pump up the volume
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
it’s four in the morning, and i’m not tired.
i feel like i’m in that middle place, that nice and safe place, where nothing bad is happening. i am busy enough to not have time to reflect, but i have the feeling that what i would reflect on wouldn’t be that bad. not at all. i tend to only write when i’m feeling down. i’m feeling up to flat to peaceful to … i’m just steady. i’m just getting things done.
i shut the lid of my computer tonight at around 2. i never feel finished, but at a certain point i try to make a rational decision to get some sleep. but i wasn’t tired. things are going well enough, i said to myself. i had spent the night boiling pot after pot of tea, sitting there at my kitchen table, formulating endless emails about the album artwork, the This and the That, the captions for the dozens of photos to the sheet music, proofing the lyrics, making plans with my family for christmas. the things that thread themselves together and never unravel and never end. Shit To Do.
i laugh at the idea of anybody thinking my life is all that interesting. i come back to boston from tour and spend time in my apartment, glued to my computer, making occasional trips to the store for nourishment. getting things done, like anybody else. we all know the pile. boring running around and feeding my mouth and resting my mortal coil on a space pillow.
but i didn’t go straight to bed, as i thought i would. if you had asked me, my best guess would have been that i would floss, brush, wash my face and apply two kinds of moisturizer, and crawl into bed. i would read the next installment in the julie doucet comic book that lies there spread face-down next to my pillow, set my alarm, read for ten minutes, whack off and fall asleep like every other night.
instead, for reasons unkown, i took a walk down memory lane and treated myself to a movie in bed. movies in bed are great. laptops are awesome. this is rare, i don’t usually allow myself to spend two hours that could be spent on sleep or making more beautiful album artwork on a movie. but i’m glad i watched this movie. i fucking missed this movie. i bought this movie on an impulse buy from amazon.com about two weeks ago, because it came into my head, and it was cheap. then it arrived and it sat there on my stove for a while, knowing it wouldn’t be watched.
pump up the volume. it was like the breakfast club for the nineties. i was liminal.i didn’t belong anywhere, i was right on the threshold. not really belonging to the eightie sor the nineties. my older brother and sisters were in the car when we came back from the breakfast club when i was about 9. i remember i was still timgling from seeing judd nelson’s fist raise into the air as the credits rolled and the sun went down on the triumph of the teenage spirit. i remember resolving to be a cool teenager. i was so jealous of my older siblings, they got to live this. they were IN high school, that mysitcal world of detentions and smoking corners and heavy bookbags.
but once pump up the volume came out, i barley related as if i was watching my own generation on that screen – which technically, i was. it was 1990, i was 14, and i felt like the entire world understood something i didn’t, that everybody was in on the joke but me. however, i had my fantasy, and i held onto my fantasy when i saw movies like this. somehwere, i kept telling myself, somewhere THERE IS A PLACE where teenagers riot in high school parking lots because a pirate radio DJ plays sonic youth and leonard cohen and muses about existence. just like i’d believed at 9 that there was some mythical high school where five kids from different socio-economic backgrounds and cliques could show up for a saturday detention and smoke pot and forgive each other. i spent most of high school fantasising that college would finally prove to be the PLACE since high school was definitely Not the PLACE where these incredible things happened. lo and behold, i was totally fucking stunned when college turned out to feel exactly the same. i felt like i was in high school except everybody slept over. it’s taken me years to sort through this shit, and i’m not even close. pump up the volume. i had almost forgotten how fucking great it was. it propelled my straight back to high school and all of a sudden, there i was, in the bathroom applying black eyeliner, calculating exactly which route to take to english so i would pass by andrew thompson’s locker. feeling inherently fucking confused, with absolutely no way out. feeling like i understood everything totally clearly while simultaneously feeling i had no idea why things anything was happening.
i pressed pause half-way through the movie, in a daze, and went to the bathroom stuck in high school. i couldn’t believe i had my own apartment. it was like i was on acid. i was just looking around going “how on earth did i get here?” i felt like i had to be up at 7:30 so i could eat cereal, put on tights and skirts and combat boots and walk to school in the freezing cold, smoking ginseng cigarettes on the way with my walkman blasting strangeways here we come on one side and meat is murder on the other and flipping the tape over and over and over again, morrissey’s providing the soundtrack for a life that i could find tolerable when the music was loud enough and every step i took and every tree i saw and every passing suburban car was just a planted perfect prop while the credits rolled by. walking to school with the music blasting was always opening credits. i never did closing credits. not that i remember. in-between classes, headphones on, volume dial jammed, my fellow students were perfectly-cast extras walking through the hall for those establishing scenes where the director is trying to set a mood for a Cool High School movie. What happened? What happened to John Hughes? Do the kids of this generation, the ones who are 16, do they really, really see Mean Girls and relate? Do they leave the theater wanting to run home and throw all their sports pendants and strings of pearls and soccer trophies in the mircowave?
Happy Harry Hard-On is my new personal hero. I don’t need reality. That’s my new answer. So Be It. I bought my rebellion at the blockbuster mall just like everybody else but at least it makes my stomach stir. i cry at weddings.
i stand at the kitchen sink, filling a glass with water, and i look to my left and see a bottle of dish soap. i’m still can’t shake it. i can’t believe i OWN this bottle of dish soap. i can’t believe it’s MINE. i can barely turn around becaue i know what’s in the rest of my apartment and i know i’ll be completely overwhelmed. a COUCH? where did these things COME FROM? who the hell am i to OWN a couch and a bottle of dishsoap? i mean, i OWN it, i’m not just using it because it’s there. I OWN it the way I own my clock and my towels and my books and my dictionary. it’s mine forever. if the house caught fire and i fled in my boxers and t-shirt and stood out on the street, the sympathetic passers-by would shake their heads. I’m So Sorry, they would say. I Know What It Feels Like To Lose Everything. No, I would say, clutching my small bottle of fluorescent orange Dawn, I still have this. It’s mine forever and nobody can take it away from me, ever.
high school is never over. it just morphs into something more subtle. i had an experience last week in new york which proves this. i’ve been a curious fan of bright eyes for about a year, ever since i discovered the fever and mirrors record. naturally, since conor oberst (the singer and basically the band itself) represents adolescent pain better than anyone in the universe, i developed a class A adolescent crush on him. i don’t get these anymore. i miss them. i prefer sleeping alone nowadays. i barely think about love. i have plenty. i haven’t had a boyfriend in so long i’ve forgotten what it’s like. honestly. i have these vague memories of romancing and cuddling and planning and fucking and calling and the whole nine yards and it seems like a blurry fiction, something that i just wouldn’t do nowadays, because….well, why would i? i’m happy. i’m rarely lonely. i have close friends and people i can talk to, i don’t feel isolated. i certainly don’t miss the heartbreak and the drama. but old conor pulled it out of me. he literally screams that you Must Develop a High School Crush on him. so i hauled my ass down to new york because i wanted to pass his locker. now, any girl (or boy, i suppose) knows that this locker-passing technique is ridiculous. if the person doesn’t have any interest in you, they are not going to give a fuck if you walk by their locker five to six times a day for an entire school year. if anything, they’ll be irritated. andrew thompson probably was. so, in Rock Land, when you’re in a band that’s Making It you can have your manager call their promoter or/and manager friends to get tickets and passes for shows. Sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t. my manager is a Good Manager. he almost always can. so i emailed him and got a ticket and a pass for the bright eyes show in jersey city, and there i was all of a sudden, sitting in a seat in a theater with my coat on my lap and my journal in my hands. to my left was the cooler-hair guiter player from the yeah yeah yeahs, and to my right were conor oberts parents. now, i don’t know what kind of cruel and surreal trick god was playing on me by doing this. i can only imagine. while talking to mr and mrs oberst i find of course that (could it be any other way?) they were the sweetest, kindest smiling rock parents you could imagine. so proud of their son, just beaming. conor was drinking coca-colas on the stage and giving a decent performance, but he seemed bored. maybe he’s always like that.
my few words exchanged with him backstage before the show were trite and forgettable. he remembered me as the drunk girl who streaked onto his stage glastonbury and we joked. he was nice but not interested in talking to me. his tour manager was not so nice, however, and sort of gave me that full-body scan and sneer and told me that they’d had a great tour and that he didn’t want me fucking up the show. what? i said. no, no, no. i am not a crazy person, please believe me. i thought that glastonbury was like las vegas…what happens at glastonbury stays in glastonbury….? apparently not. my one attempt at crazy rock star behavior had been met with steely witch-burning rancor. i looked the guy straight in the eye. please, sir, don’t worry. i am not going to ruin your rock show. i am a sane person. i don’t do crazy things. in fact, i am a grave disappointment to all the fans out there who want me to be a lunatic. i’m really not. he was half-satisfied, but that feeling shot through me again….what was it? what was it? oh, i remember. it was That High School feeling. i’ve been so surrounded by people who like me lately that i’ve forgotten how it feels to walk down a hall of people who all stare at you as if you’re a freak and a loser. which is exactly how i felt after the show, surrounded by pretty girls with quilted dresses, stylish shoes with the weird heels in the middle of the foot (i don’t GET those at ALL) long hair and bangs. i bet i would like every one of these people, i said to myself, if i could be alone in a room with them, they play music, we have a lot of things in common SMACK why do you feel so out of place? are these people really looking at you so strangely? or are you just telescoping yourself back into tenth grade? i’m inclined to think that after the conor-rejection and the you-dirty-whore treatment from the tour manager that it was the latter. i had a nice talk with mr yeah yeah yeah and i had a nice talk with ms feist, the opener. it struck me that i had invited myself into somebody else’s party and why on earth should i expect them to be kind to me? would i be kind to them if they showed up in my backstage after a dresden dolls show? of course. but were they being unkind? what was i expecting, the PLACE? the magical PLACE where bottles are clinking and everyone is everyone’s friend in Rock Love and our cups runneth over and music and love bring us all together and it’s All Good? this doesn’t exist either. i learned this lesson over the summer at the rock fesitvals, where the magazines were pumping the public with stories of the Rock and Roll Life while backstage was usually a bunch of cold and tired musicians standing in line for catering, trying not to offend one another. maybe i just wasn’t invited to the right trailers. maybe i don’t really want to go anyway. maybe i think too much and they can smell it on me.
pump up the volume made me want to blog. it’s the practical equivalent of having a pirate radio station, but quieter. but that’s all i’m doing, vomiting out my head periodically like this.
people leave comments. these posts are re-sent over to our myspace page, where people leave comments. i read them all, in case you guys have been wondering. it’s the most satisfying thing in the world to hold a one-sided conversation with an imaginary audience and then hear the reverberations, the echo delay on a random thought. it makes me feel less alone. in fact, i blame you, Yes You, for the fact that i don’t want to go boyfriend-hunting (in case you’re wondering how the conor story ended, we said goodnight and i left the show but i ran into him at a bar the night after. he saw the error of his ways and asked me back to his apartment, where we stayed up all night, drinking red wine and reading passages form oscar wilde fairy-tales aloud to each other while crying and holding onto each other for dear life and kissing for hours without ever taking our clothes off. just kidding. we said goodnight and i left the show but ran into him at a bar the next night where i decided that tenth grade was over and i didn’t say hello, which probably relieved him). i blame you because i think this may be enough for me at the moment, to scream/sing at a crowd, to cry on a stage, to send my blather into the internet and hear the echo. i think it’s all i need right now. i think it is. this does not mean that if Christian Slater at age 23 waltzed into my kitchen i would not try to Trap Him and Cage Him and keep him forever. i would set up a little pirate radio station in my bedroom that would broadcast into the kitchen and the bathroom only. every night at 10:00 pm sharp he would dj and rant and play the pixies and bad brains and i would dance wildy, naked, flailing and out of control in the next room, with an umbrella in one hand and a bottle of salad dressing in the other, stuffing string after string of pearl necklaces and sports pedants (which i would procure daily at ever-more-distant salvation army stores) into a mircowave i would purchase at best buy for that purpose. then we would fall into bed, exhausted, complaining about how difficult it is to be in high school and how nobody understands us and how we can’t wait to grow up and get the fuck out of this town.
it’s 5:30. i could’ve watched a whole nother movie.