9/17/94“If I could start again
A million miles away I would keep myself I would find a way” – NIN
I need to take a break from my schoolwork (how ironic. This log is for school). I don’t have much to write about. I’m sitting here, looking around my room, and there is nothing very noteworthy that I wish to express. I‘m still refusing to reveal anything personal. If I want someone to know something about me, I will tell them myself. Otherwise, I’ll keep my feelings inside and not on lined paper.
I’ve decided I want the main character of some short story (maybe the next one) named Nina. That’s sometimes the hardest part for me, thinking of names, because they have to be significant. The more I write, the less random my choice of names becomes. I like having that power, in a minor way it’s like playing God. You create people (though plenty of the time they already exist) and decide what happens to them.
I remember Alison Anders and this great thing she did for “Ma Vida Loca.” She was in an abusive relationship with John Taylor (the good-looking bassist from Duran Duran) some time back, and for her latest movie (which she wrote/directed) she made sure that the character named “El Duran” gets shot. What a great way to get rid of those nasty demons.“If I could stay with the demons you drowned Stay with the spirit I found…” – U2
First off, I don’t know where I read/heard about Allison Anders’ allegedly abusive relationship with John Taylor. I could swear I read in a magazine that Taylor was (allegedly, trigger-happy lawyers, ALLEGEDLY) physically violent toward Anders, but I can’t find any information to back that up today. Also, the Duran Duran bassist contributed to the Ma Vida Loca soundtrack, which would support the fact that they remained friends after breaking up. So let’s assume that this is the filmmaker dealing with a broken heart. What a brilliant and harmless way to get revenge on the man who hurt you. To this day I admire Anders for finding such a creative way to get back at her ex and channel any negative feelings into artistic expression. It’s a story that resonated with me when I first heard about it and still does to this day.
Which refers back to my grandiose statement in the journal entry of writer-as-god-like-figure. It’s meant with no offense to any religious folks, because it’s not meant to challenge any deities you may believe in. It’s not a statement about the world we live in, but the realm created in fiction. Any creative person serves as grand master to the work they create. Whether it’s words, images, sounds, or a combination of one or more of these elements, the world remains in darkness until you say, “let there be light.”
Of course, as an angst-ridden teen, I often liked to keep my characters in the dark (still do, to a lesser-extent). In my fiction, I tended to curate a collection of tortured souls and would-be saviors. And names were often imbued with some kind of symbolism, because that’s how I roll (pretentiously). Nina was no exception. See if you could guess where the name could possibly come from (I’ll give you a hint: Trent Reznor). Get it, Nine Inch Nails–>NIN–>Nina? I know, I know. I was hardly treading the sort of artistic ground Allison Anders was with her films. But I was still finding my footing as a writer, even as I grew heady on the freedom the blank page offered me. I didn’t want to spill my guts in a journal, so I saved it for my stories (and later on, my poetry). I felt like I could say just about anything in the guise of fiction. All that insecurity and frustration and anger and horrible pent-up feelings of being marginalized, outcast, all of it finally had somewhere to go, by way of numerous fictional voices that said the things I couldn’t.
Some stories would be better than others, some more thinly-veiled than others. But it was cheaper than therapy and did me a hell of a lot of good.
And even today, I employ Anders’ “El Duran” method. For me revenge isn’t a dish best served cold, it’s best served on paper.
April 21, 1990
I have LOTS to tell you!
[This is the beauty and also the danger of keeping a typed journal: it's easy to write quickly and to produce a greater volume of words...which is maybe not always the best thing for a twelve year old.]
Let’s start with Thursday. Well Chen-chi said that she didn’t want to do it because she didn’t want to hurt Mitch and Rose, so I told her that it was O.K. and not to tell ANYONE.
So we told Rose and I guess that she believed it and she said that she just wanted to date him for fun. (SLUT!!!)
[A. I should have had misgivings the second Chen-chi backed out. Half of a revenge scheme is no scheme at all. B. Yeah, I don't know why I considered Rose a slut when Mitch was the one asking every girl in Brooklyn with a pair of acid washed jeans out on dates. And heaven forbid a pre-teen girl want to go out with a boy for fun. Not like I was still bitter or anything.]
Anyway, we didn’t tell Mitch about Rose yet because we couldn’t really think of a way to tell him so that he would believe us.
Well anyway, in the afternoon a lot of us had to go to the gym for “Jump Rope for Heart*” and afterwards I found out that Chen-chi told sleaze EVERYTHING!!!
I was (and still am) FURIOUS! That Bitch has such a big mouth!!! I hate her!!!!!!!!!!!
[Hm, karma much? Somehow I had conveniently forgotten ratting Chen-chi out for that egg on Halloween. Not that she knew it, but I absolutely had it coming.]
Well on to Sam’s surprise party. He was SO RED when we all yelled “Surprise!”!
It was SO much FUN! His parents even ordered a five foot hero! And later we played “Spin the Bottle”! (Sean’s mother even offered it!) I couldn’t believe it but I even had to kiss Mitch 3 times! 2 times on the cheek and once on the LIPS! And Elaine even had to go with him (as in French, tongue to tongue!)! If Rose found out about it she would be SO mad!
Sam was really nice to everyone (as usual) but I think that he was being especially nice to me. I really hope that he likes me because I’m beginning to like him more than I ever did before!
Nothing says “fun party” like a sandwich you need two people to carry and impromptu smooching games. I don’t know what kind of liberal mother Sam had that she would actually suggest a game of Spin the Bottle to a bunch of kids. I’m no parenting expert, but isn’t that, you know, the exact opposite of what you hope happens at your child’s party? Don’t you want your little boy to stay one for that much longer instead of throwing him into a circle of prepubescent girls with a bottle? I remember Mrs. P even went into the other room when we started playing, to give us privacy. I can only imagine what she organized for his thirteenth birthday (strip poker?).
Also, the irony wasn’t lost on me that Mitch and I did more kissing after our break-up than during the entire time we went out. Maybe Mrs. P should have tagged along at one of our dates.
* For those who never participated in a Jump Rope For Heart fundraiser, it is just like a race or walkathon or whatever way folks physically exert themselves for a cause nowadays. This fundraiser involved spending an afternoon jumping rope in shifts after going around the neighborhood pestering everyone we knew to sponsor us. Our meager proceeds went to The Heart Foundation and the entire thing was a nice way to get a yellow t-shirt and make us feel like we were making a significant contribution to society. One jump rope at a time.
April 17, 1990
I had a terrific Passover at Anna’s house.
I also talked to Elaine on the phone recently and we thought of another plan to not only get revenge on sleaze-ball but also to break up sleaze and Rose!
What Elaine, Chen-chi (we need her help) and I will do is go up to sleaze and Rose (Elaine and I will go up to Rose and Chen-chi will go up to sleaze) and we will tell Rose that we saw sleaze kissing another girl, and we’ll tell sleaze that we saw Rose kissing another guy. We’ll tell them both not to tell each other or they will both deny it and we hope that one thing will lead to another and that they will break up.
I know that it’s a pretty cruel plan but they both had it coming and they both deserve it!
Passover is a holy holiday in Judaism to celebrate the Hewbrew’s enslavement from Egypt. Observing it involves spring cleaning, avoiding leavened bread, asking a bunch of holy questions/praying, and eating things like Matzo, gefilte fish and hardboiled eggs. Typically, it does not involve hatching devious revenge plans on the boy-who-done-you-wrong and so-called-friend-who-has-the-moral-code-of-a-mosquito.
I was not allowed to watch Dynasty when it was on the air, because of its late evening time slot and adult themes. So I don’t know where I picked up such Machiavellianism, because it wasn’t until just recently that I became acquainted with the legendary feud between Alexis and Krystle Carrington. I am equal parts embarrassed and impressed that I was capable of conjuring such a manipulative scheme at such a tender age.
The real question is whether such a complicated plot would work. Would Elaine and Chen-chi be convincing enough? Would Mitch and Rose take the bait? Would I finally find the vindication I so desperately wanted? All would be revealed soon enough…
April 5, 1990
The library thing worked out all right, but I have absolutely incredible news. I MADE IT INTO HUNTER!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM SO HAPPY AND EXITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Total number of words: 24
Total number of exclamation marks 29
This is possibly the only time my punctuation has outnumbered my actual text.
To be fair, I was the first student in the history of my elementary school to get into Hunter College High School. Even taking the entrance exam had been something of a production, so I got caught up in the big deal that my parents and teachers made of my acceptance. It took up so much of my attention that I put additional Mitch-related revenge plans on the back burner to take some time to bask in this achievement (though rest assured, more revenge would be attempted–and soon).
Life was about to hit a major crossroads for me and choosing what middle/high school to attend still remains one of the most significant choices I ever made. Going to Hunter would mean leaving all my friends behind, and leaving Brooklyn behind to attend school in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It would mean commuting two hours each way by private bus because my parents felt I was too young to take the subway. It would mean an academic course load unlike any I had up to that point and one even more rigorous than some of the classes I would end up taking in college. Saying yes to Hunter meant no longer being considered one of the brightest kids in my grade. It would mean being stuck with the same group of small people from 7th through 12th grade. It would mean a lot of other things I didn’t know to prepare myself for at the time, from loneliness to conformity to working myself to my wits’ end to hone my intelligence and sense of identity.
It would have been easy to say yes to Mark Twain and then Stuyvesant and have what would have undoubtedly been a more pleasant six years of my adolescent life.
Then again, I’ll never really know if it would have really been easier, because I said yes to Hunter, and in a few months my life would take a very dramatic turn.
April 4, 1990
I finally figured out a way to get back at sleaze-ball!
What I did was write him an anonymous letter about how I was in love with him and gave him some clue to who I am by giving Elaine’s description (Elaine said it was O.K.).
Today I’ll write him another letter saying to meet me/her in the library, and the whole gang will be there, then Elaine will say “can you come outside with me?” and we will follow her outside then yell “JERK!” and he will be SO embarrassed and humiliated!
Why get mad when you can get mad and even?
Oh, the plotting. Dealing with heartbreak is one thing, but add a dose of betrayal and mere wallowing just isn’t enough. This isn’t to say that I didn’t do my share of moping behind closed doors (there were still plenty of tears), but I needed another outlet for the bad feelings. Planning revenge while nursing a broken heart seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution. And what better revenge than a scheme that could teach sleaze–er, Mitch a lesson about his nefarious womanizing ways? Who wouldn’t wither under such cruel humiliation as being called a jerk, loudly, in public? That would show him!
The elements were in place and we just needed to see if Mitch would take the bait…
In the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, I was fond of the show Doogie Howser, M.D. in which a young Neil Patrick Harris played a prodigy whose impressive memory and passion for medicine helped him become a doctor at 14. On top of dealing with the stresses of being a practitioner, Doogie had to navigate the everyday pressures and dramas of puberty. Keeping a journal helped him make sense of it all, only he didn’t use paper, he used a computer (twenty years ago, this was pretty damn revolutionary). At the end of every episode, he would type away his insights. As the white words scrolled along the blue screen, many a night I felt like I learned something from his experiences too.
Around the time the show aired, my parents got me a computer. It cost about $3,000 (!) and I used it to write a handful of term papers and play hundreds of hours of Tetris. For a couple of months, I also used it to keep an electronic journal. I thought it would be fun to experiment with a new format and figured it would provide a safe place to keep my private thoughts private (how things change). Tucked into the back pages of the composition book journal are several printed out pages (dot matrix style) from my “Doogie diary.” This is the first entry:
April 2, 1990
Today in Music (class) we saw the tape of some of the talent show and during my act Mrs. Angelo said to me and Elaine
“Look at Mitchell (Also known as: two-timing sleaze-ball), he’s blushing!”
So we turn sideways and he was all red!
I wonder what that means…maybe he kind of misses me after all…
Well since we’re on the topic of sleaze-ball, and sleaze-ball is going out with Rose I’ll tell you what’s up with her.
First of all, I had a fight with her, so we’re not really on speaking terms. Also, some of Sam P’s friends are having a surprise birthday party for him and I’m invited to it. I kind of have a crush on Sam, and I know that he just likes me as a friend, but after the surprise party, who knows what could happen!
Also, Passover is coming soon and I am going to my cousin Anna’s house on April 10 and sleep over. I just can’t wait until Spring\Passover\Easter vacation!
For the talent show, I sang what was at the time my favorite song: “Foolish Beat” by Debbie Gibson. I don’t know whether my sentimental musical rendition had anything to do with Mitchell blushing, or what the fight with Rose was over, but there was tension between the three of us. None of us could communicate it in any real way, so instead the awkwardness grew.
Meanwhile, I plotted my revenge…