I am aware of the song long before I’m aware of the film. In my theology class (specifically, Spiritual Interpretations of Freud and Jung), I sit in the third row to the left, behind a silly fool of a boy who constantly utters the phrase ‘it’s all good.’ The teacher pops the surrealist classic, Louis Buñuel’s Un chien andalou (1929), into the VCR that has just been wheeled in by the geeky AV boy, who on a future date, I will marry (I do not know this at the time). The teacher’s mouth is moving but all I can hear is ‘Debaser’: Slicing up eyeballs / I want you to know / Girlie so groovie / I want you to know / Don’t know about you / I am un chien Andalusia (repeat 3x). My mind wanders as I provide Black Francis and company with my full attention—perhaps a moment or two more than my best academic interest can bear. I casually look up at the television and the internal music comes to a crashing halt. ‘Sweet Jesus! What are we watching?’ I shout to myself. ‘Slicing up eyeballs? Why couldn’t that just be a metaphor?’
Bang. Bang. Bang. My father pounds on my bedroom door to tell me that I’m listening to the ‘devil’s music.’ Devil’s music? Isn’t that a bit of a cliché? I prefer to label it ‘Martian Rock.’ He has the agenda of a seventy-year-old evangelist from Macon, Georgia, though in reality, he’s a thirty-nine-year-old lawyer from The Valley, who specializes in copyright law and who has a slight case of ADD and a penchant for dramatics. Example: Some kids get grounded for smoking pot; I, however, get my car taken away for tape-trading bootlegs. ‘But I’m not hurting anyone!’ I cried. ‘You’re hurting the record industry, Mena!’
‘Wave of Mutilation’
The Guam Express, according to the snorkel-boat captain, is a current which will, quite literally, ruin your day. In fact, it will whisk your snorkeled self thousands of miles to, well, Guam. That’s at least what the captain tells us (between bites of Maui onion chips). Although I doubt his story, I’m still terrified of going in the ocean. Dignity aside, I opt for a lifejacket and kickboard. A ten-year-old boy looks at me with disgust. ‘Look mom, that girl can’t swim.’ I’m seventeen years old. The child’s contempt doesn’t faze me, however; this is not because, despite my kickboard and my size-ten skirted bathing suit, I ooze self-confidence, but because children are really quite useless. Later, while snorkeling—or rather, bobbing on the surface of the water—I see an eel and hope to introduce it to my ten-year-old friend.
We sit in Frank G.’s bedroom, the walls of which are painted an irritating burgundy to match his fourteen-hole Doc Martins. No one in the room, except for Frank G., classifies either the walls or the shoes as cool, but we’re too polite to say anything. ‘Those are some tall, red shoes, Frank’—that is the extent of our compliments.
Bless his heart, Frank G. isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He, without any irony, says ‘d’oh’ a lot. Frank G. has stringy, shoulder-length hair which, at the moment, is dyed pink. Frank G. also has bad timing. His parents have grounded him for dying his hair; he dyed it pink in celebration of the upcoming Pink Floyd concert he is now forbidden to attend. D’oh! We can’t help but giggle every time he mentions the circumstances. ‘But Frank, your parents told you that if you Manic-Panicked your hair you would be grounded.’ ‘Ughh…I forgot,’ he says. Frank G. is ‘Frank G.’ because his best friend is ‘Frank R.,’ who at the moment is effortlessly plucking Frank G.’s burgundy bass guitar. Poor Frank G., he can’t play his own bass guitar.
‘Here Comes Your Man’
In a remarkable act of liberation, the man on the radio decides not to play Toad the Wet Sprocket’s ‘Fall Down’ for the sixteenth time in a five-hour period. Instead, a familiar chord, almost as mighty as the G suspended 4th that opens ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ confirms that Doolittle is, relatively, the Pixies’ most commercial-viable album. Elitism is thrown out my Ford Tempo’s windows as I embrace the song in all its mainstream glory.
You are a hypocrapper, a crapper / You are a hypocrapper, a crapper. I can’t be sure of its exact meaning, but I appreciate the sentiment. Hypocrapper. It is the ultimate linguistic marriage of negativity, a union of ‘hypocrite’ and ‘crap.’ It isn’t a real word, yet it makes perfect sense; I begin to use it in conversations. ‘Did you hear what so-and-so told so-and-so? She’s such a hypocrapper!’ The word is beautifully grotesque, a mantra of teenage contempt. Viva hypocrapper!
A few years later, I learn that the lyric is really Uriah hit the crapper, the crapper.
‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’
Mena: I can’t sing.
Mena: And I can’t play an instrument.
Mena: Is it wrong to form a band on such a weak foundation?
Ben: Weak is an understatement.
Mena: But you can be my drummer.
Ben: I don’t play the drums.
Mena: So? I can’t sing.
Ben: Where are you going with this?
Mena: ‘Rock me, Joe.’ It all comes back to ‘Rock me, Joe.’ My life won’t be complete until I can meta-reference a band-mate. Even if just to pass the mic.
Ben: I think you’re not focusing on the big picture.
Mena: Sort of like when I wanted to join the Army for the uniforms?
Mena: You know what?
Mena: Rock me, Joe.
Our desks are in a semi-circle and I sit between Ben and the girl (the one with the crazy, Syd Barrett eyes) who wears a cape and who, incidentally, has managed to successfully hide her pregnancy for the past eight months. Despite her LSD intake, she will deliver a healthy baby and nary a member of the school administration will know her secret. That is, until the special graduation edition of our school newspaper is published and under Graduating Senior’s Favorite School Memory she writes: ‘The time I carried a baby to term and no one knew.’
The baby’s father works at the Shell Station on the corner next to our school. I despise pumping my gas there because he always smiles his stupid stoned smile and when he wants to talk, I don’t like the unequal footing. His facial hair dates him to around 1973, though he’s probably no older than twenty-two.
The semi-circle of desks is formed to foster an intimate session of creative writing peer review. Ben and I are in top form, tearing apart our classmate’s maudlin anthems of teenage doom and gloom. Not that ours are any better—but at least we realize that it’s all crap, or so we tell ourselves. The red marker is out and we tag-team the papers. A passive-aggressive ‘need this?’ around what is, obviously, the author’s favorite line; a question to whether a character in a first-person narrative really could be aware that ‘it all went black’; a wondering why, why, why the head cheerleader always has to write about being raped and murdered. And does she really need to illustrate her story with paper cutouts from Cosmopolitan and Mademoiselle? Are you Sassy? Bitch! I’m fat! Liar!
And how do we sign our ‘constructive’ criticism? ‘Please forgive me, Jose Jones.’
‘La La Love You’
‘The Devil’s music?’ I say aloud as my father barges into my bedroom. He demands to know what I was listening to (see above) and before he can say ‘David Lovering’ (which, in any case, he wouldn’t say), I have track 10, ‘La La Love You,’ pumped (relatively speaking) on my seventy-five-dollar stereo. Similar to The Breeder’s ‘Driving On 9’ from Last Splash, ‘La La Love You’ is the musical equivalent of the boss key utility. ‘Devil’s music?’ I say. ‘He la la loves her.’
‘No. 13 Baby’
Ben: I’m thinking of getting a tattoo.
Mena: No you aren’t.
Ben: I’m over my pain issues.
Mena: Until you see the needle, that is. And what will you get?
Ben: Not quite sure. Perl code, maybe?
Mena: It’s all about permanence and I don’t think, at 80, you’ll want to date yourself in such a way.
Ben: Shut up. It wouldn’t be outdated.
Mena: Perl or the tattoo?
Mena: Tell that to the guy with the Fortran tattoo on his arm.
Ben: And what about you?
Mena: What about me?
Ben: What would you ink onto your skin?
Mena: No. 13, baby, right on the tit.
‘There Goes My Gun’
At the time, jumping into the pool while fully clothed and holding a watermelon was the only solution. It’s that sort of ‘we had to destroy the village to save it’ logic that gets me into trouble. If he notices me (no matter how stupid I look), he’s bound to like me. It’s that voodoo that I do so gosh darn horribly. Similar poorly considered logic: If you scream ‘Friendsa foe’ at him every time you see him walk down the hall, he will want to ask you to the prom.
Hey / Been trying to meet you. And with that, we’re introduced. Buried in the used-tape bin and sandwiched between the Sugarcubes’ Stick Around for Joy and Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain, is a side-punched copy of Doolittle priced at a dollar and a half. The price is nice since I’m teenaged broke, having spent seven of my last ten dollars on gasoline from the expensive gas station—the gas station where I do not know any of the attendants and am not forced into nonsensical small-talk.
There was a girl who tried, unsuccessfully, to associate a memory with a certain song that she never really quite liked.
The contents of my big, black, faux fur coat are as follows:
- (1) empty Reese’s Pieces bag
- (1) Bic pen cap
- (1) folded tissue, for possible future use
- (2) pieces of Trident gum, one of which has lost its protective wrapper and, as a result, is now half-cinnamon, half-lint
- (1) mix tape prepared by my fourth-period journalism teacher
The origin of the mix tape doesn’t strike me as odd or creepy. The crossing of boundaries between teacher and student is a fabulous diversion from Catholic high school living, and I was more than willing to embrace that one cool teacher who quite literally gave me the clothes off her back. Later that week, it would prove difficult to explain to my mother just why my journalism teacher gave me a black hefty bag of her used clothes. ‘But mom, some of these are Betsey Johnson!’
I visit the journalism teacher’s house. The setup to why I’m visiting seems straight out of a molester’s bag of tricks: she wants to show me something. Fortunately, she’s neither a molester, nor crazy. Instead, she points me to a glass case that contains a number of original models used in filming A Nightmare Before Christmas. Apparently, the journalism teacher’s husband is cool too: he does special effects for Tim Burton’s films. All the while, I hold the mix tape in my hand, smiling stupidly as if I’m in on a really great inside joke.
Mid-semester, the journalism teacher decides she doesn’t really like teaching at our high school and leaves to teach at an art school in The City.