I had the best time last night. I had more fun at The Bank than at any concert I ever attended. But before I talk about that, I must recount what happened when Anita and I were in B. Dalton earlier on.
[The Bank was one of NYC's main goth clubs. There will be many many many mentions of The Bank in future diary entries, so remember it has nothing to do with financial institutions.
A word on B. Dalton. Located on the busy corner of 6th Avenue and 8th Street, even though it was a chain, the bookstore had it's useful role in the Village landscape, at least to me and Anita. They had a decent magazine section upstairs and we could just hang out upstairs and read without getting hassled by anybody. That night, we were both in full goth garb, heavy eyeliner, all of it, and had some time to kill before meeting a friend for dinner, so we stopped by there.]
The two of us were just sitting there on the floor reading magazines when this guy comes up to us and introduces himself (his name was Brad). Brad was pretty attractive and at first I thought he was trying to pick me up (he was talking to both of us but standing nearer to me. Plus I was flirting—sorta). Then he says he’s from Alaska and to prove that people over there also dress up like that [gothy] he takes a Polaroid out and hands it to me. The photo was him in full goth make-up and clothing (the make-up was gorgeous. Tons of black eyeliner coming in streaks of lightning from his eyes). He looked amazing. Then he asked if he gave us his address would we write to him. I enthusiastically said “of course!” and he handed me a slip of paper with his name (in parenthases he had written “guy from bookstore” and Anita and I did wonder how long he observed us before he came over).
Actually, he’s from New York but goes to school in Homer, AK (!). He wants to be a screenwriter. I asked what he listens to and he took a tape out of his Walkman that said “this is just goth enough” and showed me the case (it was a mix). Then he said I could listen to it and mail it back to him. Then before he went he said if I really liked it, I could just keep it and make Anita a copy. I told him it was really hard for me to give the picture back and he said he’d make me a color photocopy of it.
This was just such an incredible thing to have happened, especially in New York. Brad said that living in Alaska for a year changed him, that a year ago he wouldn’t have been able to approach us like that. Well, my evening was made, and before we even got to The Bank.
[Talk about meeting cute. For a girl who grew up on a steady diet of fantastical tales of modern romance, having something like this happen was a dangerous affirmation on two fronts. First, it made me believe that if something like this could happen, that all of those movies I watched, all the love stories I absorbed and fell in love with myself, were real. Second, it made me believe that the rest of my life could be like a movie: well-scripted, perfectly-timed and plotted, and (most importantly, but of course) romantic. It's dangerous for something like this to happen to someone so young and prone to flights of fancy, but also tremendously wonderful. I'd pay the price with many doses of reality later on.]
But before that, a few words on my birthday. It’s the best one I can remember. I love being 18. On Friday my parents took me to Atlantic City where I was able to sneak into a casino (the Showboat) and gamble for hours at this computer that had 10 different games. I lost but it was still fun. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at Nino’s, where I got a bit drunk on Margaritas and Frangelico. It was a great day. Yesterday was cooler, though!
[I realize my family is unlike other families in that gambling was one of the few things my parents and I had in common and a deep passion (the few other things the three of us loved being ABBA, unagi sushi, and the movie Ishtar—yes really). Never mind that the legal gambling and drinking age was 21, my parents thought 18 was a more appropriate age to start really partaking in vices, and I thank them for it. In the years that followed, no matter how badly we fought, Mom, Dad and I could always guarantee a peaceful, fun day if it was spent in a casino.]
OK, The Bank. We got there early. First, Dava and I went to a deli for a while. We came back and were told it would be another half hour before it opened. But they did let us come inside to wait instead of making us stay out in the cold. And a guy who worked there asked if we had passes and we said no, but he told us he’d give us pass price anyway (let us pay $7 instead of $12).
I’m not in the mood to finish this write [sic] now, but I will eventually.
Aren’t you so glad I took the time to write about the very beginning (and boring) part of the story of going to my first goth club in those last few sentences? And then stopped? I debated leaving that part out, but I couldn’t deprive you, dear reader, of not knowing what happened in that suspenseful half hour when we reached the club early (which is nothing!). But “fun” fact: the deli we waited in was Katz’s, a New York institution and the setting for the “I’ll have what she’s having” orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally…
Anyway, that night. That entire weekend. Possibly the best in my life up to that point. Meeting Brad set the tone for what would be a year filled with tremendous surprises. I don’t want to spoil any of them here, but I will say I still have that piece of paper he gave me scrawled with his name and number and “guy from bookstore.”
I got home and listened to the message Mr. Laurie left:
“Damiella, we have a problem. I spoke to Nathan and now he says he can’t do the show…” Major blow.
Called the show this morning to find out why. Two reasons:
1) He couldn’t get off work (probably the excuse he gave to strengthen:
2) He’s “sort of seeing someone” and at first she had no problem with him being on the show but then it started to bother her. Of course Nathan still wanted to know who it was but could not be told. This is the most interesting part. At one point Mr. Laurie put him on hold and got back early hearing him say to another man: “What about that girl who comes into store? The one who just dyed her hair black…?” So at least he did suspect me, no not at least, I’ve been hinting.
For some reason I was really upset. It was probably—yeah, “probably”—the “sort of seeing someone” part. I left school at 10:00 and began walking to the Village, listening to the Cure’s 17 Seconds and feeling very numb in the unhappiest way. But I made it to Barnes & Noble on Astor Place and spent 4 ½ hours there (skipping Poets House and Sociology) trying to cheer myself up by reading Dave Barry books (it made me laugh as I read it, but when I stopped I barely felt better).
I still remember this quite well. Hunter College High School was on the Upper East Side, and Astor Place all the way downtown, so that was a good 4+ mile walk. I know for a fact that I was wearing one of my pairs of Doc Marten combat boots, because I think I might have written a poem incorporating my footwear into the disappointment. Maybe that makes up for my skipping out on my volunteer shift at the poetry library Poets House? Maybe not.
And being the good goth that I was, of course The Cure was my soundtrack. I must have listened to that album four or five times consecutively, on my Walkman (it wasn’t until college that I upgraded that particular cassette to CD). And even though The Cure’s fourth album, Pornography, is widely held as their most depressing, it was Seventeen Seconds that resonated with me more, because of the lyrics to “M” which begin:
Sing me a line from your favorite song
Twist and turn
But you’re trapped in the light
All the directions were wrong
You’ll fall in love with somebody else
Preach it, Reverend Smith.
The truth is, things worked out the best possible way they could. I think my dream on Monday night contributed to the sadness. I dreamt that Nathan showed me these two Joy Division stamps but the photos were the most heartbreaking things and just as I needed to be consoled for being so upset by them (I don’t know why the stamps upset me so much. The melancholy photos, Ian’s suicide, etc. It made sense then) he got up and left. But not just because he needed to do something, he made a point of leaving me (on purpose). Then the next day I remember waiting for him to come back to me, and I knew I was waiting in vain, but hoped anyway. It was the saddest dream I ever had and as I was walking in the Village, every once in a while I would get that same feeling, that maybe I’ll run into him, knowing that I wouldn’t.
I used to be really into dream interpretation and even owned a dream dictionary back in the day, but (un)surprisingly, there was no entry explaining the meaning of dreams about Joy Division stamps. Go figure.
Sadness over not being on a cheesy talk show aside, I have no idea why I would have wanted to run into Nathan that day, except to see his face full of wistfulness as he realized that he wanted to be with me instead of Miss “Sort-of-Seeing-Someone.” Ok yeah, I guess that’s a reason.
But I was trying to talk about the good of this. The obvious great thing is that I wasn’t rejected on national television. And I know he’s “sort of seeing someone.” And the very best thing is that he still doesn’t know who it is. I hope this curiosity really eats away at him. I’m going to stop by the store on Wednesday (at this point it would seem suspicious if I didn’t) and do the best acting job of my life. When he asks (if) I will of course deny, but be sure to get in something like, “but if it was me, I wouldn’t tell you” (something less obvious, though).
Let’s see, I was already a prime suspect considering what that show producer overheard. Throw in my bad acting plus my lack of any tact or subtlety? What could possibly go wrong!
I can’t say this is heartbreak, because I don’t feel any actual serious pain (like when I listen to “Lovesong”). It’s more as if my heart was shot with novacaine. It’s just numb. But I’m numb in a really bad way. At least I haven’t ruined the whole thing for myself and there is still hope. But there’s also the terrible numbness.
I also can’t say this was heartbreak, because that usually requires more of a relationship with the other person than buying Cure postcards in their place of business once or twice a month and chitchatting about music. I wish I could tell my teenage self to pretend that it is ruined, to stop having hope something romantic would happen with Nathan. I wish I could also give my younger self a mild spoiler and let her know that something far more magical and romantic was right around the corner…
I really, desperately, need to be studying for my Calculus Test tomorrow, but these past few days have been so so strange…
It was probably more than a month ago that I called the Sally Jesse Raphael Show (the topic was revealing secret crushes). I left my name and number and pretty much forgot about it.
On Monday they called me back. I spoke with one of the producers and told him the Nathan story. He loved it, especially the part about how at first I didn’t find him at all attractive, but as I kept seeing how sweet he was, I liked him more and more. I asked what my chances were and Mr. Laurie said “pretty good” (for being on the show). I gave him the number to Record Rabbit and the next day Mr. Laurie called back (in the morning I was at school) and spoke to my father. He asked my dad if he wanted to attend the taping of the show and he said “of course” (not even knowing or asking what the topic was). Later that night I don’t him he couldn’t go, but assumed (since I came home too late to speak with him) that I’d be on the show.
I finally got through at about 3:30 the next afternoon and was told Nathan was so excited. That he asked “who is it?” and “what does she look like?” (Duh—of course they couldn’t tell him). So it was on.
I gave my address (a car would be picking me & Anita up) and was told to call the next morning to confirm everything.
Just before Anita and I left the Village, I called home and Dad told me the show (my being on it) was “in jeopardy.”
Oy vey, where do I even begin?
For one thing, it should be obvious that I watched way too many talk shows back in the day. Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Maury Povich, Montel Williams… I wasn’t even above watching Jerry Springer from time to time. It depended more on the topic than the host, though Jerry really was did go over the top more than the others and there were only so many times I could see dumb girls yelling at each other over an even dumber guy and trying to pull each other’s cheap extensions out. The other shows usually attempted to have at least a teeny tiny grain of integrity and once in a while actually were actually helpful, like finding runaway kids or showcasing drug and alcohol horror stories to show the nefarious power of addition.
My favorites were episodes involving makeovers, reuniting lost loves, and of course revealing secret crushes. Sick days and long weekends—when I could binge on a full day of watching those trashy shows—were the best. I mean, I knew it was brain junk food and I tried to balance it out by watching foreign/indie films and reading tons of books and [insert pretentious activity here] but I won’t deny my deep and utter fixation on talk shows for a period of my teenage life. It’s probably why I don’t watch most reality TV today: between those shows and MTV’s The Real World, I got my fill of that “real life” drama back in the ’90s.
After asking out a couple of (popular—what the hell was I thinking?) guys (with no success) I guess I was building up too much of a healthy ego and felt the need to up the ante when it came to rejection. Why get turned down in private by a guy you like when you could do so in front of a studio audience?
I had no illusions that Nathan saw me in a romantic light, but here’s the great thing about those particular shows: if the person revealing their crush was turned down, they always got an enormous amount of sympathy from the studio audience and host for their honesty and
stupidity bravery. Always. So I figured, I might not win the object of my (inflated and unrealistic) affection, but I did have a shot of getting some heartfelt “awwwwws” from the crowd and Sally Jesse herself. The whole embarrassing-myself-on-national-television aspect never really factored into it.
In an attempt to expand my creativity (and use up paper in this thing to start writing in this other notebook I got), I’m going to write down the exercises I do from Rivers of Writing, this manuscript I took home. Here goes…
Hear: The ringing in your ears after a loud show, chimes from anywhere, the wind howling and pounding against the window…
Touch: The hard plastic of CD cases slipping through your fingers as you flip through, the shiny surface of a postcard, the raised letters of a typed page…
Smell: The incense on the corner of 6th Ave and 8th St, hazelnut coffee, the rain on the asphalt…
Taste: Mocha frappachino, melted cheese on eggs, salty mushy fries…
See: My silver satin skirt, glittery purple lipstick, a clean snow-covered city…
Wednesday it snowed, a gorgeous powdery snow that clung to everything and made living in such a dirty city euphoric and lovely. I grabbed my camera, all set to capture the postcard-ready scenery and daydreamed about the romantic possibilities of the lush crisp weather. Perhaps I should have heeded the bad omen of a snowball sailing hard into my right eye. No. I would quickly heal and assume prettiness when casually visiting my love (though he doesn’t know it) that afternoon. Besides, my camera was hungry for the images of a tranquil early winter. Then all the snow melted from the trees. My purposes of going downtown had whittled away to basically one: yes, him. But a busy store prevented much interaction so I was stuck with soggy hopes, praying I don’t come to despise the snow.
The writing exercise obviously called for descriptors for the five senses and then a paragraph expanding on one of them. I actually wish I did more of this kind of exercise to offer a more concise and interesting snapshot of my life-at-that-moment than my usual teenage blathering (I’ve edited some of the more redundant entries out of this blog).
So yeah, I was haunting Record Rabbit, and while I guess visiting a record store two-to-three times a month does not technically constitute stalking, the care and plotting that went into each visit was maybe a wee bit frightening in retrospect. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for Anita, my best friend at the time, to hear me go on and on about him. It’s one thing to share a mutual obsession (U2, in our earlier teen years) but another to be on the receiving end of the minutiae associated with someone else’s fixation. Sometimes I had to have Anita stop from paying a visit too soon (like more than once a week) for fear of appearing suspicious to Nathan. I was sensitive about saturating him with my presence, so I didn’t hound him with phone calls or leave notes or do anything super-creepy (though I confess I did sometimes call him when I knew he wouldn’t be home to hear his answering machine message, which is utterly bizarre because it wasn’t even his voice but a recorded clip from a Charlie Brown cartoon). This made it all the more disappointing if I timed that biweekly visit poorly and didn’t get to talk to him much or at all.
Being as impatient as I
was am, more decisive action would have to be taken soon. A plot was about to be hatched…
Just called Anita for about 30 seconds (well that’s how long we spoke) so she could talk me out of going to Record Rabbit tomorrow. As of today it’s been 12 days since my last visit (I really wanted to go last week but Anita’s right about making him wait). I think my feelings for him were even starting to slowly recede and then all of a sudden they came back. I try not to let it overwhelm me and I look for distractions where I can.
I finally met my penpal (well since we’ve spoken on the phone too I guess he’s more of a friend) Arthur and he was really nice (gave me a friendly hug). Wide Awake in America/The Joshua Tree. I’m leaning more toward The Joshua Tree.
Dyed my hair black. Blue-Black actually. Very different. I love it. Had it done in a salon and it looks great.
Dave (Dolan, the only Dave I talk about—I think) called tonight. It was good to hear from him. Spoke to Darby this past weekend too and we had a nice chat. An odd friendship the two of us have, though we were much less obnoxious to each other during this last conversation.
I want to be in college already. I want to be out of here.
I want to sleep. I think I should try for some now because I am in a very bad mood suddenly.
I can’t wait until I’m done writing in this notebook because I got a nicer smaller one that I’ll start as my next journal (yes I guess I’m back to keeping journals. At least I’ve begun to put down things other than why life sucks for me, why I’m upset or other angsty teenage bullshit).
God I hope I don’t have trouble falling asleep.
I’m not proud of this, but I did play my parents to get the black hair. I initially asked my mom if I could dye it black and she said no. But it was my father took me to the salon for a trim. As soon as we got there I begged and begged him to let me color it and he finally relented. Prior to that I had waist-length dirty blond hair, so it was a dramatic change. When Mom first saw me, she sarcastically asked, “where is my daughter?” but didn’t make a fuss beyond that.
As for the pen pal, Arthur, I didn’t keep in touch with him much after meeting. Deep down I’m sure I was hoping there’d be a romantic connection, despite my crush on Nathan, but there wasn’t. I’d bet money that my mopiness at the time was due at least in part to that lack of spark. And the U2 albums is more teenage code. I think I was ranking him by how much I liked the album I was comparing him to. My favorite was Achtung Baby, followed by either Boy or Zooropa, so any guy classified as one of those three would have been a top crush contender. However, The Joshua Tree was somewhere in the middle and Wide Awake in America below that, so I probably was only mildly attracted to him. It could have been worse, he could have been October (my least favorite U2 album at the time).
The mentions of the other friends and sudden depression could have been the usual insecurity and mood swings I had at the time, or a symptom of some family conflict I didn’t want to put to paper. There was often parental drama in the background of my teen years, though I very rarely wrote about it. In any event, the black hair signaled another change in me, one that fit with the darker music I was listening to. Much as I may have hemmed and hawed being goth up until then, now it was undeniable.
Ever since the summer I’ve been very interested in Nathan. I talk about him so much to my friends that I was really surprised he wasn’t mentioned more in my journal. From everything I’ve seen (and heard), so far he seems like a lovely person. According to him (and this wasn’t even bragging) he has the best Cure collection in the world (700+ records at one time. Now down to 500+ records).
His new obsession was (is?) Belly, but he got to know the band pretty well (backstage, all-access) and the challenge wore off. I visit him at Record Rabbit every week or two. The nice part is I’ve actually made some progress with the man. He gave me his number a while back (in case I got any ideas for his Belly ‘zine “Dusted,” though Anita believes that was just an excuse) and we’ve spoken once. I enjoyed talking to him and always look forward to my visits to the store.
Last time I was there was Wednesday. It was the first time he asked me personal questions (about school and such). By now, he must know I like him and if he does, he appears not to mind. Every couple of weeks I feel stuck and wonder how to take things further and what should be my next step. But then I’ll go back to Record Rabbit, have another pleasant chat with Nathan and I’ll be just fine with taking things slow. I do want to be friends with him at least, so I’m going to try hard not to f@$k things up.
I did want to develop a friendship with Nathan, but in the process I was of course developing a crush on him, too. I mean, he worked in a record store, was an obsessed fan with good music taste, wore lots of black clothes like me, and was reasonably cute. There was also the Sassy magazine connection, which felt like it might be some kind of hint from the universe (it wasn’t). Other than the (10 year?) age difference and the fact that he never expressed any romantic interest in me, there was no reason not to like him, right?
There were three tricky aspects to the Nathan situation:
1. Since I knew where he worked, it was necessary to space out my visits so as not to come across as stalker-y. I tried to limit them to no more than a couple of times a month and sometimes wasn’t there, which was always a buzzkill (you’d think I’d be resourceful enough to figure out his work schedule after a while, but I wouldn’t know if for a long time).
2. Record Rabbit was a store aimed at collectors, so most of its stock was rare and more expensive than the records and CDs I usually bought. In fact, the most I ever spent on a single piece of music was at that store ($40 for a 10″ promotional single of U2′s lemon printed on yellow vinyl; hopefully, it’s still in a box of leftover collectibles at Mom’s place). I could get away with not buying anything once in a while, but I didn’t want to be a deadbeat, so most of the time I made sure to get something small. Luckily, they did have odds and ends, so my collection of Cure postcards expanded exponentially during that time.
3. Nathan was an all around chatty and congenial guy and when he spoke with someone he gave them their full attention. It could be easy to mistake his sociable nature for flirtation, especially when getting him to talk about topics he was passionate about, like the Cure. And it was that level of passion that made him attractive to me, even if was aimed at collecting music memorabilia. As a teenager, few things were more important than music, so being around someone rooted so deeply in it intrigued me and maybe made me wonder if I was looking at a potential future version of myself (spoiler alert: I wasn’t).
I love that I write about “taking things slow” as if there was an actual courtship in progress or I could orchestrate one if I so chose. I think I truly believed that something could happen if I was careful and strategic. And my strategy was benign to start with, but would get a little more crazy down the line…
It’s David Dolan’s birthday today. I got his gift on Friday but don’t know when I’ll be able to give it to him. I’ve been keeping in touch with the mad boy for about a month and a half. He’s so cool and sweet, one of those people I’d hate to lose as a bud.
I realize I haven’t even talked about my classes. Photo is a blast. Very complicated but I’m liking it lots. Lit is ok. Want to read Kerouac already. Calculus sucks flat out. Volleyball brings out the spaz in me. Sociology at the college is fine. My project at Childers-Craine is nice. It’s mostly reading manuscripts (or parts of ‘em) and evaluating them.
I know, I know. There are so many things wrong with those two paragraphs. I’ll overlook the affectations and poor language choices if you will.
David Dolan was my neighbor in the freak hallway my junior year and graduated the year before. An actor who had bit parts on a couple of major movies in the 90’s and a starring role in a cable show, he was unpretentious and goofy and prone to getting in trouble. We were never super-close, but I always had fun with him and he was one of the few male friends I had who I managed not to have a crush on. Sure, there was probably part of me that was a bit dazzled by his cultish celeb status, but I don’t think I ever talked to him about what it was like making movies or television shows. I remember bumming around the east village with him and meeting his girlfriend, who went on to have a small but recurring role in what is now one of my favorite shows of all time and is still actin today. I don’t remember what I got him for his birthday but I do remember that he introduced me to the Armistead Maupin Tales of the City books, which I adored.
ICY projects were internships that we got class credit for. Since I was planning to be an English/Writing major in college, I wanted to give my time to a publisher or literary agent. I was offered a position with Bantam and also Childers-Craine Literary Agency (which was really one woman). Even though Bantam, a division of Random House, may have looked better on my resume and helped me find work more easily in the future, I was more interested in reading manuscripts than doing menial admin/gofer work, which the publishing houses mostly used interns for (and which I ended up doing plenty of when I worked in publishing years later, anyway).
It was rather remarkable how much responsibility I was given at the agency, taking a first pass at most of the work that was sent in. That’s right, folks, a teenager was rejecting dozens of queries from aspiring writers every week. Years later, when I went on to write my own novel and submit it to agents, I have no doubt that plenty of interns were responsible for the rejection letters I received.
As for the rest of it, Calculus would torture me for months to come, but the rest of my curriculum more than made up for it. As much as I grumble about how terrible life at Hunter sometimes was, my senior year was off to a mostly great start.
(Oh, and I did finally try reading Kerouac’s On the Road earlier this year, but couldn’t get more than 100 pages into it and couldn’t get more than 15 minutes past the film adaptation. I respect the nonconformist, hedonistic spirit of the Beat Generation, but something about Kerouac’s style and storytelling simultaneously grates on me and leaves me thoroughly bored. Oh well, there’s always Ginsberg’s “Howl.”)