Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday where huge amounts of drinking goes on. I’m home from Claudia’s house and still a tiny bit groggy, as I always am the morning after sleeping over. I told her all bets are off and no one has dibs on anyone.
A Liz Phair line comes to my mind, I think it’s from “Strange Loop.” I don’t remember the exact thing but it’s something to the extent of “I wanted you, I wanted more than I knew.”
Right now I’m listening to Anita’s Superchunk tape (who are opening up for Belly), it’s pretty good.
I got the song right but for clarity’s sake, the exact lyric is,
I always wanted you
I only wanted more than I knew
That St. Patrick’s Day was one I’ll never forget, despite the vague diary entry. Claudia called me after school, when I was already home in Brooklyn, and told me Neil, Adrian, and a couple of their friends would be coming over to her house to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. By celebrate, we all know that meant “drinking a bunch of booze.” She invited me to join her, but I didn’t think my parents would allow me to go since it was dark out and I knew they wouldn’t want me to take the subway after rush hour. But I was beyond desperate to go. I had to think of a good plan, and fast.
I told my father that Claudia’s parents invited me to go out to dinner with them for St. Patrick’s Day and would even pay for a taxi to the Upper West Side, where they lived (and of course I was also invited to stay over). It’s a good thing that Mom was still at work, because chances are she would have seen through the ruse. But it was easier to lie to Dad.
“I’ll let you go…” he said. I held my breath. “…But they shouldn’t pay for your taxi.”
Not only did he grant permission, he gave me money to take a car all the way uptown (over an hour’s drive from where we lived in Brooklyn).
I couldn’t get to her place quickly enough.
When I arrived, Claudia was already tipsy and Neil and Adrian were there with their two friends. I had met Adrian before; also a punk, he was a little older than Neil, wore his hair in purple and blue liberty spikes and was kind of ridiculously gorgeous. Claudia handed me some Midori (hey, it was green and boozy, St. Paddy’s-appropriate) and introduced me to the two I didn’t know: a pretty blue-haired girl (my immediate envy of her must have erased all memory of her name) and a cute punk guy named Mark. All I remember about him was that he was less overtly punk—at least aesthetically—than the others (his hair was shaved on the sides, but a simple brown color) and Russian like me, even speaking the language.
It wasn’t long after those chugs of Midori that a giant make-out-fest broke out. (That’s around the time I told Lauren, “all bets are off, nobody has dibs on anyone.”)
At first, we all rolled around the floor of Lauren’s room in like a pile of kittens. Finally, after all the months of pining for him, I got to lock lips with Neil. So how was it? Like many overly-anticipated things: disappointing. The only thing I could think of the entire time we smooched was how small his mouth was. It was a wonder this kid could eat anything bigger than a jellybean (no wonder he was so skinny!).
I had better lip-compatibility with Adrien, and loved making out with him, but Mark and I just really clicked in terms of chemistry (just goes to show, better-looking doesn’t mean better physical compatibility). As the night progressed, we ended up pairing off (Neil with blue-haired chick, Adrian with Claudia, Mark with me) and heading off to separate rooms.
Mike and I ended up downstairs on the living room couch, making out in the dark for what might have been hours and murmuring to each other in Russian. It. Was. Awesome.
The song I’ve been identifying with today is “past the mission” except maybe not as much the chorus. The second verse especially.
I keep spacing out when I should be doing productive shit.
Darby and I are going to start a poetry ‘zine and at my insistence the title will be “closer (further away).” I have a lot of stuff for “faraway, so close!” (oh the confusion, I love it!) but cannot even begin to think when I’ll put it together.
A few words on the Tori Amos song, “Past the Mission.” It was from her second album, Under the Pink, which I semi-loved, but not full-on loved as much as her first, Little Earthquakes. One of the highlights was this haunting almost-maybe-sorta-murder ballad that had whispery back-up vocals by none other than Trent Reznor. Two objects of my obsession for the price of one! Here’s that second verse that was stuck in my head on that spring day 18 years ago:
She said they all think they know him
Well she knew him better
Everyone wanted something from him
I did too but I shut my mouth
He just gave me a smile
My connection to these lyrics of course had everything to do with Neil. He, Claudia and I often went to lunch together and I lived for the tight hugs he gave me when we parted. I don’t remember the details of his life, but he was a troubled kid with a turbulent (negligent?) family life, who got into trouble at school and, true to the punk credo, took issues with authority. I was fascinated with this kid, so cynical, so indifferent with what the world thought of him, yet with sweet and goofy moments that showed traces of the relative innocence a 13 year old should have.
Let’s talk ‘zines, which I will refer to as zines because that apostrophe isn’t doing it for me. For those not familiar, long before blogs or e-publishing, people would create their own magazines and sell them, in local shops, by mail, and whatever other pre-Internet channels they could find. It was quite an undertaking, involving content creation, formatting layout, printing, distribution, marketing, you name it. My first foray into self-publishing was with “Faraway (So Close!),” a U2 fanzine I made that was even listed in their official fan publication, Propoganda. I spread the word through my penpals and actually sold somewhere between 10 and 20 copies of the first issue (I started putting together the second one but never completed it).
With the poetry zine, Darby and I planned on taking it around to local record stores to see if they’d carry it on a consignment basis. It was nothing fancy, some photocopied black and white pages stapled together, but we worked put our hearts into it and were proud of our DIY efforts. Because I am
a hoarder nostalgic, I still have a copy. Darby did the cover design and the contents featured several of our own poems, along with others (I don’t remember if we got permission to use them all, probably not). I was going to excerpt one of my poems, but I’ll spare you (this time… you’re welcome). Instead, here’s an excerpt from the intro I wrote:
Hello and welcome to the poetic (well, we try to be) world of “closer (further away).” Oh, I insisted that this is waht we call the ‘zine, because it doesn’t really mean anything and sounds nice—to me anyway (it’s also the name of an NIN B-side). I suppose this is where I should tell you about one of your co-’zine-putter-togetherers (that would be me).
[paragraph about my background]
I better finish this up. Enjoy the poetry. People worked hard on theirs, so don’t be too brutal. I love [double underline] getting mail so if you have anything interesting to say, have decent music taste (no Z100 listeners, please), or whatever, write.
And they wonder why print publishing is dying.
I got the strangest phone call today.
The phone rings.
“Hi, can I speak to Damiella?”
“Speaking, who’s this?”
“This is Neil’s girlfriend.”
Then the girl goes off on this thing how she’s seen me hanging out with him and to back off, etc.
I responded with “Who the f@#$ are you?”
The girl told me to stop wearing glitter on my face because I looked like such a freak. Tempting as it was to tell her “thank you” I didn’t and then she hung up.
I called Claudia and left a message about how this was not funny, but I figured it probably wasn’t her. Then I called Didi and got Neil’s number from her (she has the master list from when she worked at the library).
It turns out he does not have a girlfriend. I bet anything it was some 8th grade bitch and I even have my suspicions as to who it was specifically.
This was so strange…
Neil was surprised I hadn’t gotten more calls like that before…
While that call rattled me slightly, more than anything it was flattering. To be deserving of such attention was something I took as a compliment, as affirmation of my place outside the norm. For her to pose as Neil’s girlfriend was an additional, deliciously odd, twist. Let’s be honest, it was just the sort of harmless teen drama I was thrilled to have a taste of. I had been on both ends of prank phone calls before (those who are too young to know anything but caller ID missed out on some fine mischief) but this was taking it to the next level. It was personal, specific, vaguely ominous but ultimately harmless and entertaining to me. And let’s not forget that it gave me a perfectly reasonable excuse to hunt down Neil’s phone number and call him.
I don’t remember who it was I suspected of making the call, but I remember feeling empowered by it, like I reached a heightened state of freakishness. And for Neil to say he expected me to be used to such things signaled that he saw me as a fellow outcast. He didn’t even seem particularly surprised that I called, even though I never had before. Could it be that we were actually becoming friends?
Then of course, there was the confirmation of Neil’s single status. Not that that changed the fact that he was too young for me or probably not interested in me romantically. But still…
Yesterday was probably the best day I ever had at Hunter.
Claudia and I finally broke out of our awful locker hallway. We moved to the third floor art hall, where David and Neil are after being banned from the other hallway for threatening to shave some girl’s head.
There’s so much to say but I have no way of being vague about it. All set for next year. I never actually thought that… wow. On to other things.
Dandelion were great. I felt so bad because so few people were into it. There were more people for Po’ Boy Swing (who were eh).
I’m not 100% sure what I meant by “all set for next year” but I’m guessing this locker hallway had something to do with it.
To give some context, every grade was assigned its own locker hallway and then there were a few additional, more sparsely-populated hallways. One of these was dubbed the “freak” hallway. As the name would suggest, it was where many of the weirdos hung out, those generally (dis)regarded as being outsiders, either for their physical differences (being abnormally tall or otherwise unusual-looking), their interests (listening to heavy metal, playing Dungeons and Dragons) or anything else that might set apart an individual from the culture of homogeneity high school typically encourages. There were even rumors of a polyamorous relationship among several of the hallways members, which was regarded as particularly scandalous and distasteful.
In my earlier years at Hunter, I was put off by that hallway. There was all the PDA among the less-than-conventionally attractive students. There was also the greater fear that I was ever in their ranks, it would put me in an ever lower social caste, and for a while I held on to my Sweet-Valley-High-esque delusions that popularity at school was important and attainable.
Once I started wearing oddball outfits and dyed my hair purple (and developed an inappropriate crush on Neil, the too-young punk a few grades below me) fitting in was no longer desirable and I sought out other fellow weirdos at school.
David was another fellow oddball and put the rest of us to shame with his outlandishness. He was notorious at our school for having a starring role on a cable show (I won’t say which one, but it was something of a cult hit in the 1990′s) as well as a minor part in a an immensely popular family film and its sequel. His style was akin to homeless indie bike messenger and he was always pissing off the Hunter administration one way or another, like this latest incident. I even added one of his shenanigans to his IMDB page (I think I write about it in a later journal entry, so I won’t spoil it here). Being in the company of such misfits as David and Neil felt like being admitted into a club that I realized I wanted to belong to more even more than the popular crowd. These were my people.
I don’t remember exactly how Claudia and I ended up in the “freak” hallway but I do remember the excitement I felt and the relief at packing up my things and leaving the locker hallway designated for our junior class. This other hallway was sunnier, quieter, and all-around more inviting. There were not too many moments during my tenure at Hunter where I felt truly at ease and welcome, but this was one of those moments.
[Oh, and for anyone wondering, Dandelion was a band that I most likely didn't tell my parents I was out seeing one night when sleeping over a friend's house. The usual.]
Nothing to say that I can state plainly. Um…the Outcrowd CD is okay, love the T-shirt. I wonder when they’ll do CBGB’s again.
Friday should be cool, I’m seeing Dandelion at Coney Island High (a new place right near Venus Records). Hope they don’t cancel (bands like that have a tendency to do that). Don’t know if Anita will be going, hope so. The ever-generous Claudia is letting us stay over (again). I’m so glad I’m not going to the semi-formal, this is so much cooler.
When I was a teen, going to see obscure bands play small venues, part of me hoped that one day they’d become superstars and I’d be able to tell the story about how I saw them live back in the day.
This is not one of those stories.
The reason I had to be vague in the journal was because I lied to my parents about studying with Claudia when it was really about going to the legendary CBGB’s, a tiny graffiti-covered punk rock shrine with bathrooms that would give you nightmares.
I don’t remember why we chose that night to go. It might have been an all ages night or I might have won free tickets from a local radio station to see Outcrowd (they had one song played on college radio). It wasn’t really about hearing the band in question. Seeing a show, any show, at CBGB’s was something of a musical pilgrimage in itself—back in the day, bands like Ramones, Talking Heads, and Blondie played there. Later on, even Debbie Gibson made a surprise appearance during a Circle Jerks show (which my inner 10-year-old secretly hoped would mark a comeback for her; it did not).
The interior of CB’s was rather small and narrow (I don’t think more than a few hundred people were able to fit without violating capacity laws) and I heard enough horror stories about the bathrooms that I didn’t brave it, even for a peek at its squalor. I recall doing a lot of people-watching, though the crowd was more “normal” than I expected; still, there were a smattering of punks, maybe a rude boy or two (of the ska—not impolite—variety) that night, even though the band was more indie-grunge-pop.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the music or band.
What I do remember, to this day, was the band throwing a CD out into the crowd towards the end of their set. I caught it. A little while they threw a T-shirt in my direction. I caught that, too. And even though I wasn’t a particular fan of Outcrowd, I was so excited and thought I was so lucky.
After the show, Anita told me about these two pretty girls standing behind me, who were talking earlier about how the band members promised to throw merchandise their way. When I caught the CD, Anita heard them say, “Damn!” Then when I caught the T-shirt, one of them said, “Again? I can’t believe she did it again!” I laughed.
Unfortunately, CBGB’s closed in 2006 and the space that once housed this iconic club went on to be repurposed. I think there’s a restaurant there today, and I refuse to ever set foot in it, or anything else that may appear in its place. To me, the spot will always be a place where music history was made, a place where the creative New York City spirit thrived, and the place where I caught swag from a go-nowhere band that was meant for groupies.
(It wouldn’t be the last time I saw band play CB’s—in fact, a few years later, it would be the setting for a (melo)dramatic story involving a very pretty boy… but that is another diary for another time…)
I’ve been listening to WSOU a LOT lately. Got this ‘zine “POPsmear” that has celebrity phone numbers (including Lisa Loeb’s! Ooh! Maybe I’ll give her a call.)
I really like the word silverbitch. If I get a band, maybe that’s what I’ll name it. I’m working on a poem called “silverbitch smitten” all about Mercer. I hope it comes together, gels.
Oh, I saw Sandra Bernhard in the Village today. She was going one way (with some guy she was walking with) and we were going the other (Anita didn’t see her).
Oh god oh god oh god. This entry provided me with a special double dose of shame, once for believing I was so clever by coining a word as utterly ridiculous as “silverbitch” and a second time when I dug out and read the ensuing poem. But more on that later. First up, Lisa Loeb.
For those who are too young or need a refresher, Lisa Loeb was a bespectacled singer-songwriter and one-hit wonder whose song “Stay (I Missed You)” was featured on the Reality Bites soundtrack and, much like the movie, represented a special blend of irritating-but-not-wholly-unlikable ’90s angst. Except in Lobe’s case, there was a dose of perkiness mixed into the angst (let’s call it “pangst”). The video was directed by Ethan Hawke and couldn’t have had a budget of more than $20, because it just shows Loeb walking around an empty apartment. See for yourself:
If I ever had the guts to call Lisa and leave her a truthful voicemail, it would have gone something like this:
Hey Lisa, it’s Damiella. Listen, that song “Stay” was ok the first few times I heard it, but it’s getting pretty played out now. Since the damn thing is your handiwork, is there any way you can tone down the air and video play a bit? Seriously, I am starting to get a twitch every time I hear the words “you say.” Thanks, Lisa. You’re a peach. P.S. Nice glasses. Years from now, I’ll date a guy who’s still a big fan of yours and say to him ‘Lisa Loeb seems smart.’ And he’ll say, ‘you just think that because she’s wearing glasses.’ And he’ll be right. Anyway, that’s all I got. Peace.
And now for the part that we’ve all been dreading…
Let’s face it, no blog about about a girl’s diary is worth its salt if it doesn’t include at least one poem penned by the diary’s author. And while I’ve resisted sharing more than a little bit of the creative writing I did back then here and there, that changes now. The poem I wrote about my crush on Neil (AKA “Mercer”) came together alright, for
better or worse. Here it is in its cringe-inducing entirety:
thirteen years to confusion
and you take a turn into the
(thank you and hello).
here i float
on the cusp of madness
pushed along by a flow of
creativity and delusion…
i want you
to take me to that dysfunctional whirlpool
behind your flaming blue eyes
i love to watch you
lash out at the bastards, sinking your fangs
into their papery skin
rage on, baby
(it’s part of your charm).
now you are the only one here
who can save me from
my stagnant corner,
my dissolving thoughts,
my pretentious poetry.
slap me asleep.
Well, at least I had enough self-awareness to actually call my poetry pretentious… in one of my poems… does that make me meta-pretentious?
Did the Village thing with Anita Saturday. Got neon yellow mascara, some more new music (finally got Dandelion, great CD), old clothes and other random stuff (expensive habit, but the high lasts longer and has no side effects really).
Anita got a Radiohead EP that was released last year called “My Iron Lung.” We listened to it when we got back to my house and I loved it. (She’s smitten with Blur, by the way).
I decided we need a hangout, so next time we go [to the Village] we’ll hunt down a coffee shop or something like that.
Finally got NIN Demos & Remixes. Funny stuff. “ringfinger” used to be a song called “twist” which has this whole spoken word interlude (which includes Trent saying “is this thing on?”).
WDRE is playing “supernaut” which is long, screamy and wonderful. Glad I have it on CD.
How am I going to work out this Mercer thing?…
[First off, I realize that "expensive habit" line insinuates that that "random stuff" makes it sound like I bought drugs, which is absolutely, positively not the case. The miscellaneous items were probably things like stickers with band logos or the latest issue of SPIN magazine. Just want to clear the record on that point.]
When it comes to music, I’ll be the first to admit that I am usually late to the party. I often get into a band after they’ve broken up or (and this may be even worse) already toured for their best album (Nine Inch Nails and The Self-Destruct tour being a noteworthy exception). Shameful as this is to confess, I’ve even discovered “new” music from car commercials.
One band I take pride in loving from their very first album is Radiohead. “Creep” was good, but I adored all of Pablo Honey, which I owned on cassette (to this day, I can’t believe “Stop Whispering” and “Anyone Can Play Guitar” weren’t huge hits, the latter not even released as a single). I listened to Radiohead’s debut album and Belly’s Star non-stop during my sophomore year of high school and even think of the two as companion albums in a way. Both had their moments of darkness, sweetness, strangeness, and catchy pop. Both will forever musically represent 1993 for me.
Radiohead’s second album, The Bends, wasn’t coming out until March (spoiler alert: there’s an upcoming diary entry expounding on it), so we were happy to have this EP to tide us over until then. The second track on it, “The Trickster,” is one of my favorite Radiohead songs to this day (if you like the band but haven’t heard it, go download it NOW; I won’t even be offended if you don’t read the rest of this entry in your rush to own this terrific tune).
It was around this time, Anita’s musical tastes and my own began to diverge. She was gradually adopting more Brit-pop and, later on, indie music, whereas I was headed for a gloomier alternative sound that would eventually (and unsurprisingly) lead to the world of goth. In the meantime, Radiohead was the perfect bridge that fulfilled our joint musical needs, balancing mood with melody, quirkiness with accessibility.
I still listen to Radiohead today. Considering my history is studded with questionable music taste, it’s nice to have a band like this to balance out the scales.