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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.”) 

 

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[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.

[April, 1995] A Place for Freaks and Misfits

afghan whigs congregation

Congregation, Afghan Whigs (I no longer own the jewel case, but I do still have the CD and inserts)

4/30/95

Right now I’m listening to Afghan Whigs’ Congregation, which I finally got (on CD). So far, better than Up In It but not as good as Gentlemen (which is expected. Gentlemen is great).

I’ve been looking at colleges for a while now and have decided that Emerson is the best school for me. If I can’t (well refuse to) go to school in New York, the next best thing is Boston. BU is okay, but Emerson seems just fabulous. It’s a school for communications and not at all a stick-up-the-butt school. Though it’s pretty small (just under 2,000 people) it seems like the place for me. Emerson offers writing scholarships and is full of misfits and freaks (in other words, people I would most likely want to hang out with).

Here’s a cool Whigs quote:
“hey, baby there’s a vampire moon
scaling the sky shine in your room
your eyes are open you got nothing to do
come outside and play with me tonight “
— Afghan Whigs “Tonight

I saw that [giant arrow drawn in journal pointing up] on an address label once. There’s a hidden track on Congregation it’s coming up now. Actually, it’s really good, better than most of the songs on this. Anita told me that a hidden track is the entire CD played backwards. I love hidden tracks and linear notes (well, the lyrics). This one has both.

Hidden tracks and album packaging have been a sad loss as music has undergone a digital revolution. I’m sure somewhere (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed) there’s list about “Things You Miss If You Came of Age in the ’90s” or “Stuff People Who Bought Cassettes & CDs Are Really Bummed About” that mentions these things. For those who can’t relate, it’s a shame you will never experience the triumphant rush of joy of purchasing physical music and finding the printed lyrics to the songs included in the liner notes, to say nothing of the obsessiveness required to decipher lyrics of when they weren’t included (the most insane one I ever tried to transcribe, from the cassette version, was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”).

Then there was the special thrill of discovering a hidden track. In some cases (like Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP) I didn’t even know of the hidden tracks for months and stumbled upon them rather than look for them. This was much more satisfying than being told about the hidden track (music spoiler alert!). Nowadays, it’s rare for me to buy a full album or listen to one all the way through. I download most of my music and I barely glance at the packaging of the handful of CDs I do still acquire annually. It makes me sad; music used to occupy such a predominant role in my life and now it’s little more than a background soundtrack when I’m writing or working out.

...

As for college, if I wasn’t local, NYU would have probably been my dream school. It had a robust liberal arts program and was in the greatest city in the world. But I was determined to leave New York and have college be my reward for enduring six academically rigorous years at Hunter. While my classmates were fond of asking, “What Ivy’s did you apply to?” I wasn’t much interested in those “stick-up-the-butt” schools. Brown was vaguely enticing but Providence, Rhode Island was not, and neither was attending yet another school full of competitive braniacs. I wanted a big city with a good writing program.

It was actually Anita who mentioned Boston as the perfect place to attend college. It was far away from home but not too far, a big enough city, but not too big, and was filled with plenty of matriculation options. So I got a Princeton Review guide and started browsing colleges. As soon as I read that Emerson was known as a school “for freaks and misfits”, where many students had crazy hair, piercings, tattoos, etc., I knew I found my future four-year academic home. Before I even visited the campus or did more in-depth research, I just knew it had to be Emerson. And so it would be, but it would be a bumpy road getting there… 

[April, 1995] Goth-in-Training

Yes and yes.

Yes and yes.

4/29/95

I did not go to sleep last night. Finished my Nabakov paper at 4:00, read until 5:30. Had two cups of coffee this morning, will have a couple more with lunch.

Back home, everything is so messy but comfortable.

Anita and I are just itching to go to the Village soon. Must get old Cure, Cocteau Twins! I always forget about the Cocteau Twins. Have to (want to) make a tape for Tim. Anita ate in a Denny’s 20 or 30 miles from Clarion*, the rednecks scared her lots.

I want this year to be over. And next year too. My procrastination problem is not good for Junior year.

If I can’t get the year to be over, I’ll settle for this class to be over. I never stayed up all night. Almost felt reborn, which was pretty cool/strange. Things started wavering in front of me though which wasn’t too great.

I’m hooked on Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, it’s fun to read about havoc being wreaked.

I’ll be honest, some of my later teen journal entries could probably be paraphrased as “blah blah music blah blah boys blah blah pretentious stuff blah blah.” Between the various literary and music references and comparing staying up all night to being “reborn,” I was one turtleneck and Fellini dissertation away from getting the gold in Competitive Pretentiousness. I’d like to say that future entries won’t be like this, but that would be a lie. As my thoughts get “deeper” and my tastes get darker and more (sometimes-) obscure, the pretentious factor is sure to rise. Remember, these are the musings of someone on the verge of becoming a goth: consider yourself duly warned.

Not all, or even half, but at least a small part of these gothic inklings could be credited to Tim (previously mentioned here and here, a pen pal (who I found through a friendship book) living in a small, narrow-minded town in Pennsylvania. He was depressed, angry, cute and had great music taste: a combination that would prove emotionally lethal for many years to come. He included his phone number in an early letter and, after calling him on a whim and talking for nearly two hours (documented in a journal entry dated a week prior to this one; trust me, you’re not missing anything), my crush was cemented.  

...for what ails you

…for what ails you

The Cure and Cocteau Twins were two of Tim’s favorite bands, which he included in a mix tape for me (this is where I could go on and on about the wonder and sad departure of the mix tape, but I’ll spare you… this time). I was already familiar with some Cure, but not their colossally depressing earlier work (soon, fledgling goth, soon). Between the haunting music and the source of the mix tape from which it originated, it was no wonder I was keen to get more of their albums. Sure, it was partly to have more in common with my crush, but he did help me develop my love for these two bands. (To be fair, he also liked other bands, like Sugar, that never did it for me, so it wasn’t purely about impressing him. Only partly.)

Tim often complained of Clarion* being a hick town, where he was mocked and bullied and accused of being gay because of the way he dressed (lots of black) and wore his hair (longer than what was acceptable in those parts). I was lucky that my own days of being bullied were behind me and to be in New York City where my freak flag could fly more freely. I would be unfurling and waving that flag around quite a bit in the coming years.

* Not the actual town name.

[March, 1995] Kissing in the Kitchen, Sleeping on the Floor

This is what happens when you look for images of a "90s party". For the record, no party I attended in the '90s, or ever, looked like this.

This is what happens when you look for images of a “90s party”. For the record, no party I attended in the ’90s, or really ever, looked like this.

3/26/95

Ceecee had a party last night and it was probably the best one (or one of the best) I ever attended. When I look back on it, it almost seems like a movie, a really interesting, cool movie. Though I’d like to, I’m not going to go into detail. I’ll write a couple of more things about it though.

Spent a lot of the time hanging out with/talking to Jamie (and we were so not used to it, having emailed each other for so long). Met this girl Mary, an NIN fan who does a ‘zine (needless to say we bonded instantly). 

Crashed on Ceecee’s living room floor and it was fun. Slept three hours tops but didn’t mind one bit.

Can’t concentrate on doing work. I’m terrible.

Had a nice chat with Eduardo. Don’t feel like doing work. I’m really going to try now. 

The reason I didn’t go into detail was that I was still paranoid about my father reading my diary (having that happen once already). Kind of ironic that I want to go into detail now, with the full intention of having others read it.

Let’s just clear up some of the hyperbole above right now. While I only have vague recollections of the party aside from the details to come, it was certainly not something out of a “really cool, interesting” movie unless it was an understated coming-of-age indie about a kooky Russian alterna-girl growing up in the 1990’s. Because in the years following this diary entry I will have attended some truly cool parties that could have been featured in a movie (featuring everything from tinfoil on walls to cage dancers to Jello shots in plastic syringes; held in crazy lofts, Victorian mansions, giant backyards with laser light shows… and that doesn’t even cover the Halloween weekend spent in New Orleans).

So let’s get to the real reason I had such a blast at this party.

Ceecee was a year ahead of me and in a creative writing class with Jamie and me. It was initially daunting being invited to a party where nearly everyone was older and a stranger to me. So it was great to meet a fellow Nine Inch Nails fan and ‘zine writer (oh, memories). And it was also nice to bond with Jamie, who was a funny and irreverant breath of fresh air in our hypercompetitive magnet school and one of those people I always thought I could be better friends with (how weird is it that we emailed each other, even though we saw each other in class all the time?). But the real reason this party stood out for me was Eduardo.

All I remember about Eduardo was that he was a cute soccer player from Bolivia, about my height with thick, dark floppy hair. When I wasn’t chatting with one of the girls, he and I did plenty of flirting.

I didn't have bangs at the time, but you get the idea.

I didn’t have bangs at the time, but you get the idea.

At one point, I went to the kitchen to get some ice and for whatever reason, I didn’t turn on the light. He followed me in and we talked/flirted some more and then ended up kissing. 

Ceecee had gone out with Eduardo in the past, but she saw we were clicking and gave me her blessing. Truth be told, I don’t remember if that was before or after I already made out with him (we were in the kitchen for quite a while).

I ended up sleeping on Ceecee’s living room floor about a foot away from Eduardo. There was probably some more smooching during the night. At some point later on, when everyone had left or passed out, I had my eyes closed but was still awake and heard Ceecee in the kitchen talking to a male friend. Talking about Eduardo and me hooking up. Essentially, she said that she wasn’t envious, because what they had was in the past, but at the same time she kind of was.

The thing about Ceecee: she was very pretty in that exotic, multi-ethnic way and probably had no trouble getting male attention. Whereas I was just coming out of the awkward phase of my adolescence and male attention was something newer to me. So instead of feeling guilty that I may have hurt her feelings, I felt kind of flattered that someone who looked like me actually stirred up envy in someone who looked like her. I was used to being insecure and feeling like I didn’t measure up, so it was strange to hear that sort of sentiment expressed towards me. And it did a lot to bolster my self-esteem. 

I ended up having one semi-awkward coffee date with Eduardo before he went back to Bolivia. We didn’t stay in touch.