Wow. I won a Gold Award in that contest. I’m going to Washington D.C. to read an excerpt from my story at the library of congress. June 17 (Saturday) there will also be an awards ceremony. The awards will be mailed to the winners by the early summer. I think that means moolah. A scholarship maybe. I still can’t believe it. This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, winning a National award in a writing contest. Maybe this means I’ll have a good shot at Emerson’s writing scholarship. It’s so great how my parents are leaving this entire college thing to me. I have yet to find a more perfect school for me than Emerson. I think it would be a cool place for Tim too.
The writing award was a pretty big deal and just the affirmation I needed as an aspiring writer. I don’t remember whether I got any scholarship money, though since I was light on extracurricular activities, it was a nice thing to add to my college applications. But I cared less about that as much as this was an indicator that writing was something I was decent at and should stick with. I’ve gone back and forth on that matter in the years since, but at seventeen it was an unexpected and flattering accolade.
It’s funny how I glaze over the parental college issue, because while my mother supported my liberal arts trajectory, my father wanted me to apply to Ivy League schools and refused support unless I was either pre-law or pre-med. As a struggling immigrant, he wanted me to pursue a lucrative career, whereas my mother wanted me to pursue what made me happy.
I told Anita that when the Cure tour again (and since there will be a new album in September that may be soon) we will dress up as major goths and go (It will be so great I can’t even wait!). It will be even more fun than doing the stuff for the NIN-turned-Killing Joke show. I’m getting a lot more into the Cure (talk about them more, want more albums), I’m beginning to also get that feeling again, the same one I had with U2 and NIN. I think that Tim has (at least partially) converted me. Well I have to wait a while to see the effect it has on me.
“I’m bent out of shape desperate to whine screaming so loud that I don’t make a sound
strung out on speed maxed out on lies I know you’re to blame but I can’t say why.” – Moist
I love that quote and wrote it down even though its sentiment doesn’t express my current mood. I feel kind of hyper.
(What I really love is how I totally missed the reference to methamphetamine in the song lyric, while saying it didn’t match my own hyper mood.)
The musical evolution was well under way, as was the continued flirtation with gothdom.
I was fascinated by the punk and goth subcultures much more than the grunge scene that was emblematic of the 1990s, but I had long since realized I didn’t belong with the punks. And while I loved the goth aesthetic, I was naturally an upbeat optimistic person, and I loved colors, so I didn’t think I’d be suited to the black-black-always-black gloomy world of the gothic people. I also wasn’t familiar with the music beyond the popular bands that fell into the genre’s fold like the Cure, Nine Inch Nails (more industrial, but related) and Cocteau Twins. I also didn’t want to come across as a poseur like I thought Claudia did to me with the punk scene, so I was cautious making any firmly committed affiliations.
I also had it in my head that being goth meant listening to nothing but gothic music, and I still had numerous other bands I listened to (apart from U2) like Belly, Radiohead, Afghan Whigs, and more obscure gems I was happy to discover, like the Canadian band I quoted above, Moist. Terrible name, but their album Silver was an immense discovery to me, full of sharp guitars, vocals on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and lyrics worth scrawling on classroom desks. Being a fan of such an unknown band was both a blessing and a curse, because on one hand they felt like my special secret, but on the other hand, I wanted them to find wider appreciation so that they could tour and release more albums.
And there was also that ambivalent desire for a band to be popular, but not too popular. Belly struck the right balance: they toured small enough venues but had a decent following. But Radiohead… well, I don’t need to tell you about them.
[Preface: I debated leaving this diary entry out, because there's a chance that the person it's about will read it. And while I've written about my friendship with Claudia and my disdain at her punk evolution, I don't think I've ever properly delved into just how much fun we had, too.
Claudia was a big reason I actually started enjoying my later years at high school. We went to concerts and parties. We had boozy adventures. We went trick-or-treating on the Upper West Side (I was a gypsy, she was zombie Marilyn Monroe). We talked about music and boys and bonded over the fact that we both felt like oddballs in a sea of conformists. But more than that, having grown up with some pretty overprotective parents, Claudia gave me the freedom to finally start enjoying being a teenager living in New York City. She was always generous with letting me stay over her house, even when I lied to my parents about where I was going that night.
So when she became progressively more immersed in punk, it was frustrating to see her becoming destructive and what I perceived as disingenuous, and also hurtful to see our friendship beginning to wane. But instead of talking things through with her, I channeled a lot of those feelings into anger and overwrought writing. Case in point:]
out of faux-cus. locks of primary colors minus the sunshine. don’t become. she does anyway. shoplifting sweetness, but it doesn’t make her genuine. a pathetic echo, a the acid princess emerges and is swatted away, the playfriends tired of this game. she really tries to mean it when she’s bad, full of angst, doing wrong. now they’ve seen her fake passport and won’t let her past the gates. by rejecting stability for a wilder ride she flies in careless circles. she is hated for not being. the silence will pull her back into her skin.
So yeah, more annoyance at Claudia. She listened to Green Day and Hole and got her hair dyed blue in expensive salons. She lived in a gorgeous house in Manhattan and I never saw her parents be anything other than loving to her. She got busted for shoplifting candy with $40 on her (which is likely what prompted this entry).
I don’t know what drove the need to try to pass herself off as a punk and, looking back on it, it shouldn’t matter, but at the time it came off as so phony to me. It felt like she was trying too hard and not being herself, whereas hanging out in the freak hallway freed me up to be more myself. But who knows, at the time, Claudia might have felt the same way about her heavy-handed foray into the punk scene. And truth be told, there was probably a part of me that was jealous at her ability to be a “badass” because I never had the guts to subvert authority like that. Lying to my parents about what I was really doing when I slept over her house was as subversive as I got (at least in high school).
I got Marilyn Manson’s CD, which is great (listened to it twice in two days). The music isn’t half as scary as they are visually. In fact the song lyrics are very interesting. A sample:
“You want me to save the world
I’m just a little girl
pseudo-morals work real well
on the talk shows for the weak
but your selective judgements
and good guy badges
don’t mean a f$%# to me.”
That one is from “Get Your Gunn,” one of the best songs on Portrait of An American Family.
Right now I’m listening to the Cure (Head on the Door).
I have some random lines for poetry. Might as well put them down here… my thoughts collide with tomorrow, wait, I had more. It’s not as inspiring writing on ordinary paper. Plus I have the Cure blasting in my ear so that doesn’t help much.
Hey, today is Neil’s birthday. He turns the big 14. Haven’t been hanging out with Claudia that much lately. I don’t know if we’ve been actively ignoring each other or what. Oh well, I’m not all that upset, people drift away and sometimes it’s a good and natural thing (Geez, I sound like a shrink. What is my problem?).
I remember seeing Marilyn Manson open up for Nine Inch Nails to a hostile/indifferent crowd. Before the lead singer became the pseudo-subversive spokesman for disillusioned alterna-goth youth, he was still in Trent Reznor’s shadow, being booed at by teenagers waiting for the main event. In light of that, I felt like I was supporting an underdog when buying Portrait of an American Family. The shock value was obvious but some of the songs were catchy to me (and yes, I was a sucker for some of those lyrics; hey, I was the target audience to a degree). When I went to college and the second Marilyn Manson album was released, the band became huge, and I lost interest, casting them out of my musical canon. By that point, I was cultivating more obscure musical (let’s say, “organically goth”) interests and was quick to disdain a celebrity that was so obviously pandering to a certain type of demographic.
But since, at the time of this entry, I was still part of that demographic, let’s take a moment to cringe at the “random lines of poetry” bit. Just… oy. The “ordinary paper” refers to the fact that I used to draft a lot of poetry on top of photos in magazines; but yeah, let’s blame the “ordinary paper” and loud Cure music for not being able to craft a better line of poetry.
As for Claudia and Neil, I was pretty much over my inappropriate crush on the latter, and continuously uncomfortable with the former. Aside from my irritation at her becoming what I perceived as a phony punk, Claudia was getting more involved with drugs, which was a bigger problem for me. I realize a lot of teenagers experiment with drugs, but in high school, apart from alcohol, I was pretty much a goodie goodie. And it wasn’t just the fact that she was smoking weed more; I witnessed her becoming a different person as a result of it. She made foolish choices, her school work declined, and she behaved more like a spacey degenerate. The sharp, funny girl that I initially became friends with was evolving into someone I couldn’t relate to anymore and didn’t have an interest in knowing.
But who knows, maybe Claudia saw me as a square, evolving into a “spooky” girl who wrote cheesy poetry. Maybe she would view my buying that Marilyn Manson album as a foolish choice.
Right now I’m listening to Afghan Whigs’ Congregation, which I finally got (on CD). So far, better than Up In It but not as good as Gentlemen (which is expected. Gentlemen is great).
I’ve been looking at colleges for a while now and have decided that Emerson is the best school for me. If I can’t (well refuse to) go to school in New York, the next best thing is Boston. BU is okay, but Emerson seems just fabulous. It’s a school for communications and not at all a stick-up-the-butt school. Though it’s pretty small (just under 2,000 people) it seems like the place for me. Emerson offers writing scholarships and is full of misfits and freaks (in other words, people I would most likely want to hang out with).
Here’s a cool Whigs quote:
“hey, baby there’s a vampire moon
scaling the sky shine in your room
your eyes are open you got nothing to do
come outside and play with me tonight “
– Afghan Whigs “Tonight
I saw that [giant arrow drawn in journal pointing up] on an address label once. There’s a hidden track on Congregation it’s coming up now. Actually, it’s really good, better than most of the songs on this. Anita told me that a hidden track is the entire CD played backwards. I love hidden tracks and linear notes (well, the lyrics). This one has both.
Hidden tracks and album packaging have been a sad loss as music has undergone a digital revolution. I’m sure somewhere (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed) there’s list about “Things You Miss If You Came of Age in the ’90s” or “Stuff People Who Bought Cassettes & CDs Are Really Bummed About” that mentions these things. For those who can’t relate, it’s a shame you will never experience the triumphant rush of joy of purchasing physical music and finding the printed lyrics to the songs included in the liner notes, to say nothing of the obsessiveness required to decipher lyrics of when they weren’t included (the most insane one I ever tried to transcribe, from the cassette version, was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”).
Then there was the special thrill of discovering a hidden track. In some cases (like Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP) I didn’t even know of the hidden tracks for months and stumbled upon them rather than look for them. This was much more satisfying than being told about the hidden track (music spoiler alert!). Nowadays, it’s rare for me to buy a full album or listen to one all the way through. I download most of my music and I barely glance at the packaging of the handful of CDs I do still acquire annually. It makes me sad; music used to occupy such a predominant role in my life and now it’s little more than a background soundtrack when I’m writing or working out.
As for college, if I wasn’t local, NYU would have probably been my dream school. It had a robust liberal arts program and was in the greatest city in the world. But I was determined to leave New York and have college be my reward for enduring six academically rigorous years at Hunter. While my classmates were fond of asking, “What Ivy’s did you apply to?” I wasn’t much interested in those “stick-up-the-butt” schools. Brown was vaguely enticing but Providence, Rhode Island was not, and neither was attending yet another school full of competitive braniacs. I wanted a big city with a good writing program.
It was actually Anita who mentioned Boston as the perfect place to attend college. It was far away from home but not too far, a big enough city, but not too big, and was filled with plenty of matriculation options. So I got a Princeton Review guide and started browsing colleges. As soon as I read that Emerson was known as a school “for freaks and misfits”, where many students had crazy hair, piercings, tattoos, etc., I knew I found my future four-year academic home. Before I even visited the campus or did more in-depth research, I just knew it had to be Emerson. And so it would be, but it would be a bumpy road getting there…
I did not go to sleep last night. Finished my Nabakov paper at 4:00, read until 5:30. Had two cups of coffee this morning, will have a couple more with lunch.
Back home, everything is so messy but comfortable.
Anita and I are just itching to go to the Village soon. Must get old Cure, Cocteau Twins! I always forget about the Cocteau Twins. Have to (want to) make a tape for Tim. Anita ate in a Denny’s 20 or 30 miles from Clarion*, the rednecks scared her lots.
I want this year to be over. And next year too. My procrastination problem is not good for Junior year.
If I can’t get the year to be over, I’ll settle for this class to be over. I never stayed up all night. Almost felt reborn, which was pretty cool/strange. Things started wavering in front of me though which wasn’t too great.
I’m hooked on Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, it’s fun to read about havoc being wreaked.
I’ll be honest, some of my later teen journal entries could probably be paraphrased as “blah blah music blah blah boys blah blah pretentious stuff blah blah.” Between the various literary and music references and comparing staying up all night to being “reborn,” I was one turtleneck and Fellini dissertation away from getting the gold in Competitive Pretentiousness. I’d like to say that future entries won’t be like this, but that would be a lie. As my thoughts get “deeper” and my tastes get darker and more (sometimes-) obscure, the pretentious factor is sure to rise. Remember, these are the musings of someone on the verge of becoming a goth: consider yourself duly warned.
Not all, or even half, but at least a small part of these gothic inklings could be credited to Tim (previously mentioned here and here, a pen pal (who I found through a friendship book) living in a small, narrow-minded town in Pennsylvania. He was depressed, angry, cute and had great music taste: a combination that would prove emotionally lethal for many years to come. He included his phone number in an early letter and, after calling him on a whim and talking for nearly two hours (documented in a journal entry dated a week prior to this one; trust me, you’re not missing anything), my crush was cemented.
The Cure and Cocteau Twins were two of Tim’s favorite bands, which he included in a mix tape for me (this is where I could go on and on about the wonder and sad departure of the mix tape, but I’ll spare you… this time). I was already familiar with some Cure, but not their colossally depressing earlier work (soon, fledgling goth, soon). Between the haunting music and the source of the mix tape from which it originated, it was no wonder I was keen to get more of their albums. Sure, it was partly to have more in common with my crush, but he did help me develop my love for these two bands. (To be fair, he also liked other bands, like Sugar, that never did it for me, so it wasn’t purely about impressing him. Only partly.)
Tim often complained of Clarion* being a hick town, where he was mocked and bullied and accused of being gay because of the way he dressed (lots of black) and wore his hair (longer than what was acceptable in those parts). I was lucky that my own days of being bullied were behind me and to be in New York City where my freak flag could fly more freely. I would be unfurling and waving that flag around quite a bit in the coming years.
* Not the actual town name.
Well who the hell would think that Belly fans could be so goddamn vicious. I could understand moshing to Superchunk (who were excellent, I must say) but Belly?! We’re talking pretty, energetic little songs here, not exactly the stuff made for crowd surfing.
Anyway, I was right in the middle of it and was shoved (to the point where I could barely breathe) and kicked (in the jaw, spine, head…by all the floaters) and had my hair constantly pulled (hard).
It was a great concert, though (they were a lot better live than I expected). Tom dyed his hair blonde and I was surprised at how many songs I was able to sing along to (when I wasn’t being slaughtered by the goddamn Belly—okay and Superchunk—fans) Tanya Donnely said Radiohead were in the house and I thought she was just using slang to say they were cool, but no, Radiohead were actually at the concert! We (Anita and I) are waiting for that tour already.
For those too young and or unfamiliar with Belly, they were once quite the up-and-coming alternative band. They had an MTV hit with “Feed the Tree” and just a few weeks after seeing them in concert, they made the cover of Rolling Stone, proof that they were once on their way to being a pretty big deal. Except that they never quite got there. After two albums, lead singer Tanya Donelly went on to have a solo career, but I never found that music as interesting so I didn’t follow it.
There are two albums that will forever transport me back to junior year of high school and I look at them as two sides to the same coin: Radiohead’s Pablo Honey and Belly’s Star. Both had their place in the alternative music movement, with shades of angst and grunge balanced with catchy hooks. Get ready for a time warp, kids: I owned both of these albums on cassette and listened to them incessantly on my Walkman (RIP).
It was with Belly’s second album, King, that they started getting more attention, though their sophomore effort wasn’t anywhere near as good as their debut (same exact thing happened with Liz Phair and Tori Amos; go figure). King still had moments of the quirky darkness of Star but seemed like it was trying to hard to be polished and veered from accessible into bland. Even so, I liked it well enough and I was excited to see them play live.
Back in the ’90s, crowd-surfing was all the rage, but I didn’t realize how ridiculous the trend had become until this concert. I can (kind-of-but-not-really) understand moshing to indie opening band Superchunk, since they do have some fast-tempo-ed songs with a bit of screaming here and there. But for Belly fans to be thrashing around was incomprehensible. Moshing to aggressive music like Nine Inch Nails made perfect sense, but not so much for a band who sings, “take your hat off boy when you’re talking to me and be there when I feed the tree.”
I remember how frustrating it was to be in the midst of such an aggressive audience reaction to Belly’s music. I was knocked around so much, I came home bruised and sore, with my long hair tangled into one giant dreadlock, feeling an overall “what just happened?” sense of confusion.
But despite all that, Anita and I probably ended up raving about how much fun it was, and how cool that members of Radiohead were there. When Tanya Donelly announced their presence, I of course scoured the balconies of Roseland to see if I could spot them, but didn’t get a glimpse. Soon enough, I’d end up with a much better view of them, anyway.
Ceecee had a party last night and it was probably the best one (or one of the best) I ever attended. When I look back on it, it almost seems like a movie, a really interesting, cool movie. Though I’d like to, I’m not going to go into detail. I’ll write a couple of more things about it though.
Spent a lot of the time hanging out with/talking to Jamie (and we were so not used to it, having emailed each other for so long). Met this girl Mary, an NIN fan who does a ‘zine (needless to say we bonded instantly).
Crashed on Ceecee’s living room floor and it was fun. Slept three hours tops but didn’t mind one bit.
Can’t concentrate on doing work. I’m terrible.
Had a nice chat with Eduardo. Don’t feel like doing work. I’m really going to try now.
The reason I didn’t go into detail was that I was still paranoid about my father reading my diary (having that happen once already). Kind of ironic that I want to go into detail now, with the full intention of having others read it.
Let’s just clear up some of the hyperbole above right now. While I only have vague recollections of the party aside from the details to come, it was certainly not something out of a “really cool, interesting“ movie unless it was an understated coming-of-age indie about a kooky Russian alterna-girl growing up in the 1990′s. Because in the years following this diary entry I will have attended some truly cool parties that could have been featured in a movie (featuring everything from tinfoil on walls to cage dancers to Jello shots in plastic syringes; held in crazy lofts, Victorian mansions, giant backyards with laser light shows… and that doesn’t even cover the Halloween weekend spent in New Orleans).
So let’s get to the real reason I had such a blast at this party.
Ceecee was a year ahead of me and in a creative writing class with Jamie and me. It was initially daunting being invited to a party where nearly everyone was older and a stranger to me. So it was great to meet a fellow Nine Inch Nails fan and ‘zine writer (oh, memories). And it was also nice to bond with Jamie, who was a funny and irreverant breath of fresh air in our hypercompetitive magnet school and one of those people I always thought I could be better friends with (how weird is it that we emailed each other, even though we saw each other in class all the time?). But the real reason this party stood out for me was Eduardo.
All I remember about Eduardo was that he was a cute soccer player from Bolivia, about my height with thick, dark floppy hair. When I wasn’t chatting with one of the girls, he and I did plenty of flirting.
At one point, I went to the kitchen to get some ice and for whatever reason, I didn’t turn on the light. He followed me in and we talked/flirted some more and then ended up kissing.
Ceecee had gone out with Eduardo in the past, but she saw we were clicking and gave me her blessing. Truth be told, I don’t remember if that was before or after I already made out with him (we were in the kitchen for quite a while).
I ended up sleeping on Ceecee’s living room floor about a foot away from Eduardo. There was probably some more smooching during the night. At some point later on, when everyone had left or passed out, I had my eyes closed but was still awake and heard Ceecee in the kitchen talking to a male friend. Talking about Eduardo and me hooking up. Essentially, she said that she wasn’t envious, because what they had was in the past, but at the same time she kind of was.
The thing about Ceecee: she was very pretty in that exotic, multi-ethnic way and probably had no trouble getting male attention. Whereas I was just coming out of the awkward phase of my adolescence and male attention was something newer to me. So instead of feeling guilty that I may have hurt her feelings, I felt kind of flattered that someone who looked like me actually stirred up envy in someone who looked like her. I was used to being insecure and feeling like I didn’t measure up, so it was strange to hear that sort of sentiment expressed towards me. And it did a lot to bolster my self-esteem.
I ended up having one semi-awkward coffee date with Eduardo before he went back to Bolivia. We didn’t stay in touch.