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?
[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.
“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.
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.]
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.
“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.
[“Raphaela Smashes” was the first short story I wrote for my creative writing class. It was about a teenage girl who hates high school except for an art class where all she does is sculpt clay angels. A few angsty excerpts:
I used to be so much more tolerant of this place—no, that’s wrong. It was never the place, always the people. I can’t see how I’ll be able to conform to their blueprint of an average, non-interfering girl anymore. Molding myself into their empty smiles has taken its toll and my tolerance of them has gone dry, leaving me raw and bracing myself for their sharp neglect. I wonder if maybe I was better off sugar-coated.
* * * * *
I haven’t decided which version of me to be this year. I think I have outgrown all of my old masks, the nice, pretty ones. The silent, claustrophobic ones. Maybe I can dig a new one out of the gutter.
* * * * *
I’m alone up here. I don’t cry, it just makes the hole deeper (and it’s already becoming hard to crawl out of). I practice breathing, doing it normally has been giving me trouble lately. I’ve been feeling like something invisible is trying to strangle me, some thought or emotion lodged in my trachea.]
10/4/94“You didn’t hurt me Nothing can hurt me You didn’t hurt me Nothing can stop me now” – nine inch nails
We discussed Raphaela Smashes in class today and I was incredibly happy with how much people liked it. I don’t think cut adrift… is going to be as well received. I haven’t decided how I feel about it yet. I’ve read it over a lot, but I don’t know what I’d change about it.
Oh well, I should focus more on my next story. I really want to call it My Empire of Dirt and am almost ready to construct an entire story on that title. I want it to be about little girls. Around 9 years old.
I was really touched (and a little surprised) with how many people identified with my first story. It was really nice, felt good.“And in our world a heart of darkness A firezone Where poets speak their hearts then bleed for it.” – U2
So much for holding back my feelings. My fiction was rife with them, brimming with enough teen anguish for a dozen Angela Chases and Brian Krakows.
This short story was published in a literary journal at the end of the year, which was a point of pride for me, because I was approached to submit a piece by someone who had shared the writing class with me.
Funny that I couldn’t believe that my classmates were able to identify with the alienation I portrayed in this story (a theme that would appear over and over and over in my writing). It’s hard to imagine others feeling that sort of isolation, especially in a school full of bright, accomplished kids. And yet so many of had our own personal cocktails of misery brewing within us, blind to the fact that we were all going through variations of the same thing.
It terms of inspiration, I wore my influences on my sleeve. Raphaela was the main character in Faraway, So Close! the sequel to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. I suppose I was going through a bit of of an obsession with arty movies about angels (who hasn’t, right?… right?…). I knew I’d never top Wenders’ interpretation of celestial beings, but I tried to work in some kind of homage anyway.
Music continued to be the biggest inspiration, though. “Cut adrift” was short for “cut adrift but still floating” (a U2 lyric) but I decided to change “my empire of dirt” (a nine inch nails lyric) to “Happiness in Slavery” (a nine inch nails song title). Nowadays, whenever I see a book or movie title based on a song, my first temptation is to get irked at the lack of originality, but then I have to remind myself I used to do the same thing, and it was more about paying tribute than anything else.
One upside to having a journal where I didn’t gush about my feelings as much was having fewer entries devoted to boys. Mind you, the crushes were undoubtedly still there, but putting my passion into music and writing seemed like a better outlet than unrequited love, and more fun to reminisce about years later.
[Red Spiral Notebook with the following band logos drawn on the front:
U2, Bauhaus, PWEI, NIN, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death]
September 13, 1994
“Into the flood again…” – Alice in Chains
I’m back in school and just as I decided I would no longer continue my diary, we have to keep a log for creative writing. Great. Well at least this is my free space to do what I wish. Went to Anita’s on Sunday and watched “Faraway, So Close!” (the same name as my fanzine. Though the movie and song came first). What a great movie. I wanted to pause it every other minute to write down what they were saying. I still think I like the “prequel” “Wings of Desire” better. It was more…philosophical.
I’m eagerly awaiting my next trip to the village, don’t know when I’ll get the chance to go. I want to get some more written material on U2 for my ever-expanding collection. Got an idea spinning around my head for that short story due Friday. Think it’s pretty good. We’ll see.
“Wish there was something real in this world full of you.” – nine inch nails
Funny, because as much as I grumbled about it at the time, the red spiral notebook I kept as a journal during my junior year of high school ended up being one of the most comprehensive records I have of any period of my life. Yes, it’s full of frivolity and quotes and stream of consciousness entries written for the sake of completing the minimum number of entries required by the class, but it’s also a personal time capsule that chronicles a pretty pivotal time in my life, when I was discovering not only music and movies and other sources of inspiration, but also developing what would be one of my greatest passions in life: writing. The creative writing course I was lucky enough to be in that year is the single most amazing class I took in all of my high school (and even college) years. It not only gave me an outlet of expression for all my turbulent adolescent thoughts and feelings, but it made me want to be a storyteller, to put down words and refine them and share them.
What made the class so stellar was our teacher, Ms. Donaldson. She not only offered the perfect balance of freedom and guidance with respect to our writing, she was also incredibly insightful and damn cool. Ms. Donaldson resembled Jodie Foster, had multiple ear piercings, and rode a motorcycle. She shared hilarious stories from her younger days (“did I ever tell you about the flaming diaphragm?”) and created an atmosphere in her classroom that was nothing short of illuminating. And it wasn’t just me. I recently met up with a couple of classmates who had the same reverence for Ms. Donaldson that I did.
“We all had a girl crush on her,” one said. “That class was magic.”
Despite the different shades of teen angst I’d continue to experience at 16, it was an inspiring time. That summer, I saw Wings of Desire, a movie I loved so much I made my best friend Anita watch it with me the very next day. The Wim Wenders masterpiece instantly became my favorite film, and still is to this day. The story of angels watching over the people of Berlin circa the late 80′s, shot in black and white, sepia, and color, in several languages, was unlike any film I had seen before or since. If a movie can be a muse, then this would be mine for a long long time. In college, I saw it in revival houses several times, once with an orchestra providing a live soundtrack. It is the only movie I have ever purchased on DVD. I would tell people it’s the closest thing I have to religion.
That summer I also discovered Greenwich Village, which was already starting to get gentrified, but at the time still retained much of its bohemian charm and was filled with tiny record stores/memorabilia shops that Anita and I frequented. The East Village in particular still had an alternative grit to it, since starving artists/musicians could still afford to live there. The Village became a Mecca for me, where I could satisfy existing musical obsessions and cultivate new ones, where I could ogle the outrageous hairstyles, piercings, and outfits that would inform my future style, and where I could escape the blandness of my Brooklyn life.
Something else that helped me escape that blandness was in fact a new musical obsession. But that’s a whole other story, for another time…
Teusday, June 16, 1992
Today is the (or should I say was the) last day of school. I’m so glad it’s finally over. Although I will miss my friends it will be great to be totaly free of responsibilities. I’m going to start camp in about two weeks so I can just relax and do absolutely nothing until then.
I have been doing lots of things. I finally visited a library and I took out lots and lots of books. Right now I have fourteen books to read. I have also been working on a cross stitch project called “Hummingbird on Hibiscus.” The last sort of important thing I’m doing is writing a book. I already have the first two chapters completed. 18 pages. I hope I’m patient enough to finish writing it. That’s about it. Boring stuff. See ya!
Hey, they can’t all be introspective/angsty entries about boys and body image and school and how my parents don’t understand me.
Being an only child (and a shy one at that) taught me to make my own fun. Watching television felt like a waste of time after a while, so around age nine I started going to the library and exploring a variety of hobbies. I tried magic, but found learning tricks remarkably more repetitive and tedious than I expected. I had a stint doing origami until I had a menagerie of paper animals and stars gathering dust on the windowsill. Mom taught me to crochet, and I decided to make a blanket, an ambitious project which I tired of and abandoned. I tried my hand at a hook rug or two (man, were those things ugly or what? Did anyone actually ever display one of those things after finishing them?) among other things.
Only two past-times endured over the years: reading and writing.
I searched through my file cabinet in the hopes that I saved the 18 pages of this novel the way I saved pretty much every other piece of creative writing from my teens onward, but no dice. I do remember a waitress living on her own in Manhattan trying to make some big dream come true. I also remember what inspired the novel: being locked out of my home. Not because forgetting my keys brought on a flash of genius, but because I had to wait hours in the lobby until one of my parents got home. I didn’t have a book on me, only pen and paper. I wish I could claim that some innate drive to share a story full of brilliant ideas brought on my first attempt at writing a novel, but in this case it was sheer boredom. The creative passion came later.