Summer Essay: Closer to Fine

Summer Essay: Closer to Fine

Tanya Atkinson shares a Milwaukee story about seeing the Indigo Girls at Summerfest in 1992.

Illustration by Leilei Huang.
Illustration by Leilei Huang.
On summer break from college, I was living in my rural hometown and in the process of coming out. It was 1992. Playing “Closer to Fine” kept me going. While making hay I’d shout lyrics from the Indigo Girls classic: “After four years prostrate to the higher mind I would be free.” The cows were nonplussed by my vocal stylings.

A friend invited me for a Milwaukee weekend. The Indigo Girls were performing at Summerfest. I jumped in my Geo Metro and hit the road.

Then, I hit Summerfest traffic. And Third Ward parking was impossible. Stuck in my airless tin can, sweating and swearing were all I could muster.

I finally found a closed M & I Bank drive-thru and just left my car. I was two hours late meeting my friends, who’d given up. I was in a city I didn’t know, without a place to stay, with a car that was likely towed. Then I went where women go when we need a quiet place to breathe. The bathroom. There, I ran into a different group of friends. They embraced me and asked me to join them at the Indigo Girls concert.

In the bleachers, I was in my gay glory, lookin’ fly, decked out in my Doc Martens and white V-neck tee, singing along with the band. There were no cows. And the band was in front of me, live. I looked to my immediate left, and found the original group of friends I was supposed to meet! Reunited and it felt so good!

As the Indigo Girls finished with “Closer to Fine,” I felt so aware – of being surrounded by friends who accepted me, listening to world-class music and full of joy on a hot summer night. I was more than fine. I was home.

“Closer to Fine” is party of the essay collection, “True Stories,” which appears in the 2016 City Guide issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the May issue on newsstands beginning May 30, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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