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[April, 1996] Unexpected Reunion

[Two important things to know going into this post:

1. I was deep into the goth scene and frequented a club called The Bank.

2. I nearly appeared on a talk show to reveal my secret crush on Nathan, who worked in a record store I frequented. It never happened, but I told him it was me, anyway.]

[Not a photo of The Bank, which was much darker, more crowded, and grungier.]

April 28, 1996

Went to The Bank last night.

[…Inconsequential stuff about logistics and getting there in time for Switchblade Symphony…]

Then I saw someone about 6 or 8 feet away who looked like Nathan. I kept looking over (and noticed him glancing in my general direction as well) until I realized it was Nathan.

He was with some people, but in any case I decided I would stay right where I was. Less than a minute later he came over and started asking me, “Are you Damiella?”

I gave an affirmative reply and greeted him smilingly (he looked better than I ever remember). He said hi (happily as well) and hugged me (yes hugged me and yes I enjoyed the hug).

I said, “I can’t believe you recognized me with this make-up on” (I had the 3 spikes drawn under each eye). He replied “you look good” in an appreciative voice.

He said that he thought I misunderstood what he said in the store that day (when I confessed) and that when he said it was unfortunate he meant that if he didn’t have someone he was already happy with, he would have done it and that it probably would have been fun.

I got to meet the girlfriend, too (don’t remember her name, must’ve blocked it out). She glared at me and Nathan had to take her hand and put it in mine before she would shake it.

[I still remember this so vividly. I have never been introduced to someone who showed me this much outward hostility before and actually refused to shake my hand. For the record, I had no idea Nathan was in a relationship when I called the talk show, and never would’ve done so if I knew he was. So this girl’s frigid attitude was a bit extreme.]

I always thought if he wanted to get in touch with me he could call or write. Turns out there was a fire in his apartment. I asked the all-important question: was much of your Cure stuff ruined? He said the firemen messed up some of his magazines with the water.

[Nathan is a bigger Cure fan than all of us.]

[Nathan is a bigger Cure fan than all of us.]

So we were chatting about the Cure and he mentioned something about the “Staring at the Sea” video. I said I didn’t have it and he looked at me in disbelief and semi-jokingly asked, “What kind of Cure fan are you?”

Then he started going on about how maybe he could bring it over because he hasn’t seen it in over two or three years and I said, “sure” (though we never made any actual plans nor did we exchange numbers—which is ok, I’ll just call him at work or something).

As for Switchblade Symphony, they were quite good. Tina Root (lead singer) was so smashed but sang well so it only lended a bit of humor to the show.

Another part of the story—I met his sister. Turns out she’s a girl I have regularly seen at The Bank. We talked for about a minute and then I didn’t see her (she left temporarily). But hopefully I’ll see her there again and we’ll be able to chat.

As for Nathan himself, he gave me another hug before leaving and I told him I’d stop by the store.

When I went he wasn’t there (on Monday) so I called him at work and he gave me his number (he’s staying with his parents for the time being). I’ll wait until Thursday to call, not that I’m playing games, I just don’t want to annoy him.

You never forget your first love, or the first guy you tried to bring on the Sally Jesse Raphael show to reveal your secret crush to. It was actually good to run into him at the Bank, because I had only ever seen him on his turf (the record store) whereas I considered the goth club more my turf. And I always made sure to look my spooky best, so I felt more confident than I would have in my day clothes. And it seemed like Nathan noticed, too. Of course, the pesky girlfriend was still around, but you can’t have everything.

I guess it makes sense. Things didn’t work out with Bradley, so it was logical for me to revert to an earlier obsession. And since we bonded over music, I was happy to even embark on any sort of friendship with Nathan. I mean, the whole talk show thing could have been a huge embarrassment, but the fact that he took it in stride and still wanted to get to know me was a great sign—other guys might have taken out a restraining order against me by that point. My attraction to him was always more about his lively and humorous personality than his looks anyway, so I’d be fine with just being friends. Right?

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[February, 1996] A Deluge in a Paper Cup

January 28, 2015 2 comments

2/25/96

Bradley and I have been emailing each other this past week. His eyes are blue and green and yellow (he doesn’t like using the word “hazel”). He is constantly amazing me. He is just too lovely. So romantic and articulate and intelligent. It’s all I can do to stop myself from calling him right now (it’s 8:00PM there). He mailed me the Polaroid with his last letter. Said the picture was mine, it always was, but he just didn’t know it then.

For those who may not remember, when I met Bradley at the bookstore, all gothed out for my first outing to The Bank, I was, at first, suspicious when he came over to talk to me. Then he showed me a Polaroid of himself dressed up for Halloween, looking like he could be a cover boy for Goth Teen Beat (if such a magazine existed). I knew right then, we were on the same wavelength. He said he’d send me a copy of the photo, but to get the real thing was even better and meant so much more to me, along with the sentiment that accompanied it.

A note on Bradley’s word choices. I would tell my best friend Anita all about our conversations, and it would drive her crazy that he would describe things in a way she found to be unnecessarily complicated (i.e. instead of just saying his eyes are hazel, naming all of the colors in the irises). She’d make fun of him, saying, “Why does he have to call it ‘that wooden thing with four legs you can sit on’ instead of calling it a chair?!”).

...

This is the kind of love so many people dream of, but never experience. I feel so incredibly lucky, despite the thousands of miles. He always seems to answer questions or address doubts, before I even voice them. He knew where “try to catch the deluge in a paper cup” was from (“Don’t Dream It’s Over”, a Crowded House song I adore). I guess the most immediate question is when to tell him I love him. I’d rather do it in person or over the phone, though if I was feeling really chicken-y I’d write it in a letter (I’d never do it over e-mail, though). Part of me wants him to say it first, but as wonderful as that would be, I’d also feel a little like a coward for not being able to say it first.

That was my most immediate question, huh? Not how two teenagers are going to make it work while being separated indefinitely by thousands of miles? Not how long a relationship might be sustained through letters, phone calls and (at this time, a new technology) emails? Not how we’d ever get to see each other when neither of us had a real job? Naw, why worry about any of those pesky details when the big, pressing issue was when to tell him the three little words. (*Rolls eyes at my eighteen-year-old self*)

It’s sad that I’m writing so little about this, because it’s just about the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. But I’m so wrapped up in it, I don’t have time to stop and write everything down.

Oh, the arrogance. For me to presume this love I was experiencing was so epic and majestic that much of humanity never encountered a love on that plane. But maybe that’s something typical with first love/teenage love. We don’t want to think that this complex and mind-blowing patchwork of emotions is a typical part of the human condition. Just like we want to believe we’re snowflakes, unique and set apart from others, so must be our love. Or maybe I was being flooded with delusions of grandeur in addition to the obsessive desire that was proving me right, that confirmed my belief that falling in love was the greatest thing a person could feel.

It’s funny how we create these codes made up of our beliefs and interests, small details that make up who we are, and then get enormous satisfaction and affirmation when somebody is able to break through the code. Back then, I believed part of love was being able to decipher those small clues and cues, whether identifying a song lyric correctly or expressing a romantic notion when I anticipated and needed it most.

A word on email. It was still early days for electronic communication and I was a stubborn luddite, but I made an exception for Bradley because I couldn’t stand being at the mercy of the postal service (it took on average a week for a letter to travel across the miles that separated us) and worried about the mounting phone bill. At one point, Bradley said he felt like email was invented just for us. See, I wasn’t the only one being arrogant.

[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…

[July, 1995] Sassy Magazine and The Cure

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

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

7/26/95

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

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

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

The best teen magazine that ever was.

The best teen magazine that ever was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[January, 1995] Little Fonzies

Trent Reznor and Adam Ant

[arrows all over the place because I couldn’t remember exact order of set list]

“pinion” (maybe)
“mr self destruct”
“sin”
“march of the pigs”
“piggy”
“gave up”
“down in it”
“reptile”
“eraser”
“hurt”
“the downward spiral”
“wish”
“suck”
“head like a whole”
“closer”
“dead souls”
“something i can never have”
“physical” (w/Adam Ant)
“red skeleton” (w/Adam Ant)
“beat my guest” (?) (w/Adam Ant)

1/7/95

“Into the sea of waking dreams I follow without pride…” – Sarah McLachlan

Neck’s a little sore (more than a little). Still thinking about the last concert. It was so fun, I had a time. It was raining afterwards. Walking along the grassy hill, a memory was built. This one wasn’t emotional, just great. I was in a fantastic mood, Mr. Reznor seemed to be as well. That’s it, I have enough to sustain me until Lollapalooza.

Little things: we actually chanted; we did the “help me’s”; we were 10,000 little Fonzies; he switched “i wanna know everything” and “i wanna be everywhere”; he hugged A. Ant. Maise died.

I haven’t been able to write, maybe I can only do it when depressed or angry. Titles come to me more easily than the stories do.

“I know the depths I reach are limitless.” – NIN

The alter I at which I worshiped.

First of all, I do see the irony of starting a diary entry about a Nine Inch Nails concert with a quote from Lilith-Fair-darling, TV-Felicity-favorite mellow-chick-crooner Sarah McLachlan. Really, I do. To explain, the song being quoted, “Possession” is about obsessed fandom, so it’s appropriate. Plus, I thought Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was a good album (though McLachlan lost me on subsequent albums, and to this day I cringe whenever a sentimental TV or movie scene in which characters are parting is punctuated by, “I Will Remember You.”). Not that I need to defend my music tastes or anything… (except that I do)…

If being a Nine Inch Nails nerd is humanly possible, that’s exactly what I was. Despite attending not one but two NIN concerts the previous month, I couldn’t resist buying a ticket when a third show was added. The problem was, I couldn’t find anyone to go to the show with me. Luckily, Claudia offered to let me stay over her place (having a friend who lived in an Upper West Side brownstone and whose parents were never home was the best). So I told my parents I’d be sleeping over there, conveniently leaving out the fact that it would be after I trekked out to Long Island alone at night to see a band whose fans routinely demolished concert seats in their fervor. 

Years later, I told my mom the truth. Mom (who has some serious psychic tendencies) told me she knew what I was up to and spent the night worrying about me. I was a little worried about me too, heading into an unfamiliar part of New York solo, having to take a subway, commuter rail and shuttle, and then later finding my way to Claudia’s house close to midnight (late considering it was a school night and I was an underage kid out on the town solo).

Whatever memory was built on that grassy hill, I don’t remember it now. I remember feeling nervous about not getting lost or mugged.

Chanting was of the band’s name. “Help me” was a refrain from the alterna-hit “closer,” which the audience sang that night. “Little Fonzie” was a reference from Pulp Fiction, which meant being cool, which is not a term I would use in reference to my Trent Reznor fanaticism. Maise was his dog. Adam Ant was little more than an 80’s one hit wonder for me at the time (my deep foray into new wave was still years away), so his guest appearance at the concert was lost on me.

Being able to write more and better under angsty conditions was something I struggled with for many years. Still do. There’s a reason why some of the world’s best creative work has come out of mental/emotional turmoil. In my mind, writing good poetry/prose meant creating conflict and for me real life conflict usually bred inspiration for my own best work. But after years of captivity at the hands of my well-intentioned but overprotective parents, I was finally getting to explore and experience New York, I was in the midst of a thrilling personal musical enlightenment, and my life was finally expanding beyond classes and pining over boys. It was an inspiring time, but sometimes I was too busy enjoying it to find a way to channel it into fiction or verse. Sometimes it was enough for me to finally be out there in the world, having moments where I could believe I was a little Fonzie, even for a little while.

[October, 1994] You Too? Notes on Musical Obsession

10/17/94

“You make this all go away
I’m down to just one thing
And I’m starting to scare myself.” – NIN

I dyed my hair yesterday.  It came out very dark brown with red highlights.  A lot of people noticed and complimented me.

Didi and I were talking in the locker hall today and Claudia was nearby.  Didi said something about Doogie Howser (that old T.V. show) and Claudia got all excited because she thought she heard someone say “Dookie,” the Green Day album.  It reminded me of the olden days (9th grade) when Didi would dread saying or hearing the words “you too” around me (“U2? Where?”).  Claudia’s lucky they don’t have more stuff out (as in albums and merchandise) or it could get more serious. She’s the third non-U2 obsessive fan I know (there’s also Alicia with Soul Asylum, and Darby with Smashing Pumpkins). It’s as if I’m drawn to these people.  If I stay with this writing thing, maybe one day I’ll write a book about obsessive fandom.  Or maybe start a support group, something like that.

“I hope someday you’ll have a beautiful life I know you’ll be a sun in somebody else’s sky…” – Pearl Jam

 

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Or better yet, maybe I’ll start a blog in which we can all laugh about these obsessions.

Claudia was quickly becoming one of my closest friends at Hunter. Even though Green Day was her musical addiction and U2/Nine Inch Nails mine, we had other music in common, like Nine Inch Nails and Tori Amos. More importantly, we both had a disdain for the mainstream and the general oppressiveness of our high school. Music helped us both deal with that teenage frustration.

I’ve always been drawn to passionate people, but in high school and college, music was such an enormous part of my identity that I couldn’t help but gravitate toward others with similar obsessive tendencies. I didn’t mind hearing Darby go on about what a songwriting genius she thought Billy Corgan was or Claudia give impassioned soliloquies on Billie Joe Armstrong, because they let me have my turn ramble on about the brilliance of Trent Reznor. And while I always thought Alicia was a sweet girl, when I learned of her Soul Asylum fixation, I liked her so much more for it, and she was glad to have someone she could obsess with, even if our music antennas were set to different channels. In a way it kind of was like having one-on-one support groups.

Even though now I can see that this type of obsession is sometimes a substitute for something lacking in life, at the time I believed it gave a person depth of character and a crazy-in-a-good-way streak to their personality. It always irked me when I would ask people their favorite music and they replied, “Oh, I like everything.” I much preferred it when someone was utterly hooked on a particular artist or genre, even if it wasn’t something I was into (as was the case, when I was a little girl, with Depeche Mode).

Of course now I understand where temperance has its good points.  It’s healthy to have diverse interests and that kind of one-track mindedness can become tedious.  But back then, I didn’t have much else.  I had school, I had my friends, and I had music.  And being so obsessed with music gave me a language that helped me develop friendships in high school and beyond that may not have otherwise come to fruition.  It was a bond unlike any other.

[September, 1994] Boxing Helena and Nine Inch Nails

September 14, 1994

“I send a heart to all my dearies and when your life is oh so dreary DREAM” — Smashing Pumpkins

Filling in the ellipsis in that second blurb: "...piece of crap. If you like terrible movies then this is..."

I think I saw the worst movie ever made last night.  It was “Boxing Helena” and awful isn’t severe enough to convey how truly bad it was.  I don’t even know why I’m writing about movies so much.  I’m more into music anyway.  I listened to the Nine Inch Nails bootleg Claudia taped for me.  It was a great concert.  I still want to know where the song “Keep Calling Me” is from.  My short story is progressing.  I hope I’ll be able to continue writing on demand.

I’m afraid this long may be boring because at the moment I am refusing to put down anything personal.  I’m not going to pour out my emotions here, the closest I will come to that is with my choice of quotes.

My trip to Ireland is less than one year and 10 months away.  I hope they don’t paint over the grafitti at Windmill Lane Studios by the time I get there.

“Nothing much to say I guess
Just the same as all the rest…” – U2
 

We were encouraged to be prolific in creative writing, and had to write half a page a day in our journals. I was still resistant to keeping a proper diary wherein I’d pour my heart out, so I filled the red notebook with song lyrics and pop culture minutiae.

I wasn’t going to say much about Boxing Helena, focusing more on my burgeoning nine inch nails obsession, but in a way the two compliment each other. Jennifer Lynch’s dreadful film is a good example of how the macabre can be turned into something trite and poorly executed, whereas Trent Reznor took the macabre and turned into something compelling and beautiful.

It’s funny how much controversy surrounded Boxing Helena and how forgotten the movie has now become. There was so much buzz about the movie leading up to its release. It was the first feature from David Lynch’s daughter, so of course everyone wondered if she’d follow in his genius weirdo footsteps. Then there was the plot of the film, in which a crazy-possessive (emphasis on the crazy) amputates the arms and legs of a woman he’s obsessed with. And then there was all the buzz about the female lead: Madonna dropped out of the title role, and then Kim Basinger  dropped out and got sued for breach of contract (and initially lost, filing for bankruptcy). This made for some juicy Entertainment Weekly fodder, let me tell you.  Finally Sherilyn Fenn got cast as the lead, which was unfortunate because she went from being a bombshell on Twin Peaks to flat out bombing in Boxing Helena. All the drama surrounding the movie was way better than what was actually shot on film, which was a mess of bad writing and boring storytelling. It’s it’s gotta take a lot of work to make a movie full of sex about amputation boring and yet… Considering Basinger went on to win an Oscar and Fenn went on to star in The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, it was probably worth the bankruptcy to opt out of such a disastrous career move.

stills from "closer"

And then we have creepy done right. Here’s the thing about me and Nine Inch Nails: I hated the music. I never went in for that scream-y type of singing, except maybe when Bono’s voice cracked once in a while. I used to turn off or cringe through “Head Like a Hole” and “Wish” when played on the alternative radio station (WDRE, oh how I miss you). Then “Closer,” the first single off  The Downward Spiral, was released. And I didn’t like it. And I found the video disturbing. And I mysteriously found myself going out and getting the album anyway (on cassette no less).

I remember hearing the first sharp thuds of the opening track, “Mr. Self-Destruct,” and getting a feeling of being on a roller coaster, climbing up, up, up, and then being plunged into a noisy abyss. I never experienced music like that before, a sound that shook something inside me.

My fascination with Trent Reznor and his music quickly snowballed. I bought all the albums and every magazine he was featured in. Whenever the “Closer” video came on MTV (which was often), I stopped what I was doing, utterly mesmerized by the gruesome imagery, the impassioned lyrics, and the torment Trent exuded. There was so much anger, melancholia, and sex wrapped up in Nine Inch Nails. This was an intoxicating and revelatory combination for my 16-year-old self.

It wouldn’t be long before I figured out “Keep Calling Me” on that bootleg was actually “Dead Souls,” a Joy Division cover from the soundtrack for The Crow. By that point, I was mainlining every Nine Inch Nails album, b-side, interview, video, and random tidbit I could get my hands on. By the end of the year, my bedroom door was  plastered with pictures of Trent Reznor. My father grew concerned that I was listening to music that “sounds like a factory” and wondered if I was becoming a Satanist. Hardly. But I was exploring a new channel for my inner turmoil and obsessive tendencies.