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.
Lots and lots and lots to write. How vague to be remains a dilemma.
I dyed my hair purple. The top is VERY bright and noticeable, the bottom is darker but looks violet in the sun. Combined with bluish-purple lipstick, blue mascara (& nail polish), turquoise eyeliner and glitter (silver) below my eyebrows. I looked like such a freak and loved it. The strange stares, the hushed conversations as I walked by, the halted comments (“that’s an…interesting look you have there”), it was wonderful. I felt this great power and release. I finally spelled it out (Anita gets confused every time I use that phrase).
A month of stalking the hallway and nothing but brief glimpses. Ooh, I need a code name. Claudia got a great one: Mercer. Perfect.
So we were walking through the hallway and as I’m walking I’m staring at him (I’m switching tenses now). This time he’s looking at me too (with a look of—as Claudia described it—interest). I said hi to Didi and looked back down at him (again looking at me). Claudia and I started walking and I knew he asked who I was because I heard Didi say my name.
Saw Mercer later in the day too. Damn those 3-4 years.
This marked a turning point for me in high school, so I remember it quite well. I even remember what I wore that day: a purple tie-died t-shirt, cut-off shorts, and two pairs of tights (torn-up black nylons over fuchsia ones). It was hardly scandalous, but the combined look was drastically different from the generic fashion of my classmates and marked a dramatic departure from my days of trying to blend in and look like them. It should be noted that I started wearing the glitter make-up before it became fashionable, when it was only sold in alternative and specialty stores that catered to club kids and drag queens. In fact, I bought my crazy make-up at House of Field (the shop she owned years before Patricia Field went on to do wardrobe for shows like Sex and The City and Ugly Betty) from a stunning effeminate blonde man who would go on to be the transsexual cult figure Amanda Lepore (pictured below). Kind of fitting, looking back on it.
I don’t know what there was to spell out. I felt apart, different, freakish even, and wanted my outward appearance to finally reflect that. It was the physical manifestation of my I-am-not-like-you-and-nobody-understands-me teen frustration. The feeling of release came from no longer caring about conforming to my high school’s standards of appearance and asserting my individuality. At 17, it felt pretty powerful. I was teased and bullied from 13-14 for the way I looked (not something I chronicled in my diary, because it was too awful to recount), but I no longer worried about being made fun of because I was owning my freakishness. I walked those halls with a confidence I hadn’t felt in years. And my self-empowerment must have shown, because I was never bullied at school again.
“Mercer” was the code name for Neil, who I referenced before, but not directly until now. Neil was not just a punk, but the only punk in our entire school. He wore dirty clothes riddled with tears and safety pins, had green and orange hair, and a baby face that was often masked with a look of disdain. Unfortunately, he was considerably younger than me (a few years in high school matter more when the age difference is more than a year or two), so I felt immensely guilty having a crush on him. But the crush was born out of intrigue more than anything else. There were so few kids at Hunter who so blatantly defied convention in their outward appearance that Neil provided the same relief from the homogeneity. And sure, I thought he was super-cute, but more than anything I just wanted to know him.
And now that I was coming into my own and not afraid to stand apart from the masses, I also caught his attention. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to know me, too.
[The following journal entries are sponsored by great big globs of disdain.]
“This is the first day of my last days” – NIN
Roller coaster is beginning its slow descent. At least I might be able to write something decent again. The writing activity helped a little. Actual interesting ideas would help more. Maybe one brilliant line that just sparks an entire story. The first day of Creative Writing we just wrote anything that came into my head and the first thing I put on the paper (which turned out to be a quote) ended up being the opening sentence for Raphaela.
Here I am in Physiology watching a ridiculous film on muscle. I can barely see this as I’m writing.
Had a dream with Wonderfully Random, don’t care. There was a round candle lit and I was looking through a couple of CD’s (that were Anita’s friends’ or something) one of which was an old Lemonheads, one of which was an old Killing Joke CD. On the way back to WR’s house we mentioned the amazing way in which the radio switched on.
The mood I’m in now would have been the perfect time to write a letter to Tim, but I already mailed it.
H.S. is so much like “The Breakfast Club” it makes me sick.
Keeping this log is not helping me at all. I hope Ms. Donaldson reads this.
THIS LOG IS NOT HELPING ME AT ALL!!!
[note from Ms. Donaldson in green pen: “This is pretty hard to miss. Perhaps you need to alter your expectations of what you should get out of writing a journal.”]
I stopped keeping a diary for a reason, I hardly ever wrote about nice things. For the most part, it was a depressing read. There are some things I’m glad I wrote about, like events that I want to remember.
Right now I’m listening to “Just Like Heaven,” I never realized that the Cure could in any way be uplifting. Just ordered Disintegration from Columbia House (nasty scam artists). This will have to be my last entry now, seeing that I’m sitting outside of Creative Writing.
“’I wanna be just like you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights.’” – The Breakfast Club
Writer’s block is the worst. You can try to discipline yourself as best as you can as a writer (never something I did effectively) but if the ideas aren’t there you just can’t force it. When inspiration struck, I could spend hours lost in putting words to paper/word processor (it would be a few years before I got another computer). When it wasn’t there, I endured a limbo fraught with frustration and insecurity that I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” writer. I still get that way today.
Social divisions in school were getting to me, which meant I probably had a crush on a popular boy. Again. The fact that I can’t remember who it was today could only mean he wasn’t that special or worth all the agonizing I did over him, but really, how many unrequited crushes really are? My depressed penpal Tim was another crush, even though I knew he was too gloomy for me.
As I mentioned before, the headline for my high school experience was John Hughes Lied to Me. While the films accurately portrayed high school to an extent — especially the cliques represented in The Breakfast Club — I was growing more dubious that an 80′s magical makeover and/or happy ending was in store for me. I had given up on popularity and tried to take ownership of my misfit-but-not-quite status and develop my own identity. Which would have been easier if I was able to channel continuously channel all that teen discontent into creative outlets, but I was being failed on that front. I had nothing new to articulate, and the journal we had to keep for Creative Writing wasn’t providing any comfort or catharsis.
Ms. Donaldson had a good point. My expectations for the journal were unrealistic, much like my expectations for lots of other things (love and life, to name two). I thought the log would be some magical source of insta-inspiration, but it often became a chore to fill those lined pages. Much like writing of any form can feel like a chore. It didn’t dawn on me just how much discipline — and even tedium — was involved in being a good writer. It’s something I still struggle with.
Luckily, I was still expanding my pool of musical muses, with the Cure, patron saints to angsty teens everywhere, entering into the rotation. Nine Inch Nails was my gateway drug into goth/alternative music, but the Cure was another catalyst. Robert Smith provided a musical prism of bipolar despair and a catalog a less agressive than Trent Reznor’s, but more nuanced in its emotion. It was still taking me some time to adopt the classics, but slow and steady I was getting there.
And a film on muscle? 17 years later and that still sounds ridiculous to me.
[I started including more and more writing exercises in my journal as my junior year creative writing class continued to develop my passion for crafting poetry and prose.
Some All of my work had an element of autobiography, including the writing exercise below. Our teacher gave us the first four lines and told us to use them as the jumping off point for our piece.]
It’s been a long time.
Yes, a long time.
Is this it?
I guess it is.
We stood in front of the Waverly inhaling the smell of exhaust from passing vehicles and incense from a table loaded with the stuff a few feet away from us. A rollerblader with turquoise hair speeded by. The store nearby that sold t-shirts, patches, lighters, buttons, handcuffs, and a vast array of bongs was still in business. And this was one of the more ordinary blocks of Greenwich Village.
“When was the last time we were here?” I asked Billie, again admiring the lizard she had tattooed on her temple.
“It’s been…I don’t know, a while.”
We were headed for Bleeker Bob’s, to pay our respects. It was the first record store we ever visited in the village, and even though we never buy anything there anymore, we always go in, spend a long time flipping through the 7”’s and 12”’s then go on our way. I also go in hopes of one day meeting Joey Ramone, who is rumored to frequent the place. Unfortunately, we keep missing each other.
A man who could pass for Henry Rollins’ younger brother, same hair and facial structure, though slightly less bulkier build was working the counter. He wore a long army jacket over a Marylin Manson T-shirt.
“Do you have anything by the Virgin Prunes?” Billie asked him.
“Try Gothic, V.”
“I did, nothing there. It isn’t easy finding stuff by them.” She signed then tilted her head to the side. “Is this Nick Cave?” Billie always had to know what was playing.
“Don’t know,” he rummaged around for the CD case and held it up for her “I guess it is.”
We left the Red record place and after a few similar places Billie found her Virgin Prunes CD.
Riveting stuff, I know.
A few notes:
1. Before i became the IFC Center, the Waverly Theater stood at Sixth Avenue and West Third. I don’t know if I ever actually saw a movie there when it was The Waverly, but I did love it as a meeting place. It was right outside the West 4th Street subway stop, which made it convenient, and there was just something highly appealing about saying, “Let’s meet outside The Waverly.” It was also the perfect spot to begin a record store outing.
2. Despite the fact that most music these days is downloaded and that major chains like Tower Records have gone out of business, both Generation Records and Bleecker Bob’s are still around today. I know there will be a day when both are gone, and I hope I’m not around to see it.
3. Pretty much the only fictional things about that writing exercise were the names, the tattoo, and how easily Billie (based on Claudia but with my music taste) found that Virgin Prunes CD—it took me years of searching through countless CDs in record stores in at least three different states before I found one of their albums.
[arrows all over the place because I couldn't remember exact order of set list]
“mr self destruct”
“march of the pigs”
“down in it”
“the downward spiral”
“head like a whole”
“something i can never have”
“physical” (w/Adam Ant)
“red skeleton” (w/Adam Ant)
“beat my guest” (?) (w/Adam Ant)
“Into the sea of waking dreams I follow without pride…” – Sarah McLachlan
Neck’s a little sore (more than a little). Still thinking about the last concert. It was so fun, I had a time. It was raining afterwards. Walking along the grassy hill, a memory was built. This one wasn’t emotional, just great. I was in a fantastic mood, Mr. Reznor seemed to be as well. That’s it, I have enough to sustain me until Lollapalooza.
Little things: we actually chanted; we did the “help me’s”; we were 10,000 little Fonzi’s; he switched “i wanna know everything” and “i wanna be everywhere”; he hugged A. Ant. Maise died.
I haven’t been able to write, maybe I can only do it when depressed or angry. Titles come to me more easily than the stories do.
“I know the depths I reach are limitless.” – NIN
First of all, I do see the irony of starting a diary entry about a Nine Inch Nails concert with a quote from Lilith-Fair-darling, TV-Felicity-favorite mellow-chick-crooner Sarah McLachlan. Really, I do. To explain, the song being quoted, “Possession” is about obsessed fandom, so it’s appropriate. Plus, I thought Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was a good album (though McLachlan lost me on subsequent albums, and to this day I cringe whenever a sentimental TV or movie scene in which characters are parting is punctuated by, “I Will Remember You.”). Not that I need to defend my music tastes or anything… (except that I do)…
If being a Nine Inch Nails nerd is humanly possible, that’s exactly what I was. Despite attending not one but two NIN concerts the previous month, I couldn’t resist buying a ticket when a third show was added. The problem was, I couldn’t find anyone to go to the show with me. Luckily, Claudia offered to let me stay over her place (having a friend who lived in an Upper West Side brownstone and whose parents were never home was the best). So I told my parents I’d be sleeping over there, conveniently leaving out the fact that it would be after I trekked out to Long Island alone at night to see a band whose fans routinely demolished concert seats in their fervor.
Years later, I told my mom the truth. Mom (who has some serious psychic tendencies) told me she knew what I was up to and spent the night worrying about me. I was a little worried about me too, heading into an unfamiliar part of New York solo, having to take a subway, commuter rail and shuttle, and then later finding my way to Claudia’s house close to midnight (late considering it was a school night and I was an underage kid out on the town solo).
Whatever memory was built on that grassy hill, I don’t remember it now. I remember feeling nervous about not getting lost or mugged.
Chanting was of the band’s name. “Help me” was a refrain from the alterna-hit “closer,” which the audience sang that night. “Little Fonzie” was a reference from Pulp Fiction, which meant being cool, which is not a term I would use in reference to my Trent Reznor fanaticism. Maise was his dog. Adam Ant was little more than an 80′s one hit wonder for me at the time (my deep foray into new wave was still years away), so his guest appearance at the concert was lost on me.
Being able to write more and better under angsty conditions was something I struggled with for many years. Still do. There’s a reason why some of the world’s best creative work has come out of mental/emotional turmoil. In my mind, writing good poetry/prose meant creating conflict and for me real life conflict usually bred inspiration for my own best work. But after years of captivity at the hands of my well-intentioned but overprotective parents, I was finally getting to explore and experience New York, I was in the midst of a thrilling personal musical enlightenment, and my life was finally expanding beyond classes and pining over boys. It was an inspiring time, but sometimes I was too busy enjoying it to find a way to channel it into fiction or verse. Sometimes it was enough for me to finally be out there in the world, having moments where I could believe I was a little Fonzie, even for a little while.
“Nothing changes on New Years Day” – U2
“Clerks” was hysterical, though we didn’t go to the Angelika. The Village was heavenly as always. The red record place once again had an amazing deal (Achtung Baby on vinyl. U2’s 5th member!). Second Coming provided halo one and halo six. Only missing halo ten now (haven’t seen it anywhere). Got an Afghan Whigs poster (I love these guys, esp. Greg Dulli). Claudia and Anita finally believe me that the sculpture moves. Karaoke was a blast, I could barely do the straight line thing. Handled Tori’s songs quite nicely. On the way home Anita and I saw this raver boy. She said he was better for Jenny’s (her sister’s) band but I don’t necessarily agree. Spent New Years at a “gathering” at Anita’s friend’s Marcy’s house (fun).
The Angelika = pretentious movie theater in SoHo. I had a fixation with the Angelika ever since I saw the listing for Faraway, So Close! (which I never saw on the big screen) and heard about what a cool artsy movie theater it was. And while they do show a selection of fine foreign and independent films, they also have small screens, uncomfortable chairs, subways rumbling underfoot, and audiences that are often humorless (I’ve seen a few movies there in which I was the only one laughing. Unless I’m the only person who found parts of The Good Girl funny…).
“U2’s 5th member” = Adam Clayton’s penis. There’s a naked photo of the bassist in the mosaic cover art. It was censored in the cassette and CD album art, but not in the vinyl, so it was something of a coup to an obsessive like myself.
“Red record place” = Generation Records, one of the few record stores in the Village that is still standing the last time I checked (a year or two ago). It would go on to be my favorite NYC record store and I cobbled together much of my (decently extensive) music collection from the (mostly used) CD’s I purchased there. The walls were covered in posters and records, the cashiers were tattooed/pierced/intimidating, and there was usually punk or some other obscure aggressive music playing.
The Afghan Whigs = an underrated band fronted by Greg Dulli, who had some brief fame in the alternative scene in the mid/late-90′s. Dulli sang about addiction and tormented love affairs while ironically wailing about being a gentleman and offering such lyrical gems as, ”Since you’re aware of the consequences/I can pimp what’s left of this wreck on you/Bit into a rotten one now didn’t you/Now I can watch you chew.”
When I listened to Greg Dulli’s voice, full of arrogance and grit and fury and desperation, it was like being serenaded by the boyfriend from hell. I could imagine an entire doomed love story playing out, replete with passion, addiction, betrayal… terribly unhealthy but terribly romantic. And I was ready to fall into dark, twisted love whenever I heard those first anguished notes. Dulli went on to front The Twilight Singers, who never had the same intense appeal for me.
“Straight line thing” = booze. My coy way of saying we got tipsy. I was still writing much of my journal in code, in case it somebody read it who shouldn’t again.
“The sculpture moves” = the Astor Place Cube, which can be rotated. For some reason, my friends never believed me when I said it does, until one late night I made them grab a side and push until they saw it does move.
Karaoke = a dorky passion I discovered at Claudia’s house. Her new stereo came with a microphone and song setting where lead vocals could be muted. After belting out a few Tori Amos songs, I was hooked and pretty much have been ever since.
Band = a term Anita and I used when we found a cute guy (meaning we wanted him in our band; that is how music-centric our lives were). The raver boy we saw was really young, which is why Anita referred to him as being more appropriate for her younger sister Jenny’s band. It wouldn’t be the last time I fixated on inappropriate choices for my band…
“No matter where you are I can always hear you when you drown” – SP [Smashing Pumpkins]
Went to the circus yesterday. Didn’t feel well most of the day. Finally on the way home I opened the car door and puked 3 consecutive times. Puked again later that night. What a lovely feeling that was. Had a dream two people lent me two different Cure tapes (or something like that).
I’m watching “The Crow” right now. Liking it a lot. The music in it (Cure, NIN) is very cool. Just going to try to keep some liquids down today.“You got a head full of traffic You’re a siren song” – U2
I remember that circus outing quite well, especially its aftermath. I think my parents were more excited to go than I was, because it was the Moscow Circus, which they had probably seen as kids in the motherland or something. I was still looking forward to it; after all, my favorite movie featured a trapeze artist, and I figured if Russians were so good at producing Olympic athletes, they probably put on a good circus.
Mom made me an omelet for breakfast that day, which tasted strange, sweet. I asked what was in it and it turned out she had mixed some orange juice into the eggs because we were out of milk. How she imagined that would be a suitable substitute is beyond me (in later years I think she also used flavored coffee creamer at least once; we’re a family of Russian kooks, what can I say). I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I didn’t make a fuss at ate the whole thing.
At the circus, I started to feel unwell, breaking out into that ominous sweat that leads to very bad things. The acrobats and clowns were impressive, but my churning stomach made it difficult to enjoy. It could have been a stomach flu that I caught some other way, but I blame those eggs. I still remember the ride home, too, and my father stopping around the corner from our apartment to get something from the corner deli. When I opened the rear door to be sick, I did not see the little boy watching me from a few feet away until I was done triple-puking. The poor kid looked vaguely traumatized.
As for The Crow, I remember news stories reporting Brandon Lee’s accidental death on the set of the film in 1993. He was only 28, engaged to be married, and died at the beginning of what many said would be a promising film career, following in his father Bruce’s footsteps. For whatever reason, I didn’t see the movie when it came out in theaters, because despite the cool leather clothes and dark make-up, it still looked like a shoot-’em-up action movie geared more toward guys.
When I did finally see The Crow on cable, I was taken in by the tragedy of the story (on and off the screen), the music, and of course the gloomy aesthetic. Yes, it was gritty and violent, but at its core it about a man avenging the death of the woman he loved and I found the whole thing to be brutally romantic.
I was still too passionate about wearing color and listening to a variety of of music to classify myself as a goth, but the foundation was being laid. Between my obsession with Nine Inch Nails, my growing appreciation for The Cure, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Clive Barker, and now movies like The Crow, I enjoyed exploring these darker themes, the drama and intensity of them.
But it’s not like I was about to dye my hair and all my clothes black or anything. That would come later.
“See faces frozen still against the wind” – U2
Ellis Island was not the huge bore I expected it to be. Mom and I had an… interesting train adventure on the way back. The blind leading the blind.
“Glitter Over Disintegration” is the title I decided upon. I made it an acronym on purpose (sort of). This one moved along fairly quickly. It’s relieving to know I can write outside of life experiences.
Anita and I have already scheduled our first trip to the Village, this Friday. I want these next 4 days to be over with more than anything. Anita heard that Larry Mullen Jnr was at the DRE acoustic Christmas concert. It’s a little frustrating, yes, but it just wasn’t meant to be, like with the backstage passes.
I’m in the process of dying my hair (reddish-blond, so the box says). “That tingly feeling means it’s working.”
“Destiny protect me from the world” – Radiohead (one of the bands at the DRE thing)
WDRE was a fantastic radio station based out of Long Island that used to be known as WLIR. It was known as the listening destination for alternative music, but balanced the more popular bands at the time like Green Day, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots with 80′s alternative that was rarely heard on other stations, like The Smiths, early Cure, and Madness. Back in the day, radio stations used to give out concert tickets, usually to the caller that corresponded to the station’s ID (i.e. Z100 awarded its 100th caller). I wore out my phone’s redial button trying to win all kinds of tickets, but unfortunately, I was never lucky when it came to shows I really wanted to see, like the DRE Christmas concert. Instead, I won tickets for artists/bands I had no interest in, like Barenaked Ladies and Paul Weller. In fact, I won Paul Weller tickets twice and didn’t go to the show either time. I listened to DRE in the last years of its heyday, because a couple of years later it switched format to adult contemporary, which made me pretty much give up on radio.
“Glitter Over Disintegration” was about a couple, Rob and Tera, trying to have a picnic on a boat, except for the threat of “shadows” which periodically appear to Rob and slowly drain his humanity. It was my none-too-subtle metaphor for depression. Here’s an excerpt from the last page:
I sank my teeth into my lip to hold back the rising bile and hysteria. Each time the shadows came they took a little bit more of Rob, leaving me with less to look after. I hated compensating for this gradual annihilation.
I reached my arm out but he wouldn’t let me touch him. The gnawing of my frustrated teeth cracked open my thin skin and blood poured over my lip and chin, leaving both wet and sticky. I sat back and lifted my tired eyes when—
It was as if ink was slowly staining the sky, pretty blue being eaten by darkness. The trees shriveled, becoming ash, and the water coagulated into murky gelatinous lumps. The boat spiraled into different directions, pieces of it chipping off and flying into the blackness. I started to scream then abruptly stopped when Rob took my hand. The sadness in his soft face became a resigned fear as he placed his other hand around our wrists.
We kissed as the pandemonium crashed down on us.
Reading that last line so many years later makes me chuckle at all the intense drama I was trying to invoke.
The story was inspired by Tim Wunderlich, a pen pal whose acquaintance I made via a friendship book. Tim was an alternative kid living in a small town full of people who were intolerant of him. Whether it was circumstance, biology or a bit of both, Tim had some pretty intense depressive episodes. His negative rants at the world worried me, but also added to his mystique. And also made me determined (let’s say it all together now) to be the one to save him. Of course, sometimes my optimism just couldn’t withstand his pessimism and his letters left me depressed, but the good kind of depressed where I was able to channel it into fiction, even if it does read more than a bit melodramatic today.
12/10/94“And I have no compass And I have no map And I have no reason No reason to get back” – U2
Last night was amazing. Stacey (Claudia’s friend) and I were even worse than I was the first time after “something i can never have.” A song was added to the set “I do not want this.” Almost psychic on that one.
When we were leaving we saw a section of about 8 seats which were completely crushed. It was so inspiring. I’m not going to focus on how it’s over, I was lucky enough to go twice. And if those Lollapalooza rumors are true… I don’t know we’ll see what happens.
My mind is turning to academics now, there’s so much to do it paralyzes me. It’s alright, I’ll deal. Not too many options on that one. I really need to start my next story. No quotes for this one. Possible title: Eyeliner and Pandemonium. I don’t know if I could possibly transcribe the experience on to paper. Not that I’ve actually tried or anything productive like that.
I want so much for winter break to come. Anita and I will go and pay our respects to Bleecker Bob’s. I just need some vinyl and good vibes to re…something me (resurrect? rejuvenate? reenergize?). I need some more halos.
“echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears” – NIN
After three consecutive nights of mind-blowing concerts (Killing Joke, AKA “The Concert That Changed My Life,” and two Nine Inch Nails concerts), it was inevitable that I’d have some short stories brewing. Back then, other than boys, nothing inspired me more than music and I wore my inspiration on my sleeve, whether male or musical (or both, as in the case of my Trent Reznor obsession). Most of my short stories had some sort of song lyric quoted, and I was drawn to dark themes. A friend from high school once jokingly (but accurately) described my fiction as a showcase for various fucked up characters. And it would only be a matter of time until I wrote about emotional turmoil set to some sort of gloomy, gory concert.
Thankfully, when I finally did write the story, I ditched the title “Eyeliner and Pandemonium” (an overly obvious tribute to the Killing Joke album and the single make-up product I abused in those days). Instead, I called it “How The Heathen Dance,” which was still a Killing Joke lyric, but seemed more literary to me back then, when I was unknowingly pushing all sorts of pretentiousness boundaries. The story was about a girl who goes to a Killing Joke concert at a club not unlike The Limelight and decides at that moment that she no longer believes in God. The great thing about it is that I got to relive a moment that happened to me, and provide the witty comeback I lacked at the time. Here it is:
As we squeezed past the endless wave of people I heard a guy call out:
“How come you have those lines on your face? Is it, like, some symbolic statement that you’re a prisoner inside yourself?”
“You know, I’m a prisoner inside my pants.” He flipped his brown hair from his face and nodded for emphasis.
“Really. Well I hope it’s a life sentence.” I poked Billie through her army jacket. “Keep moving,” I muttered.
I know, just a matter of time before the Pulitzer board comes knocking on my door, right?
As for all the blather about record stores and halos, I don’t know why I was so gung ho about getting records when I hardly ever listened to them, but they seemed to have a longevity that cassettes didn’t and they looked cool taped to my bedroom wall. And for the non-NIN fans, every single and album that Reznor released had a halo number on it, so Pretty Hate Machine was “halo one,” etc. There was a rumor that there was a “halo zero” but I never found it.
Bleecker Bob’s is one of the few record stores that’s still around today and the odd thing is, while Anita and I went there frequently, we hardly ever bought anything. It was more about “paying our respects” to what we thought of as a musical landmark and the hope that we would one day run into Joey Ramone browsing inside, since he was rumored to be a frequent patron. Sadly, we never saw him.
[Taped into notebook]
NIN (set lists)
march of the pigs
happiness in slavery
the downward spiral
the only time
down in it
head like a hole
i do not want this (12/9)
something I can never have
There are no words or phrases that could even begin to vaguely describe the feelings tonight. That’s why there are no quotes here. I’ll say one thing then I’ll talk about the concert. I have Trent Reznor’s guitar pick (one of them). It is now my prized possession but the story how I got it is really stupid so I won’t even bother. It’s red.
“pinion” began it but he opened with “mr. self-destruct” after it. I was so utterly impressed by the amount of non-typical-concert songs he did (“eraser,” “gave up” and “hurt.” “hurt”!!!). More importantly (sort of) they didn’t close with “head like a hole,” but “something I can never have.” All that I’m going to say is that seeing U2 (whenever they tour again) will really leave me emotional. That’s all goodnight.
Although Claudia and I didn’t get to sneak our way into the General Admission area and get trampled in the mosh pit, we did try. Since our tickets were torn from the previous night but still being honored due to the rescheduled show, they were punched with two holes at the entrance. Except for the General Admission tickets, which were punched with four holes. When Claudia and I noticed this, we tried to make two additional holes in our tickets in the hopes that a less-than-vigilant security guy would wave us through. No such luck. We wandered around a downstairs area of Madison Square Garden we had no business being in, and were finally shooed away, returning to our seats in defeat.
Not that it mattered. After Marilyn Manson opened up for them (barely known at the time and booed a lot during their set) I barely sat down during the entire show. I thrashed my way through every song, a most pit of one, except for the ballads, which made me cry (espeically “something i can never have”). I like to think the tears mixed artfully with the eyeliner, adding to the false trails I drew on my face, but I probably looked more like The Crow after getting caught in a monsoon.
As for the story of how I got that guitar pick, it’s not the story that’s stupid as much as the girl who paid a guy $30 for a tiny piece of plastic he claimed Trent Reznor threw out into the crowd. Mind you, I had no way of proving it was really Trent’s, and the pick didn’t even have an NIN logo on it, but I believed the guy. He initially tried to sell Claudia and me backstage passes for $30 each, but we only had money for one, and even though Claudia suggested I get one and go in alone, I was too intimidated. But the backstage passes were real (they were identical to patch-like stickers worn by other folks being waved through by security), so I figured the guitar pick must be as well. I took the guy at his word and paid what was a lot of money for me back then to own what I believed had been used to make music by one of my musical idols.
I think I still have that guitar pick; I know I must still have it. I quickly searched the file cabinet where I found the concert ticket pictured above, and while I didn’t see it in there, I know somewhere is a piece of paper with a red guitar pick taped to it, with block letters beneath it saying,
TRENT REZNOR’S GUITAR PICK.
It’s here, somewhere.
After all the waiting and obsessing, it was finally time for the Nine Inch Nails concert. I expected an intense, thrilling show that would blow me away and that night I got one… only not from Nine Inch Nails.
“Nothing quite like the feel of something new” – NIN
NIN COUNTDOWN: 1 DAY
Robin sprained his finger. It bloody figures. My face got comments. Claudia and I were one of the first ones to find out (“don’t say ‘cancelled’ POSTPONED” I heard through the walkie-talkie).
The Limelight was fantastic, my ears are still ringing with Killing Joke (more likely feedback). Maybe I’ll write a story about that. Hmm… I’ve gotten over my fear of mosh pits. If we don’t find a way to get floor seats tomorrow—no we will find a way. We have to.
“Uncertainty can be a guiding light” – U2
Claudia and I got to Madison Square Garden early and lined up outside the arena. The reason my “face got comments” was because I drew three black spikes under each eye with eyeliner (inspired in part by The Crow without copying it straight out). We stood near a security guard and when I heard the words “cancelled” and “postponed” I thought I was in for one of the biggest disappointments of my teenage life. All that anticipation, only to have Robin Finck, the guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, sprain his finger and unable to play that night. However, there were two saving graces. The first was the fact that the NIN show would only be delayed by one day, with all existing tickets being honored the next night.
The second was a group of guys handing out free passes to a different show that night at The Limelight: Killing Joke. I heard of the band but was only familiar with a song or two of theirs from their latest album, Pandemonium, which were played on MTV’s alternative shows late at night. Seeing as my parents gave me a free pass to stay out late and sleep over Claudia’s house that night, I didn’t want the evening to go to waste and hoped we could still get an adventure out of it.
The Limelight was a converted church that played a prominent part in New York’s club scene in the 1990’s (the movie Party Monster was based on the gruesome true events surrounding the club kids and this venue, which was central to their partying). I had never been in a nightclub of any kind before and could sense the dark and debauched vibe when I walked in. Much of the church décor still remained, the pews and filigreed arches mixing with disco lights, dry ice, and metal catwalks to create a dim, disorienting, multi-leveled maze of a club.
I don’t know if it was an all-ages show, but I was just shy of 17 then and too intimidated to do much exploring, so I kept to the stage area, hoping the live show would live up to the surreal surroundings.
The opening act involved an array of sideshow performers eating glass, laying on a bed of nails, and spewing fire. The finale was particularly disturbing and featured a young woman cutting her arm, filling a cup with her own blood and then drinking it. At one point, her knees buckled a little and it looked like she would faint. This may have been part of the act, but I believed it all and was utterly riveted. It was the type of act The Jim Rose Circus, who found pop culture fame as a notorious part of the early Lollapalooza festivals, took on the road, but seeing it up close like that shook me up, in a good way. I was equally fascinated and repulsed.
Finally Killing Joke took the stage, and their metal/industrial-edged music quickly inspired a mosh pit (my first up close experience with one). I remained at the edge of it, avoided the kicking, thrashing whirlpool of bodies and felt like I was absorbing the music with all my senses. The songs were surprisingly melodic despite the aggressive guitars and Jaz Coleman’s vocals, which altered between singing and shrieking.
I had never experienced music on such a visceral level before. Between the setting, the gory opening act, and the mosh pit, there was this sense of barely-controlled chaos to the evening. And as dramatic as it may sound, there was something almost transcendent about it. I knew music was a powerful force, but that I night I experienced a whole other level to it, and even though I can’t exactly say how, I know it changed me.
The red spiral notebook was a journal started out of a requirement for a creative writing class. I usually didn’t use it for the actual writing assignments, but the one below somehow got included.
The assignment was to pick someone in the room, and write a detailed description of them. Then some of the students read their descriptions out loud and the rest of us tried to guess the subject. We weren’t given any restrictions on what we could write apart from not using the person’s name. I looked around the room for potential subjects but then decided to write about myself. Go vain 16-year-old me! Now I kind of cringe at my teenage self-centeredness, but am also glad for the verbal time capsule. Then I actually read through it and cringe again.
[To this day, I intuitively misspell "exercise" because it seems wrong for the word not to have a "z" in it.]
She has long brown hair that ends 3 inches above her waist. She has been growing it for almost 3 ½ years. She has medium brown eyes (not too large or small) and rather thick eyelashes. Her lips are kind of small, she wishes they were fuller but she wears dark lipstick most of the time anyway. Her eyebrows are slightly arched and she plucks them.
[And let's not forget that the haircut I was growing out was inspired from Chynna Phillips from Wilson Phillips, and necessitated by the need to get rid of the last dregs of a bad perm. Though let's be honest, is there really such a thing as a good perm?]
She loves music and is always wearing a band shirt (usually U2 or Nine Inch Nails). Speaking of NIN, she’s unbelievable excited about the concert in 2 days. She’s going with her friend Claudia and then Friday with Claudia again and Salli too. This concert is something she has been looking forward to for over a month.
She’s really happy that her best friend Anita got Pretty Hate Machine a few days ago. They tried to listen to it in sync (over the phone) but it didn’t work. Amita is the one who got her started on U2 (which many people were ready to murder Anita for later on).
[I remember that Pretty Hate Machine listening party quite well. I had the cassette and I'm pretty sure Anita did, too. We were gradually incorporating CD's into our music libraries during our village outings, but it would be a while before compact discs outnumbered our tapes. Anyway, we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone trying to press Play at exactly the same time, but the whirring electronic beats of "head like a hole" always started just a little bit sooner for one of us. No matter how many times we rewound and tried it again, we couldn't get the music to sync up perfectly. I think we still listened to the whole album over the phone, most likely peppered with my enthused and worshipful commentary.]
Since that summer just two years ago she has accumulated quite a lot of U2 stuff. Sometimes, when she can’t sleep, she’ll go over her U2 collection in her head and has estimated it is worth $850 at face value (she underestimates these things though).
[Some people count sheep, I counted 7" and 9" records, bootlegs, books, magazines, and other scraps of fandom. I still have a box of memorabilia at my mom's place, though I don't think it's worth is going to surpass my 401K any time soon.]
U2 have greatly inspired this person, giving her the words she lives by “dream out loud.” She has learned to accept this part of herself, this “U2-ism” and has come to terms with it in a healthy way (this NIN thing on the other hand…). She now puts together a U2 ‘zine “Faraway, So Close!” that has been doing pretty well (she hopes to complete the second issue over winter break). She’s planning a big trip to Dublin after she graduates and doesn’t really expect to meet any members of the band (such as her favorite, drummer Larry Mullen Jnr) but if she does happen to run into them…so much the better.
[For the record, I made it through all of my various music obsessions without a single restraining order.]
One more U2 thing, she has met lots of people through penpal listings and such and so now she is in the “U2 network” and has been for over 6 months.
She wants to see if there’s some NIN network (there is On-line, but she’s not with all that).
[Remember when the Internet was this thing you could simply choose not to be part of? No doubt many of you do not.]
She thinks Trent Reznor (who writes, arranges, and performs all NIN songs, hiring people to help during tours) is one of the (if not the) most talented, fascinating people she’s ever known of. His music is so dark and scares so many people (good!) but she finds great strength and expression in it.
She also loves Tori Amos and if you’d ask her who she would like to trade places with right now, she’d say Tori.
[Probably because she was creative and quirky and likely got it on with Trent Reznor.]
Then there are so many other artists and bands she listens to, like The Trash Can Sinatras for the beautiful, tuneful songs. Then there’s Afghan Whigs, Moist, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam for their melodic anger. Also Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead for the “guitar-driven angst.” And Belly and Liz Phair because she, well she just likes their songs.
[And somehow I never got that music journalist career off the ground...]
While this is in no way a complete portrait of her it is a near-complete musical portrait.
[And a somewhat dull and pretentious one at that, so if you made it all the way through, you deserve a cookie.]
“She had escaped demons—things of rot and wickedness—and she would have offered up a prayer of thanks for her deliverance if the sky had not been so wide and bright, and so plainly devoid of deities to hear.” – Clive Barker (Cabal)
NIN COUNTDOWN: 12 DAYS
I finally saw some photographs by Joel Peter Witkin. I only looked through the book twice but found that my knees were shaking when I got up afterwards. It wasn’t scary exactly…extremely unusual. That’s always a good quality, I suppose (as long as no harm is done to anyone). Also got some poetry by Bukowski. Taped Figure Drawing. A certain PHM lyric nags at the back of one’s mind.
“Her mind’s downward spiral of morbidity made her fearful—for the first time in her life—of her own mental processes.” – Clive Barker
[Major goth forshadowing going on here.]
More of my teenage code. I thought “Figure Drawing” was some pretentious show or movie I recorded, but it was actually an episode of Beavis and Butthead. And PHM = Pretty Hate Machine, though heaven only knows what lyric I was alluding too. Suffice it to say it was angsty and wannabe-deep.
The interest in Joel-Peter Witkin was sparked by Trent Reznor mentioning him in an interview. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the Nine Inch Nails video for “Closer” is an homage to his work, which frequently features amputees, cadavers, circus freaks, and compositions out of an S&M nightmare. I still remember seeing Witkin’s photos for the first time. I was at the Mid-Manhattan library doing research for a school project and had some free time, so I headed over to the Photography section. I took the heavy tome to a desk and read a bit about Witkin’s background. When he was a little boy, he witnessed a car accident in which a little girl’s decapitated head rolled toward his feet, which could have triggered a fascination with the macabre. I remember looking through those photos, which I did find disturbing, but I thought I was too cool for school until I stood up to put the book away and found my legs had gone wobbly.
As for Charles Bukowski, that curiosity came from a song on U2’s album Zooropa, “Dirty Day,” was dedicated to the poet. I was a sponge for inspiration back then, and wanted to sift through the influences of my influences, to see if it sparked anything in me. I also lived a pretty sheltered life, so delving into Bukowski’s world of booze, prostitutes, and economic squalor made me uncomfortable, but in a good way.
I guess that was a running theme for my junior year of high school, stepping out of my comfort zone, exploring the things that scared or intimidated me, whether it was a song or photograph or poem, or anything that explored the darker side of human nature (Clive Barker being another good source for that). Maybe it’s because I was a bit too sheltered as a kid, or maybe it’s a phase a lot of teenagers go through. Except that I’m still going through it, to an extent. Joel-Peter Witkin became, and remains to this day, one of my favorite photographers. I still appreciate Bukowski, too, but find a little goes a long way, and always preferred the poetry to the short stories. On the whole, while I don’t go out of my way to seek out macabre things that will make me uncomfortable, I’m still fascinated with the oddities in life. They’re a reminder that no matter how much we try to make sense of the world, ultimately it’s still a pretty strange place.
11/23/94“Hold on to the thread
the currents will shift
Glide me towards you
know something’s left
And we’re all allowed to dream
of the next time we touch” – Pearl Jam
NIN COUNTDOWN: 14 DAYS
“I won’t decorate my love” – Liz Phair
I got an FS from the PJ network and felt unworthy. Thanksgiving’s tomorrow. On the U2 clips video there is the sweetest story. Phil Joanou met this woman backstage and after talking to her for just an hour he proposed! They flew to Vegas soon after and were married with an Elvis impersonator present. I think that’s about the most romantic thing I ever heard, KNOWING after just an hour.
(oh my god, I just reread the first quote and almost shivered. It’s very creepy, subconsciously appropriate)
First let’s get the deciphering of my silly acronyms out of the way. FS= Friendship Sheet (like Friendship Book, but all on a single page instead of a booklet.) and PJ= Pearl Jam. It was my needlessly vague way of saying I got a peek into to world of rabid Pearl Jam fans and realized it wasn’t where I wanted to be, considering I was busy being a rabid U2 and Nine Inch Nails Fan. ‘Nuff said.
Now it’s time for romance! Oh me, oh my. The fact that I would consider getting married to someone after knowing them for an hour as the pinnacle of romance should indicate just how dangerously clueless I was when it came to matters of the heart. Forget such pesky matters as taking time to get to know somebody and gauging compatibility before deciding to build a life together. Why bother with such practicalities when you can just become instantly smitten and elope to Vegas?
Years after hearing this story, I came across a movie on cable called Entropy. It was written and directed by Phil Joanou, and was heavily autobiographical. Stephen Dorff stars as a young filmmaker whose life goes topsy-turvy as he tries to negotiate the pressures of being an up-and-coming director with his questionable relationship behavior (namely, marrying a woman during a drunken haze less than 24 hours after meeting her). When I was a teenage romantic, it didn’t dawn on me that perhaps Joanou was not entirely sober when this insta-wedding happened, or that the ensuing marriage didn’t endure. Seeing the film dramatization of his life years later made me reassess this whole story, and in the process, my own tilted outlook on love.
As for the almost-shivering, who knows. It probably had to do with the crush I had on my penpal, who lived several hours away. I also don’t see how it was creepy or subconsciously appropriate, since I often chose quotes for the journal that reflected my mood. It was about as “creepy, subconsciously appropriate” as things were “ironic” in the Alanis Morissette song. Perhaps the better word in both cases would be “unfortunate.”
As for my romantic views, they’ve evolved but still retain an optimistic glow. I still believe in love at first sight, but understand more time and thought should go into making a deeper commitment. I know it can take months if not years to get to really know somebody, and even then there’s usually still more to discover. I believe all the starry-eyed magic behind the first fireworks of love needs a lot of work to be maintained; love doesn’t just take care of itself.
But despite my pragmatic education of the guts and gore of love, at my core I’m still a romantic.
And I still want to elope to Vegas someday and get married by an Elvis impersonator.
“I’m drunk and right now I’m so in love with you.” – NIN
NIN COUNTDOWN: 28 DAYS
Yes, the countdown has moved up 2 days because I’m going to the Wednesday show (after Claudia the Wonderful gets us tickets). It was an up day. Don’t care about randomness too much. T.W. Wrote back, just what I need. Wonders indeed (I use that word too much. Even though I don’t use it all that often). Chorus sub looks like a Depeche Mode reject. Bad thing? Naw.
“Love comes in colors I can’t deny” – S.P. [Smashing Pumpkins]
More of my teenage code in this entry, but I’m actually able to decipher most of it.
Collecting crushes became something of an inadvertent hobby for me when I was 16. It was rare for me to go more than a couple of months (or even weeks) without having at least one target for my boy craziness, but sometimes I accumulated a few. I remember a lot of them today, but still can’t recall who “Wonderfully Random” was. If it wasn’t Neil, the younger punk kid, it was some classmate I decided was cute and crush-worthy.
However, none of that mattered because I was smitten with Tim Wunderlich from his first letter (and because of his last name, I was fond of making bad puns using the word “wonders.” Sorry.). He was frustrated and jaded and had the furious male scrawl of a teenage malcontent. Tim lived in a small town full of ignorant people, where he was called a “faggot” because he wore his hair a little long and listened to bands like The Cure and Cocteau Twins. He felt imprisoned and misunderstood, which was something I could identify with (as could just about any other adolescent, I imagine). Even though I lived in one of the most dynamic cities in the world, Hunter was a small school which felt like a microcosm unto itself, a brick prison full of kids who were smart, but not wildly eclectic or unusual–at least not on the surface. And while I had momentary escapes from the school, it dominated my social existence for a long time, and I felt more pressure to fit in than stand out. Tim did as well, but fought back against that pressure and did not pretend to be something he wasn’t. That quality in both Tim and Neil were big reasons I had crushes on them (on top of finding them generally attractive, of course).
Then there was, of course, the “Depeche Mode reject,” which was in reference to a substitute teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Dave Gahan, the band’s lead singer. Even though I was not a fan of the group as a kid, I did gradually like them more and more as my music tastes evolved. And while Dave Gahan was no Trent Reznor, he did have a certain physical appeal at times. And having a temporary chorus teacher who had a similar slender, dark-haired, broody, pale British look to him made me… rather uncomfortable. It was the first–and possibly only– time, I felt attracted to a teacher (not counting my girl crush on Ms. Donaldson, which had no sexual component to it). I was embarrassed by this crush, because it felt taboo to have lustful feelings for a so-called authority figure. Much like the crush on Neil felt wrong because he was so much younger than me, this felt wrong because Mr. Pseudo-Gahan was considerably older than me… and because I kept picturing him starring in music videos wearing leather pants. I could barely even look at him in the classroom for fear of blushing. Luckily, he only subbed for a few chorus sessions.
10/24/94“We danced in graveyards with vampires til dawn
We laughed in the faces of kings never afraid to burn” – Tori Amos
Claudia had a very lucky morning, she met a girl with a bracelet. I got the best wake-up call of my life today. We have the option of getting trampled. The “Phantom of the Opera” T.V. movie sucks. Veruca Salt has the Shriek of the Week. If I see “All I Wanna Do” one more time I’m going to scream. Being cryptic is no fun. No I’m not going to be cryptic.
I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS!
I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS!
One more time: I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS! Ah, that felt good. Countdown: 41 days.“And I hate
And I hate
And I hate
And I hate
Elevator music” – Tori Amos
Before the days when the Internet made buying concert tickets easy, the two main ways to get them were over the phone or in person at the box office or affiliated record stores. To ensure crowd control and give the diehard fans a chance to get tickets before scalpers (not that this stopped them) plastic bracelets were given out before the sale date. Fans would sometimes camp outside a box office the night before just to get a bracelet that would ensure an early spot on the ticket line. The record stores like HMV and Tower Records were often a better bet, especially the ones uptown that were less crowded. This is how Claudia was able to get a bracelet to see one of the most popular bands that year in what was arguably their career heyday.
Nine Inch Nails were playing Madison Square Garden, a venue with a 19,500 capacity. Getting a bracelet meant we had the option of getting into the General Admission area, which would undoubtedly become a giant mosh pitt (hence the option of getting trampled). I’d seen the kind of mayhem Trent Reznor was able to stir up in his fans, so part of me considered the stands a safer option.
As for other 90’s music, anyone else remember Veruca Salt and their alterna-hit “Seether?” I wasn’t a fan, but WDRE, a Long Island radio station known for playing good left-of-center music disagreed and chose it for their Shriek (or song) of the Week, which meant heavy rotation. It was still better than hearing Sheryl Crow’s ode to fun, which was inescapable in 1994. I didn’t want to hear songs about fun, I preferred Trent Reznor singing about lust, destruction, despair, anger, and general angst and gloom.
“You don’t need my voice girl you’ve got your own.” – Tori Amos
I just needed to reemphasize what a great day it was. The feeling is like after I take an especially lovely trip to the village. It’s been one of the best days of the year, with everything just falling into place. Imagine how I’d react if something truly phenomenal happened. I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but Anita and I are best friends. I remember telling her once but it wasn’t until her candle-lighting ceremony that it was really…confirmed. We have an immense amount of private jokes between us, I guess that’s one indication. Also when I got home today (to a mailbox more packed than I remember) I knew I would just burst if I didn’t talk to her and tell her about my day. Something totally random but wonderful happened. I’ll call it a one-time fluke, but it was still pretty cool.“Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realized.” – U2
This is where once again I wish my father hadn’t read the diary so I wouldn’t have felt the need to be so cryptic. Granted, the random but wonderful thing that happened was almost definitely boy-related, and specifically related to Neil. He was this really young kid (13 to my 16) who I started seeing around school. He was hard to miss because he was a punk in a sea of preppies, with dirty torn up clothes, spiky hair a different color every few weeks, and a playful badass attitude. He was the only true punk in his grade and one of maybe a dozen alternative-looking people in our entire school. Claudia was heading in a more punk direction, while I was alterna-chick with hints of goth, but neither of us were fully formed whereas Neil was all punk all the time. I’m almost positive that I finally met and chatted with Neil that day. I (unsurprisingly) ended up developing a crush on him that, despite his maturity, made me feel guilty because of our age difference. 20 years later a three-and-a-half year age gap isn’t such a big deal but in high school even thinking about him made me feel like he was the Lolita to my Humbert Humbert.
Whatever the happy incident was, for me to compare it to a trip to The Village is major. Anita and I visited Greenwich Village as often as we could. It was all about shopping for music, which was one of the cornerstones of our friendship. We’d start with Record Runner on Jones Street, and maybe stop by Bleecker Bob’s (which is not on Bleecker Street as its name would have you believe), which was almost always had a disappointing (and overpriced selection). Next it was on to Second Coming, a tiny place on Sullivan Street where we found tons of used tapes and CDs. The guy who worked there had a shiny shaved head and a crush on Anita, and we nicknamed him Lysol because the bald head made us think of Mr. Clean and therefore cleaning products in general. My personal favorite record store was Generation Records on Thompson, where I consistently found lots of obscure, sought-after CDs and was intimidated by the tattooed, haggard, too-cool-for-you staff. We usually walked up 8th Street up to St. Mark’s place, where we stopped by Venus (another favorite) and once in a while, Sounds. There was usually a stopover at BBQ for a late lunch and early dinner and then, broke but content with our musical acquisitions, we’d take the subway back to Brooklyn, perusing liner notes on the train home.
It’s funny how friendships can take on the intensity of an affair. Anita and I spoke on the phone several times a day, spent most weekends together, and would even bring each other to school (one of us would cut classes to visit the other—crazy, right?). It’s rare to have that kind of connection on a platonic level, and rarer still for it to endure. But I guess I felt especially close to her since her recent Sweet 16 (what the candle-lighting ceremony is in reference to). I don’t remember what kind words she said about me at the party, but I know that was the moment I fully realized we had become best friends.
10/24/94“Some days it all adds up
And what you got is enough” – U2
I’m writing this on the train which means bumpy writing. Today was a great day, one of those times when the little things go right. I swear I wouldn’t be surprised if I was diagnosed as a manic-depressive. Mood swings indeed.
Hozumi gave me a tape I once considered getting, Dig. It was really nice of her, just came out of nowhere. She’s very cool. Well, some people actually understood my second story which made me happy. I don’t care that everyone didn’t, but the people that mattered (the teacher, for one) got it. Yeah…
“Too much is not enough” – U2
In retrospect, I do wonder whether my oscillating moods were caused by teenage hormones or whether there was something a little bipolar going on back then. The swings were usually provoked but not always,and small events could set the pendulum in motion to either extreme. If I had to guess, considering the moods did not negatively affect my grades or social life, I’d say it had less to do with manic-depression and more to do with being an angsty teenager.
Hozumi was someone I always liked at Hunter, because she defied categories (though I initially pegged her as a metalhead), got along with everyone, had her own style, and didn’t take any shit. In other words, she was different from just about everyone else at the school. I wanted to be friends with her, but we rarely had reason to interact, and I think I found her too intimidating to feel comfortable enough around her to really be myself. Or it’s possible that we just didn’t have the right friendship chemistry to form a true bond. It happens. Even so, throughout high school we had a few pleasant interactions that I look back on fondly and her giving me this tape was one of them. Dig was a grunge band with one minor MTV hit, “Believe.” They weren’t memorable, and neither was the album, but it’s the gesture that I appreciated.
As for the short story, it’s called “cut adrift but still floating,” and is about a high school girl, Nina, who stops talking, which elicits a variety of reactions from her teachers, family, and classmates. The story is written in alternating vignettes of her teachers, classmates, and family offering their opinion about her, with excerpts of letters that Nina writes to T.R., a famous musician who killed himself. Kurt Cobain had killed himself six months earlier, and while I was not personally affected by the tragedy, it did make me wonder would be like if a musician I really adored died. Considering the important role music played in my life back then, I think it would have been pretty devastating to me. At the time, I practically had a shrine devoted to Trent Reznor, so T.R. was the natural choice for the object of obsession in my story. To make my love of Nine Inch Nails even less subtle, I also named the protagonist Nina. Here’s an excerpt from the story:
It’s hard to function without you. You helped form me, create me. You terrified me, initially, but you forbade my fear. For a while there, I was under the impression that I was immortal. But then you disappeared, leaving me alone with my black thoughts. The bravery you instilled in me immediately decayed. You were supposed to complete me. Now there are pieces missing from me, pieces that were never formed. I was almost powerful. Now I’m nothing.
Just a wee bit overwrought, I know, I know. I’ll spare you the rest.
10/22/94“The city’s a fire, a passionate flame
That knows me by name.” – U2
Yesterday I found an e-mail message waiting for me from Julie Wilson, this girl in Nebraska. One of them was a form letter for her ‘zine Heaven or Hell. The other was a letter from her. We’ll probably trade ‘zine issues. I also have myself a new penpal from Australia, Edna. She lives in Tasmania and seems really nice. I returned an FB to her (actually, it was a sheet) and she mailed me a whole bunch of stuff.
I had this dream that I met this girl Mary Salardi (I don’t even write to her but I see her in lots of other FB’s) and told her that when she writes NIN she has to put the second “N” backwards. It was funny.
“I want to fly but my wings have been so denied” – Alice in Chains
I had to include this entry because it mentioned email. In 1994! When computers were still so intimidating and novel and I had my doubts whether I would become an avid user of one (Doogie Howser Diary entries notwithstanding). This was back before Google or Hotmail, when checking for “e-mail messages” was a multi-step process and addresses involved suffixes like “.ny.edu” that I had to write down in order to remember properly. Though it was around this time a new Internet service provider called America Online (later to become AOL) was starting to get adopted by non-luddites.
I still preferred my correspondence to be on paper, in stamped envelopes. Reading a person’s handwriting was so much more personal, and you could write letters anywhere, whereas I had to sit in computer lab to type out emails. Plus, back then something like friendship books (or FB’s) would have been difficult to do via email. In high school I had a friend who would make photocopies of all his letters before mailing them, and I always found it strange that he did so. Considering how uber-nostalgic I am, now I wish I had done the same, at least with some of my letters, if only to see what I left out of the diary.
A word on FB’s for those who didn’t have pen pals back in the day or those who spent more of their lives typing than writing by hand. Back before the worldwide web became ubiquitous, before it was easy to find people with common interests via websites, blogs, message boards, and social media, there were friendship books. Here’s how it worked: One person started the FB by stapling a few small pieces together into a booklet (sometimes a single sheet of paper was used, but usually they were booklets.). Their name and address would go on the cover and could be decorated with various photos/glitter/doodles (I was a fan of borders in funky nail polish colors because they were shiny and bright). There was usually a list of favorite bands, interests, and the types of pen pals being sought. Sort of like snail mail platonic personal ads. The friendship book would gets mailed to a pen pal, who decorated the next page with his/her (usually her) details and then sent it on to a different pen pal. And so on and so forth until person to fill the last page mailed the friendship book back to its owner. Ideally, the book came back with a few potentially interesting new people to write to. You could also start a friendship book for one of your own pen pals as a surprise for them.
I was initially excited to find new U2 fans through Propaganda, but that pen pal circuit was pretty incestuous, so FBs dedicated to the band had a lot of the same names in them after a while. However, there were always a few new folks in the mix, and the less obsessive fans with more varied music taste, had more eclectic FB’s. Once I branched out to more alternative music, the pen pals became even more diverse and interesting.
I wish I kept a few of these friendship books for posterity, because there’s really nothing like them today. They would have been a great time-capsule, of a period before communication became more electronic and disposable.
10/17/94“You make this all go away
I’m down to just one thing
And I’m starting to scare myself.” – NIN
I dyed my hair yesterday. It came out very dark brown with red highlights. A lot of people noticed and complimented me.
Didi and I were talking in the locker hall today and Claudia was nearby. Didi said something about Doogie Howser (that old T.V. show) and Claudia got all excited because she thought she heard someone say “Dookie,” the Green Day album. It reminded me of the olden days (9th grade) when Didi would dread saying or hearing the words “you too” around me (“U2? Where?”). Claudia’s lucky they don’t have more stuff out (as in albums and merchandise) or it could get more serious. She’s the third non-U2 obsessive fan I know (there’s also Alicia with Soul Asylum, and Darby with Smashing Pumpkins). It’s as if I’m drawn to these people. If I stay with this writing thing, maybe one day I’ll write a book about obsessive fandom. Or maybe start a support group, something like that.
“I hope someday you’ll have a beautiful life I know you’ll be a sun in somebody else’s sky…” – Pearl Jam
Or better yet, maybe I’ll start a blog in which we can all laugh about these obsessions.
Claudia was quickly becoming one of my closest friends at Hunter. Even though Green Day was her musical addiction and U2/Nine Inch Nails mine, we had other music in common, like Nine Inch Nails and Tori Amos. More importantly, we both had a disdain for the mainstream and the general oppressiveness of our high school. Music helped us both deal with that teenage frustration.
I’ve always been drawn to passionate people, but in high school and college, music was such an enormous part of my identity that I couldn’t help but gravitate toward others with similar obsessive tendencies. I didn’t mind hearing Darby go on about what a songwriting genius she thought Billy Corgan was or Claudia give impassioned soliloquies on Billie Joe Armstrong, because they let me have my turn ramble on about the brilliance of Trent Reznor. And while I always thought Alicia was a sweet girl, when I learned of her Soul Asylum fixation, I liked her so much more for it, and she was glad to have someone she could obsess with, even if our music antennas were set to different channels. In a way it kind of was like having one-on-one support groups.
Even though now I can see that this type of obsession is sometimes a substitute for something lacking in life, at the time I believed it gave a person depth of character and a crazy-in-a-good-way streak to their personality. It always irked me when I would ask people their favorite music and they replied, “Oh, I like everything.” I much preferred it when someone was utterly hooked on a particular artist or genre, even if it wasn’t something I was into (as was the case, when I was a little girl, with Depeche Mode).
Of course now I understand where temperance has its good points. It’s healthy to have diverse interests and that kind of one-track mindedness can become tedious. But back then, I didn’t have much else. I had school, I had my friends, and I had music. And being so obsessed with music gave me a language that helped me develop friendships in high school and beyond that may not have otherwise come to fruition. It was a bond unlike any other.
“Looking at my watch and I’m half past caring…” – The Trash Can Sinatras
Boy, I’ve really been neglecting this baby. Well maybe that’s because it’s not any type of release for me and I don’t write about anything that I do, think, or feel. I just write about music and my stories (which are actually the two most important things for me). I already kept a diary, and that was mostly a depressing heap. At least that had a lock on it. And anyway I don’t want to write about my emotions. It’s that simple. I saw a really cool/disturbed NIN lyric written on a desk yesterday: “It won’t give up it wants be dead Goddamn this noise inside my head.” If I see it again, maybe I’ll add one of my own.“In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows they learned to swim
Surrounding me going down on me
Spilling over the brim…” – U2
I remember what happened now.
We were supposed to write in our journals every day, and our teacher collected them every couple of weeks just to make sure we were writing the required amount of pages. Ms. Donaldson said we should write something and read something every day, and this was her way of trying to insure the former.
The entries were glanced through and we were told that if we didn’t want her to read something, to indicate an entry as such or fold over the page and she would respect our privacy.
In the early days of keeping the journal, I wrote a private entry, folded it over, and wrote in big block letters DO NOT READ down the page, underlining it several times. I don’t remember the specific content, but generally it was about boys and my despondency that none liked me, at least not the ones who I liked. Typical teen stuff, but it was me expressing my insecurity in a vulnerable honest way that didn’t happen often.
A day or two after writing the entry, my father was leaving for work at the same time as I was leaving for the bus, and started trying to reassure me, in the most awkward parental way imaginable about boys and how they would eventually like me and to be patient or some crap like that. He was as uncomfortable saying these platitudes as I was listening to them, and it wasn’t until I was on the bus that I realized:
HE READ THE JOURNAL.
Granted, the warning on the folded over page was more an invitation than anything, but still. Dad came into my room from time to time to play Nintendo, a point of contention for us because I felt it was an invasion of privacy. My father and I also fought over the Nintendo when we both wanted to play different games (yes, it felt like growing up more with an older brother than a father at times). But Nintendo was nothing as far as invading privacy was concerned compared to reading my journal. I must have left the notebook where he could see it while he was in there (or maybe he did some snooping), and he obviously could not resist the forbidden page. And also couldn’t resist blabbing about it in an indirect but obvious way.
Not only did this add to my self-consciousness and insecurity, it sabotaged this journal. I remember carrying around the notebook everywhere with me, but feeling increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t say what I really wanted to say within the pages. In fact, I some of the later entries are include code words and phrases, and I just hope I can decipher them well enough when the time comes.