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Monday, February 21, 2005

The Hellion

The thing is, what I'd really like to do is just link this to a bunch of other sites, and maybe not tell my friends about it at all. Because now, the hole I'm in is described already by the possibility that someone is going to read this, and know that I am discussing them. There's no shame in that; I always tell the more squeamish in our crowd that the cheapest way to never having to feel ashamed of your secrets is not to have secrets. All the same, my thoughts are my own and I feel like sharing the stupidest, even-I-feel-silly-to-consider-them stuff that belongs in a journal that has paper, and is not available in a semi-public context is something my posthumously published memoirs should do, not this.
Man, complex sentence. This reminds me of the crafting of my first full-length novel, in sixth grade. I had just read the book "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", by Cameron Crowe. If you recall, a rather well-liked movie was based on it. What the movie lacked was a rather important editorial aspect that you only get in the foreword: Mr. Crowe had actually gone back to high school as a twenty-two year old, to get the juicy story. As people who saw the movie "Almost Famous" will recall, he began in journalism at a ridiculously young age, so by the time he was in his teeny twennies, he could write his own checks; say things like, 'hey, let's see what high school is like in 1981.'
Or whatever year that was. In the book, the joke is made that there are two seperate guys at school who are trying to look exactly like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick. In the movie, it's two seperate girls trying to look like Pat Benatar. Such is the difference two or so years can make, and now it's ridiculous to consider that anyone ever would have had any desire to look like either of them, except that for their day, they were sexy (well, Mr. Zander was. I always thought Patty looked ridiculous, like somebody's mom trying too hard to look young).
So, getting back to me, I read the damn thing repeatedly. I liked the fact that Cameron Crowe had not felt the need to inject himself into the story; he just took the stories he heard and made very believable fiction out of them. It was journalism with everybody's names changed, and the only people who would know that that was them making an ass out of themselves were a very small group indeed. And a few years after high school, who cares? I decided that I needed to do a gritty expose on what life in sixth grade was like.
The difference was that it was told from the first person, which Crowe didn't do. It begins with me listening to some music. Excuse me. Let me go find the original.
Ah, here we go. It should be noted that I haven't looked at this notebook since the early '80's, and note with some surprise that I was going to call this potential best-seller "The Kids Are Alright". Chances are, even then, I was attempting irony. Here we go:
" I was lost in Judas Priest. As red and blue lights flashed around me, "The Hellion" burst into auditory. They call me Shades, for my trademark, which I was wearing at this moment." That crap grammar is so fucking cute, but let's read on: "I was slightly ripped on Jack Daniel's and orange juice, my favorite alcoholic refreshment. I was aware that my body wouldn't respect me in the morning, but it felt good now." It now seems clear that I wanted to write yet more of that "Great Gatsby" type thang, and never having read that book, had no idea how done to death the whole 'oh how tragic that we're all such a bunch of decadent wastrels' novel was.
"I was the average sixth grader, except for my weekend drinking binges. I was obsessed with heavy metal, the opposite sex, etc." This is completely true. I was under the impression at the time that every kid circa age twelve is heavy into drinking, and should have already had sex. I do blame Hollywood. For the bizarre combination of orange juice and whiskey, I blame my brother, who in turn probably just grabbed whatever had been available.
As the paragraphs go on, I see that at that age, I was under the impression that 'orgasm' and 'erection' were the same thing. We were indordinately concerned with which of our female classmates had menstruated, and having more AC/DC albums than other people was an important status symbol. Brief note is made of the brand new phenomenon of music videos. We mercilessly tease the already deeply unpopular boy with the speech impediment who really honestly did smell like shit by inferring that he is having sex with his only friend. I describe my teacher as "a balding, black haired, middle-aged, liphaired, goateed, idiotic looking man", which was pretty much true.
Now, the trouble is, about five pages into this, one starts to see the editorial adjustments made not only by me but by others. I actually let the rest of these fucking children look at what I was writing about them. This takes on a strange aspect, since I was still writing it, and it was still a journalistic work in progress, with all names clearly spelled out. By 10:00 A.M. on the first day, we get into this bizarre controversy about whether or not the most popular boy in the class masturbated. Now, considering what we know now, he almost certainly did, but for some reason at that age, such a thing was considered deeply shameful. The girls had planned this out: "I went straight to my contact into the female life..." Already I realized that you must listen to the women, if you're ever going to get the whole picture. The next few lines have been crossed out, by Ian, the boy in question.
A few pages later, at 3:00: "School was over. (My friends and I) had been invited, or at least we thought, to Missy's house...We ate her out of house and home. We asked them why they started the rumor about Ian. They said: 'It's true!'
"Jason said, 'I saw him the other day!'
"Adam and I admitted that it was true." And then, in someone else's handwriting: "We believed Ian." And then after that, "'Bullshit' Ian said you fucking cocksuckers". A weird interlude followed involving a number of balloons with various potential couples' names on them. But note what had happened. For the first time, I had been censored by a higher power. I was a high-ranking officer in the popular kids. On at least one other occasion, policing the younger kids, I heard myself say, "You heard the man!", after Ian had laid down the law. I wasn't as good at sports, which would have made me perfect in their eyes, but I was funny, and I was smart in the acceptable way, which was to say: it is not desirable to be a dumb shit, but being too smart is clearly not good...Except for those guys who are so smart that they intimidate the most powerful kids. They are okay, as long as they are funny.
I've sort of come the long way around to make my point, but I'm not even willing to censor myself as far as most of this shit goes, and all I know is, discussing the present is not off the table, but only sometimes will I bother. We never really grow up, as I have often said, and I've lost too many friends for stupid reasons, of late.
In seventh grade, I wrote a novel of a hundred pages, titled "The Acid Bath". It takes place in a fictional New Jersey suburb that strongly resembles the few suburb-like additions to the small Eastern Oregon town I grew up in. It is even more over the top: the lies we all told each other were treated entirely as being true. It was during this time period that I was accused of being the leader of a satanic cult. In retrospect, it's laughable, except for the fact that this particular cult actually existed, and had killed someone. In this book, I portrayed your average suburban junior high as being rampant with murder, drugs, the kind of sexual privilege system that I suspect is only available to the very famous...This is due to the fact that I was reading well over my age level. When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a horrible novel called "The Liar's Cafe", which, despite its fantastic title, is the fallout from a seventeen year old reading too much Kerouac: I tried to act like I was a world traveler, which I was not. But I knew what I knew from reading things...
Or so I thought. Vast cauldron of shadows. I'm tellin' ya'.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Melissa said...

Did it take you all day to make this post?

12:38 PM  

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