The song I’ve been identifying with today is “past the mission” except maybe not as much the chorus. The second verse especially.
I keep spacing out when I should be doing productive shit.
Darby and I are going to start a poetry ‘zine and at my insistence the title will be “closer (further away).” I have a lot of stuff for “faraway, so close!” (oh the confusion, I love it!) but cannot even begin to think when I’ll put it together.
A few words on the Tori Amos song, “Past the Mission.” It was from her second album, Under the Pink, which I semi-loved, but not full-on loved as much as her first, Little Earthquakes. One of the highlights was this haunting almost-maybe-sorta-murder ballad that had whispery back-up vocals by none other than Trent Reznor. Two objects of my obsession for the price of one! Here’s that second verse that was stuck in my head on that spring day 18 years ago:
She said they all think they know him
Well she knew him better
Everyone wanted something from him
I did too but I shut my mouth
He just gave me a smile
My connection to these lyrics of course had everything to do with Neil. He, Claudia and I often went to lunch together and I lived for the tight hugs he gave me when we parted. I don’t remember the details of his life, but he was a troubled kid with a turbulent (negligent?) family life, who got into trouble at school and, true to the punk credo, took issues with authority. I was fascinated with this kid, so cynical, so indifferent with what the world thought of him, yet with sweet and goofy moments that showed traces of the relative innocence a 13 year old should have.
Let’s talk ‘zines, which I will refer to as zines because that apostrophe isn’t doing it for me. For those not familiar, long before blogs or e-publishing, people would create their own magazines and sell them, in local shops, by mail, and whatever other pre-Internet channels they could find. It was quite an undertaking, involving content creation, formatting layout, printing, distribution, marketing, you name it. My first foray into self-publishing was with “Faraway (So Close!),” a U2 fanzine I made that was even listed in their official fan publication, Propoganda. I spread the word through my penpals and actually sold somewhere between 10 and 20 copies of the first issue (I started putting together the second one but never completed it).
With the poetry zine, Darby and I planned on taking it around to local record stores to see if they’d carry it on a consignment basis. It was nothing fancy, some photocopied black and white pages stapled together, but we worked put our hearts into it and were proud of our DIY efforts. Because I am
a hoarder nostalgic, I still have a copy. Darby did the cover design and the contents featured several of our own poems, along with others (I don’t remember if we got permission to use them all, probably not). I was going to excerpt one of my poems, but I’ll spare you (this time… you’re welcome). Instead, here’s an excerpt from the intro I wrote:
Hello and welcome to the poetic (well, we try to be) world of “closer (further away).” Oh, I insisted that this is waht we call the ‘zine, because it doesn’t really mean anything and sounds nice—to me anyway (it’s also the name of an NIN B-side). I suppose this is where I should tell you about one of your co-’zine-putter-togetherers (that would be me).
[paragraph about my background]
I better finish this up. Enjoy the poetry. People worked hard on theirs, so don’t be too brutal. I love [double underline] getting mail so if you have anything interesting to say, have decent music taste (no Z100 listeners, please), or whatever, write.
And they wonder why print publishing is dying.
Anita and I went to Tower Records in Paramus. The Q104 people were there and I got a hat, after identifying 3 DJ’s (including my favorite one, Trent Tyler). First they quizzed the crowd on what bands they play.
“Do we play Metallica?” they shouted.
When they asked, “Do we play U2?” I shouted “You should.” And some people replied “Yeah!”
So the guy asked “Should we play U2?” and at least half the people yelled “Yes!”
Then Sponge came out (the drummer wasn’t there though). Vinny (lead singer) played percussion for the first two songs (“Rotting Piñata” and “Molly” or “Drownin’.” I’m not sure about the order. “Plowed” was last, though). For the other two, he got a boy from the crowd to do drums (the first was good, the second a little off, but he wore a Pretty Hate Machine t-shirt).
I was afraid they wouldn’t sign stuff after they performed but they did, and we were near the front of the line. They signed our cardboard flats of the album and Vinnie signed my Converse (the toe of it). I asked them what bands they liked and the blond guy answered “Live.” They were so nice, Anita and I hope they tour soon (and I know their music’s good because I got Rotting Piñata today—I heard it before at Anita’s though).
I got Afghan Whigs’ Up In It today. Very screamy, I can get used to it. Can’t wait to get Congregation.
Over the years, I’ve seen a fair number of musicians do record store appearances. Since many were cataloged in my diaries, I’ll leave out the full list, but I did get to meet Cyndi Lauper at a Tower Records about ten years ago, which was a special moment for my not-so-inner ’80s fangirl, and a future journal entry (spoiler alert!) almost certainly describes having a famous ’90s singer/songwriter sign my yearbook. There’s something a little odd about the experience, even though it makes sense for a band or soloist to meet (and often perform for) their fans in the establishments where their music is purchased. But on the other hand, squeezing people in among racks of CDs is awkward at best, crowd control can get tricky, and sightlines can be a nightmare depending on where you end up. Nevertheless, there was something terribly exciting about meeting musical talent that you’d seen on MTV in the flesh, even if it was a band that wouldn’t go on to super-stardom and few would remember years later. Even if it was a band like Sponge.
[Edited to add: Anita saw this post and reminded me of another detail about this outing. "Remember that my mom drove us to the mall, where we thought the Tower was, but it wasn't there? We'd sat in traffic for an hour and she was in such a bad mood that she wouldn't get back in the car. So we had to walk a mile, along the shoulder of the highway, to get there?" I do remember walking along the highway now (which we had to do there and back). But I'm sure I just saw that as another part of the adventure.]
For those who don’t remember (and/or are under 30), Sponge was an alternative rock band who had moderate hits with “Plowed” and “Molly.” I still feel a twinge of guilt for asking lead singer Vinnie to autograph one of my stinky Converses. He signed his name “Vin-e” so it looked more like the word “vine,” adding curlicues to the first letter. I wore those sneakers for years after.
And gee, I wonder if my favorite Q104 DJ had anything to do with the fact that he was named Trent, much like the object of my obsession, Mr. Reznor. No matter how many other bands I listened to, Nine Inch Nails and U2 were still my top fixations and any reference to them (even something as small as seeing a boy in a Pretty Hate Machine t-shirt, which could outshine a flaw like poor rhythm) brightened my day.
There are many reasons to lament the closing of bricks and mortars record shops, and these in-store appearances are one of them. I know nowadays social media makes it even easier for bands to connect with their fans, and some large acts still do occasional gigs in smaller venues or secret shows, but there was something special and endearingly dorky about all of us being crammed into a record store like that. There were no fog machines, no fancy lights or costumes, and an adequate-at-best sound system. It was just the performers and us, and music everywhere.
[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.
[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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
10/17/94“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.
“I send a heart to all my dearies and when your life is oh so dreary DREAM” — Smashing Pumpkins
I think I saw the worst movie ever made last night. It was “Boxing Helena” and awful isn’t severe enough to convey how truly bad it was. I don’t even know why I’m writing about movies so much. I’m more into music anyway. I listened to the Nine Inch Nails bootleg Claudia taped for me. It was a great concert. I still want to know where the song “Keep Calling Me” is from. My short story is progressing. I hope I’ll be able to continue writing on demand.
I’m afraid this long may be boring because at the moment I am refusing to put down anything personal. I’m not going to pour out my emotions here, the closest I will come to that is with my choice of quotes.
My trip to Ireland is less than one year and 10 months away. I hope they don’t paint over the grafitti at Windmill Lane Studios by the time I get there.“Nothing much to say I guess Just the same as all the rest…” – U2
We were encouraged to be prolific in creative writing, and had to write half a page a day in our journals. I was still resistant to keeping a proper diary wherein I’d pour my heart out, so I filled the red notebook with song lyrics and pop culture minutiae.
I wasn’t going to say much about Boxing Helena, focusing more on my burgeoning nine inch nails obsession, but in a way the two compliment each other. Jennifer Lynch’s dreadful film is a good example of how the macabre can be turned into something trite and poorly executed, whereas Trent Reznor took the macabre and turned into something compelling and beautiful.
It’s funny how much controversy surrounded Boxing Helena and how forgotten the movie has now become. There was so much buzz about the movie leading up to its release. It was the first feature from David Lynch’s daughter, so of course everyone wondered if she’d follow in his genius weirdo footsteps. Then there was the plot of the film, in which a crazy-possessive (emphasis on the crazy) amputates the arms and legs of a woman he’s obsessed with. And then there was all the buzz about the female lead: Madonna dropped out of the title role, and then Kim Basinger dropped out and got sued for breach of contract (and initially lost, filing for bankruptcy). This made for some juicy Entertainment Weekly fodder, let me tell you. Finally Sherilyn Fenn got cast as the lead, which was unfortunate because she went from being a bombshell on Twin Peaks to flat out bombing in Boxing Helena. All the drama surrounding the movie was way better than what was actually shot on film, which was a mess of bad writing and boring storytelling. It’s it’s gotta take a lot of work to make a movie full of sex about amputation boring and yet… Considering Basinger went on to win an Oscar and Fenn went on to star in The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, it was probably worth the bankruptcy to opt out of such a disastrous career move.
And then we have creepy done right. Here’s the thing about me and Nine Inch Nails: I hated the music. I never went in for that scream-y type of singing, except maybe when Bono’s voice cracked once in a while. I used to turn off or cringe through “Head Like a Hole” and “Wish” when played on the alternative radio station (WDRE, oh how I miss you). Then “Closer,” the first single off The Downward Spiral, was released. And I didn’t like it. And I found the video disturbing. And I mysteriously found myself going out and getting the album anyway (on cassette no less).
I remember hearing the first sharp thuds of the opening track, “Mr. Self-Destruct,” and getting a feeling of being on a roller coaster, climbing up, up, up, and then being plunged into a noisy abyss. I never experienced music like that before, a sound that shook something inside me.
My fascination with Trent Reznor and his music quickly snowballed. I bought all the albums and every magazine he was featured in. Whenever the “Closer” video came on MTV (which was often), I stopped what I was doing, utterly mesmerized by the gruesome imagery, the impassioned lyrics, and the torment Trent exuded. There was so much anger, melancholia, and sex wrapped up in Nine Inch Nails. This was an intoxicating and revelatory combination for my 16-year-old self.
It wouldn’t be long before I figured out “Keep Calling Me” on that bootleg was actually “Dead Souls,” a Joy Division cover from the soundtrack for The Crow. By that point, I was mainlining every Nine Inch Nails album, b-side, interview, video, and random tidbit I could get my hands on. By the end of the year, my bedroom door was plastered with pictures of Trent Reznor. My father grew concerned that I was listening to music that “sounds like a factory” and wondered if I was becoming a Satanist. Hardly. But I was exploring a new channel for my inner turmoil and obsessive tendencies.
School’s great and me and Elaine are starting the cool group.
Also, Mitchell is cute.
Also, Mrs. Angelo (our music teacher) is doing this play thingie that I’m auditioning for. I’m dying to get a solo.
Also Friday I went to a Debbie Gibson concert and it was fabulous!
Well I guess that wraps it up. —Bye—
What more does an 11-year-old in 1989 need to be happy? Cool group in progress? Check. Cute boy in class? Check. Audition for a musical (or “play thingie”) in which I might get a solo? Check. Debbie Gibson concert? Double check!
I didn’t write about the concert at length (probably to save blank pages for mooning over crushes and ranting about friends who done me wrong), but I loved the show. My parents took me to see her in Madison Square Garden, and I couldn’t believe how many thousands (!) of people came to the show. Our seats were pretty far back, but as soon as the music started I forgot the distance between the three of us and the stage. Debbie’s silhouette appeared behind a white screen and the crowd went wild (seven years later, when seeing Nine Inch Nails live, I would be reminded of this concert when Trent Reznor did the same thing, only tore through the screen).
Considering that Debbie Gibson released only two albums at that point, I’m pretty sure she played all my favorite songs. When she finished the last song, my parents and I got up to leave and were surprised when the music started up again a few minutes later. Both my parents had been professional musicians, but it took Debbie Gibson to teach us how to do a proper encore.
The most surprising thing about that night was how much my brooding and difficult-to-please father enjoyed the concert. Despite being critical of much of the music I listened to (especially from the teen years onward), he found Gibson to be a talented singer and was impressed with her live performance. He spoke of that Debbie Gibson show well into his later life and every time he did, a look of surprised wonder always came over him.