At different times a hollow space: A vague story told in Soundtracks
A recent experience has caused me to contemplate the hollow space that must be within everyone but the most simple of us. Smaller at some times than others. More obvious at times and at times more painful.
In your teens, the hollow space is that of identity. If you are successful in extricating yourself from parental bonds, as all teenagers must, you then have to find who you are. It begins as who you are in oppositionto them, to others you dislike, to larger parts of the culture you find distasteful. And so you begin to try on your identities. In the form of clothing, of music, hairstyles and ambience you change in and out of who you might be. Emo, Punk, Goth, Hippyany and all of these fit a little bit here and a little bit there. Then one fits more than the others.
For me it was at first generic oddball, then some strange early amalgam of punk/new wave and goth.And the soundtrack was a hand held tape recording of Elvis Costello on SNL and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But, for me at first, it was just freak. I found some other freak friends (or they found me) in high school. The outcasts, the brains, the weirdoswe found each other lurking in the shadows on the periphery of regular life.
And so we built a full social life of our own. With music and parties and involved conversations and friendships that would be remembered forever. The time was as sharp as an afternoon in October and I wore my red shoes certain Id never get any older.
Oh I used to be disgusted
and now I try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
But when they told me ’bout their side of the bargain,
that’s when I knew that I could not refuse.
And I won’t get any older, now the angels wanna wear my red shoes.
With their influence, the soundtrack enlarged to become Laurie Anderson and the Psychedelic Furs. The Who and the Dead Kennedys. Siouxsie and The Banshees and the Stranglers. The Police on an eight track in that horrible old Grand Prix.
And the lyrics got more obscure and we found more meaning.
We were walking and falling at the same time,
I wanted you. And I was looking for you. But I couldn’t find you.I wanted you. And I was looking for you all day But I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t find you. You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it,but you’re always falling. With each step you fall forward slightly.And then catch yourself from falling. Over and over, you’re falling.And then catching yourself from falling. And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.
bleeding words another christ is on the cross the nails are words the nails are liesto make it crawl and make it screamand make it real and make it bleed and make it bleed and make it bleed and make it dream imitation of christ imitation of christ this you who lie and scream you fall to dust you fall to dust in walls of words your words are blind you speak and you are dumb and blind
and going to war You’re planning for a war with or without Iran Building a police state with the Ku Klux Klan Pissed at your neighbour? Don’t bother to nagPick up the phone and turn in a fag Every single thing we did had a song attached to it. Every love affair had lyrics to go with every fight and every reconciliation.
And then, of course, it all fell apart. College did it for some, an argument for others. Some got married early, others ran away from home. And it was time to start again, the hollow space returned.
Before it all fell apart it was a soundtrack of tapes made from the mixing board of local band. We were sure their words were oracle and any chord would bring us enlightenment. Songs were writen by for our about us. Mix tapes were aural love letters or odes to friendships that we only had to replay to remember every moment. Sinead Oconner and UB40. Early U2 and the Sex Pistols,Oingo Boingo and X. The Pixies. Ever Fallen in Love with someone you shouldnt have fallen in love with. And Relentlessly Suzanne Vega.
And then the hollow was filled with college and graduate school for me. And while there was music, it now sounded like plainchant growing polyphonic. A risqué lyric here (merrily sing cuckoo) and a jar of fuschia dye there. It wasn’t filled much by my first marriage, unlike now with J. But college and graduate school and striving for the future were enough. And trying to find the way as an adult. I made art from things I found in other peoples trash cans and played fawning fan to a wide variety of bands. Mostly though, I studied. Studied and divorced.
And found I had to refigure identity and the hollow space again because I was so tired. I was no longer a punk rock wife (if I ever was one) but a tired graduate student trying to extricate myself from a failed marriage and find what was next.
And I had had my identity mapped out. Sometimes I wish Id followed through with that map. I had planned on being a professor of medieval literature. But I didnt want to leave my beloved San Francisco and I was beaten by my ended marriage, trying to survive and start over again, some pretty nasty professors at SFSU (though of course there were wonderful encouraging ones as well,I was too young to realize the cruel folks had their own problems and agendas that had very little to do with me) and just being tired and burnt from working full time and going to school full time.
But first there was a detour into Michelle Shocked, and Phranc and Tori Amos. A little Ani DiFranco and more Suzanne Vega. And looking for love and finding and losing it again. A time or two.
I found out that my computer hobby was actually a skill in demand. And that I was good, really good. Simultaneously with that I discovered I could be an actual part of a Renaissance Faire.
And found Devo and kraftwerk again. And some Juno Reactor. But then only somewhat related (since back then all sysadmins were black clad and pointy) with Dead can Dance and Bel Canto, some Sisters and Fields of the Nephilim. How about more Siouxsie and lets bring back the Psychedelic Furs. Nick Cave, the Legendary Pink Dots and dont forget, never forget the Cure.
So for about 12 years (there is overlap) computers and rising to the top of my abilities and profession filled the hollow space. And it did. I studied and hacked and built and rebuilt everything I could find. I went from desktop monkey to LAN admin, to sysadmin, to senior engineer to IT director/senior sysadmin pretty damn quick. And I stayed there and loved it.I spent summers speaking a actorized version of Renaissance English and listening to Turkish music, drum circles and ren faire musicians.
But like everything else that couldn’t last either. I still enjoy the work to this day, but I got burnt out by tantrumming salesmen. Over the years I had laptops thrown at me and had my door kicked open. Ive been called every bad name in the book. Ive removed more than one hand from my thigh and had to haul mine out to compare sizes with the tech boys too many times to count.
And the Faire moved from a woodland Dell to a parking lot and I broke up with my faire love.
I got tired and sick. We didn’t know what was going on at the time, but a combination of MSG poisoning and sensitivity to new building materials was making me really ill. I was hospitalized. I had a number of procedures done on me, at me and around me. I was sick and depressed. I had a crazy boss, then a good one, then another good one that went a little nutty and then the whole dotcom boom came down and the business downsized.I stopped listening to music for a while in there, the sound of being ill was too loud.
I could have stayed, I elected to go. And then it was time to get married and have a baby. The hollow place was open again where my job had been and while that wasnt the reason for having our darling Bean, it sure took careof that issue in a hurry. And it has continued to do so.
The music stayed the same. He wasn’t a rennie, but he was a gothboy and a geek and we met on an Email List. Find a playlist for your local goth club and chances our thats what was playing our house for the first few years.
And then we had the Bean and the music went Irish, very Irish. And Bluegrass (yeah, I’m still not sure about that one). But also back to They Might Be Giants and over to Baby Einstein. But really it was pretty quiet except for the sound of my voice singing to her. She turned 3 and we moved back to where I grew up. Back to where I could still see myself in that graveyard with my little blaster playing the Cure or walking down Dickson blaring the Dead Kennedys. I swear I turn a corner and I hear an echo.
I suddenly understand why some women live through their children. I understand why some men buy red sports cars. Why it would seem beneficial to take up extreme sports. Shes 4 and in preschool. I have more time and I’m being offered so many of the things Ive wanted for awhile by the Universe,or God whatever you want to call it, but its all there if I can take it.
There’s just a small problem.
Music has informed every moment of my life.. From my moms reel to reel to a tape recorder held next to the radio, to a walkman, then a discman now an ipod all with me nearly all the time, giving every moment its soundtrack. From the Beginning with the Who onward to Devo to the Dead Kennedys to through Siouxsie to The Cult through Qntal and Voltaire and now….well Im stumped.
Because Saturday night the music stopped playing and the hollow space opened again. Its actually been opening for awhile, but I tend to need proof and sadly, I got it.
As I said.I’ve (we’ve) moved back to Arkansas. After 19 years away (14 in SF, 4 in Chicago) and were happy to be here. Its odd of course, but life is good. We have a wonderful house with a big back yard, good friendships growing around us, the Bean is flourishing around caring neighbors and many wee friends and J and I are back to being content, happy even. So wheres the problem?
I cant find the soundtrack and the lack of music tells me theres a problem. We went to a local club because one of my favorite musicians of the last 6 or so years was playing: Voltaire. Once long ago he even dedicated a song to us (our song Anniversary,we danced to it at our wedding) at Convergence 6 in Seattle. I was a goofy fangirl and he was friendly and kind. He gave a rousing performance and that song had us in tears. As it did a year later when we got married. As it still does when we hear it today. His music was always the right combination of earnest, silly and beautifuljust like the last six years of my life with James and the Bean.
But when Voltaire played here it seemed he really didn’t want to be in Arkansas. And he brought his C- or D show. He didnt care. Or he was tired. He talked down to the audience and made fun of it more so than he does at other bigger venues and in other bigger cities. And if I’d forgotten what I’d lost when we moved here (aside from traffic, outrageous housing prices, overcrowding, crime and just general angst) I suddenly remembered. Oh yeahwere in Arkansas. The butt of everyones joke. It didnt matter that some of the people had driven for hours to see these musicians. I know it didnt matter that there were a few of us who knew everything hed done back to front and back again. Id written him some of my some of my stupidest fan mail ever (and Ive not done that since I wrote William Shatner WAY back when). Nopehe seemed to have made a judgment that we were all unsophisticated vampire club kids or something along those lines. And admittedly, like all audiences, this one had its share of assholes. And there were a few kids in capes and a wizard or two walking around. I guess I just expected better, and I’m not sure why. Because the artist *is not* his art. Sometimes you make something better than you are. Or maybe better than you can be at that particular gig anyway. I’d hoped he could look past the dorkiness and see all the folks trying to be different in a place is isnt as easy to be different in as say New York or San Francisco. But again, why did I expect that? Simply because his music had meant so much.
And while the entire song doesnt apply (I’m not that rabid):
Do you hear me?I’m here for youYou don’t see meI’m way in the back of the ballroomI’ve been here since last night at nine I was the first in the line
~ Voltaires #1 Fan lyric
Well, I kind of knew not to go this time . We’ve pretty much figured our club days or over. This was the first time in over three years we’d been. But Voltaire was one of my favorite performers and one I’d thought was a pretty good guy too. Someone I wanted to support. Someone I knew it was unlikely I’d ever see again (I’m thinking that Fayetteville doesn’t get a lot of A list Goth Acts). I needed to go or I’d regret it.
And going I regretted it.
And the music stopped that night and the space opened to my eyes again.
The music must change /For we’re chewing a bone/We soared like the sparrow hawk flied/Then we dropped like a stone.
Ive been saying it for some time that what was once the most of me is now the least of me. I didn’t mean for that to happen, it just did. The spooky life meant so much to me:the music, the people, the feeling of belonging (something I only ever got at Ren Faire or at a Star Trek convention , wow geek much? ) the joy of the darkness and the thrill of being on an edge, of many edges.
It’s gone. Ive well, I’ve done all that now. I dont think I can be shocked and I accept nearly anything you throw at me. It just never got too weird for me. There are some very very neat people in the scene here and I hope to spend more time with them. Outside of a club. Its just too much of the same thing Ive seen too much of.
I can’t say never though. Why should I? Its all still a part of me, from Devo to Danny Elfman and the Violent Femmes to Voltaire. But no one is the loudest yet.
There are other things trying to fill the hollow space now if I can just let them. I asked the powers that be for a few opportunities and I’ve been offered them ALL. Every single one of them. From time to write to places to perform. From explorations in spirituality to a chance to work with kids. And I have to let some things go if I’m going to accept all these other things. I’m not sure how I know that, I just do know that. And these things need a new soundtrack.
I wonder what’s next on the playlist?