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[January, 1996] You Caught Me at a Bad Time

October 16, 2014 3 comments
Yeah, having a secret crush is nowhere near this cute.

Yeah, having a secret crush is nowhere near this cute.

[A little set-up for this one. A couple of months prior, I decided to tell Nathan, a record store employee, that I had a crush on him… on national television. It never happened, but I continued to toy with the idea of telling him, anyway (as well as confessing I was the one who nearly brought him in front of a studio audience to reveal my feelings). Eventually, common sense lost out and I went to Record Rabbit to tell Nathan the truth. Here’s what happened.]

1/24/96

Bought the new Tori album yesterday (kind of aimless but it will grow on me). The lovely goth boy at Tower sold it to me (still wore that same Bauhaus shirt, even though it was a month later). Seems a bit dead at heart but I’d be thrilled to see him at The Bank.

Ok, main story. Under the circumstances, it went as best as it could have gone. Luckily the store was nearly empty and he was the only one in the front. He said hi, how are you, the usual. Then I started looking around the store. Again it was really awkward.

I was incredibly nervous but knew I had to do it. So I went up to the counter with a couple of postcards and said “you probably suspected it, but I was the one who called the show.” He looked puzzled for a second. “The talk show.”

Then he said “that was you? That was you? Aw.” (like the way one would say “aw, how sweet”). “That was really you?”

I replied “how else would I know about it?” and he realized it was me.

He said “I thought it was a joke.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“That is just the biggest compliment…”

I told him I knew about the girlfriend and he said “you caught me at a bad time” (I think he may have said that a couple of times). Those words made this whole ordeal worth it. It means there’s hope (damn the girlfriend). It also means there is no closure. But after I confessed, we started talking about the Cure and things were back to “normal.”

He was just so sweet about the whole thing. It’s not over, either. I still have a chance. Eight months, it will never end (ah, melodrama).

I think I what I love most about this entry is how I refer to it as an “ordeal” as if it was something that I was being put through instead of orchestrating it myself from start to finish. All that melodrama was my sole doing, the “torment” self-inflicted.

For all my wackiness and emotional grandiosity, and for all my foolishness thinking I still had a chance with Nathan, I was right about one thing. It wasn’t over. Our paths would cross again, more than once in the coming years, in a couple of unexpected ways.

In the meantime, I’d have other boys to occupy my obsessive soul, some more “dead at heart” than others.

...

Speaking of obsessive (when aren’t I?) after Tori Amos’s third album, Boys for Pele, my passion for her music was beginning to wane a bit. Part of it had to do with the fact I was developing a taste for darker bands, which were predominantly fronted by broody men (Bauhaus, Christian Death, Rosetta Stone, Nosferatu, etc.). Another part of it was that her music was becoming gradually less personal to me. The first two albums shot a bullseye into my heart, with numerous songs that spoke directly to me, but this one veered to the outer edges of the target. And it was so long I could rarely make it through the entire thing, especially because I owned it on cassette and it wasn’t as easy to skip the songs I didn’t like. It did grow on me, though, and “Putting the Damage On” was my anthem for at least one major heartache.

Unfortunately, my freshman year at college would do further damage to my Tori love. But we’re not there yet.

[March, 1995] Happiness in Slavery

3/23/95

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

She took her jump rope with her.

I shouldn’t have laughed.

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

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

[March, 1995] closer (further away)

...

3/15/95  

The song I’ve been identifying with today is “past the mission” except maybe not as much the chorus. The second verse especially.

I keep spacing out when I should be doing productive shit.

Darby and I are going to start a poetry ‘zine and at my insistence the title will be “closer (further away).” I have a lot of stuff for “faraway, so close!” (oh the confusion, I love it!) but cannot even begin to think when I’ll put it together.

A few words on the Tori Amos song, “Past the Mission.” It was from her second album, Under the Pink, which I semi-loved, but not full-on loved as much as her first, Little Earthquakes. One of the highlights was this haunting almost-maybe-sorta-murder ballad that had whispery back-up vocals by none other than Trent Reznor. Two objects of my obsession for the price of one! Here’s that second verse that was stuck in my head on that spring day 18 years ago:

She said they all think they know him
Well she knew him better
Everyone wanted something from him
I did too but I shut my mouth
He just gave me a smile

My connection to these lyrics of course had everything to do with Neil. He, Claudia and I often went to lunch together and I lived for the tight hugs he gave me when we parted. I don’t remember the details of his life, but he was a troubled kid with a turbulent (negligent?) family life, who got into trouble at school and, true to the punk credo, took issues with authority. I was fascinated with this kid, so cynical, so indifferent with what the world thought of him, yet with sweet and goofy moments that showed traces of the relative innocence a 13 year old should have.

Actual cover of said poetry zine

Actual cover of said poetry zine

Let’s talk ‘zines, which I will refer to as zines because that apostrophe isn’t doing it for me. For those not familiar, long before blogs or e-publishing, people would create their own magazines and sell them, in local shops, by mail, and whatever other pre-Internet channels they could find. It was quite an undertaking, involving content creation, formatting layout, printing, distribution, marketing, you name it. My first foray into self-publishing was with “Faraway (So Close!),” a U2 fanzine I made that was even listed in their official fan publication, Propoganda. I spread the word through my penpals and actually sold somewhere between 10 and 20 copies of the first issue (I started putting together the second one but never completed it).

With the poetry zine, Darby and I planned on taking it around to local record stores to see if they’d carry it on a consignment basis. It was nothing fancy, some photocopied black and white pages stapled together, but we worked put our hearts into it and were proud of our DIY efforts. Because I am a hoarder nostalgic, I still have a copy. Darby did the cover design and the contents featured several of our own poems, along with others (I don’t remember if we got permission to use them all, probably not). I was going to excerpt one of my poems, but I’ll spare you (this time… you’re welcome). Instead, here’s an excerpt from the intro I wrote:

Hello and welcome to the poetic (well, we try to be) world of “closer (further away).” Oh, I insisted that this is waht we call the ‘zine, because it doesn’t really mean anything and sounds nice—to me anyway (it’s also the name of an NIN B-side). I suppose this is where I should tell you about one of your co-‘zine-putter-togetherers (that would be me).

[paragraph about my background]

I better finish this up. Enjoy the poetry. People worked hard on theirs, so don’t be too brutal. I love [double underline] getting mail so if you have anything interesting to say, have decent music taste (no Z100 listeners, please), or whatever, write.

And they wonder why print publishing is dying.

[January, 1995] Band Members

January 19, 2012 2 comments
movie theater, new york, diary

Nobody actually calls it “Angelika Film Center.” It’s the Angelika.

1/1/95

“Nothing changes on New Years Day” – U2

“Clerks” was hysterical, though we didn’t go to the Angelika. The Village was heavenly as always. The red record place once again had an amazing deal (Achtung Baby on vinyl. U2’s 5th member!). Second Coming provided halo one and halo six. Only missing halo ten now (haven’t seen it anywhere). Got an Afghan Whigs poster (I love these guys, esp. Greg Dulli). Claudia and Anita finally believe me that the sculpture moves. Karaoke was a blast, I could barely do the straight line thing. Handled Tori’s songs quite nicely. On the way home Anita and I saw this raver boy. She said he was better for Jenny’s (her sister’s) band but I don’t necessarily agree. Spent New Years at a “gathering” at Anita’s friend’s Marcy’s house (fun).

The Angelika = pretentious movie theater in SoHo. I had a fixation with the Angelika ever since I saw the listing for Faraway, So Close! (which I never saw on the big screen) and heard about what a cool artsy movie theater it was. And while they do show a selection of fine foreign and independent films, they also have small screens, uncomfortable chairs, subways rumbling underfoot, and audiences that are often humorless (I’ve seen a few movies there in which I was the only one laughing. Unless I’m the only person who found parts of The Good Girl funny…).

“U2’s 5th member” = Adam Clayton’s penis. There’s a naked photo of the bassist in the mosaic cover art. It was censored in the cassette and CD album art, but not in the vinyl, so it was something of a coup to an obsessive like myself.

“Red record place” = Generation Records, one of the few record stores in the Village that is still standing the last time I checked (a year or two ago). It would go on to be my favorite NYC record store and I cobbled together much of my (decently extensive) music collection from the (mostly used) CD’s I purchased there. The walls were covered in posters and records, the cashiers were tattooed/pierced/intimidating, and there was usually punk or some other obscure aggressive music playing.

90's music, diary

The Afghan Whigs = an underrated band fronted by Greg Dulli, who had some brief fame in the alternative scene in the mid/late-90’s. Dulli sang about addiction and tormented love affairs while ironically wailing about being a gentleman and offering such lyrical gems as, “Since you’re aware of the consequences/I can pimp what’s left of this wreck on you/Bit into a rotten one now didn’t you/Now I can watch you chew.”

When I listened to Greg Dulli’s voice, full of arrogance and grit and fury and desperation, it was like being serenaded by the boyfriend from hell.  I could imagine an entire doomed love story playing out, replete with passion, addiction, betrayal… terribly unhealthy but terribly romantic. And I was ready to fall into dark, twisted love whenever I heard those first anguished notes. Dulli went on to front The Twilight Singers, who never had the same intense appeal for me.

“Straight line thing” = booze. My coy way of saying we got tipsy. I was still writing much of my journal in code, in case it somebody read it who shouldn’t again.

“The sculpture moves” = the Astor Place Cube, which can be rotated. For some reason, my friends never believed me when I said it does, until one late night I made them grab a side and push until they saw it does move.

Karaoke = a dorky passion I discovered at Claudia’s house. Her new stereo came with a microphone and song setting where lead vocals could be muted. After belting out a few Tori Amos songs, I was hooked and pretty much have been ever since.

Band = a term Anita and I used when we found a cute guy (meaning we wanted him in our band; that is how music-centric our lives were). The raver boy we saw was really young, which is why Anita referred to him as being more appropriate for her younger sister Jenny’s band. It wouldn’t be the last time I fixated on inappropriate choices for my band…

[December, 1994] Writing Exercise: A Musical Portrait

The red spiral notebook was a journal started out of a requirement for a creative writing class. I usually didn’t use it for the actual writing assignments, but the one below somehow got included.

The assignment was to pick someone in the room, and write a detailed description of them. Then some of the students read their descriptions out loud and the rest of us tried to guess the subject. We weren’t given any restrictions on what we could write apart from not using the person’s name. I looked around the room for potential subjects but then decided to write about myself. Go vain 16-year-old me! Now I kind of cringe at my teenage self-centeredness, but am also glad for the verbal time capsule. Then I actually read through it and cringe again.

[12/5/1994 – WRITING EXERCIZE]

[To this day, I intuitively misspell “exercise” because it seems wrong for the word not to have a “z” in it.]

She has long brown hair that ends 3 inches above her waist. She has been growing it for almost 3 ½ years. She has medium brown eyes (not too large or small) and rather thick eyelashes. Her lips are kind of small, she wishes they were fuller but she wears dark lipstick most of the time anyway. Her eyebrows are slightly arched and she plucks them.

[And let’s not forget that the haircut I was growing out was inspired from Chynna Phillips from Wilson Phillips, and necessitated by the need to get rid of the last dregs of a bad perm. Though let’s be honest, is there really such a thing as a good perm?]

She loves music and is always wearing a band shirt (usually U2 or Nine Inch Nails). Speaking of NIN, she’s unbelievable excited about the concert in 2 days. She’s going with her friend Claudia and then Friday with Claudia again and Salli too. This concert is something she has been looking forward to for over a month.

She’s really happy that her best friend Anita got Pretty Hate Machine a few days ago. They tried to listen to it in sync (over the phone) but it didn’t work. Amita is the one who got her started on U2 (which many people were ready to murder Anita for later on).

[I remember that Pretty Hate Machine listening party quite well. I had the cassette and I’m pretty sure Anita did, too. We were gradually incorporating CD’s into our music libraries during our village outings, but it would be a while before compact discs outnumbered our tapes. Anyway, we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone trying to press Play at exactly the same time, but the whirring electronic beats of “head like a hole” always started just a little bit sooner for one of us. No matter how many times we rewound and tried it again, we couldn’t get the music to sync up perfectly. I think we still listened to the whole album over the phone, most likely peppered with my enthused and worshipful commentary.]

One of the few U2 shirts I still own. Goes for $50-$80 on eBay!

Since that summer just two years ago she has accumulated quite a lot of U2 stuff. Sometimes, when she can’t sleep, she’ll go over her U2 collection in her head and has estimated it is worth $850 at face value (she underestimates these things though). 

[Some people count sheep, I counted 7″ and 9″ records, bootlegs, books, magazines, and other scraps of fandom. I still have a box of memorabilia at my mom’s place, though I don’t think it’s worth is going to surpass my 401K any time soon.]

U2 have greatly inspired this person, giving her the words she lives by “dream out loud.” She has learned to accept this part of herself, this “U2-ism” and has come to terms with it in a healthy way (this NIN thing on the other hand…). She now puts together a U2 ‘zine “Faraway, So Close!” that has been doing pretty well (she hopes to complete the second issue over winter break). She’s planning a big trip to Dublin after she graduates and doesn’t really expect to meet any members of the band (such as her favorite, drummer Larry Mullen Jnr) but if she does happen to run into them…so much the better. 

[For the record, I made it through all of my various music obsessions without a single restraining order.]

One more U2 thing, she has met lots of people through penpal listings and such and so now she is in the “U2 network” and has been for over 6 months.

She wants to see if there’s some NIN network (there is On-line, but she’s not with all that).

[Remember when the Internet was this thing you could simply choose not to be part of? No doubt many of you do not.]

She thinks Trent Reznor (who writes, arranges, and performs all NIN songs, hiring people to help during tours) is one of the (if not the) most talented, fascinating people she’s ever known of. His music is so dark and scares so many people (good!) but she finds great strength and expression in it.

This is what you find when you search for a photo of Tori Amos and Trent Reznor together.

She also loves Tori Amos and if you’d ask her who she would like to trade places with right now, she’d say Tori.

[Probably because she was creative and quirky and likely got it on with Trent Reznor.]

Then there are so many other artists and bands she listens to, like The Trash Can Sinatras for the beautiful, tuneful songs. Then there’s Afghan Whigs, Moist, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam for their melodic anger. Also Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead for the “guitar-driven angst.” And Belly and Liz Phair because she, well she just likes their songs.

[And somehow I never got that music journalist career off the ground…]

While this is in no way a complete portrait of her it is a near-complete musical portrait.

[And a somewhat dull and pretentious one at that, so if you made it all the way through, you deserve a cookie.]

[October, 1994] Countdown: 41 Days

10/24/94

“We danced in graveyards with vampires til dawn
We laughed in the faces of kings never afraid to burn” – Tori Amos

Claudia had a very lucky morning, she met a girl with a bracelet. I got the best wake-up call of my life today. We have the option of getting trampled. The “Phantom of the Opera” T.V. movie sucks. Veruca Salt has the Shriek of the Week.  If I see “All I Wanna Do” one more time I’m going to scream. Being cryptic is no fun. No I’m not going to be cryptic.

I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS!

I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS!

One more time: I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS! Ah, that felt good. Countdown: 41 days.

...

“And I hate
And I hate
And I hate
And I hate
Elevator music” – Tori Amos

Ah, 1994.

Before the days when the Internet made buying concert tickets easy, the two main ways to get them were over the phone or in person at the box office or affiliated record stores.  To ensure crowd control and give the diehard fans a chance to get tickets before scalpers (not that this stopped them) plastic bracelets were given out before the sale date. Fans would sometimes camp outside a box office the night before just to get a bracelet that would ensure an early spot on the ticket line. The record stores like HMV and Tower Records were often a better bet, especially the ones uptown that were less crowded. This is how Claudia was able to get a bracelet to see one of the most popular bands that year in what was arguably their career heyday.

Nine Inch Nails were playing Madison Square Garden, a venue with a 19,500 capacity. Getting a bracelet meant we had the option of getting into the General Admission area, which would undoubtedly become a giant mosh pitt (hence the option of getting trampled). I’d seen the kind of mayhem Trent Reznor was able to stir up in his fans, so part of me considered the stands a safer option.

As for other 90’s music, anyone else remember Veruca Salt and their alterna-hit “Seether?” I wasn’t a fan, but WDRE, a Long Island radio station known for playing good left-of-center music disagreed and chose it for their Shriek (or song) of the Week, which meant heavy rotation. It was still better than hearing Sheryl Crow’s ode to fun, which was inescapable in 1994. I didn’t want to hear songs about fun, I preferred Trent Reznor singing about lust, destruction, despair, anger, and general angst and gloom.

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

The Village was my Mecca in high school...

10/24/94

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

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

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

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

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

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

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