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.
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).
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.
Ah yes. I would be one of his dinner guests.
He also told me how he left the bookstore and walked a couple of blocks to his destination then thought, “Why didn’t I get her number?” I said I wish he had. Then he found out he got a letter from me and tried to look me up but the number was unlisted. Frustrating. The distance will be, too. But we’ll see each other again and have a lovely adventure.
I discussed the prospect of spending the summer with him with Anita and she said she wouldn’t be upset because she knows he is just a once in a lifetime guy. This is so hard to believe. I slept 2 hours the other night and feel magnificent.
First off, as happy as I am for my 18-year-old in-love-self, I sure wish I wasn’t such a cornball about it. I wince to see how much I used words like “lovely” and “magnificent” at the time. Then again, I did always have a flair for the dramatic*, so I can’t blame myself for being so grandiose about the whole damn thing. But back to the entry.
Years prior, when I was cultivating a collection of pen pals, as a way to fill the pages and learn more about each other, we’d ask all kinds of hypothetical questions. One of my favorites was: if you could invite any two people (living or dead) to dinner, who would they be? For Bradley, to have a world full of geniuses, legendary figures, and all kinds of fascinating individuals, from humanity’s entire history to choose from, but name me as one of his choices was a hell of a compliment. Then again, at that point in time he would have been one of my guests, too.
And if we tread into “what if?” territory I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he did get my phone number that night at the bookstore. He was in town for another week and I was on Christmas break, so we would’ve been able to spend time face to face instead of over pen and paper and telephone lines. Would things have fizzled within days or become more passionate and immediate or something in between? Speculating is pointless, but I wonder what that parallel chain of events would’ve looked like.
As for the summer, the original plan was to go to Ireland with Anita. While my obsession with U2 had tapered off some at that point, we still had a desire to go abroad and see the beautiful country. We talked about visiting Windmill Lane Studios, where the band recorded some of their albums, and yes, perhaps taking a quick peek at their houses (nothing crazy; we had no intention to go climbing security fences or anything). Bradley’s existence made me reconsider that trip and think of heading west instead. Not that he and I had talked about my traveling to Alaska to see him, but our correspondence was building in intensity. It was inevitable that we’d discuss a way to meet in person sooner or later (and since impatience was my middle names, odds were it would be sooner). After all, I was sure we were destined to meet again and have a “lovely adventure.” Weren’t we?
*Alright, no point in using past tense there. I can still be a big ol’ drama queen today.
Just called Anita for about 30 seconds (well that’s how long we spoke) so she could talk me out of going to Record Rabbit tomorrow. As of today it’s been 12 days since my last visit (I really wanted to go last week but Anita’s right about making him wait). I think my feelings for him were even starting to slowly recede and then all of a sudden they came back. I try not to let it overwhelm me and I look for distractions where I can.
I finally met my penpal (well since we’ve spoken on the phone too I guess he’s more of a friend) Arthur and he was really nice (gave me a friendly hug). Wide Awake in America/The Joshua Tree. I’m leaning more toward The Joshua Tree.
Dyed my hair black. Blue-Black actually. Very different. I love it. Had it done in a salon and it looks great.
Dave (Dolan, the only Dave I talk about—I think) called tonight. It was good to hear from him. Spoke to Darby this past weekend too and we had a nice chat. An odd friendship the two of us have, though we were much less obnoxious to each other during this last conversation.
I want to be in college already. I want to be out of here.
I want to sleep. I think I should try for some now because I am in a very bad mood suddenly.
I can’t wait until I’m done writing in this notebook because I got a nicer smaller one that I’ll start as my next journal (yes I guess I’m back to keeping journals. At least I’ve begun to put down things other than why life sucks for me, why I’m upset or other angsty teenage bullshit).
God I hope I don’t have trouble falling asleep.
I’m not proud of this, but I did play my parents to get the black hair. I initially asked my mom if I could dye it black and she said no. But it was my father took me to the salon for a trim. As soon as we got there I begged and begged him to let me color it and he finally relented. Prior to that I had waist-length dirty blond hair, so it was a dramatic change. When Mom first saw me, she sarcastically asked, “where is my daughter?” but didn’t make a fuss beyond that.
As for the pen pal, Arthur, I didn’t keep in touch with him much after meeting. Deep down I’m sure I was hoping there’d be a romantic connection, despite my crush on Nathan, but there wasn’t. I’d bet money that my mopiness at the time was due at least in part to that lack of spark. And the U2 albums is more teenage code. I think I was ranking him by how much I liked the album I was comparing him to. My favorite was Achtung Baby, followed by either Boy or Zooropa, so any guy classified as one of those three would have been a top crush contender. However, The Joshua Tree was somewhere in the middle and Wide Awake in America below that, so I probably was only mildly attracted to him. It could have been worse, he could have been October (my least favorite U2 album at the time).
The mentions of the other friends and sudden depression could have been the usual insecurity and mood swings I had at the time, or a symptom of some family conflict I didn’t want to put to paper. There was often parental drama in the background of my teen years, though I very rarely wrote about it. In any event, the black hair signaled another change in me, one that fit with the darker music I was listening to. Much as I may have hemmed and hawed being goth up until then, now it was undeniable.
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…
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.
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…