Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary Carlip and my Dancehall Days (or Daze as the case may be…)

Okay, I guess I lied in the last entry when I said I wouldn’t be getting more personal than I did there. I’m about to do it again. I’m bound to get personal now and again. My writing roots are in the per-‘zine after all (aka personal zine, I wrote three of them in the mid-90s, Goddess Defiled, Hospital Gown, and Do Not Go Quietly Unto Yr Grave) and one day I’d like to write a memoir or essay collection type thing, so I’m sure I’ll end up practicing on here every now and again like I’m inspired to today.

I’ve written a few personal essays such as the one on that I pimped a few blogs back. Hillary Carlip, who runs, is a mentor to me in many ways. She published excerpts of Hospital Gown in her book ZINE SCENE and has basically nurtured me as a writer since I was sixteen. And if I ever do a memoir-type thing it will be inspired by her book QUEEN OF THE ODDBALLS, which has to be the coolest memoir I’ve ever read. (Though her next book À LA CART: THE SECRET LIVES OF GROCERY SHOPPERS looks equally amazing and she has the coolest book trailer type thing on her website I would strive to be funny the way Hillary is, which is pretty much the opposite of my per-‘zines and of many of the tales I have to tell, such as the next one…

This is not really so much a story as a time period in my life that just came back in an overwhelming flash a few minutes ago. A combination of things triggered it, I think. One would be my train of thought about addiction yesterday. Another would be music—that’s always a big one for me. Okay, here’s another Stephanie idiosyncrasy for you, for the past few months I’ve been listening to the albums on my iPod in alphabetical order. Not all of them, just the ones I haven’t heard in awhile. I figured this would be the best possible way to go through my whole catalog (well what I’ve uploaded to my iPod since probably only 60 to 75% of my CDs are on there) and not miss anything. It’s been an exciting venture for the most part, but the last three albums were Siouxsie and the Banshees- The Scream, Depeche Mode- The Singles 86>98, and Bauhaus- The Sky’s Gone Out. All are very fine albums, however all remind me very strongly of a period in my life circa ’97 to ’00 which we will call the Dancehall Days or perhaps Dancehall Daze is more appropriate.

During this time period, those bizarre years between 18 and 21, I gave up on punk rock and became a goth. My logic for this: I was sick of being let down by punks who claimed to have ethics, but really only cared about their image, drugs/drinking, and violently dancing to the cool band of the moment, not about if someone in their scene was doing really shitty things to girls. Goths on the other hand were upfront about only caring about their image, drinking/drugs, dancing (in a more swirly safe fashion) to bands mostly from the 80s. I’d rather hang out with the group that was honest. Hey, it made sense in my teenage mind. And I was bitter and jaded and enjoyed lots of black and listening to the Cure nonstop.

I spent the majority of my Dancehall Daze in Madison, Wisconsin. I moved there after I graduated high school a semester early in January of 1997. I took a brief break to attend Antioch College in Ohio for a year which might have been one of the best years of my life or the worst depending on how I look at it, though I did make some great friends and have some very messed up adventures, once of which was chronicled in No Touching Magazine and I just found out is online here. Then I returned to Madison where I basically spent two years working minimally at a telesurveying job (though I did manage to learn html when they promoted me to technical writer, so it wasn’t a total waste) and the rest of the time dressing up and going to goth clubs underage. I have two photo albums worth of pictures of me in strange outfits (everything from renaissance-type dresses to vinyl pants with silver Christmas tree tinsel worn as a boa-- an outfit that you can see above. Note the white face powder that made me so pale you can hardly see my nose) with long, jet black hair that I sometimes crimped, sometimes wore in Princess Lea buns, sometimes streaked with red or blue pomade. I thought I was glamorous and I loved being the girl at the club that everyone knew and wanted to party with. Sounds fun, right? Umm, kind of. I allude to this phase pretty flippantly in the bio on my website and I laugh at myself when it comes up in conversation. But, the truth? It wasn’t really fun or funny.

That’s why as much as I still do love the Cure, Siouxsie, Depeche Mode, and Bauhaus, I’ve hardly listened to them in the past several years and it actually was hard for me to not skip over them on the iPod. That period of my life was pretty pathetic when I think about it, which I did in the bathroom at work today when I saw a dime on the floor. Yeah, the triggers I mentioned a few paragraphs back. That was the last one. The dime.

I saw the dime. I looked at it. I opted not to pick it up. I felt glad that even though I feel really broke right now because I’m saving to go to my friend’s wedding in April and to do a sort-of book tour in July, I’m not that broke that I need the germy dime. Then I remember when I was that broke. Towards the end of the Dancehall Daze in 2000. After paying rent, I had about 150$ a month to live on. I spent it all on box wine, my drink of choice at home. In the clubs, people bought all my drinks and I never paid a cover. I charged groceries on a credit card. On Sundays when I always had the worst hangover, I scrounged the house for spare change to order a pizza from the strip mall down the street. Yeah, I stopped being vegan then because it was easier/cheaper to fill up on cheese and dairy. Alcohol was the priority, not food, not personal ethics. So, the truth of my situation, I was an alcoholic and I wasn’t even 21. The nights at the clubs that I would tell myself were so fun usually ended with huge fights with my then-boyfriend and me feeling suicidal, taking a ton of sleeping pills to escape into dreamland, half-hoping it would kill me and I’m damn lucky it never did.

I saw the lowest of my lows (or one of them) happen all over again when I was staring at the dime on the bathroom floor at work: I come home on a Saturday night after driving blindly drunk and I projectile vomit all over the bathroom floor. It’s all liquid, all red: boxed wine and vodka and cranberry. I look at the mess and crawl to bed to pass out. I wake up the next morning and find my beloved cat Sidney sitting outside the bathroom door just staring at the red liquid because it separates him from his litter box and water dish. It made me cry, realizing how much I neglected him to party. It still brings tears of guilt to my eyes to think about it.

I got better after that. Not instantly. But I moved back to Chicago and went back to college, started to write again. Writing focused me, gave me a goal and eventually I learned to drink (mostly) in moderation and surrounded myself with healthy, productive relationships. I’m crazy disciplined and I got myself out of an unhealthy place in the nick of time, that’s the only way I think I was able to do it on my own.

Hmm, okay, I don’t know where I’m going with this. It was just a moment in time that I remembered and needed to get out on the page and it seems to fit with my last blog somehow. Like if I am going watch these people in their darkest hour on Celebrity Rehab, maybe I should share mine, unsensationalized, and maybe it will help someone, who knows.

So yeah, that was a rare personal moment. Or maybe not rare, but a rare dark one. I’d rather tell the lighter ones or tell the dark ones in a light but meaningful way. I hope I didn’t depress everyone. Go to Hillary’s site and watch the trailer, it will make you laugh, I promise! Or laugh at my embarrassing picture above. God, the white face powder...


Anonymous said...

I've kept an eye out for your writings over the years, but I missed that No Touching essay. Dude. Where the hell was I that weekend? I don't remember ever hearing about that particular adventure. (Not that I should have been privy to everything you did, but I was right across the hall.) Also, I can't figure out who Pseudo is. But I have blocked out a lot of Antiochians, maybe most of them.

I've been thinking about zines a LOT lately. I think I am going to dig up my old ones and scan them. Also my Randal-era comics! Those will be worth a laugh.

I feel sure there is some sort of potential Project in here. I just need to figure out what it is... and enlist your participation.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

No Touching essay just came out last summer. I'm not sure how long it has been online. Not sure where you were that weekend. This occurred close to Thanksgiving I believe. And you and I visited this club, but we promptly got thrown out for scamming drinks that time. Pseudo, ummm, hmm, well obviously I can't say his name here, but I only almost hooked up with one person from Antioch and I think he probably went with us to the club when we got kicked out and oh dear, not sure but he might have been friends with your husband. If you really want to know, email me.
Zine project sounds cool. Definitely scan them! I should scan mine!

Anonymous said...

I figured it out! Heh. I had totally blocked out the memory of that club. I will keep you posted on Project Zine should anything come of the potential ideas in my head.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

I wish I could block the memory of that club! Ah well. Yes, keep me informed of Project Zine. very cool idea.