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[June, 1994] I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

December 28, 2010 1 comment

faceless soul mate or fate's cruel practical joke?

Saturday, June 11, 1994

Dear Journal,

Carnival was Wednesday and Holly, Hahn, and I left after the first hour (and I thought even that was too long).  We went to the movies and saw “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”  It was great.  What was even better was when I got home my second letter from Ronin was waiting for me.  I was expecting it for a week and a half because Anita got a letter from him (I gave her the address) and we mailed ours around the same time.

In the letter to her he wrote: “I think Damiella is wonderful.”  Heh-heh.  Well this second letter was so worth waiting for.  His first quote was from “All I Want is You” which is going to be my wedding song.  Then he wrote that I was very pretty (I sent him a photo) and that he thought I was his other half.  At the end of his letter he wrote he thinks he’s found what he’s looking for!  Then there is all this little stuff that we have in common (except our “other” music tastes vary) such as our favorite version of “Pride” (the original) and our favorite Doors song (“The Crystal Ship” and I’m not even into them!).  We also agreed that Achtung and Zooropa have changed the face of music.

There is a catch.  I haven’t gotten a picture of him yet.  I don’t want to be shallow but it does matter what he looks like.  If he’s plain-looking, no problem.  If the photo thing turns out all right and he’s being sincere, I think I’ve also found what I’m looking for even if it’s (he’s) in Scotland.  Hey, at least I’ll have one hell of a story to tell the kids.  We’ll see.

I got home from Anita’s a while ago.  I consider her my closest friend at the moment, we get along so well.  This summer we will go (as soon as her parents let her) to Lolapalooza together where one of the headliners will be my second favorite group, Smashing Pumpkins.

The year is almost over.  Good, I have more interesting things to do.

[Last entry in Teddy Bear Diary. Quote on inside back cover:

“WHEN YOU’RE 16 YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD—AND SOMETIMES YOU’RE RIGHT.*]

I remember those nerve-wracking weeks leading up to getting Ronin’s picture.  I would look at every guy I passed on the street and think, “if he looks like that, I would be fine with it… if he looks like that, I would be…less fine with it.” I tried to forgive Ronin for any physical flaws he might have ahead of time, tried to remember the connection we quickly established over the course of several letters, which would surely surpass the superficiality of what he looked like. But I did pass quite a few males that didn’t pass my “If he looks like that” test.

Finally, his next letter arrived. I tore into it in the elevator, fishing out the small, passport-photo-sized picture, wondering if I was about to see the face of my soul mate.

I felt like I was on a game show where I picked the wrong curtain and the wah-wah-wahhhhh trumpets sounded announcing my misfortune.  When I described him to Anita, the first word I used was “bulky.”  It wasn’t just that he was a large guy; I was hardly a waif myself, and have always been forgiving of some extra poundage on male. No, it was his face.  Despite having blue eyes, there was something doughy and vacant and unappealing about it. I just wasn’t attracted even a teeny tiny bit to Ronin and no amount of great personality could make up for it.

I couldn’t think of a graceful way to reject him.  I was so disappointed that I couldn’t bring myself to write Ronin another letter.  It was terrible.  I can’t imagine how insulting and upsetting it was to him. He may have hinted some concern in another letter to Anita, but she stopped writing to him too. I still feel a twinge of guilt about the whole thing today.

I hope he eventually did find what he was looking for, because it definitely wasn’t me.


* From an interview with Bono.

[May, 1994] U2 Propaganda and Purple Hair

December 20, 2010 2 comments

 

...

Thursday, May 26, 1994

Dear Journal,

I only have two interesting things to write about.  The first is I died my hair purple a couple of weeks ago.  Actually it came out streaked pinkish-purple, and a lot of it has washed out already but it’s still really cool.

The other thing has to do with Propaganda (the official U2 world service magazine).  In the back there’s this thing Grapevine that lists over 200 addresses.  I wrote a whole bunch of letters and have already gotten 5 responses: Carla, an artist from Minnesota, Nia, a dancer from Australia, Marjorie who is practically my soulmate, also from Australia, Stephen, who knows amazing U2 insider info, from Scotland, and Ronin McMullen Jnr who sounds really sweet, also from Scotland.  They are all U2 nuts!  I’m in heaven.

And my non-U2 friends were in hell.

It’s difficult for me to dabble in something. If I pick up an interest, I tend to do so in a wholly-encompassing way until that interest grows into something of an obsession. This was certainly the case when I was in my teens and 20’s. If I found a band I liked, I had to own every one of their albums (and sometimes b-sides); if it was an author, I tried to collect every book written by them. Sometimes it didn’t work in my favor, like when I discovered Charles Bukowski and learned that a little squalor goes a long way. However, I never burned out on U2, at least not for years. I found such inspiration in their music, and I wanted others to discover the same magic in their songs. So I became a U2 preacher of sorts, and likely drove my friends pretty nuts with my music proselytizing.

Discovering the pen pal section of Propoganda couldn’t have come at a better time. This was before the internet made it easy to connect with like-minded individuals via message boards. This involved pen and paper and postage and waiting up to weeks for a response, depending on how far the letters were traveling. But I didn’t mind, because I finally had an outlet for my obsession that would cultivate new friendships instead of straining existing ones. I was corresponding with people all over the world, including one boy thousands of miles away who I was developing a crush on sight unseen (well, I sent him a photo but was still waiting on his). It didn’t hurt that his last name was pretty close to Larry Mullen Jnr’s, and that Ronin also spelled it “jnr” instead of “jr”–I was a dork for that kind of minutiae (who am I kidding, still am). The fact that we had the same favorite band and that he had what I imagined must be an irresistible Scottish accent was already working in his favor, as were his letters, peppered with sweet and flirty missives. And Scotland was pretty darn close to Ireland…

While I was finding more people to share my U2-holism with, I probably owe some of my friends form back then an apology for inundating them with my musical obsession (especially Didi, who still can’t listen to them today because of me). So if you’re reading this and knew me back in the day, and if you endured one of my U2-are-the-best-band-in-the-world monologues, I’m sorry for the preaching, and I’m grateful you stood by me anyway.

As for the purple hair, I was determined to push the boundaries on just how much my mother allowed me to chemically enhance my tresses. Mom was cool with anything that would wash out, but hennas and other semi-permanent dyes didn’t create the kind of dramatic, lasting technicolor effect I was going for. After frying my hair with sun-in, it shouldn’t have been a big deal for me to dye it permanently, but no matter how much I tried to wear down my wonderful mother, she stood firm on the issue. So I started experimenting with rinses until I found ways to mask my natural bland dirty blonde color. And I haven’t seen it again since.

[April 18, 1994] Pearl Jam and the 90’s vs the 80’s

December 6, 2010 2 comments

how grungy it is...

Monday, April 18, 1994

Dear Journal,

Last night Anita and I went to a Pearl Jam concert.  It was great!  It was announced Friday at 6:00 and the only way to get tickets (if you weren’t in the fanclub) was through a radio station.  Anita called one for 2 ½ hours and actually got through.

Mudhoney opened up for them and they were okay.  Then Pearl Jam came on and for the first couple of songs I was real stiff (I almost felt like I didn’t belong there.  I mean my favorite band is U2 and Smashing Pumpkins are way down the line at second favorite).  Then I loosened up and just got real into it.  I danced, screamed, it was wonderful.  I hadn’t been to a concert in such a long time (about 4 years) and it was incredible.  I want to go to so many more now.

(Also I should mention the fact that there was an extremely high number of cute guys there).

–“Just Say Maybe” (the back of a cool Smashing Pumpkins shirt this really cute guy was wearing at the concert.

Few things encapsulate the 1990’s as much as grunge.  I’ll be honest, I had Doc Marten boots and a few plaid shirts, but for the most part, I hated the sloppy, unwashed grunge aesthetic.  In terms of decade trends, I felt completely and utterly cheated coming of age in the 90’s after experiencing the 80’s as a child. The 1980’s were full of so many things I adored: the clothesthe movies, the TV shows, the hairstyles, the music… pretty much all of it.

The grunge that typified the 1990’s didn’t move me as much as the new wave and pop of the 1980’s. Nirvana, Hole, and most of the other bands associated with the scene did nothing for me, as evidenced by my lukewarm response to Mudhoney.  There were exceptions music-wise, Pearl Jam being one for a short time (Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins being others). But these bands never felt like a revelation to me, more like a reluctant acceptance, because they were so ubiquitous it was easier to just give in and like them after a while.

While I knew I wasn’t truly part of the scene Pearl Jam represented and didn’t love their music, I did become more of a fan after seeing them live.  They sounded infinitely better in concert than they did on their albums, their growling intensity was mesmerizing, and the show reminded me of the power of live music. I don’t listen to Pearl Jam anymore apart from a rare song here and there, but to this day, having attended ~100-200 concerts since that one, I’d still say they are one of the strongest live bands I’ve ever seen.

[March, 1994] My So-Called Crush

November 19, 2010 12 comments

some things are better bottled up

Thursday, March 24, 1994

Dear Journal,

I keep going through nice healthy periods when I don’t like Elliot Meyerowitz then something happens to make me start again.  This last time I was walking to math and passed by a room he was waiting outside. After repeatedly telling myself not to look at him I did and saw he was staring at me.  I just looking into his eyes and that was it.

Today in health (the one class I have with him) I sat a seat away from him until he moved his chair so he could see better (we were watching a movie) or sit next to Cindy J (You know all the guys you consider the cutest in your grade? Well she’s the one who goes out with them).  While he was repositioning his chair he brushed by my leg and apologized.  Pretending to be deeply involved in a crossword puzzle I mumbled “that’s okay.”

Now he was directly (almost) in front of him and the lights were out so I could only see his outline from the glow of the t.v.  A couple of times during the movie (at least 3 or 4) he turned his head in my direction like he was looking at me out of the corner of his eye or maybe he was looking at Cindy. Probably the latter.

After the movie our health teacher took out this fetus preserved in formaldehyde and had a few people at a time come up to her desk to see it.  When I went up I made sure I wasn’t standing next to him but then the people between us left.  You had to lean over to see it so we both did and he was very close to me.  I actually held my breath.  I quickly sat down after that.  I saw him a lot during the rest of the day.  I’m actually beginning to think that I…it’s not possible.  How can I if I don’t even know him and can’t even talk to him.  No.  I do not love Elliot Meyerowitz.

I can’t wait until I leave with my mom Monday.  This cruise will definitely clear my head.

“I send a heart to all my dearies
When your heart is oh so dreary DREAM.”  — Smashing Pumpkins, “Mayonnaise”

Oh, the teen angst of it all!  Being around a boy you liked could sometimes feel like navigating a mine field.  So much uncertainty and insecurity and the tiniest gesture or interaction took on an inflated magnitude.  It was like being a character in a 90’s version of an Edith Wharton novel, except I felt like I was the only one who took notice of all the nuances, the only one who gave them any meaning.  At the time, I would have traded in all those cruises with my mother to have a real connection with Elliot, one that didn’t take place in the wistful corners of my melodramatic brain. Now I can look back on it more logically, I can reason that I hardly knew a thing about this boy and never talked to him, so my crush was mostly based on his looks, and therefore I can’t blame him if he in turn developed a crush on one of the cutest girls in our grade.

I guess crushes by nature are based on superficial traits and a tenuous foothold on reality, at least the ones I’ve specialized in for a good part of my life.

I didn’t stand a chance with Elliot. But at least we’ll always have the fetus in formaldehyde.

[January, 1994] Bittersweet Sixteen

November 15, 2010 4 comments

 

Tuesday, January 11, 1994

Dear Journal,

Let’s go back in time a little bit. My birthday party was really fun. Twenty people came and I had it catered. There was also a caricaturist and a cake with a Harley Davidson on it. I don’t think I stayed in place more than a couple of minutes. On my actual birthday my parents took me to the Harley Davidson Café which is the coolest place. There is this long list of famous people who have Harleys and Larry Mullen Jnr was on the list (though his name was spelled “Jr” not “Jnr,” the way that most people spell it. I like the fact that he tries to be different.

New Years was kind of boring. I stayed home with my parents. I’m happy that I haven’t made any resolutions for this year.

Today I’m staying home from school. There is a story behind this. Lately there have been many storms in New York. Not snow but ice. Yesterday Holly, Tyra and I were going to lunch and were walking down an icy sidewalk. I didn’t realize that we were walking on such flat ice and before I knew it I was falling. I put my hand down to break the fall and landed right on it. When I stood I could barely move my left hand. After school my parents took me to a doctor and he took an x-ray. The verdict: my wrist is very badly sprained. It kind of hurts (sometimes more than others) and it’s a pain doing things with one hand.

I didn’t have the elaborate Sweet Sixteen that a number of my more financially solvent friends had, with a rented hall, a DJ, formal wear, and a giant cake wheeled out for a special candle-lighting ceremony. This didn’t bother me; I was perfectly content with pigs in a blanket, a few balloons, a caricaturist, and a Harley cake.  With regards to the Harley Davidson thing, I’ll be honest. It had less to do with my own budding interest in V-twin engines and all about Larry Mullen Jr’s own interest in them. You know how when you like a guy sometimes you start to like the things he does? It was a similar thing, except that the guy in question happened to the drummer for one of the most famous bands in the world.

As for the sprained wrist, part of me still wishes I sued Hunter College High School. The walkways near the courtyard were covered with sheets of ice and it was the school’s responsibility to make sure they weren’t a safety hazard for the students. I still remember how my friends laughed when my feet flew out from under me (hey, I would have laughed too) and how I shook off the injury until the pain was so bad I couldn’t pick up a french fry and I was near tears. I would have had a case if I sued. But whether it was laziness or my parents not wanting any bad blood between me and the school, they ended up footing the medical bill. Luckily, it was the worst bodily injury I ever suffered and haven’t sprained or broken anything since.

[November, 1993] Wait, It Gets Better!

Benny and Joon

Saturday, November 27, 1993

Dear Journal,

We went to Connecticut for Thanksgiving, but not to my cousin Jenna’s house. We visited The Weinstein’s, the people we met on the cruise. Melanie wasn’t there because she’s in France for the year but Jack came home from boarding school. At first I was a little uncomfortable because I hadn’t seen him in like four months and because I was used to having Melanie around, but that didn’t last long.

We went down to the basement to watch t.v. and only came up for hors d’ouerves and champagne which we each had three glasses of (I didn’t get drunk but I got a little lightheaded which felt great). Jack was sitting on the loveseat (I was on the couch) and he was kind of far away from me. We were watching “Benny and Joon” when Melanie called. I told Jack I wanted to talk to her so I went over and sat down next to him so I could grab the receiver (plus I did want to sit next to him). He had his arm on the back of the couch and when I started talking to Melanie he put his arm around me!

Wait, it gets better!

After he hung up we were watching the movie and I was resting my head on his chest. He kept looking down at me and once he even said something like “I’d kiss you, but I’m really involved with the movie.” Of course after that I could care less what Benny and Joon were up to.

Eventually he did kiss me and it was really nice. At one point he put his hand up to my face which I thought was the sweetest thing (I always wanted a guy to do that). He had a really warm face and neck and smelled good (though I can’t explain how).

Jake Gyllenhaal could play Jack in a movie

The rest of the afternoon we made out, trying not to get caught (we didn’t). After dinner we went for a walk by ourselves. It was really dark and cold out and there were a lot of stars shining (which one doesn’t see many of living in smog-filled New York).

Jack led us to this grassy area near a University where we made out on a hill under the stars. I swear it’s true.

The next day I had to leave so we exchanged addresses and I gave him my picture. He is going to be able to come to my birthday party in 3 weeks. I miss him already.

Jack never responded to the one letter I wrote him and never made it to my birthday party.

I think I his parents mentioned something to my parents about him having a girlfriend. So much the better that we weren’t caught smooching. However short-lived it was, it was the first proper kissing I experienced since the previous spring. It was pretty great to lock lips with an attractive, nice-smelling boy who in retrospect I realize bore a striking resemblance to a gawkier Donnie Darko-era Jake Gyllenhaal.

There’s nothing quite like that nervous anticipation before the kissing begins, and doing it in secret made it just about the most thrilling boy encounter I had experienced up to that point. The champagne, the basement, the starlit walk later on, the stolen kisses the following morning… It was certainly the highlight of my fifteeth year, regardless of the silence that followed.

To this day, I haven’t seen Benny and Joon all the way through.

[October, 1993] Oral Interpretation

October 28, 2010 5 comments

"We're #4! We're #4!"

Saturday, October 30, 1993

Dear Journal,

Before I write anything else, I must mention that tomorrow Larry Mullen Jnr. is turning 32! Happy Birthday Larry!!!! I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I really want to go to Ireland. The only thing is I have to go in at least a couple of years, ideally after college. At 22 I would be old enough to go to bars (which is where I’m going to meet Larry, God willing) and I would be young and independent.

I joined the speech team about a month ago. I am doing Oral Interpretation which is when you read a prose and poetry piece. My poetry is Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf/The Three Little Pigs by Roald Dahl and my prose is part of The Princess Bride. Today was my first tournament. I only performed my poetry. There were about 65 people competing and the top 8 Junior Varsity (9 & 10th graders) and the Top 8 Varsity (11th & 12th graders) went on to the Finals. I actually made it to the Finals! In my first tournament! Then, out of those 8, I came in fourth! And I ACTUALLY GOT A TROPHY! My first trophy!  I am so happy. It is one of those trophies with the winged women on top of it. Just the kind I always wanted. I feel like I finally found my niche. This is something I enjoy doing and I guess I’m pretty good at it.

I don’t like Elliot anymore. I made myself stop liking him. I am not completely sure why but mostly because I never talk to him.

Pretty good reason to stop liking someone, I’d say. It’s difficult to have any reasonable courtship when no words are exchanged. Besides, I had it all mapped out with Larry Mullen and only needed to wait it out six more years before I’d be on my way to being Mrs. U2 Drummer.

Thank heavens for the speech team, which was able to pry my attention away from U2 and boys for a little while. For those unfamiliar with Speech, it is a subset of Forensics along with Debate. I don’t remember how I ended up on the Speech Team, but it probably involved a teacher scouting me after hearing me read something aloud in class. In elementary school I participated in storytelling competitions, so it was a natural progression to  pursue this particular extracurricular (hey, that rhymes!) in high school. While “Oral Interpretation” may have naughty connotations, it simply referred to reading a passage of poetry/prose for 6-10 minutes in an engaging way, but not too over-the-top that it veered into Dramatic Interpretation territory. I’m sure nobody will be surprised when I confess I did a lot of veering (though I never believed myself to be a good enough actress to go full-on Dramatic).

Winning the trophy meant a lot to me because it was the first noteworthy thing I had really done since being accepted to Hunter that did not involve questionable fashion statements. For a while, I felt like the dumb smart kid, like I made it in just under the wire and had to struggle for an A- average (I didn’t have the discipline and work ethic to go for the full A). Attending Hunter was sometimes like being in a prison (our school was even nicknamed the “Brick Prison,” partly for its lack of windows), one that was extremely competitive and ostracizing to me. After years of not measuring up in this academic setting, being rewarded and having a sense of new-found belonging felt nothing short of miraculous. It made me believe high school might not be so bad after all.