The History of Led Zeppelin in My Pants


Wendy C. Ortiz

Led Zeppelin has a history in my pants. They’ve lived and migrated all up and down my bra and underwear. They took up residence up in my pants when I was a heaping 14-year-old, crossing over from Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, to make a passage backward in time with the drop of the needle on vinyl. I’d gone through a period of 50s music, the music of my parents, what they played on the eight track, and then I was also a part of the 1970s of disco and Dance Fever on television, but then I made a leap backward, into the 1960s, when my father asked me to get him the record with Mama Cass singing “Dream A Little Dream of Me” and suddenly my record store searches went labyrinthine because there was an era of music previously unknown to me that I started discovering. My hand found the dial found the radio station that carried Led Zeppelin to me, deposited them somewhere near my navel and then they went you-know-where. The more I listened the harder they traveled. They found the way, the trail, the path, snapping the elastic of my underwear to get in.
 

They were in my pants when I climbed on top of my boyfriend and ground down so I felt like I was in him instead of him in me, and they were trapped in the pool of my underwear that I tossed and they snickered when my mother opened the door and saw us and gasped and shut the door.
 

Years later they were in my pants in the most unlikely place—a karaoke and pool joint in Lacey, Washington, a place where I could take a mike in my hand and belt out every single cry and sigh of “Whole Lotta Love”, screaming and gasping, every breath in and out as I sang to a girl who was my best friend who was about to be married who was about to leave her fiancé and house and red truck for a trans man, someone I could not compete with and wasn’t sure I wanted to, so I pushed the angst and affection out in my voice as I gripped the mike, my boyfriend and some guys playing pool, one of whom said, Woman! Get a hold of yourself! and those words irritated the fuck out of me, and I let them incense me in such a way that I had to exorcise them by singing that song at any karaoke bar I went to after that night.
 

But when they first crept into my pants I was alone with them and I wanted to holler and since I couldn’t slide over them and envelope them the way I wanted I had to climb the rocks and steep cliffs of Stony Point, drunk, weed in my pockets, and with every step I took, bare feet negotiating sharp edges and errant brown beer bottle glass shards, they played from my pants to the long dark hair on my head until they eventually got into a fissure in my brain. After awhile, after miles and miles driven in my blue bus up and down the canyons that led to and from the ocean they got etched in my heart of all places which made them taking up residence in my pants much more bearable, and in fact, cozy.
 

I’ve tried to drive them out before, believe me.
 

Whenever I think of how my friend’s boyfriend dubbed me “classic rock queen”, how everyone joked about my love of this huge genre “classic rock”, I envisioned a crown on my head, jewels spelling out QUEEN OF CLASSIC ROCK—I felt sort of ashamed.
 

Not the same sense of shame I used to carry for having sex with men much older who were teachers or the sense of shame felt when peeing as I went down the elementary school slide. It was the feeling of being pigeon-holed as simple, common, unopen or unavailable to other music. They did not know about my jazz years but hardly anyone did. When Led Zeppelin has been in your pants for years, though, they will not just leave. They cannot be evicted. They are sticky and happy there and there’s no real reason to move them out, especially when radio oracles spill them out constantly, paying tribute to them daily with special hours reserved especially for their play. In those moments a track might be played that isn’t the most common track played on the radio oracle and I might feel that tickle, be reminded they are still in my pants going on 26 years now. When the lesser played tracks are broadcast it’s like I’ve changed into ruffly butt panties and we’re all lounging and lazing about in a room hot with sunlight but smoky with opium and smelling of nice clean sweat and sex.
 

Seeing the remaining living members reunite, or their sons play in their stead, or television appearances—none of it is necessary to me because they live in my pants. They stole the blues and repackaged it and smuggled it into my underwear where I carry them around like drugs. They fidget and scurry when I’m on the playground talking to another mother who likes psychedelic drugs, talks of wishing for some LSD in the desert. They lie in wait for the airwaves to carry their voices to me so they can bang and parade about in a way that will make me smile a secret smile. They will lift up and fly when I join the spirits, those ones in the misty mountains, and will likely reincarnate in yet another person’s pants, because that’s how they are. They are old travelers.  They take up lifelong residences, I’m afraid.

About The Writer

​​Wendy C. Ortiz is a writer and registered marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles. She has contributed to The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Coachella Review, The New York Times, and PANK, among others.  She is a co-founder of the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series (www.rhapsodomancy.org), which she curates and hosts to this day at the Good Luck Bar in Hollywood. Her first book, Hollywood Notebook, is forthcoming from Writ Large Press (2014). She's at www.wendyortiz.com.