The non-chronological collected works of my misspent youth, with notes, for your reading pleasure. Most names have been changed because I probably didn't ask you first.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Scotland The Brave: February 1993

I walked out of the hall in the arts center today from Shakespeare rehearsal and found Kara and Stewart making out against the brick wall beside he old art storage room where the guys used to practice “metal” or whatever band last year.  Now it pretty much sounds like construction all the time and between that and the constant thumping of the wrestlers on the stage[1] and the hellacious sound of Caitlin’s bagpipes[2] WHICH YOU CAN HEAR EVERYWHERE FOR LORD’S SAKE, it’s hard to find a quiet place to run lines.  Rebecca and I have been sitting on the big table in the auditorium lobby, where we were interrupted by the wrestling team running sweaty laps up and down the stairs. But then the wrestling coach told us we weren’t allowed to sit up there anymore because we were distracting the team.

I guess getting the whole theater wasn’t enough for those neckless wankers.[3] I hate sports.

So now the hallways, by the music room and that’s why I keep running into Kara and Stewart in awkward moments. They’re supposed to be running lines from the whole Angelo and Isabella[4] scene, so they say, and even though I’ve never understood the Stewart thing, at least Kara’s not hanging out with that whole seersucker miniskirt crowd right now. All of those girls are mean bulimics[5] and they hate me.

I am friends with at least four people who really believe the lyrics to “Black” are the best poetry they’ve ever heard. What will I do?  I worry that I’ll never find people who can truly understand me.

PS: The Music Teacher just walked by and told me the bagpipe was the instrument they play in hell.

[1] At the end of my sophomore year, the school tore down the building containing the wrestling room in order to construct a fancy new student center. The wrestling team was given the entire theater to practice and hold matches during the their season. That decision canceled the winter play. The School always valued “team sports” over the arts, so this came as no real surprise, but most of us drama kids had already figured our schedule around a winter play. We wrote a petition. I penned a fiery editorial to the school newspaper and we convinced the young, then under-employed wife of one of the English teachers to sign on as our director and with a little negotiation got permission to build out the music room ourselves as a black box theater. The wrestling team had first priority on the stage for two whole years, wasting the real theater with their occasional meets that no one came to and a lot of grunting and useless sweating.

[2] Required afternoon activities also included individual music lessons and studio art (as well as the traditional sports, mountaineering, drama and horseback riding). Caitlin’s instrument was the bagpipe. The music teacher put her in the chapel because the chapel was basically the only place on  far enough away from the other buildings  that her practicing would not literally stun the entire campus into horror-struck silence with all the squawking and droning. On the other hand, the chapel was kind of in the center of everything so there was no place to completely escape the sound.

[3] Welcome to my English slang phase! Good news: it’s brief.

[4] The play was kind of a Shakespearean Revue.  And the Angelo and Isabella scene is from “Measure for Measure.” If you don’t know the play, Angelo, a zealous, though corrupt public administrator, tells Isabella, a rigidly pious nun, that he will commute her brother’s death sentence (itself earned from illicit fornication) if she will break her vows and sleep with him. It’s an ugly, weird, uncomfortable scene in an ugly, weird, uncomfortable play (and still one of my favorites, by the way). The Young Director blocked the scene as a heated negotiation that turned into a borderline sexual assault. It was pretty rough stuff for sixteen-year-olds. Given that the administration regularly censored the living shit out of our scripts, I’m completely shocked that she got away with it. Of course it was the blocking that was suggestive, not the dialogue (which was Shakespeare and thus “educational”).  But the blocking . . . still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

[5] I can’t confirm that any of them were actually bulimics. There was a lot of idle chatter and bragging about binging and purging outside the girl’s bathroom on the Day Hall that year. They were, however, sort of mean. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Parlando: Journal, April 15 1992

Somehow I ended up sitting in the front seat of the school van beside Mr. M, the Calculus teacher. Annie says that he’s the smartest teacher in the school and has some kind of mathematical proof for chaos, which sounds cool, but I hate math so I’m probably not going to understand it.

We’re the Opera Club and hence on the way to see an opera in Knoxville on a Sunday. How many teenagers would honestly choose to spend their only weekend day off at “Carmen?”  That’s probably why I didn’t have many friends in public school.

Steve’s picking the music for the van and most of it is Dan Fogelberg and a bunch of other guys that sing like goats and some sort of embarrassing folk music his brother’s roommate recorded in his dorm room This song is inane but Steve’s talking about how it’s really hard to write an easy sounding song. He might have a point, but this song sounds like the guy wrote it in two minutes.

Steve says it’s silly to try to be a non-conformist because you’re just conforming to the opposite of being a conformist.  It’s reactive. That sounds good, I guess, and Steve gave that chapel speech about being an iconoclast, which was amazing, but Steve is also a prefect. Can you really be a great iconoclast if you have to turn people in all the time for breaking the rules? Maybe I should try harder to conform to the rules. Maybe I’m just fucked up enough not to care.  Maybe that’s why Steve didn’t want to date me.

Frances’ Jimmy Buffet tape has ruined my musical mood. Seriously, she is actually reading aloud a book written about Jimmy Buffett. It's terrible.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Charm City: April 8, 1994

I'm in Baltimore on this absolutely joke of a college trip, in which my parents are trying to convinced me that any of my safety schools are actually worth going to. We went to Dickinson College earlier today and that is basically not happening under any circumstances. So instead I'll end up at Hollins, a school entirely composed of the same kind of spoiled, bitchy, rich, boring, beautiful, preppy girls that seemingly exist only to make my life miserable.  Guys are dicks too, but at they'll say it straight to your face.

Anyway, I hate girls and I'm going to a girls school.  As Mr. B would say:  Ha![1]

We're staying in the Omni and I was watching tv in the bathub when I found out that Kurt Cobain bought the farm, so now I'm sitting in the lobby trying and failing to call Kara on one of these fancy leather study carrel pay phones. I hope she's okay. She's been pretty obsessed with Kurt Cobain.

I just overhead two of the waitresses in the bar talking bout the suicide. Is this seriously going to be my generation's defining moment? "I remember where I was when I found out Kurt Cobain shot himself." Or is it still David Hasselhoff on the Berlin Wall? 

I know I'm a vegetarian, but I'm absolutely going to eat crab tonight. (Don't tell). That may well be the only good thing about this trip. Yum.

[1] My Junior Year English teacher (and faculty advisor) left the occasional pithy notes in the margins of our academic journals. He was notoriously famous for his “Ha!”s

Rock You Like a Hurricane: September 7ish, 1996

Dealing with a hurricane this far inland feels completely wrong. We haven’t had power or phones in three days and yet I can’t even smell the sea in the eye of the storm. It’s bullshit is what it is. 

Funny. You never realize how addicted you are to modern conveniences[1] until you don’t have them at all. If MRWHM and I don’t burn down the house before Duke Power gets their shit together and gives us air conditioning again, it will be a small miracle. At least we didn’t get stuck in the elevators like the people in the high-rises on campus. That would have sucked.

Fran was my first real hurricane, because I’m a mountain girl. I kind of thought the tall trees on Elm would come all the way through my windows during the worst part of the storm. They didn’t, even though the wind sounded like a freight train and I went to sleep with my sheets pulled over my head thinking the roof might cave in before morning. I’d miss my records but otherwise I’d be okay with that. I even kind of thought MRWHM might start being my friend again because it’s a crisis. And crises are supposed to bring us together.

Of course, she’s coastal and has lived through many weather events. She tells stories three-day long hurricane parties and freshwater stored in an old clawfoot tub on the front porch. I don’t have any stories about anything other than the one time my school bus slid backward down Kimberly Avenue because of a snowstorm.

In other news Dad came to visit tonight on his way back from Durham. He drove in the day after the hurricane went to meet with some head of brain surgery at Duke Hospitals about his mysterious dizzy spells that he’s positive are symptomatic of a brain tumor.[2] I’m sure it’s just hypochondria and an outgrowth (no pun) what happened with Uncle W.[3]

According to Dad, East Campus is kind of mess— and lots of trees are down in Durham, in general—but his brain is fine. The doctor told him he should play more golf. [4]

He took MRWHM and I to dinner at the Paisley Pineapple, which was self-consciously fancy in all the provincial gauche ways its name implies. Lots of brocade and teal and they have things like kangaroo on the menu. MRWHM took the last few hits of acid she’s been keeping[5] just before Dad came by to take us to dinner, which she didn’t tell me until we were approximately halfway through dinner. I don’t think Dad noticed anything  . . . I mean, he’s Dad . . . but I couldn’t let it go.

“What if I was tripping the whole time your parents were visiting?” I asked her.

She shrugged and told me she wouldn’t care at all.

After dinner and Dad left, she and I went for a walk down in completely dark, power-outed, downed tree-branched Fisher Park, which she found (obviously) infinitely more interesting than I did, given the circumstances.

It’s achingly hot and extremely uncomfortable to sit on this fire escape. I just dropped a flashlight on a BMW that probably belongs to one of the lawyers in the firm next door. I can’t tell if I dented the hood.  It sounded pretty loud.  I hope they don’t have security cameras in the parking lot because there’s no way I can afford to pay for that.

[1]And we’d only recently procured a modem. In those days, save the occasional email, I was almost never online.

[2] For the better part of that year my father basically lived out the Woody Allen plotline from “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

[3] My favorite uncle on that side of the family actually had a brain tumor, underwent surgery, flatlined for a minute and then miraculously revived on the operating table.

[4] True.

[5] My roommate had been saving several tabs of acid for a rainy day for several months before this happened. She wrapped them in aluminum foil and hid the package inside the butter dish on the refrigerator door.  I used to worry a little about this storage situation leading to an unanticipated psychedelic grilled cheese episode, but it never did.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The End of the World, April 1994

There’s absolutely no point in pretending things are going to be all right anymore because they’re absolutely not. The decision have been made, the dye[1] has been cast and I have burned both the rejection letters and the acceptance letters that I cannot fucking accept in the fireplace because I’m sort of a pyromaniac and what does it matter anymore.

No money. I can’t have what I want because of no money. I’m surrounded by fucking rich people and can there be a more lame excuse, as they’re all running around happy about next year and I can’t have that because No Money. It’s so stupid and boring.  So I’m going to this school that I hate because they gave me money and everything good in the world is ending. [2]

So, why not celebrate with a weekend chockfull of careless ways I could get expelled? It was Rebecca’s birthday, which we did late because of my college trip and her freaking out about The Latin Teacher and Kara’s grief over Kurt Cobain. Dad was supposed to be out of town, so we picked up all the boarding students and carpooled over the Kenilworth house. H dressed as a mime, which he claims was accidental, and used his fake idea to buy lots of alcohol[3] at the Foodmart. Denise & I made spaghetti.  The boys all crossdressed in Rebecca’s lingerie and we turned off the lights and danced to Blondie and the Pixies and were set to start with my Paradise Lost disco mixtape[4], when Dad unexpectedly returned. The boys scattered (I think Alex and Patrick were in the closet)[5] and changed, while Denise and I tried to play it cool and do the dishes. Dad was typically oblivious and didn’t notice anything out of whack accept for all the cigarette butts in his teacups and asked us not to smoke in the house.

We visited several convenience stores and got kicked out of Wal-Mart for jousting  on tricycles with pool noodles and paging Natalie with from the customer service desk with her various Russian names before we tied a giant gold Christmas bow around Mitchell’s neck and took him down to Vincent’s where they were having some godawful Spoonbenders show. Mitchell was drunk, but according to at least two actual drag queens, he looked smashing in Rebecca's striped white satin nightgown and his olive Chuck Taylors .[6]

We left Alex and Mitchell downtown with Mitchell's girlfriend, Elizabeth, headed for the actual gay bar, despite the fact that Alex's's fake is probably not going to work anywhere other than the Foodmart.  I hope they survive to Monday convocation.  I’m tired of my friends getting expelled.

What am I going to do next year? How can everything turn out so badly? How can I be sitting at a parkway overlook smoking alone and crying when I should be having fun with everyone else?

Mom thinks I’ll get abducted if I come up here by myself.  I’d let myself be kidnapped in a minute if my abductor could afford to pay tuition at Bard.

Sic. And while we’re on the subject: it was, at that point, a color I like to think of as “Velvet Skirt Drama Major Red.” Bright, fake looking, with a slight undertone of Ronald McDonald. My high school handbook (then) had a dress code restriction against “unnatural” hair colors. It was as close as I could get to (roughly) Lush without the Dean of Students making me re-dye my hair.

My angst is hilarious and the issue at stake is the very height of trivial, upper middle class, white person problems. And yet . . .thinking back on all of this at even a twenty-year remove, I still feel a little devastated. When you go to a school with a 100% college acceptance rate and a faculty fixated on getting you as close to an Ivy as they can, Honey, I’m so sorry but we just don’t have the money still smarts.

Strawberry Boone’s Farm and 40s, natch, though at least one of the boys mentioned sometimes traveled with a bottle of Mountain Dew spiked with bourbon.

Lost to history. My guess is that it kicked off with “In the Bush,” which earlier in the semester N and I had used to score our reflections on John Milton and “Paradise Lost” in AP English IV class.

[5] Literally, in this case.

[6] Why, yes, we were those intolerable kids.

Mind The Gap, Christmas Break, 1996

It’s weird to have parents that think they’re cool. I mean, like, really cool. Because they hung out with real deal hippies or saw Hendrix or bought a Dylan record before Vietnam or snuck in a peace march before voting before getting a perm and voting for Reagan. It was a short-lived thing. I think most of the so-called “cool” parents were well out of interesting before Ziggy Stardust, let alone before The Clash.

Thus, I can’t really describe the “boogeying down” that’s happening in my mother’s living room right now because its kind of upsetting. I really think the real generation gap comes down to a question of exactly when you think Eric Clapton started to suck or alternately whether you think Eric Clapton always sort of sucked.

Update: my stepfather wants to know if I’ve ever heard of the Alan Parsons Project.

Pretty in Pink, May 1992

Last night was the prom and I didn’t have a date, so I tagged along with Kara and the German exchange student. I think he looks a little like a duck, but he bought me a corsage even though I’m not even really his date.

I wore a pink dress, even though I swore I would never wear pink again now that I’m no longer a blushing Juliet and now that love is something I know I will never have. [1]

The dress was damask and off the shoulder and it looks like a bridesmaid’s dress off the clearance rack at Belk, which is exactly what it is. I still think maybe it was ugly, but it had a crinoline and a bow. I tried to be pretty, as if that would cover up the sound of my loneliness.

I do think I looked suitably romantic, even if my hair is still too short.[2]

No one really danced with me, because no on really danced after the power went out.[3] Justin and Justin and the other guys from the Radio Club tried to dj, but mostly I sat at a table in the dark wondering if this was it. Afterwards we went to this school-sponsored breakfast thing at the Wilton’s house, but nothing happened there except for me putting my foot in my mouth for the 4000th time and Mom picking me up and talking about the upholstery in the Wilton’s living room.

High School (pretty much mostly) Sucks.

[1] Really?

[2] I’d cut all my hair off (and dyed it orange) not quite a year before just prior to my abortive attempt at running away to California. At the time, it had seemed both symbolic and representative of the trapeze dress/striped tights + Sassy Magazine + New Order aesthetic I wanted to embody. But then I spent most of my sophomore year sucked deep down in some boggy Renaissance/Celtic Folk/Pre-Raphaelite/Tori Amos wormhole (mercifully short-lived) and spent a lot of time praying my hair would grow back faster, curlier and a gorgeous Waterhouse-painting auburn (it didn’t).

[3] Here’s how this actually went down: the prom was in the dining hall, a vaulted, mock-Tudor structure with exposed rafters and those chandeliers that look like ship’s wheels. It was built sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century and probably hadn’t been engineered to withstand rock and roll of any kind, let alone the terrible band hired for prom. This particular terrible band was an "alternative rock" covers outfit called (I believe) Chapter Two. The lead singer wore a ruffled pirate shirt and leather pants and had old Soundgarden hair. They came out, introduced themselves, hit the first line of “Under the Bridge” and promptly blew the power for that whole half of campus. This took several hours to resolve, during which time the faculty passed out flashlights (“for safety”) and various students tried to fill the dance floor by playing “Shadrach” and The Sex Police on someone’s battery operated boombox.