Jem is a Bitch

In a weird fit of Nostalgia For Things I Barely Remember Existing (I get these sometimes), I went back and watched JEM on Netflix.  I didn’t get very far because I am a Grown-Ass Lady with Things To Do, like losing at computer chess or fretting about wedding plans.

But in re-watching the pilot, I realized two things:

1) Jem is an elitist shrew — when the Misfits are introduced, before they even say anything to her, she looks at their clothes and shrieks “Get that trash out of my father’s office!”  Bitch, you don’t know what these girls are about!  Way to support other women in an incredibly competitive and often misogynistic business just because you don’t like the way they dress.

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Old Sad Bastard Music

PLAYLIST:

October Project: “Bury My Lovely”

“I Don’t Want to Get Over You” the Magnetic Fields

“CALL ME CALL ME” The Seatbelts feat. Steve Conte

“Letters” Stroke 9

“A Murder of One” Counting Crows

I’ll write about the amazing Writer Unboxed conference another day — I’m still unpacking, literally and figuratively!

…But a bit ago, I organized about 15 years of mix CDs into chronological order in an effort to sort out the chaos of my life (or possibly act out High Fidelity, Cosby sweater and all).  I even made a sweet little book to organize track lists, because I’m crazy like that.  It’s an ongoing project for when I have a few spare hours on a Saturday night; a trip down memory lane, a reminder that as cool and awesome as I may be now, I was once a girl who thought “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me For Me)” was essential to have on my person at all times.

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What Power Is…

PLAYLIST:

“Bump In the Night” AllStars

“Pet Cemetery” The Ramones

“Dead Man’s Party” Oingo Boingo

“Halloween” Siouxsie and the Banshees

Anyone who knows me knows that Halloween is kind of my jam.  In college I threw Halloween parties in the Oneida Hall 4 A-L lounge that were the social event of the season.  Now that I’m a grown-ass lady, I use Halloween as a chance to win prizes and internet fame (We’re #10 and #2).  Hell, last year, my fiance proposed to me in the middle of our town’s Halloween parade.  

goon-franky1This year, Ian and I are going as The Goon and Franky from Eric Powell’s awesome comic The Goon, because we have a very unique concept of the “couple’s costume.”  It was my idea, because I wanted something easy, something I could move/dance in, and something that cool people (like Trace Beaulieu!!!) would recognize, but wouldn’t get us swamped with requests for photos, like with our Maitlands and Alien costumes.  Also, I have a deep, possibly unhealthy affection for Franky (it’s a natural progression of my love for Shane Vendrell) but what can I say? I’ve got a soft spot for the sidekick.

Not pictured: The frantic beating of my nerdy heart

Not pictured: The frantic beating of my nerdy heart

But when I put on that costume, something weird happens….

FrankyBy nature, I am a pretty likable person.  I’m funny and I’m cheerful and I don’t like conflict and don’t go out of my way to be an asshole. But when I put on that hat, my Id, the razor blade under the tongue of my soul, takes over. I move differently.  I make faces different from my normal range of emotional expression.  And suddenly, I feel like I can do whatever I want.  It’s a fantastic and terrible power, this costume.

And it then becomes this fight between Libby and Franky to not, say, stab a Ghostbuster who was being a broseph to my friend Corey at a horror film convention. (Ian made me a “switchblade” with silver tape and a comb).  At her most badass, Libby might throw some shade in Ghostbro’s direction when he’s looking at her so that he knows she doesn’t think he’s so hot, in fact, he’s kind of dumb looking and takes his stupid hobby to idiotic extremes.  (Libby won that round…for now)

But Franky? Well, Franky’s a different story.  Franky’s unhinged.  Franky is going to get a beer instead of a Dr. Pepper and then Franky is going to compliment how good the waist-cincher on your pirate costume makes your boobs look, because Franky has no filter or decorum.  Franky is not going to tolerate it when drunk skanks try to hit on The Goon and may resort to violence*.  Franky would love to play Cards Against Humanity, but you’d better bring your A-Game; Franky isn’t going to tolerate your faux-edgy Dane Cook bullshit and will be happy to grin and tell you that your cards are neither funny nor clever, because Franky plays dark and mean and you should too.

...so then Charlie Noodles -- he's good people -- he plays the "dead babies" card, and I beat him to death with a crowbar! That's what makes it so funny!

…so then Charlie Noodles — he’s good people — he plays the “dead babies” card, and I beat him to death with a crowbar! That’s what makes it so funny!

Franky throws her clothes on the floor instead of the hamper. Franky doesn’t do the dishes before bed.  Franky doesn’t wake up at 7 a.m. to work on her novel, and Franky doesn’t think twice about making breakfast out of three tacos, Cuban espresso and the last fun-sized Milky Way that The Goon hid in the the back of the cupboard.

When Halloween/convention season is over, I’m going to really miss being Franky…but somehow, I don’t think anyone else will.

...Especially Not the Slackjaws!

…Especially Not the Slackjaws!

*Ripley-Libby did once resorted to physical threats; I slapped a drunk Slutty Cop’s hand away when she grabbed Ian’s Alien costume (DO NOT EVER DO THIS, EVER), and I screamed, in character, Get your hands off him, you bitch!   She quickly realized I was probably crazy and took off with the rest of her horde.  It was one of my prouder moments.

How To Map Blind

PLAYLIST FOR THIS POST:

“Death To My Hometown” Bruce Springsteen

“Back on the Chain Gang” The Pretenders

“Winter Song” The Crash Test Dummies

“I Were What” Sinister Yu

Let’s talk about setting.

The other night my friend Jim tweeted that our old Binghamton University dorms, College in the Woods, were being slated for heavy renovations and upgades.  Cayuga, where no one I knew lived, is up first, and the rest of CIW will follow shortly.  Binghamton University has been undergoing a ton of renovations to make the dorms more like “apartments” and less like “prison cells” in a continuing effort to lure potential students/indentured servants.  (I say this as a proud Binghamton alumni; those cinder-block dorms made me the person I am today)

CIW is important to me because it’s where I made the majority of the friends I still have today, where I threw my best parties and where I really began honing my craft.  I lived in Oneida 4D my entire time on campus, with the same roommate (Allie) until she moved out my senior year.  I can remember the placement of posters on the wall, the way my desk chair felt, the arrangement of the furniture in the Triangulon (where Eeon, Jim and Pete lived) next door, the exact degrees each knob in the shower had to be turned so you didn’t freeze or scald yourself to death.  In a few years, perhaps, none of that will physically exist in any layout I could map blind.  I’ve never lived someplace where I’d never again have the chance to walk the floors.

*

Setting has never been one of my strengths, and anyone who’s ever been in a writing workshop with me will admit this.  It’s usually something I go back and add in later, but in a first draft, the majority of my action takes place in a black box with the curtains and the view added later.

Part of No Awkward Goodbyes takes place in Binghamton, specifically, the Belmar Bar, which is a little townie dive on Main Street, off the main college drag.   In the book, it’s where Jett confronts the mysterious GPS, and I have transcribed it exactly as I remember it: Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs on the jukebox, a pull-knob cigarette machine of Pall Malls and Lucky Strikes, smokers in the parking lot.  That setting came easily to me because, hey, write what you know.

You don’t know how sweet water can taste until you’re dying of thirst.  The other day my friend Chuck sent me a piece he was working on, and he started by describing the character’s alarm clock, her bedroom, her makeup ritual.  If I was writing that same scene, I would have ignored all those details, because my idiot mind would have thought “everyone knows what waking up is like, get on with the story!” but the way he worded it felt like water–simple, and yet, so essential to the character’s existence.  No airs, just simple, stark, well-paced prose.  I was seized with both jealousy and awe, and vowed to do better.  Bad writers seeth.  Good writers learn.

I doubt the Belmar still has the pull-knob cigarette machine.  Maybe they don’t have Tom Waits on the jukebox, maybe the place has been taken over by college students, I don’t know and it isn’t important. But what’s important is that Jett and GPL — and therefor, the reader — feel comfortable there, that they have a space to exist.  It’s a lesson I’m going to have to learn again and again.  But I need to learn to write spaces my characters can map blind.  One step, one clock, one pack of smokes at a time.

Mix Tape Blush

In an effort to make some sense of the chaos that is my existence, I’ve been on this big tear of organizing ephemera into more chronological categories.  I just recently finished the photographs…and now it’s onto the mix CDs.

And, whoo-boy, are some of these embarrassing.

My earliest mix CDs were similar to radio tapes — collections of random songs culled from borrowed CDs.   A little Zevon, some 80’s stuff, a Lenny Kravitz song I must have liked but have no recollection of ever listening to.  Some of these CDs are 10 tracks long, not creatively named or anything.  My dad had a CD burning machine that you programmed tracks into, but if you didn’t fill CD, it would just repeat the last track until the end of the CD, which explains how I ended up with 7 plays of Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” on a CD titled Totally 80s Mix (Train would be so proud).

The 80s stuff is almost cliched nowadays, but it’s the 90s-2000s that are really mega-dorky.  One mix, titled Wussy Songs No One Must Hear contains The Corrs, Faith Hill and Celine Dion.  I try to pretend ‘m so fucking cool, with my Tom Waits and my Warren Zevon and my suitcase record player, but I have Natalie Merchant’s “Wonder” and “Thank You,” two songs specifically designed by space-robots in broomstick skirts to be played as a Lilith Fair encore.  All of my nerd-punk Talking Heads posturing is completely undone by two John Mayer songs (“Clarity” and “No Such Thing”) and Jason Mraz’s “The Remedy” on my Chill mix from my junior year of college.

But it’s fun, you know?  Hearing all these songs I haven’t heard or thought about in a decade or so — my deep, Freshman-year love for Lifehouse’s “Hanging By a Moment” or how Dave Matthew’s Band’s “Trippin’ Billies” is a pretty good song…and trying to figure out at what time in my life I would have come across Good Charlotte’s “Festival Song” and thought “Yeah, I want to listen to that on a 4-hour bus ride.”

There are party mixes for 80s parties and Halloween parties and my infamous Sin City shindig.  There are compilation mixes and theme mixes, driving mixes and archived copies of CDs I made for other people.  There are songs I listened to yesterday and songs I haven’t heard in ages.  It’s one more way to trace my history, to put order to my past…only this time, I can dance to it.

All I’ve Got is a Photograph…

Ian and I are in the long, arduous process of buying a house and moving (while also planning a wedding and working 7 days a week, because we don’t half-ass anything) and while searching through his dad’s basement (where much of our stuff is currently stored) I came across an old, beat-up photo album, containing photos from 1992-1998. I remembered having it, but because it was in such rough shape, I had mostly ignored it as I compiled all the other albums into neat, chronological sets.

But I pulled it out and began looking through it — there are photos from three years of Hidden Lake Girl Scout camp, cast photos from Scrooge and The Wizard of Oz, pictures of my dolls and my cats. Photos of old friends, of times I’d forgotten.

But what really struck me was less the memories of these photos and more the actual photos themselves.  These days, everyone takes photos of everything and everyone.  This drives me nuts.  On the 4th of July, I witnessed a guy watching the Cosmic Karma Fire Troupe perform through his tiny screen.  They were right there in front of him, but he was hell-bent on recording the moment for posterity.  It was embarrassing, frankly.  By contrast, these days, I photograph almost nothing.

Ian is a professional photographer and a damn good one.  He knows how to get a photo, whether composed or in-the-moment.  But he occasionally laments that he spends so much time recording other people’s lives that he, like the aforementioned idiot, worries he’s missing out on his own.

*

But as I stated before, what really struck me about these photographs was what was happening just outside the picture itself, the impetus for the photograph. These were still the days of 35mm and, better still, disposable cameras, so film, especially to a 13 year old, was a rare and pricey thing.  These are photos that couldn’t be edited on screen, photos we took chances with — the chance that someone might be blinking, making a weird face, that it might be over or under-lit, out of focus or out of frame.  You wouldn’t know until the photos came back three days later, and if that was the only picture you managed to snag of Jeremy S., well, you were going to hold onto that photo like treasure until you got your hands on another roll of film. And I’m fascinated by the raw, unedited appeal of these old photographs — the people in the background, the story behind how they were taken, the definitive history of my hair or my teenage bedroom, how I can mark the passage of time in teenage crushes by posters on my wall. (I’ll always love you, David Duchovny)

One thing I do regret about some of these photos is that I got rid all the pictures I had of my last boyfriend, Aaron, who I dated through high school and college and was engaged to, however briefly.  It’s a piece of my mythology that has been all but erased, and I’m a little sorry about that.  Those early photographs especially told of a pretty contemptuous teenage relationship, my first and one fraught with anxiety and melodrama, all captured in squinting, awkward, over-lit photographs snatched in the moment because he hated having his picture taken and actively made it impossible to get a decent shot, like a petulant child.

(David Duchovny would have never behaved that way)

These days, I would have 200 photographs of our first date and every moment afterward, but I’m not so sure that’s the solution either.  Because after awhile, it all just becomes white noise — there really is something to finding that ugly photograph again that can trigger more memories, more emotion, than 10 of the most perfectly-photoshopped, cropped, red-eye-reduced portraits.

*

Yesterday I got out Ian’s old 35mm (the one this photo was taken with) and started playing around with it.  I want to get back to exploring photography, the whole of the photos themselves. The background.  The singular moment, book-ended in memory only by the before and after.  I’m not looking for the perfect shot, but rather, the imperfect. 

 

Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Jason and I are doing this MixCD thing pretty hard.  It’s a language we always spoke, a means of communicating what neither of us were very good at saying aloud.  In the two months since we’ve been back in touch, we’ve made a total of seven albums, (four from me, three from him).  It’s a tad obsessive.

But just because we didn’t speak for seven years didn’t mean that there weren’t songs that didn’t remind me of him that whole time;  The Killers “Miss Atomic Bomb” and The Smiths “Rubber Ring” and The Cure’s “Cut Here” that made this Cold War almost slightly bearable.  Because that’s what I do, that’s how I process emotion.  Elton John was onto something when he sang “If someone else is suffering enough to write it down/When every single word makes sense’Then it’s easier to have those songs around”

But now Jason and I are back to being cool, there’s just one teensy little problem: What do I do with all these sad songs?

Any mix-tape enthusiast knows that you can’t just pretend a song doesn’t remind you of someone anymore.  It’s not an emotional connection you can just flip on and off.  After seven years of playing Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” and crying whenever I got nostalgic, I wasn’t going to not be able to think of him when I heard it.  I don’t have any emotional use for these songs anymore,  but they’re too good to just lock away.  And I certainly can’t give them to him; we’re past the stage of past sorrows and regrets.

Ultimately, I gave him a few of my broken-hearted tunes as a way of illustrating “This is how much it sucked when you were gone.”  I let Morrissey sing my apology on “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and Tom Waits lament “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.”  I let Warren Zevon beg him back with “Reconsider Me” and, luckily, he did just that.  And in time, I’m sure his memory will fall away from Nick Cave’s “Nobody’s Baby Now” and Stroke 9’s “Letters.”

But until then, well, sad songs say so much.