[As my descent into gothdom continued, I befriended Chad, a college radio DJ who had an industrial band with his friend Rick called Clamp. He invited me to see his band play The Batcave, a club I had been curious about for a while, though I heard it was nowhere near as good as The Bank. He offered me a free ride to the club and free admission since I’d be with the band, so I couldn’t say no. (And for the record, while Chad was an utter sweetheart, I had no romantic interest in him.)]
May 5, 1996
What I wonderful time I had last night.
Let’s do a Batcave vs. The Bank (Sat. nights) thing. First of all, The Bank has much better music. The Batcave was mostly industrial, though the last half hour or so was great in that I heard Sisters, Bauhaus, The Cure, Corpus Delicti, Alien Sex Fiend. Much fun to dance to. Also water is free at the Batcave (nice to save two bucks) and the people seemed a lot more approachable (though there are many more normal ones). And the Batcave’s dance floor is really cool—big checkered tiles and amazing lights…strobe, colorful pattered lights. It’s almost dizzying. I’ve giving The
Batcave a lot more points here but I still feel more attached to The Bank because they play so much more Goth.
[Goth and industrial music are quite different, though they share similarities in that both are dark and often relay heavily on synthesizers. Goths also seemed to outnumber rivetheads, their industrial counterparts, though they were essentially part of the same club scene and there was a lot of overlap in music taste. While I enjoyed some industrial (Skinny Puppy, Ministry, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Nine Inch Nails of course), my preference was for the less aggressive and more melancholy and melodic goth bands. So all the free water in the world wouldn’t have had me favor The Batcave over The Bank considering their respective playlists. And I’m sure it’s obvious by now, but I was totally one of those snobby goths who got annoyed at seeing “normals” in clubs, which usually meant jeans and sneakers. I wasn’t expecting everyone to be decked out in fishnet and leather, but come on, you go to a club like this, at least wear your black jeans and a dark T-shirt.]
As for people—at first there was no one that outrageous-looking, a few typical industrial boys. But then while dancing I noticed this guy who was almost even too scary-looking for me! He had a red velvet cape on, decorated studded/painted jacket underneath, lots of chains, a long skirt, lightning bolts painted all over his face.
I said something about him to Anita and she started laughing because she had just told this girl we had met that in a second I would mention this guy (in fact she jokingly bet her 10 bucks that I would get his number).
[Look, I know judging people favorably for their unusual appearance is just as bad as judging them poorly for being “normal” but here’s the thing. I was in my sixth year at a magnet school wearing The Gap were the unspoken uniform. I had been mocked for my… more colorful attire in seventh and eight grade, I got sick of the ridicule and wore bland clothes in ninth and tenth grade, and in eleventh grade I stopped giving a damn and started wearing what I wanted again. By the time I was a senior and doing the goth thing, I was definitely drawn to others who had a more unusual look, even though none of my friends did.]
I waited a while, mustering up the guts, and went up to him. I said something like: “I have to say, you look incredible.” He smiled and I walked away (not rudely, though—I hope). I guess I might have been a tiny bit freaked out, but I also wanted to leave a sense of mystery, have him come to me. Which he did at about 3:30 (yeah, he took his time, I guess we were both being coy).
We chatted for about 10-15 minutes (his name is Lanique, but the way) and exchanged numbers.
[And thus, my drive-by flirtation technique was born. I had the nerve to approach guys and be bold with them, but for very, very short bursts of time before I ran away.]
There was someone else, too. This stunning… industrial boy I’ll call him, even though it seems unfair to categorize someone so lovely. Tall, kinda thin, fishnet shirt, straight bleached hair (about jaw-length, pinned back) a long blond braid on the lower half of his head, some eyeliner and lipstick. Such a breathtaking face.
I watched him dance for a while. After I met Lanique, I went out on the dance floor for a while (when they played that stretch of Goth) and saw the blond nearby. Just as Anita and I were about to leave I asked her to give me a second.
I went up to stunning boy (well he was in his 20’s probably, but I’ll still use “boy”) and said, “don’t let this go to your head, but are beautiful.”
He smiled and said, “Thank you” then “you are, too.” This second part did not register for a moment, but by the time I realized it was to late to thank him so I just smiled.
Anita came over and we started to go. I was going to leave anyway—that mystery thing again, I suppose. Also, I’m not sure I could “have” someone like that.
As Anita was getting her coat and putting it on he walked by (actually she was blocking his way). He told me his name and asked me mine. I said, “Damiella” and repeated his name, “Berlin?”
He said, “Berlin” (or something like that) then “see you around.”
When Anita and I got outside we walked behind him for a block and she pointed out that he seemed to just float down the sidewalk, he moved so quickly and gracefully. He sort of reminds me of Zillah, from Lost Souls. There was something very vampiric about him… his seductiveness, really. It was sort of surreal—he is what inspires me to come up with my most memorable/intriguing story characters.
[I haven’t read Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls in twenty years, but when I looked up the character—described as androgynous, slender, incredibly beautiful, but also menacing—and then found fan art depicting him, I guess I can see why I made the comparison. And it wouldn’t be for a year or two, but “Berlin” would end up being a character in a future short story.]
I have not even mentioned Clamp’s performance. Well, they had technical problems at first, and then they were ok. They definitely have potential, I’ll say that. Oh and Chad told me tonight that he and Rick decided I’m their #1 fan. How sweet.
If I remember correctly, there were maybe twenty people in the audience for their performance. They were really nice guys, though.
I was definitely coming into my own and finding a new boldness as a goth, even if my flirting style was on the childish/passive-aggressive side (hey, at least I didn’t pull guys’ hair and then run away).
There is nothing like the feeling of being somewhere you feel you truly belong, and—as corny as it may sound—I have felt than many times at goth clubs, and not many other places I can think of. Of course, those were on the good nights. There were also nights where I felt self-conscious, lonely, dejected, and anxious (because after all, drama sticks to goths like white on rice), but those feelings could be cancelled out by dancing to the right song or meeting the right guy (even if for a fleeting moment) or that greater sense of being part of the cosmic cobweb of the goth scene.
Let’s talk about “Berlin” for a moment. While it was fun chatting with Lanique (who I never called and vice versa), it was the pale-haired man I met later who I found truly mesmerizing. He was one of the most stunning men I had ever seen. In retrospect, I’m surprised I had the nerve to talk to him at all. I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I’ll reveal two things: 1. My stupid hearing picked up his name incorrectly. 2. Our paths would cross again, more than once.
March 22, 1996
My handwriting will be a little sloppier because I have gloves on as I write this (I’m outside Hunter College and it’s pretty cold out). Anyway, I have “Suffragette City” stuck in my head, last night I caught part of a Bowie concert broadcasted over the radio and was fortunate enough to hear (and tape) him singing this song (I had only heard—and loved—Corpus Delicti’s version up to this point).
[Here’s something embarrassing about me that’s still true to this day. There are a ridiculous number of famous songs I first heard as covers that I believed to be the originals. These include “Dancing Barefoot” (U2), “Gimme Shelter” (Sisters of Mercy), and “The Passenger” (Siouxsie & The Banshees). One of the most embarrassing was “Hazy Shade of Winter” which I used lyrics from in an 8th grade art project and actually attributed to The Bangles. Poor Simon & Garfunkel got the shaft again when I recently swooned over “The Only Living Boy in New York”… by Everything But The Girl.]
My parents talked to Brad last night. I was kind of nervous but he wasn’t (or so he said but I believe him). I don’t even want to think about the kind of things my dad said to him—he (Dad) brought up marriage—Jesus Christ! But he totally liked Brad. My mother did too, as soon as she got off the phone she said he was adorable. I didn’t get to talk to him much, but I’ll probably call him next week.
[Did I mention that part of my Dad’s leniency about this Alaska trip was his relief that I wasn’t a lesbian? Yeah, the less said about that, the better.]
Less than two weeks to wait now. It seems really soon now. Hm. I almost don’t even mind waiting because I know I’ll blink and find myself in Alaska.
[And in another blink I’d find myself back in New York and angsting it up about something new.]
I’m hungry and cold. I could go to Starbucks and hang out there until it’s time to leave for Pepsin Literary Agency (or Ms. Pepsin’s place, which is what it really is).
[When I was a senior in high school, I had this fabulous year-long apprenticeship with a literary agent who worked out of her Upper East Side apartment. I’d sit in her living room surrounded by books and stacks of mail and papers, reading and rejecting query letters and manuscripts and setting aside ones I thought were worth Ms. Pepsin’s time to review. Other than that, I did some coffee and post office runs, but it was mostly reading, reading, reading. It was heaven. It also concerned me that the fate of all these writers was being put in the hand of an 18-year-old; something I still think about as a querying writer today.]
Still not positive how I’ll do my make-up tomorrow. How superficial of me to be writing crap like this but I feel the need to keep writing. [If you don’t feel the need to keep reading, nobody will blame you.] Besides, I love “talking” (in spoken and written form) about The Bank. Don’t know if I’ll try to talk to anyone there. I keep telling myself I don’t need the temptation. I see an attractive male and immediately think, “I don’t need the temptation.” Part of me hopes Industrial Boy or Goth Boy (guys who work at Tower Records) are there, or Nate (this attractive guy who works in a clothing store I talked to a couple of times) but then the other part of me utters the resounding phrase.
[And this is the danger of falling in love with somebody for the first time who lives very far away (well, there are lots of dangers, this is but one). You don’t get to experience small daily interactions. You emotionally commit more than you should. You feel guilty for flirting with other guys when no boundaries were set. Part of you still wants to go to goth clubs and smooch boys in fishnets and eyeliner (that last one may be less universal and more specific to teenage me).]
Not that we’re engaged or anything, but I feel really committed to Bradley and I think he feels it too (not that there are that many temptations in Alaska, but still). I don’t even know what we are to each other. I mean he’s obviously more than a friend and there is a lot of attraction (well, 4,325 miles away there is, but also when I first met him). A word like “boyfriend” I would consider too mild and silly. He’s my soul mate, my other half. However I will not be able to introduce him as such (when I finally do introduce him to people). Ah well, whatever. In less than 13 days I will see my love. That is all that matters.
That is so not all that matters, I want to tell my younger self. There are a multitude of other things that matter with this whole Alaska situation. Protecting your heart matters. Not getting your hopes up so frighteningly high matters. Enjoying being young and foolish matters. Oh wait, I was already living that last one.
As I hurled through my senior year of high school, I filled up the red spiral notebook I had since being forced to keep a journal in my life-changing creative writing class. By that point, I no longer felt coerced into chronicling my life; I did so willingly. I felt life was getting interesting and worth noting for posterity (and, unbeknownst to me then, future blog content).
I got a smaller, 6 1/2×9″ three subject spiral notebook for my next journal. Black, of course. On the front cover are three stickers: Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and Skin Crawl (an East Village purveyor of gothy accessories; the shop’s logo was a white skeleton). The back cover is covered entirely in Skin Crawl stickers.
March 20, 1996
So tonight is the night I choose to begin my new journal. No quotes to start it off like the last one, just my writing. I like this notebook, its narrowness appeals to me.
[My pretentious attitude toward a notebook I probably paid a couple of bucks for at a drugstore does not appeal to me.]
Ok, on to more important things. Less than 15 days until Alaska. Ugh, I don’t know how I’ll be able to wait (silly thought, I have no choice but to wait, and besides, this will probably be the best thing I ever waited for). While I’ve mostly thought about the wonderful time I will have there, I can’t help but once in a while think about how depressing it will be to leave (“depressing” even seems too mild a word, but perhaps “tragic” is a bit melodramatic).
[Yes, “perhaps.” Perhaps there’s also some foreshadowing here.]
There are things to look forward to before Alaska, however—namely The Bank this Saturday. A whole big group of us are going (Leon, Jennifer, Ellie and Cynthia—well it’s more people than I usually hang out with all at once). I am the only one with a serious interest in the Goth stuff, the others will dress up however. I will finally get to wear my new black velvet cape. Yay. And my chiffon and velvet black dress, also new—sheesh, I’m such a girl.
A GOTH girl, that is!
A little bit about the way I operate: When I find something I really love, firstly I become deeply obsessive and immersed. I learn everything I can about said thing, collect what I can, etc. Once I have absorbed everything that I can within reason, I become an evangelist and try to get everyone I can to drink my Kool Aid. My U2 obsession was a perfect example of this. First I became hooked on their albums, then I started buying the singles, books, t-shirts, and other memorabilia, and once I felt enough of a U2 expert, I began preaching the gospel. I talked about them non-stop and made numerous U2 mix tapes for people, trying to “convert” them (yes, I used that exact phrasing).
My goth phase was pretty similar, though considerably more intensive and far-reaching. There was the music (which was first and foremost to me) but also literature, fashion, general aesthetics. And the nightlife. I did try to get friends and acquaintances into the music, but it was easier to convince them to go to the club with me. Because, unlike me, most of them weren’t music snobs.
I don’t remember this particular outing, but I do still have photos of us prior to going out, posing in Jennifer’s room, our whiteface make-up blotchy in the flash’s glare. We took exaggerated poses of gloom and despair (hand-to-forehead, that sort of thing). But the best shot was of the group of us posed on the bed, with the rope from her overhead light hanging in front of us looking remarkably like a noose. Good times.
New Years Eve!!
I can’t wait until later tonight! I am going to my cousins house for a party. (Anna’s)
Yesterday Mitchell didn’t call me so I went shopping and got these amazing “New Kids on the Block” jeans! They are so cool! I absolutely love them! Later!
This is quite possibly the only time the words “New Kids on the Block” and “so cool” were used in the same sentence together.
As a new decade was about to dawn on us, did I take those last moments to reflect on the last ten colorful years? Did I ponder what the dawn of the 1990’s might bring? No and no. Instead I enthused over a pair of acid washed pants with airbrushed graffiti on them spelling out “New Kids on the Block” in bubble letters down one of the legs and the band members down the other. (I have scoured the Internet looking for a comparable photo, but there isn’t one, which can only mean they were one of a kind. Thank heavens for that.)
I could try to defend myself by saying that not hearing from Mitchell caused some sort of fashion temporary insanity. Because there’s retail therapy and then there’s retail suicide. The truth is, I was briefly a fan of this boy band (Joey was my favorite, in case you’re wondering, which you probably aren’t). My taste in music and clothing would take another few years to improve, but at least I ended the decade on a sufficiently tacky and colorful note.
As for the end of the 80’s, I always thought I was born ten years too late. While I was blessed with some fantastic cartoons and sit-coms (Thundercats, Jem & The Holograms, The Facts of Life, Perfect Strangers, Diff’rent Strokes… my definition of “fantastic” is probably not the same as yours), I missed out on a lot of the pop culture being so young. Sure, I had the enormous hair and wore enough shoulderpads to stand in for a quarterback, but I never got to get tarted up like Lucky-Star-era Madonna back then. Wearing fingerless lace gloves a decade later just wasn’t the same. And sure, in recent years I ended up seeing a lot of the new wave and post-punk bands I was too young to appreciate back then (Pet Shop Boys, Sisters of Mercy, Duran Duran, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Human League, etc.) but it would have been really special to see them in their heyday.
I think a lot of people feel out of time in their era. I was a reluctant participant of the 90’s and will always feel like I was stuck with a bum decade to come of age in. And as a another new decade is about to roll in I can’t imagine what kids growing up today will contend with. All I can wonder is whether we’ll ever get those damn flying cars.
In the meantime, I hope somebody out there is tinkering with and putting the finishing touches on a time machine that will one day let me return to the 1980’s and experience it in person again, this time as an adult. I’m sure I’ve glamorized that time period far too much in my mind, and maybe it’s best left in those nostalgic corners. Still, a girl can hold out hope.