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[March, 1989] Long Time No Kitty

For some reason, despite keeping up with regular entries to the composition book journal, I still wrote in the Hello Kitty diary from time to time. It had three sections of pages: pink, then yellow, then blue. I think the completist in me was determined not to waste paper and make it to the blue pages, though I never even made it out of the pink ones. I ended up mostly sticking with the composition book, but these rare entries show a snapshot of where I was at the time with less filler (despite the repetition of content). A prime example:

Even Hello Kitty likes the 80's!

Even Hello Kitty likes the 80’s!

3/17/89

Dear Diary,

I don’t like Charles anymore (he’s a pain in the !?!?!?) but I am madly in love with George. But the good thing is I think he also likes me! I hope he asks me out and that my parents will let me go out with him.

I still love Jonas and a lot!!! But I know it’s impossible for anything to happen with us, but me and George have a chance to get something started.

Me and Marcela (the bitch) are not friends anymore because she walked out on my birthday party which went even better without her.

-Bye- (4 now)

The last time I mentioned George was back in November, 1989, when he started to tell me something that I suspected was a confession of love (or at the very least, strong like). Despite rarely mentioning him in the other journal, I evidently still carried this torch for my opponent to the vice presidential race of our elementary school. What baffles me today is how I interpreted his ambivalence back then as reciprocated interest. Good thing you can cut an eleven-year-old some slack for being clueless in matters of dating (as for later years…well, we have plenty of time before we get to those comedies/tragedies of errors).

And Jonas. Oy, again with the cute third grade hall monitor. I’m awed and embarrassed at how many entries there are in both diaries devoted to Jonas, years after he graduated and long after I randomly saw him at the movies. (I’m also editing a lot of them out of  this blog… you’re welcome). At the very least, I was aware of the futility of any relationship. It’s kinda difficult to “get something started” when you never see the person you allegedly love “and a lot.”

I know it seems like I throw around the word “love” a lot in my diaries, and I do, but let’s review a list of some of the other people I “loved” at the time (parents notwithstanding): Debbie Gibson, Corey Haim, Cyndi Lauper, Stacy Q, Blair from The Facts of Life, and Madison the mermaid (as portrayed by Daryl Hannah in Splash). Need I say more?

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[September, 1988] New Journal, New Crushes

9/13/88

Dear Diary,

I am so nervouse, I am starting the 5th grade. My friend Nisa and me are going to school together. Right now I’m as nervous as hell + I don’t know why. I am going to get Mr. Adams and I wanted to get him, but I am still nervous. It’s probably because I want to make a good impression that’s all.

good-bye diary, hello "journal"

good-bye diary, hello "journal"

In Fifth grade, we were asked to get a Mead Composition Book and start a journal. Since it was part of our assignments to write in it regularly, the entries are more frequent than the sporadic updates I made in the Hello Kitty diary. And since I realized I’d be detailing many more personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings, I rigged my notebook with a homemade security system using electric tape, plastic cord, and a small padlock. Anybody with a pair of scissors could have broken into thing, but I rested easy in the knowledge that my secrets were secure.

Here is the first entry in the Composition Book:

9/15/88

Dear Journal,

Yesterday I bought all of my school supplies. I got all of them ready for the next day. Our teacher is really nice and I like him.

There are these two this one boys I kind of like their his names are is Charles + Bruce.

Right now I finished all my work and I’m really bored.

Being an overly nostalgic person (no, really), I enjoyed rereading my journal entries while growing up. I was also tempted to correct spelling mistakes and had to stop myself from editing the past while reviewing it. The Stalin-esque revisionism to this entry was my effort for me to appear less fickle-hearted, since my crush on Charles outlasted the one on Bruce.  Luckily, I came to my senses and was able to refrain from doing this to the rest of my journal entries.

[July, 1988] I Want to Believe…And I Do

7/18/88

Dear Diary,

I have a story to tell you.

Last night I saw a shooting star and a few minutes later I saw a…UFO!!!

It was flourecent orange and it flew in a zig-zag line then it just disappeared. I had to admit I was sort of scared.

"Don't pick me!"

"Don't pick me!"

When I was nine years old, my parents did not let me watch horror movies. They did, however, let me watch Sightings and Unsolved Mysteries and other shows featuring spooky phenomenon and somber reinactments. Little did they know that those programs would terrify me more than any hockey-mask-wearing or claw-weilding serial killer. Because I didn’t believe that a burned man in a striped sweater would kill me in my sleep, but I did believe that being abducted by aliens (and possibly experimented on) was a plausible scenario. One that remains terrifying to me in adulthood.

While that night proved to be thrilling, it also planted a seed of fear and an irrational phobia in me. When we returned to Brooklyn, I began reading more books and magazines about The Unexplained, finding myself increasingly fascinated, but also increasingly frightened. At night, when some kids might say a nightly prayer before bed, I would stare at the sky beyond beyond my window and say a prayer of my own, to any alien life flying around in their strange craft, to leave me alone. As far as I know, I have yet to be abducted (*knock on wood*).

To this day, I don’t know what I saw, but it wasn’t a plane and it wasn’t fireworks. My parents and I spent that summer at a bungalow colony with my a handful of other Russian families and a group of us witnessed the orange lights late one night. The adults exclaimed that it was a UFO and while there might have been some vodka flowing earlier that night, it wasn’t enough to induce mass hallucinations. Besides, I saw it too (years before my first taste of alcohol) and I can’t explain it, either.

Whether or not it was an alien spacecraft paying a visit, those orange lights and the shooting star that preceded them had a lot of influence on my life-long interest in cosmology and the paranormal. Whenever I am outside New York City and somewhere with a more visible night sky, I always look up, searching for something out of the ordinary…

[July, 1988] Holes in My Heart

7/17/88

Dear Diary,

I forgot to tell you about this crush I Had for two years: His name is Jonas P. and he just graduated. I will Never see him again but I will never forget Him.

I had many dreams about him but I now none of them will come true. one time I slept over Borya’s house and we talked about personal stuff and I told him about Jonas and he started discouraging me and telling me to forget about him.

I was so sad that night that I cried myself to sleep.

didn't mean much anyway

didn't mean much anyway

Jonas was my hall monitor in third and fourth grade and two years my senior. He had red hair, blue eyes and freckles, and I exchanged probably no more than five sentences with him during the the time we we attended the same elementary school. Back then, a two year age difference was like a 20 year gap today. The only reason he ever had to say anything to me was if I misbehaved.

Now I was a good kid, but I was also ridiculously smitten. I made a habit of talking during assemblies on purpose, so that Jonas would reprimand me. Scandalous, I know. Sometimes I even talked back to him. Once I really pushed my luck and he made me stand against the wall. I didn’t act up after after that because deep down I feared authority (still do, sometimes).

I didn’t know anything about Jonas besides his name and that he was cute and made my nine/ten-year-old little heart beat fast. I also knew that being in “love” with him was hopeless.

As much as I knew it, I didn’t need Borya to remind me how was hopeless it was and make me cry about it. That jerk.

[June, 1987] Holes in My Ears

6)13)87

Dear Diary,

today I got my ears pierced. It hurt a little but it’s worth it.

mannequin head enhanced

Beauty is pain...yeah, I hate it when people say that too.

It only took a little over a year, but I got my nerve back and decided a little pain was worth a lifetime of accessorizing. The way I remember it, my parents took me to a costume jewelry shop akin to Claire’s and I picked out a pair of studs. My earlobes were first dotted with a felt-tip pen, then I felt the brief sting of the piercing gun twice, and then my days of clip-ons were over.

That’s not how my mother tells it.

I got the beginning part right, but when that first post cut through the tender skin of my earlobe, according to my mother I let out a shriek so loud I scared the other customers in the store. Allegedly, I cried out in agony and stubbornly refused to get my second ear pierced. If you care to believe my mom’s version, she says it took a good 15 minutes for her and my father to calm me down and convince me that I would look silly going around with an earring in one ear and a black dot where the other stud should be.

Being a sucker for logic (and symmetry), I allowed the woman in the woman in the store to pick up her instrument of torture and finish the job, suffering quietly through the rest of the procedure. A mirror was held before me so that I could see the results.

Whatever pain I felt vanished the second I saw the sparkle of those stones in my earlobes. So pretty! I turned my head back and forth to watch them glimmer and smiled.

When friends asked, I told them it didn’t hurt that much. And apparently, I lied about it to my diary, too.

[April/May 1987] This Post is Not Sponsored by McDonald’s

4)16)87
 

Dear Diary

today I went to McDonald’s. Afterwards I went to the park and played a game with my mother. I wanted to play a game with either my mom or dad but none of them wanted to play and one will might play with me. 

 

5)25)87

Dear Diary,

I went to McDonald’s for lunch and after that I went to see the Chippmunck Adveuncher and Mommy took me to all those places. 

Art by DoA

Art by DoA

I know the cool thing these days is to shun all processed foods and go organic, macrobiotic, and other things that end in ick– er, I mean ic. And I do eat my share of salads, brown rice, fruit, and things that are grilled or steamed. But about once a year, I get a craving for McDonald’s fries, and I have to succumb to it. 

I won’t deny the negative effect this fast food institution has had on global eating habits and weight problems. But in the context of my childhood, McDonald’s was a place of yumminess and delight. 
 
In December of 1987, I celebrated my tenth birthday with a party at a McDonald’s in Bensonhurst that had an indoor playground. I wore a black velvet pantsuit with silver and purple sparkles and rode the small merry-go-round with wild abandon. Every photo from that party shows me drunk with glee, flinging my arms around my friends.  Of all my childhood birthdays, it’s the one I remember with the most fondness and lucidity. Having that party at McDonald’s was part of what made it special. 
 
Within a year I would go on my first diet and my relationship with food would grow more complex. But that day, I wasn’t paying attention to calories or fat grams. A french fry was just a french fry. And I enjoyed every last one.  

[May/June 1986] There Will Be Shrimp… and Cake

Friday May 2nd 1986

Dear Diary

we will go to Beefstake charlies. I had such a good time. We ate such good food. It was so much fun then.

"You're gonna get spoiled"

"I'll feed you like there's no tomorrow"

One thing I learned (and learned well) in America is how to eat. And there were few places my parents and I liked to eat more than Beefsteak Charlie’s.

The restaurant was part of a chain and boasted an All You Can Eat salad bar, which included enormous ice-filled bowls of jumbo shrimp.

We gorged ourselves on these shrimp, dipping them into pools of cocktail sauce, creating mountains of peelings on a spare plate. Often we were full before our entrees arrived.

I went from being a picky eater in the former USSR to discovering the delights of American food like hamburgers and fries (my usual order at Beefsteak Charlie’s).

While our former countrymen waited on bread lines, my parents and I waited on buffet lines, sitting down to heaping plates of pasta salad, olives, fresh tomatoes and lettuce and, of course, lots and lots of shrimp.

Sun. June 15 1986

Dear Diary

today I am going to a wedding and I am so excited. there is going to be a cake and good things to eat. when I came there I fell in love with a waiter.

In later years, I moved on to bartenders and starving artists.