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[April, 1996] No Reason to Be Depressed

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April 25, 1996

Hung out with Dave on Monday. He’s thinking about the Prom (Brad will be here from the 8th to the 22nd. Prom’s the 30th). I had a good time. Then I got home and it was as if I just ran out of cheerfulness. It was awful.

[I mentioned David before. We talked about going to the prom together and I won’t lie, the idea attending the dance an actor who had a starring role on a cable show that had a cult following was pretty appealing. I wasn’t interested in him romantically, I just loved how insane he was and thought we’d have a blast. In the end, he didn’t end up going. I’m still not sure if he was actually expelled from Hunter for setting that fire in the hallway or he left for other reasons, but he didn’t think the school would be cool with him showing up at the Prom. Also, his girlfriend was not entirely comfortable with the idea, even though she knew we were platonic. I only met her a couple of times and she was kind of aloof toward me, but maybe she was suspicious I was trying to steal her man (I wasn’t). She actually became a more successful actress than Dave and is currently playing a supporting role on a Shonda Rhimes show.]

Since then it’s been off and on. I try to tell myself there are many things to look forward to (Switchblade Symphony at the Bank this Saturday, Valve at the Batcave next Saturday, Brad’s visit, college). I try to tell myself I’m just being a brat and have no reason to be depressed. Maybe it’s delayed hurt. My insides finally catching up with my outsides. But I don’t want to be like this. I hate it. It’s such a shitty feeling, a shitty state of mind. I don’t want to be a cliché, doom-and-gloom goth. I’ve got to stop being so self-destructive. I’m doing this to myself. I have to tell myself to just stop.

The cute doom and gloom twins of Switchblade Symphony

The cute doom and gloom twins of Switchblade Symphony

Or maybe I should have told myself to feel my feelings and stop suppressing the heartache. It was all well and good to recognize the good things in my life, but I thought Brad was the guy for me. Regardless of how unrealistic that dream may have been, it was over, and I hadn’t truly faced the reality of that. I tried to use logic to pull myself out of being depressed when I had just cause to be that way. It was the first time I had ever been in love, and while it ended fairly amicably, it still ended. I had every reason to be sad about it, but I kept resisting and trying to keep the hurt at bay. One way or another, sooner or later, it was going to keep coming out until I properly dealt with it. And I didn’t know it at the time, but it was going to take years to recover from this.

I do recognize the irony of using goth music to cheer me up. Even though at that point I was dying my hair black, the majority of my wardrobe was dark, and most of the music I listened to was gloomy, I continued to resist the goth stereotypes. Yet I was obviously drawn to this subculture because I felt an affinity to the darkness of it, on an aesthetic and emotional level. I mean, if it walks like a goth, talks like a goth, and mopes like a goth, it’s a goth. As much as I tried to smile through my purple lipstick and deny it, I was going through a depression, and while my feelings (suppressed and otherwise) were genuine, I was ticking all the boxes on the goth checklist. Luckily, things were about to get a little bit better for me. Unluckily, another emotional curveball was on the horizon.

[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).

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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.

[November, 1995] Secret Crushes Revealed! Part 2

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[12/7/95 continued]

I got home and listened to the message Mr. Laurie left:

“Damiella, we have a problem. I spoke to Nathan and now he says he can’t do the show…” Major blow.

Called the show this morning to find out why. Two reasons:

1) He couldn’t get off work (probably the excuse he gave to strengthen:

2) He’s “sort of seeing someone” and at first she had no problem with him being on the show but then it started to bother her. Of course Nathan still wanted to know who it was but could not be told. This is the most interesting part. At one point Mr. Laurie put him on hold and got back early hearing him say to another man: “What about that girl who comes into store? The one who just dyed her hair black…?” So at least he did suspect me, no not at least, I’ve been hinting.

For some reason I was really upset. It was probably—yeah, “probably”—the “sort of seeing someone” part. I left school at 10:00 and began walking to the Village, listening to the Cure’s 17 Seconds and feeling very numb in the unhappiest way. But I made it to Barnes & Noble on Astor Place and spent 4 ½ hours there (skipping Poets House and Sociology) trying to cheer myself up by reading Dave Barry books (it made me laugh as I read it, but when I stopped I barely felt better).

I still remember this quite well. Hunter College High School was on the Upper East Side, and Astor Place all the way downtown, so that was a good 4+ mile walk. I know for a fact that I was wearing one of my pairs of Doc Marten combat boots, because I think I might have written a poem incorporating my footwear into the disappointment. Maybe that makes up for my skipping out on my volunteer shift at the poetry library Poets House? Maybe not. 

And being the good goth that I was, of course The Cure was my soundtrack. I must have listened to that album four or five times consecutively, on my Walkman (it wasn’t until college that I upgraded that particular cassette to CD). And even though The Cure’s fourth album, Pornography, is widely held as their most depressing, it was Seventeen Seconds that resonated with me more, because of the lyrics to “M” which begin:

Hello image
Sing me a line from your favorite song
Twist and turn
But you’re trapped in the light
All the directions were wrong

You’ll fall in love with somebody else
Tonight

Preach it, Reverend Smith.

This would make a pretty cool postage stamp, actually.

This would make a pretty cool postage stamp, actually.

The truth is, things worked out the best possible way they could. I think my dream on Monday night contributed to the sadness. I dreamt that Nathan showed me these two Joy Division stamps but the photos were the most heartbreaking things and just as I needed to be consoled for being so upset by them (I don’t know why the stamps upset me so much. The melancholy photos, Ian’s suicide, etc. It made sense then) he got up and left. But not just because he needed to do something, he made a point of leaving me (on purpose). Then the next day I remember waiting for him to come back to me, and I knew I was waiting in vain, but hoped anyway. It was the saddest dream I ever had and as I was walking in the Village, every once in a while I would get that same feeling, that maybe I’ll run into him, knowing that I wouldn’t.

I used to be really into dream interpretation and even owned a dream dictionary back in the day, but (un)surprisingly, there was no entry explaining the meaning of dreams about Joy Division stamps. Go figure. 

Sadness over not being on a cheesy talk show aside, I have no idea why I would have wanted to run into Nathan that day, except to see his face full of wistfulness as he realized that he wanted to be with me instead of Miss “Sort-of-Seeing-Someone.” Ok yeah, I guess that’s a reason. 

But I was trying to talk about the good of this. The obvious great thing is that I wasn’t rejected on national television. And I know he’s “sort of seeing someone.” And the very best thing is that he still doesn’t know who it is. I hope this curiosity really eats away at him. I’m going to stop by the store on Wednesday (at this point it would seem suspicious if I didn’t) and do the best acting job of my life. When he asks (if) I will of course deny, but be sure to get in something like, “but if it was me, I wouldn’t tell you” (something less obvious, though).

Let’s see, I was already a prime suspect considering what that show producer overheard. Throw in my bad acting plus my lack of any tact or subtlety? What could possibly go wrong! 

I can’t say this is heartbreak, because I don’t feel any actual serious pain (like when I listen to “Lovesong”). It’s more as if my heart was shot with novacaine. It’s just numb. But I’m numb in a really bad way. At least I haven’t ruined the whole thing for myself and there is still hope. But there’s also the terrible numbness.

I also can’t say this was heartbreak, because that usually requires more of a relationship with the other person than buying Cure postcards in their place of business once or twice a month and chitchatting about music. I wish I could tell my teenage self to pretend that it is ruined, to stop having hope something romantic would happen with Nathan. I wish I could also give my younger self a mild spoiler and let her know that something far more magical and romantic was right around the corner…

[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.

[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.

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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… 

[March, 1995] My Best Day at Hunter

rainbow locker

(I only wish we had these rainbow lockers in high school)

3/4/95

Yesterday was probably the best day I ever had at Hunter.

Claudia and I finally broke out of our awful locker hallway. We moved to the third floor art hall, where David and Neil are after being banned from the other hallway for threatening to shave some girl’s head.

There’s so much to say but I have no way of being vague about it. All set for next year. I never actually thought that… wow. On to other things.

Dandelion were great. I felt so bad because so few people were into it. There were more people for Po’ Boy Swing (who were eh).

I’m not 100% sure what I meant by “all set for next year” but I’m guessing this locker hallway had something to do with it.

To give some context, every grade was assigned its own locker hallway and then there were a few additional, more sparsely-populated hallways. One of these was dubbed the “freak” hallway. As the name would suggest, it was where many of the weirdos hung out, those generally (dis)regarded as being outsiders, either for their physical differences (being abnormally tall or otherwise unusual-looking), their interests (listening to heavy metal, playing Dungeons and Dragons) or anything else that might set apart an individual from the culture of homogeneity high school typically encourages. There were even rumors of a polyamorous relationship among several of the hallways members, which was regarded as particularly scandalous and distasteful.

In my earlier years at Hunter, I was put off by that hallway. There was all the PDA among the less-than-conventionally attractive students. There was also the greater fear that I was ever in their ranks, it would put me in an ever lower social caste, and for a while I held on to my Sweet-Valley-High-esque delusions that popularity at school was important and attainable.

Once I started wearing oddball outfits and dyed my hair purple (and developed an inappropriate crush on Neil, the too-young punk a few grades below me) fitting in was no longer desirable and I sought out other fellow weirdos at school.

David was another fellow oddball and put the rest of us to shame with his outlandishness. He was notorious at our school for having a starring role on a cable show (I won’t say which one, but it was something of a cult hit in the 1990’s) as well as a minor part in a an immensely popular family film and its sequel. His style was akin to homeless indie bike messenger and he was always pissing off the Hunter administration one way or another, like this latest incident. I even added one of his shenanigans to his IMDB page (I think I write about it in a later journal entry, so I won’t spoil it here). Being in the company of such misfits as David and Neil felt like being admitted into a club that I realized I wanted to belong to more even more than the popular crowd. These were my people.

I don’t remember exactly how Claudia and I ended up in the “freak” hallway but I do remember the excitement I felt and the relief at packing up my things and leaving the locker hallway designated for our junior class. This other hallway was sunnier, quieter, and all-around more inviting. There were not too many moments during my tenure at Hunter where I felt truly at ease and welcome, but this was one of those moments.  

[Oh, and for anyone wondering, Dandelion was a band that I most likely didn’t tell my parents I was out seeing one night when sleeping over a friend’s house. The usual.]