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[November, 1995] Nathan for The Cure

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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…

[May, 1995] Awards and the Road to Gothdom

December 8, 2013 2 comments
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5/5/95

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.

By the '90s, Robert Smith should have probably started looking into a different look...

By the ’90s, Robert Smith should have probably started looking into a different look…

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.

One of the most underrated albums of the '90s.

One of the most underrated albums of the ’90s.

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.

[April, 1995] Belly in Concert (Radiohead in the House)

October 14, 2013 1 comment

4/10/95

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.

April 20, 1995

April 20, 1995

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. 

 

[March, 1995] Drunk on Life… and Midori

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3/18/95

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday where huge amounts of drinking goes on. I’m home from Claudia’s house and still a tiny bit groggy, as I always am the morning after sleeping over. I told her all bets are off and no one has dibs on anyone.

A Liz Phair line comes to my mind, I think it’s from “Strange Loop.” I don’t remember the exact thing but it’s something to the extent of “I wanted you, I wanted more than I knew.”

Right now I’m listening to Anita’s Superchunk tape (who are opening up for Belly), it’s pretty good.

I got the song right but for clarity’s sake, the exact lyric is,

I always wanted you
I only wanted more than I knew 

That St. Patrick’s Day was one I’ll never forget, despite the vague diary entry. Claudia called me after school, when I was already home in Brooklyn, and told me Neil, Adrian, and a couple of their friends would be coming over to her house to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. By celebrate, we all know that meant “drinking a bunch of booze.” She invited me to join her, but I didn’t think my parents would allow me to go since it was dark out and I knew they wouldn’t want me to take the subway after rush hour. But I was beyond desperate to go. I had to think of a good plan, and fast. 

I told my father that Claudia’s parents invited me to go out to dinner with them for St. Patrick’s Day and would even pay for a taxi to the Upper West Side, where they lived (and of course I was also invited to stay over). It’s a good thing that Mom was still at work, because chances are she would have seen through the ruse. But it was easier to lie to Dad.

“I’ll let you go…” he said. I held my breath. “…But they shouldn’t pay for your taxi.”

Not only did he grant permission, he gave me money to take a car all the way uptown (over an hour’s drive from where we lived in Brooklyn).

I couldn’t get to her place quickly enough. 

Oh Midori, you green angel you...

Oh Midori, you green angel you…

When I arrived, Claudia was already tipsy and Neil and Adrian were there with their two friends. I had met Adrian before; also a punk, he was a little older than Neil, wore his hair in purple and blue liberty spikes and was kind of ridiculously gorgeous. Claudia handed me some Midori (hey, it was green and boozy, St. Paddy’s-appropriate) and introduced me to the two I didn’t know: a pretty blue-haired girl (my immediate envy of her must have erased all memory of her name) and a cute punk guy named Mark. All I remember about him was that he was less overtly punk—at least aesthetically—than the others (his hair was shaved on the sides, but a simple brown color) and  Russian like me, even speaking the language. 

It wasn’t long after those chugs of Midori that a giant make-out-fest broke out. (That’s around the time I told Claudia, “all bets are off, nobody has dibs on anyone.”)

At first, we all rolled around the floor of Claudia’s room in like a pile of kittens. Finally, after all the months of pining for him, I got to lock lips with Neil. So how was it? Like many overly-anticipated things: disappointing. The only thing I could think of the entire time we smooched was how small his mouth was. It was a wonder this kid could eat anything bigger than a jellybean (no wonder he was so skinny!).

I had better lip-compatibility with Adrian, and loved making out with him, but Mark and I just really clicked in terms of chemistry (just goes to show, better-looking doesn’t mean better physical compatibility). As the night progressed, we ended up pairing off (Neil with blue-haired chick, Adrian with Claudia, Mark with me) and heading off to separate rooms. 

Mark and I ended up downstairs on the living room couch, making out in the dark for what might have been hours and murmuring to each other in Russian. It. Was. Awesome.

 

[February, 1995] Radiohead Early Adopter

December 2, 2012 6 comments

“We scratch our eternal itch, a twentieth century bitch…”

2/12/95

Did the Village thing with Anita Saturday. Got neon yellow mascara, some more new music (finally got Dandelion, great CD), old clothes and other random stuff (expensive habit, but the high lasts longer and has no side effects really).

Anita got a Radiohead EP that was released last year called “My Iron Lung.” We listened to it when we got back to my house and I loved it. (She’s smitten with Blur, by the way).

I decided we need a hangout, so next time we go [to the Village] we’ll hunt down a coffee shop or something like that.

Finally got NIN Demos & Remixes. Funny stuff. “ringfinger” used to be a song called “twist” which has this whole spoken word interlude (which includes Trent saying “is this thing on?”).

WDRE is playing “supernaut” which is long, screamy and wonderful. Glad I have it on CD.

How am I going to work out this Mercer thing?…

[First off, I realize that “expensive habit” line insinuates that that “random stuff” makes it sound like I bought drugs, which is absolutely, positively not the case. The miscellaneous items were probably things like stickers with band logos or the latest issue of SPIN magazine. Just want to clear the record on that point.]

When it comes to music, I’ll be the first to admit that I am usually late to the party. I often get into a band after they’ve broken up or (and this may be even worse) already toured for their best album (Nine Inch Nails and The Self-Destruct tour being a noteworthy exception). Shameful as this is to confess, I’ve even discovered “new” music from car commercials.

One band I take pride in loving from their very first album is Radiohead. “Creep” was good, but I adored all of Pablo Honey, which I owned on cassette (to this day, I can’t believe “Stop Whispering” and “Anyone Can Play Guitar” weren’t huge hits, the latter not even released as a single). I listened to Radiohead’s debut album and Belly’s Star non-stop during my sophomore year of high school and even think of the two as companion albums in a way. Both had their moments of darkness, sweetness, strangeness, and catchy pop. Both will forever musically represent 1993 for me.

Radiohead’s second album, The Bends, wasn’t coming out until March (spoiler alert: there’s an upcoming diary entry expounding on it), so we were happy to have this EP to tide us over until then. The second track on it, “The Trickster,” is one of my favorite Radiohead songs to this day (if you like the band but haven’t heard it, go download it NOW; I won’t even be offended if you don’t read the rest of this entry in your rush to own this terrific tune).

It was around this time, Anita’s musical tastes and my own began to diverge. She was gradually adopting more Brit-pop and, later on, indie music, whereas I was headed for a gloomier alternative sound that would eventually (and unsurprisingly) lead to the world of goth. In the meantime, Radiohead was the perfect bridge that fulfilled our joint musical needs, balancing mood with melody, quirkiness with accessibility.

I still listen to Radiohead today. Considering my history is studded with questionable music taste, it’s nice to have a band like this to balance out the scales.

[December, 1994] Writing Exercise: A Musical Portrait

The red spiral notebook was a journal started out of a requirement for a creative writing class. I usually didn’t use it for the actual writing assignments, but the one below somehow got included.

The assignment was to pick someone in the room, and write a detailed description of them. Then some of the students read their descriptions out loud and the rest of us tried to guess the subject. We weren’t given any restrictions on what we could write apart from not using the person’s name. I looked around the room for potential subjects but then decided to write about myself. Go vain 16-year-old me! Now I kind of cringe at my teenage self-centeredness, but am also glad for the verbal time capsule. Then I actually read through it and cringe again.

[12/5/1994 – WRITING EXERCIZE]

[To this day, I intuitively misspell “exercise” because it seems wrong for the word not to have a “z” in it.]

She has long brown hair that ends 3 inches above her waist. She has been growing it for almost 3 ½ years. She has medium brown eyes (not too large or small) and rather thick eyelashes. Her lips are kind of small, she wishes they were fuller but she wears dark lipstick most of the time anyway. Her eyebrows are slightly arched and she plucks them.

[And let’s not forget that the haircut I was growing out was inspired from Chynna Phillips from Wilson Phillips, and necessitated by the need to get rid of the last dregs of a bad perm. Though let’s be honest, is there really such a thing as a good perm?]

She loves music and is always wearing a band shirt (usually U2 or Nine Inch Nails). Speaking of NIN, she’s unbelievable excited about the concert in 2 days. She’s going with her friend Claudia and then Friday with Claudia again and Salli too. This concert is something she has been looking forward to for over a month.

She’s really happy that her best friend Anita got Pretty Hate Machine a few days ago. They tried to listen to it in sync (over the phone) but it didn’t work. Amita is the one who got her started on U2 (which many people were ready to murder Anita for later on).

[I remember that Pretty Hate Machine listening party quite well. I had the cassette and I’m pretty sure Anita did, too. We were gradually incorporating CD’s into our music libraries during our village outings, but it would be a while before compact discs outnumbered our tapes. Anyway, we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone trying to press Play at exactly the same time, but the whirring electronic beats of “head like a hole” always started just a little bit sooner for one of us. No matter how many times we rewound and tried it again, we couldn’t get the music to sync up perfectly. I think we still listened to the whole album over the phone, most likely peppered with my enthused and worshipful commentary.]

One of the few U2 shirts I still own. Goes for $50-$80 on eBay!

Since that summer just two years ago she has accumulated quite a lot of U2 stuff. Sometimes, when she can’t sleep, she’ll go over her U2 collection in her head and has estimated it is worth $850 at face value (she underestimates these things though). 

[Some people count sheep, I counted 7″ and 9″ records, bootlegs, books, magazines, and other scraps of fandom. I still have a box of memorabilia at my mom’s place, though I don’t think it’s worth is going to surpass my 401K any time soon.]

U2 have greatly inspired this person, giving her the words she lives by “dream out loud.” She has learned to accept this part of herself, this “U2-ism” and has come to terms with it in a healthy way (this NIN thing on the other hand…). She now puts together a U2 ‘zine “Faraway, So Close!” that has been doing pretty well (she hopes to complete the second issue over winter break). She’s planning a big trip to Dublin after she graduates and doesn’t really expect to meet any members of the band (such as her favorite, drummer Larry Mullen Jnr) but if she does happen to run into them…so much the better. 

[For the record, I made it through all of my various music obsessions without a single restraining order.]

One more U2 thing, she has met lots of people through penpal listings and such and so now she is in the “U2 network” and has been for over 6 months.

She wants to see if there’s some NIN network (there is On-line, but she’s not with all that).

[Remember when the Internet was this thing you could simply choose not to be part of? No doubt many of you do not.]

She thinks Trent Reznor (who writes, arranges, and performs all NIN songs, hiring people to help during tours) is one of the (if not the) most talented, fascinating people she’s ever known of. His music is so dark and scares so many people (good!) but she finds great strength and expression in it.

This is what you find when you search for a photo of Tori Amos and Trent Reznor together.

She also loves Tori Amos and if you’d ask her who she would like to trade places with right now, she’d say Tori.

[Probably because she was creative and quirky and likely got it on with Trent Reznor.]

Then there are so many other artists and bands she listens to, like The Trash Can Sinatras for the beautiful, tuneful songs. Then there’s Afghan Whigs, Moist, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam for their melodic anger. Also Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead for the “guitar-driven angst.” And Belly and Liz Phair because she, well she just likes their songs.

[And somehow I never got that music journalist career off the ground…]

While this is in no way a complete portrait of her it is a near-complete musical portrait.

[And a somewhat dull and pretentious one at that, so if you made it all the way through, you deserve a cookie.]