about sex, and they deemed their music decent for 6-12 year olds. I can understand if maybe The Cranberries did a cover of Madonna's "Human Nature" or the equally popular "Smack my Bitch Up" from The Prodigy, but Dreams, Linger, hell, even Zombie which is a blatant song about war, still managed to have cleaner lyrics than anything Alanis Morissette wanted to sing about. So why were The Cranberries not being played nearly as much as everyone else?

I remember hearing an interview for some radio station, where a big wig claimed he just couldn't understand The Cranberries because he couldn't understand the Irish accent. ... BUT ALL THEIR SONGS ARE IN ENGLISH, WTF??

Another person on television suggested that they didn't have the "right sound" (read: mainstream) and someone else said that they didn't need such aggressive (read: strong, not a pop tart) women confusing their children, that Alanis Morissette and Madonna should be where the line is drawn. It wasn't long after this that Britney Spears popped up on my TV set.

The Cranberries would stay my dirty little secret, seeing as how very few people wanted to play something from them that wasn't Linger. After the Hep B and Flu Shots both sent me into a comatose state closing out 1998, I would listen to songs from The Cranberries, Garbage and an up and coming underground band called Disturbed while listening to my mother screaming on the telephone "I'm NOT a crazy anti-vaxxer, I just don't want any more of these chemicals to kill my kid!! The last time you people touched Koriander, the guy at the ER that brought her back asked me if I had made her funeral arrangements yet. SHE JUST TURNED 12!! Ya mind if she finishes puberty before ya finish her off??"

So heading into the summer of 1999, I stayed up late packing, listening to "Promises" while watching lead singer Dolores O'Riordan sing over the image of a witch zapping a cowboy. The desperation the video and the action melded well with my heart, as I sat there hurriedly packing up my action figures, about to embark on a move to Posen, Illinois. Our new home wouldn't have a bedroom for me, or be in the best part of Illinois, and our landlord in Reading was throwing us out because she wanted to turn my bedroom into an office, so I had a lot of anger and confusion, but I was also excited. I was going to jump on a proverbial broomstick like the witch in Promises and go back to my birth state.

... And into a slum home.

Our new home was falling apart, and before we even got done unpacking, we went through two floods, destroying half of everything I had. We didn't have the money to move and the rent bled us dry. My little brother got diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, and would spend the whole summer crippled. He wouldn't regain the ability to walk until late Fall, when his new doctor found the right medicine combination, but after that, he had to go through physical therapy to regain the ability to sit up and hold a pencil. Making things worse, my parents were at each other's throats and I had just found out that my father's father had chewed out my dad for ever having had me, because I was made with one of "those people" instead of a proper White woman. Full disclosure, my dad tried to hide this news from me, but it's hard to do that when your grandfather is screaming on the phone and your dad has to pull it away.

But this was also the beginning of the end for my relationship with my father, though not over this. His attitude was getting really abrasive, more so than usual, and our fights were escalating way past my hormones. Something was wrong, but I couldn't place my finger on it.

Until 2000.

When 13 year old me got a phone call.

It was my dad.

He was crying.

He was in jail.

I opened up my piggy bank, and went to the police station to bail him out. All of my allowance and babysitting money was going to break him loose.

As the police officer counted up my nickels, I glanced over at a big, burly prisoner. He reminded me a little of George The Animal Steele if he was younger and tattooed. There were a few more behind the bars who were also tall, muscular and menacing.

"Little girl... AY!! Little girl." He called to me. "Izzat yer dad?"

I looked behind him to see my father, all 5'6 and a half of him without his heels, crumpled in the corner, crying.

I nodded, not understanding what was going on. "Yes sir, that is."

Grit teeth, shaking heads and finally, sullen, drooping shoulders amassed in front of me.

"Little girl... I'm so sorry, little girl."

You know, there were other girls ages 6-14 there that day. And their daddies went to jail for doing bad things. Bank robbery. Murder. Assault. A real rough crowd.

So what did my dad go to jail for?

.... Stealing Barbie dolls..

.... for himself.

And yes. I just sighed typing that. Nice and slowly. Just as I did emptying my piggy bank for this.

After I was done screaming at him for embarrassing the shit out of me, the second time I had ever used that word without permission, and for putting the family at risk, I wanted to drown my anger in music.

But by now, I couldn't retreat to my dirty secret anymore. The TV was totaled, and I was now sleeping in a cramped living room with my mom and brother, so TV was whatever the little one would fall asleep to. The radio did play really good pop music, but I wanted rock. I needed alternative.

I needed The Cranberries.

And this new band called Disturbed.

But I would have one more dance with my secret TV viewing, one that would last me a few years.

It's now 2001. I am 14.

The flu had hit our house, because my dad picked it up doing community service for swiping Barbie dolls to go with his growing collection. At least by now, he was getting them from eBay, like any normal human being, bargain hunting for that elusive Bob Mackie in the fetching green dress.

Before you start, yes, my dad did take his flu shot. His immune system isn't as jacked as mine.

No, he wasn't just sick for "TCH UGH a few days" you illiterate pro vaxxers.

He was sick for six weeks, and then had to go to the ER.

And then we got sick.

Stop pretending the flu shot is a magical cure.

Stop the name calling.

Grow up.

So we had all danced with the flu, which for me did a fantastic job of heightening my insomnia. We were just out of medicine, so I had to tough mine out a few hours until K-Mart opened.

But hey... everyone else is asleep...

Hee hee hee hee...

So I filched the remote and put on VH1 for one, last ride.

Once again, unadvertised, I saw The Cranberries. Only this time, they had just dropped a brand new song. "This is the Day" was the title, though I wouldn't know that until two years ago, because nobody bothered to put the title card up.

The video if you haven't seen it, is electric. Dolores's vocals are pounding in competition with the acid guitar as space dragons swirl around the screen. Flashes of star bursting light illuminate outer space around a rectangular ship. Every Toonami tween and teen at this point is obsessed with space because of the recent imports of Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop, so this video is dazzling, exciting me to my core. No really, watch this video and you'll see what I mean.

Now it's once again Two for Tuesday, only some clown at VH1 is playing the same videos over and over, rather than do two videos for each act. I figured, and I was right, that this would be the last time I would see this video for a long time, so I let it play, drifting off at last...

And once again...

I had the craziest dream.

There are two different versions of this image, because just like the song, I had the dream twice, but from different angels. In this dream, there is a succubus named Mindy, who is trying to steal Ti-Chan from Ki-Chan. But Tige is trying desperately to fight Mindy's possession. This would be the first of many dreams I would have that eventually shaped Ki-Chan's second book, and it also took me a few years to decide on how to draw this moment. I couldn't decide which one I liked more, so I let my test audience vote. The second version appears in the book with the table of contents, while the first made it's way to DeviantArt for print sale when production was pretty early on the book. "This is the day" inspired this drawing twice over, and the song is always on my work playlist.

Reading the news this morning that we have lost Dolores O'Riordan unlocked all of these memories. She was a trailblazer during a time in which women in music were supposed to be either moody or preppy. She was neither, and she sung about the things women's music was supposed to ignore. Her voice was the anthem for my insomniac tween years, and it is a gross understatement when I say that we have lost the voice of dreams for young girls.


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