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[March, 1996] 17 Days Until Alaska: Or (People in Love Can Be Such Dorks)

Indeed.

Indeed.

3/18/96

17 days until Alaska. Before I talk about him, however, I have to mention something else that happened.

I saw Nisa a couple of days ago after not seeing her in over 4 years. I was a little worried about how we’d get along because I knew we both went through changes (mine a bit more radical). But I had a lovely time with her. I feel like no matter how much we drift apart, I will always come back to her friendship. The years we didn’t keep in touch I never felt really satisfied and thought about her once in a while. It was wonderful seeing her again, I slept over her house on Friday and we spent hours talking.

Nisa was my elementary school best friend. We did hit a rough patch in 6th grade and there was additional tension between our parents when her mother implied I was accepted into Hunter College High School because I was Jewish, and her daughter wasn’t because she was Muslim. Our religious differences never affected our friendship directly, though, but we did drift apart after graduating elementary school. Many of my happiest memories of childhood involve her and the various “imagination games” we would play together, using Barbies or random props around the house (I truly believe that laid the foundation for my becoming a writer). Unfortunately, I never saw her again after that one time as a high school senior. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again one of these days.

The next day, when I called my mom at work, she told me Brad called the other night at 2:00AM. When I got home I gave him a call (I was worried wondering why he called). It turns out he just really wanted to talk to me (a feeling I frequently get myself, have right now, actually). We spoke for close to 4 hours, the last half hour of which was spent trying to get off the phone (it started when I mentioned how bad I am at ending letters and conversations. He always thinks of strange creative things to write/say and all I can manage is “take care”). But we finally did.

God, people in love can be such dorks.

Today he called again, at 6:30AM (he knows I get ready for school around this time). We only spoke for 15 minutes but it was the best way to wake up. He phoned for two reasons. The first was because he finished Lost Souls (the quickest he read a book—2 days) and loved it (I mailed him a copy).

The other reason was to thank me. See, I kept insisting that he has to write, and he hadn’t in a long time. Now he stated writing again and gives part of the credit to my “nagging” (my word, not his). I just need to make it through these 17 days and then bliss awaits. This could possibly be the best week of my life, I mean these last couple of months I’ve never been happier (I probably have been saying that a lot). Life has been too good. No, not too good because that’s almost like I don’t deserve this joy (and why shouldn’t I or anybody have the right to feel fulfilled—momentarily, anyway).

...

You guys, I’m going to be totally honest. I thought I might end up coming back from Alaska engaged. I mean, I was this guy’s muse, for god’s sake! And we had similar taste in books and music, as well as a penchant for rambling letters and phone conversations. What could possible stand in our way? The bulk of the 48 connected states separating New York and Alaska, you say? Way to be a buzzkill.

This will be my last entry in this notebook, and I think appropriately so (well, actually a better transition would have been to start a new journal after meeting Bradley but alas, at least I am finally completing one notebook. Ready to move on to the next one.

I must end with a quote and the one running through my head is from “Crazy” by Seal:

“Miracles will happen
as we dream…”

Yeah, life seemed pretty miraculous at that point in my life. Either I was about to set flight or crash and burn in a big way. Anybody care to take bets?

And so another journal comes to an end. For once, I was filled with so much happiness, my goth membership card should have surely been revoked.

The back cover of the notebook was covered with purple magic-markered stars and filled with slogans from U2’s Zoo TV tour I wrote in block letters including:
WORK IS THE BLACKMAIL OF SURVIVAL (this one had a thick border around it; me to my teenage self: “You don’t know the half of it.”)
REBELLION IS PACKAGED
RELIGION IS A CLUB
TALK TO STRANGERS
CONTRADICTION IS BALANCE
EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG

And so I would be starting a new journal after trading in all that restless angst for infatuation and what was for me at the time the pinnacle of joy.
Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts.

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[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.”) 

 

[June, 1995] Out on a Limb

January 20, 2014 2 comments

[When you read through this entire post, and then see how it relates to the title, you may find it corny or even a bit offensive. I am both sorry and not sorry. I certainly don’t mean any insensitivity, but I also couldn’t resist, even if it’s a terrible joke.] 

[It may not have been as architecturally striking as Hunter, but it did have more windows]

[It may not have been as architecturally striking as Hunter, but it did have more windows]

6/3/95

It’s late and I want to read, but I also wanted to talk about going to Murrow, Anita’s school. I really liked it (Anita said more than I should’ve). Maybe it was because it wasn’t Hunter and it was bigger. I don’t know (okay, yes I do, I’ll talk about it in a minute). Darby spent D-band (they’re periods are bands) with me and we went out to the courtyard for a little while, it looked like a deserted lot (well, except for the students in it).

Then during another band, which Anita had opta (or free, as we Hunterites would say) this guy Jonah hung out w/us.  He’s really cool. Anita was right, he does look sort of like Trent Reznor’s younger, cuter brother. Likes NIN, too (very into Nirvana though, not that that’s a bad thing). Is in a band, Silkweed (writes, plays guitar, sings—though badly, he says). We played poker, but mostly talked (the three of us).

All in all Jonah was a very cool guy, and I don’t like passing up opportunities to get to know cool people. So I’m creating one. Yes randomness will strike again, but this time if it doesn’t work out I won’t ever have to face him. “Nothing to win and nothing else to lose.”

Further proof of what a nerdy weirdo I was (“Was?” people who know me today may be asking): In addition to cutting class occasionally in my later high school years to sneak off to haunt the record and bookstores of the Village, Anita and I also skipped out on class to visit each others’ schools. We only did it a few times, but I guess there was a novelty in peeking at a different high school life.

It also made me wonder how my adolescence would have played out if I didn’t spend the bulk of it in the academically-rigorous brick prison that was Hunter College High School. Edward R. Murrow High School was a short subway ride away from where I lived (instead of the hour-plus trek I made to the Upper East Side), full of thousands of students (instead of the same ~200 I was stuck with from 7th-12th grade) and boasted Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys as one of its impressive alums (instead of Young MC as one of Hunter’s, which was far less bragworthy).   

In deciphering my journal code, I’m guessing “randomness” stood for “getting a crush on a boy and doing something nutty-and-bold-but-passive-like-writing-him-a-note about it.”

[For those not familiar with Joel-Peter Witkin, this is one of his tamer photos]

[For those not familiar with Joel-Peter Witkin, this is one of his tamer photos]

I’m surprised that I left out the most unusual detail about Jonah, which was that he was missing either all or part of a leg, and had a metal prosthetic in its place.

I might have neglected to mention this in my journal because I didn’t want it to seem like it was a big deal or something I found distrurbing. While I certainly didn’t have any problem with Jonah’s missing limb, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I found fascinating and was deeply curious about. Not to any sort of extreme degree like those people who worship amputees and end up chopping off their own limbs, but there was a certain amount of intrigue there for sure (maybe looking at all those Joel-Peter Witkin photographs had something to do with it). If anything, it made Jonah more unusual and memorable to me. I’ve had crushes on lots of boys in my lifetime, but he was the only one-legged boy.

Alas, there is no further mention of Jonah in any subsequent journal entries, and if I remember correctly, the next time I visited Murrow, he wasn’t in school, so if I did try to spark some kind of correspondence, it never panned out.

[May 1995] Stealing Punk

November 19, 2013 3 comments

[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:]  

I can't accept Barbie as a punk, either.

I can’t accept Barbie as a punk, either.

5/4/95

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).

[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.

[March, 1995] Happiness in Slavery

3/23/95

My story “Happiness in Slavery” got a Golden Key in the contest I entered. That means I’m being considered for an award or something and am going on to a national competition. Wow, I thought I would have been notified already and that I didn’t win anything.

A little while ago Anita and I had this in-depth conversation about the meaning of “Past the Mission” (we talked a little about “Cornflake Girl” too but that’s besides the point). We couldn’t decide which one of the girls killed the guy or if he committed suicide. Anyway not less than 2 minutes after I hang up I turn on WSOU and what song is playing? Of course! I just wish you could hear more of Trent on it.

...

When you’re a teenage girl on the phone with your best friend for at least an hour every day (but usually longer), you need a lot of conversational material. Seeing as we were both consumed with music and had a number of overlapping tastes, we did a lot of speculating about different musical artists lives, the meaning of their songs, and other things I hesitate to mention for fear of embarrassment, but which will probably get covered in later entries anyway.

As for the writing award, while I stole the title from a Nine Inch Nails song, the story itself was my own. It was written from the first person perspective of Mary, an awkward 9-year-old who gets taken under the wing of Aislinn, who exerts an unhealthy and eventually violent dominance over her. Here’s an excerpt:

Aislinn and I were in a jump rope marathon for charity. It took place in the high school gymnasium.

When it was Aislinn’s turn, she got tangled up in her jump rope and fell on her butt.

She saw me laughing and later brought me into the girl’s bathroom.

She took her jump rope with her.

I shouldn’t have laughed.

Basically, I took elements of a happy childhood friendship I had and twisted it around to make it as dark as I could. In retrospect, the title was probably too heavy-handed (in the hard copy I still have, it has “With thanks to Trent Reznor” in parentheses at the top). I should have called it “The Gypsy and the Spy,” a game my elementary school best friend and I created and would often play, often referenced in the story. In the game, the spy (Mary) crash lands on the gypsy’s (Aislinn’s) island with a suitcase full of secret items (a re-appropriated backgammon set). The gypsy nurses the spy back to health, while being suspicious that the spy will steal her diamond (actually a giant crystal) while the spy is suspicious that the gypsy is poisoning her. Various snooping and surveillance on both parts ensues. In real life, the game took on numerous permutations, but often had a happy ending in which the gypsy and the spy become friends and remain on the island together. In the story, I used it more as a device to show Mary’s increasing isolation. The last two lines of the story are:

The rescue ship was speeding away. The spy would not be leaving the island.

[October, 1994] One of the Best Days of the Year

The Village was my Mecca in high school...

10/24/94

“You don’t need my voice girl you’ve got your own.” – Tori Amos

I just needed to reemphasize what a great day it was.  The feeling is like after I take an especially lovely trip to the village.  It’s been one of the best days of the year, with everything just falling into place.  Imagine how I’d react if something truly phenomenal happened.  I don’t know how long it’s been going on, but Anita and I are best friends.  I remember telling her once but it wasn’t until her candle-lighting ceremony that it was really…confirmed.  We have an immense amount of private jokes between us, I guess that’s one indication.  Also when I got home today (to a mailbox more packed than I remember) I knew I would just burst if I didn’t talk to her and tell her about my day.  Something totally random but wonderful happened.  I’ll call it a one-time fluke, but it was still pretty cool.

“Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realized.” – U2

This is where once again I wish my father hadn’t read the diary so I wouldn’t have felt the need to be so cryptic. Granted, the random but wonderful thing that happened was almost definitely boy-related, and specifically related to Neil. He was this really young kid (13 to my 16) who I started seeing around school.  He was hard to miss because he was a punk in a sea of preppies, with dirty torn up clothes, spiky hair a different color every few weeks, and a playful badass attitude.  He was the only true punk in his grade and one of maybe a dozen alternative-looking people in our entire school.  Claudia was heading in a more punk direction, while I was alterna-chick with hints of goth, but neither of us were fully formed whereas Neil was all punk all the time.  I’m almost positive that I finally met and chatted with Neil that day.  I (unsurprisingly) ended up developing a crush on him that, despite his maturity, made me feel guilty because of our age difference.  20 years later a three-and-a-half year age gap isn’t such a big deal but in high school even thinking about him made me feel like he was the Lolita to my Humbert Humbert.

...and shopping for music was how I worshipped.

Whatever the happy incident was, for me to compare it to a trip to The Village is major.  Anita and I visited Greenwich Village as often as we could.  It was all about shopping for music, which was one of the cornerstones of our friendship.  We’d start with Record Runner on Jones Street, and maybe stop by Bleecker Bob’s (which is not on Bleecker Street as its name would have you believe), which was almost always had a disappointing (and overpriced selection).  Next it was on to Second Coming, a tiny place on Sullivan Street where we found tons of used tapes and CDs.  The guy who worked there had a shiny shaved head and a crush on Anita, and we nicknamed him Lysol because the bald head made us think of Mr. Clean and therefore cleaning products in general.  My personal favorite record store was Generation Records on Thompson, where I consistently found lots of obscure, sought-after CDs and was intimidated by the tattooed, haggard, too-cool-for-you staff.  We usually walked up 8th Street up to St. Mark’s place, where we stopped by Venus (another favorite) and once in a while, Sounds.  There was usually a stopover at BBQ for a late lunch and early dinner and then, broke but content with our musical acquisitions, we’d take the subway back to Brooklyn, perusing liner notes on the train home.

It’s funny how friendships can take on the intensity of an affair.  Anita and I spoke on the phone several times a day, spent most weekends together, and would even bring each other to school (one of us would cut classes to visit the other—crazy, right?).  It’s rare to have that kind of connection on a platonic level, and rarer still for it to endure.  But I guess I felt especially close to her since her recent Sweet 16 (what the candle-lighting ceremony is in reference to).  I don’t remember what kind words she said about me at the party, but I know that was the moment I fully realized we had become best friends.