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[January, 1996] Fangs, But No Fangs

1/15/96

So I finally saw the Joel-Peter Witkin exhibit at the Guggenheim (this was Saturday, with Anita). It blew my mind. Very twisted, very dark. Brilliant. How these could be photos is baffling. There’s some collage work but the rest is just sick, fabulous imagination.

Also finally bought a Rosetta Stone CD, The Tyranny of Inaction. Great album.

Went online for the first time at Anita’s. The Industrial/Goth chat room was a bit dull at first, but got better. Was Instant Messaged by this cool guy in AZ, OrpheusBlack. There sure are a lot of people into Marilyn Manson and NIN. Not nearly enough Bauhaus fans, at least from when I was on. It was fun, but something I could definitely live without. I prefer letters.

...

I’m listening to Christian Death at the moment. They have grown on me a lot. I told Anita to tell me if I ever start to annoy her w/this whole Gothic thing, the way Claudia did with Punk. I depend on her to keep me grounded, like when I told Anita to make fun of me for wanting fangs (which I do).

Today I went to Didi’s. Played Monopoly with her, Leon and James. They said they’d go to The Bank with me the next time they come back from college (Leon in March, James in May). I must go back soon. Maybe I can beg Anita (doubt it). I’ll find a way. I always do.

Entered my portfolio in the Scholastic Writing contest (the same one I won last year for Short Story). This is the big one, $5,000. I’m hopeful.

Had a dream the other night about asking Nathan back on Sally Jessy (as if I would learn). In the dream he had a girlfriend. I’m basically over it, but not completely, not until that absolutely final time I go there.

So, to summarize my18-year-old self: getting fangs = good idea/The Internet = bad idea.

Man oh man oh man. So much to mock, I don’t even know where to begin. I remember how much I loved that Joel-Peter Witkin show, which to date is one of the best museum outings I ever had. I also remember there was a little girl there, which I found troubling. Five years old is too young to be looking at photos of cadavers, amputees and hermaphrodites (call me old fashioned, but six should be the minimum age for that sort of thing).

Rosetta Stone = Sisters of Mercy rip-off band with some catchy songs that you probably don’t know about unless you were a goth in the ‘90s-‘00s.

...

Going online! Oh my. It figures my sole purpose would be to find gloomy kids around the world to chat about Peter Murphy, Siouxsie Sioux and the other main players in my counter-culture obsession. But then again, there were no other goths at my high school, my best friend was going the Brit-Pop/Indie route, and I was dying (no goth pun intended) to share this interest with others. Because somewhere out there were people who also wanted to get fangs and could recommend more broody music to listen to.

I was a luddite for the longest time. I was one of the people who believed the Internet was a fad or just for uber-tech geeks and wouldn’t really take off. Just call me Little Miss Lack-of-Foresight. I was also adamant that I would not forgo letter-writing for emails and yet in the last decade, I have hand-written and mailed exactly one letter that was longer than a greeting card. Maybe two. And living without the Internet today? Yeah, I think I could go longer without food.

Now let me explain the fangs thing. It wasn’t about vampires so much. I appreciated their aesthetic but I didn’t actually want to be one, nor did I have any kind of bloodlust. Plainly put, I just thought fangs looked really neat. And I thought it would be cool to have some bonded to my teeth. Of course, it was above and beyond ridiculous (I mean, I can only imagine showing up to a job interview with FANGS. Oy.). Let’s just file that in the Thank-GOD-I-Didn’t-Indulge-THAT-Dumb-Teenage-Whim folder.

Also, I have no doubt that annoyed Anita with my goth fixation as much as Claudia annoyed me with her punk phase. Probably more. But it would be a long time before I outgrew that phase (and by “a long time” I mean “never completely”).

 

[December, 1995] Secret Crushes Revealed! Part 1

12/7/95

I really, desperately, need to be studying for my Calculus Test tomorrow, but these past few days have been so so strange…

Oh Sally... oh, über-90's-looking velvet choker...

Oh Sally… oh, über-90’s-looking velvet choker…

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.

[November, 1995] Nathan for The Cure

...

11/11/95

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…

[September, 1995] Senior Year Snapshot

9/27/95

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.

Once a bookworm, always a bookworm.

Once a bookworm, always a bookworm.

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.”) 

 

[July, 1995] Sassy Magazine and The Cure

The Cure, before Robert Smith became a caricature of himself.

The Cure, before Robert Smith became a caricature of himself.

7/26/95

A crazy story that is the sum of its parts (two of them). Anita and I go to Record Rabbit frequently. There is this very nice guy who works there. His name is Nathan and he is obsessed with The Cure. He’s very nice and we sometimes chat. He recently came back from Belgium where he saw his 41st and 42nd Cure shows.

Then there is this article I read in Sassy years ago about a guy obsessed with (duh) The Cure. I remember this story so well because I kept thinking “wow, could I ever get like that?” and then when I went through my U2 phase I did get like that so I thought of the article more. Well tonight I dug out the magazine while on the phone with Anita and what do you know: Nathan Greenblatt is the name of the Cure fan. My mind was reeling. I was blown away.

It didn’t take much to blow my mind back then. A well-placed coincidence could do it. Before we get to the musical addiction side of things, let’s talk Sassy.

The best teen magazine that ever was.

The best teen magazine that ever was.

For those unfamiliar, Sassy was a magazine for young women helmed by Jane Pratt, an editor-in-chief who always gave off the vibe of being your smart older sister. She later went on to start Jane magazine and currently runs xoJane.com, both also great, but Sassy was where it all began.

Back in the 90s, I read a number of teen magazines, including YM and Seventeen, and there was always a cookie-cutter aspect to them, encouraging you to look and dress and be a certain way. Sassy did not have the homogeneity of  these other publications, and not only showed more diversity in the types of models and content it featured, but dealt with teen issues in a no-nonsense way and promoted self-acceptance, instead of setting unattainable glossy standards. It’s the only magazine aimed at my demographic I read back then that didn’t make me feel bad about myself.

From time to time, I came across a story in the magazine that particularly resonated with me. The one about obsessed fans was such a piece.

There was always something about that kind of music fanaticism I found utterly fascinating. The idea of devoting your time and disposable income to dedicate yourself to a particular singer or band was insane, the stuff that restraining orders are made of. And yet, it’s the kind of madness I could buy into. There was something strangely admirable, like being a monk or disciple, except instead of Buddha or God, you had Bono or Trent Reznor or Robert Smith or another dubious object of worship. And I think that’s what it came down to, that level of infatuation, that passion that bordered on the mentally deranged stemmed from music being the closest thing many of us had to religion.  Song lyrics were our scriptures and concert halls our churches.

Meeting someone like Nathan was like meeting a true disciple. As extreme as my own musical obsession(s) may have been, this guy was even more devoted and hardcore. So, coincidence or no, I felt an immediate connection to him and truly believed fate had crossed our paths for a reason.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was also pretty cute…

[June, 1995] Carnival and Catherine Wheel

January 26, 2014 2 comments

6/8/95

Wow, I almost felt like I was starting a letter (I must comment on how annoyed I am that I haven’t gotten any real letters in a while. I just know I’ll get about 8 in the same day). But now isn’t the time to be sarcastic because it was a beautiful day. Carnival was great even though all I did was sit there and talk and sign people’s yearbooks and sit there trying not to melt under the sun. It was great.

There is a strong possibility that I first owned this album on cassette.

There is a strong possibility that I first owned this album on cassette.

Then (w/Anita) on to Tower Records in the village to see a free concert by Catherine Wheel. Very good they were*, bought the album then & there (I love the single “Waydown” so much, I wouldn’t mind if it was that song over and over). Got yet another set list which was signed by all the band members this time (very nice people, a British band).

For anyone joining the game late, I was a big penpal nerd in the ’90s and continued to be so in my later high school years (I’ll spare you additional gushing about how superior paper letters were to electronic correspondence—this time!—and direct you to this earlier blog post for more background). Inevitably, no matter how I tried to space out my letter-writing, I’d usually get responses in bulk, despite the letters coming from all over the world.

Carnival was an annual event that I imagine most schools have a version of (booths with games, food, etc.) so I’ll spare you details, but mostly because that particular year I didn’t do much more than “sit there” and call it “great” (can’t you tell I was an aspiring writer from that vivid description alone?).

Before delving into the show itself, a note for the younger readers: once upon a time there were these places called “record stores” where they sold music in physical form, on vinyl, cassette and these small plastic discs called CDs. Some of these larger shops, like Tower Records, hosted musical artists from time to time to do in-store signings, and sometimes the bands would also perform a 20-minute mini-concert to promote their latest album. 

Anita and I had a previous adventure in New Jersey seeing Sponge at a different Tower Records, but it was nice to be able to attend another in-store closer to home.

Somehow this photo of Catherine Wheel manages to look both extremely spontaneous and staged.

Somehow this photo of Catherine Wheel manages to look both extremely spontaneous and also staged.

To this day, Catherine Wheel is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. For those unfamiliar, their sound is a shoegaze/rock mix with a dash of dirty guitars (I initially wrote “grunge” but couldn’t live myself for labeling them that way). They also sounded better in person than they did on any of their albums (one of the few bands I could say the same for is Pearl Jam).

Catherine Wheel had some brief MTV success with the single for “Waydown” but never made it really big like—Radiohead big. (Fun fact: lead singer Rob Dickinson is the cousin of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.)

It’s a shame they weren’t able to find a wider audience, because I think they put out of lot of solid music and put on great concerts. And while it was nice to see them perform at smaller venues, they deserved more wide-spread attention and success than they ever received. The album I bought referenced in this entry, Happy Days, is pretty good, but Chrome and Adam and Eve are even better and some of the most underrated music to come out of the 1990s.


* No idea why I decided to sound like Yoda there.

[April, 1995] Marilyn Manson and Fading Friendships

November 13, 2013 4 comments
Gotta miss those Parental Advisory stickers...

Gotta miss those Parental Advisory stickers…

4/30/95

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.