Storm Large is calling from the Four Seasons in New York, where she is having lunch. “I’m looking at Martha Stewart, Tom Brokaw, Vernon Jordan,” she says. “I’m in a den of 1 percenters. I feel like a turd in a punch bowl.”
How to explain Storm Large to those who have never seen or heard this Amazon queen? To simply call her a crotch-grabbing, bawdy temptress with great pipes would be insufficient. As she demonstrated in her one-woman show a few years back, Large can also be heartbreaking, hilarious and affecting.
Large had a busy 2011, and spent much of it away from Portland. She toured worldwide with Pink Martini, filling in for vocalist China Forbes. She is refining the script of her play to take to New York later this year. And now she is a published author.
Crazy Enough is a starkly honest memoir, a tale of sexual triggering, drug dabbling, and trying to fit in and rebel at the same time. Ultimately, it is about reconciling the tension that bubbles just below the surface of this seemingly confident woman—the result of having a mother who is, in a word, crazy.
We’re delighted to excerpt, for the first time anywhere, selected portions of Crazy Enough:
When I was five years old, I had my first orgasm. I had
played with myself for as long as I could remember, but the gold at the
end of that rainbow came courtesy of my first ever boyfriend, Mr. Pool
Jet. He was so much fun and such a consistent partner, never asking a
thing of me but always eager to give. With my arms folded under my chin
at the pool’s edge, my body was just the right length to get that warm
blast of water right on the money. Tucking my hips up into the stream I
remember distinctly hissing under my breath, “Oh my...oh
my...OHMYOHMYOHMY!” Then, kicking away from the wall I sucked in a good
lungful of air, dove, and hid at the bottom of the pool to collect
myself for a few seconds.
Did anyone see that?
I knew that what I had discovered was huge, but I also knew, instinctively, that it was not for public consumption. More urgently, pressing into my little brains was that once the prickling, throbbing exclamation point between my legs cooled and calmed, I would totally have to do that again.
Like a gateway drug, it started with Mr. Pool Jet, then went on to harder stuff: bathtub faucets and, later, showerhead massagers. Thank you, Waterpik!
I always knew something was wrong with me, and here was the proof. I was a five-year-old secret slut for any stream of water I could get alone. After a couple years of that, I got a real live boy to play with. I was seven and he was five, so, by the third grade, I was not only a water nymphomaniac, I was also a cougar.
We’ll call him “ChapStick” as in, “’Zat a ChapStick in your pocket, or...?” We both lived in the same little neighborhood, so he would come over to play. Around adults we would play the usual toddler games: shave Barbie’s head, give her a black eye with a magic marker, and feed her to the giant squid that came with my brother’s GI Joe undersea adventure series, or we would just space out and watch cartoons. When we could sneak away someplace alone, however, we would play a game called “I Am So Tired!” I would lie on my back in bed or on the floor, cover my head and arms with a blanket or a towel and pretend to fall asleep with my legs open. That was the cue for ChapStick to climb on top of me and ravage my sleeping torso with his fevered humping.
We would be fully clothed during the exchange but still I would tilt my hips toward the onslaught and bite the inside of whatever was covering my face as waves of intense and desperate tickling pleasure would build up in the friction. My face and my breath would get hot and I would pant a little bit, but quietly. Sometimes I felt like my throat was bulging outwards like a water balloon, from hitching and holding my breath, and my belly would suck all the way in pulling the tickles in deeper, up higher, then more then yes, and yes, and YES! Then a chickeny flutter and burn and drop, twitch and melt, the weight on my back spread over my bones like hot honey.
He would then get up and go somewhere else in the room and leave me floaty and pink under my covers. A minute or two later, I would get up, stretch and make a big deal about how tired I was and how nothing could’ve woken me, and how was your nap, ChapStick?
Usually we were both very satisfied with this game. Once in a while, though, he would be done before me and I would yell from under my covers, “Ummm, I’m still tired!” We had no idea what we were doing, yet we somehow knew not to talk about it. Even to each other. We ignored our little trysts as though they were funny slivers of some wacky kid dream that nobody would understand.
I loved my mom more than anything. She was a cross between Grace Kelly and Sandy Duncan, but with two good eyes. When I was little I knew she was the most beautiful woman in the whole world. To me she looked like a Disney princess, a magical lady that birds and baby deer would follow around, eating out of her hand. Not an elegant ladytown, more a pretty, pixielike girlie girl. I had no idea that a lot of people in our sleepy little town thought she was...odd.
As I got older, I started to notice eyes rolling her way. My mom was bright and chatty—a chime-in-loudly-on-any-conversation type person—but it turned out that was a social no-no for the prep-school set. Plus, she was a mere twenty-two when she and my dad took up residence at St. Mark’s School.
My dad always comments on his lucky break in landing a job at St. Mark’s. When he was done with his tour of duty in the Marine Corps in 1965, he went to his alma mater, Princeton University, to meet with the woman in charge of placing graduates into their ideal employment situations. She asked him where he wanted to live, what did he want to teach, and would he also like to coach football? Then, she handed him a piece of paper with a name, phone number and an address. In July of that same year, Dad, Mom and three-year-old John moved from my grandparents’ farm in Pennsylvania to St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts, where Dad would teach, coach and mentor, nonstop, for forty-five years.
Friends referred to them as “the golden couple.” My dad, an Ivy League, ex-Marine lieutenant, was manly handsome. He stood a healthy six foot one, one blue eye, one green eye, with jet-black Superman hair. My mom looked like a giggling tow-headed fairy that could pirouette across a field of buttercups and not bruise a single one.
I think some of the older, dumpier ladies around school took my mom’s youthful sparkle as the antics of someone who thought a bit too much of herself. Most of the faculty wives at St. Mark’s were bookish and preppy, embracing a more matronly aesthetic. Think lots of brown wool skirts with pale ankles dumping into squeaky duck boots. My mom stood out. Stood out like a slice of summer sun beaming into a punishing cold January. She twinkled in complete contrast to those dour prep-school hens, and they did not care for it at all. Within the stiff, Tudor walls of St. Mark’s, if you stood out, or thought you were special in any way, you were on your own...a lesson I learned for myself years later.
I remember witnessing affectionate moments between my parents, even though things would soon get to the point when it became hard to imagine them even in the same room together without getting a stomachache. But they loved each other long enough to get pregnant three more times after John.
Mom always had trouble with her girl parts, she’d say. Her pregnancies and her periods were rough going, but her miscarriage nearly did us both in. She was four months or so along when she lost the baby, and it knocked her out for awhile. Mom was twenty-six, John was five, Henry was two, and the doctors recommended a hysterectomy. They told my parents that Mom’s endometriosis wasn’t going to get any better, and since they already had two healthy boys.... But Mom wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted a baby girl. She promised to have the surgery as soon as she had a girl.
Mom loved telling me, and anyone in earshot, how I nearly killed her, but June 25, 1969, twenty-four hours of labor and one blood transfusion later, she got her little girl and all the terrible tales of woe that would come with me. Yay! You’re welcome, Ma! When I was around six months old, the doctors finally got to melon ball her reproductive system. And, supposedly, that was just the ticket, until she started trying to kill herself.
Before Mom had any official diagnosis that I knew of, it was just, “Mom’s tired.” It would go like this: We all came flying in from school in a blur of noise and book bags. My brothers were usually caked with mud from sports or brawling, while I would be covered in paint with some huge piece of construction paper with leaves or some other crap glued all over it. We would barrel into the house and stop short at the sight of Dad by himself or one of our rotation of babysitters. “Where’s Mom?” one of us would ask.
“She’s resting.” “Resting where?” “At the hospital.” And that would be the end of the conversation.