Panorama of San Bernardino

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

hey witchypoo

Sophomore year of high school my metamorphosis began. I ditched the swim team along with school and dyed my hair blue black. Soon after, I pierced my nose which was shocking to many at my high school back in the 1980s. I began wearing all black outfits to school paired with some combat boots, an ankh necklace and thick black eyeliner mimicking the eyes of Siouxsie Sioux.

By junior year, the change was complete. The new style got me attention. When my best friends and I would walk by all decked out in black, sometimes we could hear whispers. “They’ll put a spell on you.” With eager hand wringing curiosity, we bought a book on Wicca and pledged to only do white magic. But in truth, the only magic we really attempted was reading our fortunes with tarot cards and pouring over horoscopes and astrology books at the Crystal Cave in Claremont. We were a coven like in “The Craft” without any spells, potions or powers.

In truth, I really was more of a poser Catholic witch who was more style than substance and one who was really into the dark wave of music by The Cure, Joy Division, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sisters of Mercy along with UK punk bands like The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks.

My mom was horrified by my change in style and would say disdainfully, “You look ridiculous, why do you dress like that?” Dad was more gentle and would say, “Jenny (he always called me by my nickname Jenny), don’t dye your hair so dark, it’s pretty brown.”

What no one understood however, was that my change from goody two shoes to goth like punk princess, was not about my outside. It was about my insides. It was interior not exterior, the change I mean. I recognized way back then, although I was never educated about it until years later, that I had a melancholy sensibility. Add in punk rock anarchy and there was no way not to change. Ultimately, when I found the art (namely, music) that touched off that spark in me, and hit a nerve, there was no going back.

Homecoming, in my mom’s opinion, was a disaster from the pictures. She didn’t appreciate my shiny luminescent black dress with lace sleeves that would make any goth girl swoon. She hated my blue black hair curled in waves and my stud earring in one nostril. And my makeup! Black eyeliner lined so thick on the upper lid that it would take days to come off. And bright red lipstick.

Mom wailed, “How can I show these pictures to my friends?” I should have responded, “I am, and will always remain, inside and sometimes out, punk rock girl.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My Melancholy Life

I've been thinking about my melancholy life. The impetus for these thoughts were the the two nights of Morrissey that I experienced last weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. I was ecstatic watching him from my close seats in the pool area. For me, it was a rejuvenating experience seeing Morrissey live and up close in concert again and it brought back thoughts of my teenage angst filled years and the impact Morrissey had on my life.

When I was in high school, The Smiths were like butter on toast for me. Morrissey's lyrics and Marr's guitar captured all of the sadness and angst of my teenage years. Morrissey's plaintive lyrics expressed the loneliness of that time for me perfectly. I wrote the band's name on my Pee Chee folders in different marker colors in script. I saw them live at the Palladium my junior year and it is a concert I will never forget. I believe you find things when you need them, and I found The Smiths right in time to help soothe my worried soul.

By my junior year of high school, the chaos of my childhood had caught up with me. I was sad and depressed. I had changed from goody two shoes to punk rock/alternative girl and I listened to all of The Smiths' albums (specifically, The Smiths' debut self named album, their second album Meat is Murder and their magnum opus The Queen is Dead and finally, their finale, Strangeways Here We Come, which has aged well) on repeat memorizing all of the lyrics.

Morrissey's literary knowledge was evident in his lyrics and he inspired me to seek out the works of poets. He also articulated everything I could not about the sadness and melancholy inherent in life. But, what many did not see was that he was also ironic and witty and his lyrics had a humor to them that you only found by listening (or reading as I did, pouring over his sleeves) carefully.  Now sometimes known pejoratively as the king of mope, this descriptor ignores how very funny Morrissey was evidenced by the self deprecating lyrics of songs like "Bigmouth Strikes Again". When one adds in the jingle jangle of Morrissey's guitar, the Smiths were anything but mopey. I might even call them uplifting and at the very least, inspiring.

To make it clear, The Smiths saved my life. And, now as a forty something woman, a woman beaten down at times by life's tragedies and tribulations, they continue to. The sadder songs of The Smiths speak to me even more deeply now. Classics like "Asleep", "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" and "I Know It's Over" strike a chord. Ultimately, they describe the folly in life and illustrate that life is short, sad and fleeting. And you need to grab what you can while you are here and live life to the fullest.

Morrissey knew this even as a very young man. I don't know if I knew of my mortality as a teenager, but I know it now.