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Nerdstalgia

I’m not sure if this was just a late ’80s/early ’90s thing or if gloomy kids are still spending their free time like I did, but when I was a teenager growing up in a small town in upstate New York, there existed a phenomena known as Teen Goth Nite. On Friday and Saturday nights, nightclubs would shut down alcohol service and open their doors to underage darklings in need of a dance party.

This seems totally weird to me now, but at the time, it was a real thing. It wasn’t just one place, either—there was The Boardwalk in Brewster, Images in…geez, where was Images?, and, if you had enough cash for the train (and sufficient parental permission), there was the best place of all—The Bank in New York City. Out came the fishnets, the black lipstick, the crushed velvet, the hairspray, the 10-hole Docs and the sullen attitude, and we’d hit the road in search of others like us. And then we’d dance. And fret when our makeup ran from sweat.

EDIT: Ward 6!! That was the name of the other club I was trying to think of. Phew. I feel better now…

This mix is dedicated with every ounce of bloody love in my cold, dark heart to Nicole. May we always find a ride.

You can find and follow me on 8tracks as doorsixteen. Previous Mixes:
+ Summertime Jams
+ Friendship Bracelets

So…I’m pretty tired. Exhausted, actually. I’m doing WAY too many things at once, and while there is an end to this madness in sight, I’ve been feeling more than slightly crazed lately.

I was just in the kitchen refilling my iced coffee glass at 12:32AM (Mommy, if you’re reading this, I swear I really am alright—and don’t pretend like you don’t get the late-night work crazies just like I do!) when a single thought ran across my brain:

Oh my god, this is all JUST LIKE that episode of “Ren & Stimpy” where Ren goes insane and eats soap.

Now, I realize that even just thinking that is kind of nuts, but I immediately had to go and watch the clip to see if, in fact, I am becoming a deformed cartoon Chihuahua with SPACE MADNESS.

And yes. Yes I am.

Yes, that’s right—it’s mix tape for making friendship bracelets to.

About a year ago, I was talking to Jenna and Sara on the Twitter about…well, probably about Doritos or iced coffee or something like that (roughly 90% of my tweets are about snacks and coffee), and the subject of friendship bracelets came up. I vowed that night to bring back the friendship bracelet—not knowing in my uncoolness that they’d already been “brought back”—but I never actually got around to making one.

Until yesterday.

This is the correct view when making a friendship bracelet. If you see anything other than embroidery floss safety-pinned to denim, you’re doing it wrong. Binders and tape are for cheaters. And don’t even breathe the word “yarn”.

Now, this is a view I hadn’t had in a long, long time. Like…probably about 25 years. The last distinct memory I have of making a friendship bracelet is from 1986. I was sitting on my friend Melissa’s bed, knotting away (I’d like to say I was wearing Guess? jeans, but I wasn’t that cool), listening to INXS, when a frantic phone call came in from our friend Terrill to TURN ON THE RADIO because something REALLY BAD had happened.

Yes, that’s right: It was the sad, sad day that Wham! broke up. Tears were shed. Bracelets were exchanged. Andrew Ridgeley filed for unemployment.

Friends, I am not the knotter I was when I was 11 years old. At a distance my bracelet looks alright, but up close it’s kind of a mess. I had a lot of trouble getting my knots even and tight-but-not-too-tight. Either my pre-teen fingers were just way more nimble, or I’ve become more discerning in my old age. Probably a little of both.

I’m kind of proud that I did this FROM MEMORY, though. Okay, I forgot about making a loop at the top before tying my knot (Evan reminded me about two hours in—oh well), but aside from that, I’m pretty pleased with myself. I can’t imagine ever having time to make another one (apparently I had a LOT more free time when I was 11—go figure), but for now I’ll just wear this one and be my own best friend.

There are already 9 bazillion friendship bracelet tutorials on the internet, so I won’t bother repeating the steps here, but rest assured anyone over the age of 6 or 7 should be able to make their own bracelet in a few hours. I highly recommend taking the time! It was pretty relaxing, and lots of fun. Plus, now you have the right soundtrack to accompany your knotting.

p.s. The Swatch watch is not there for effect, I swear! I’ve been wearing Swatches since…well, since the last time I made a friendship bracelet, and they’re the only watches I really like. I still have all of my old Swatches, and yes, they all still work. (I only wear one at a time these days, but you never know…)

p.p.s. You can find and follow me on 8tracks as doorsixteen. My first mix was Summertime Jams!

BONUS!!! I tried to find a picture of myself from 1986, but the best I can do is my 7th grade class picture from 1987 (dudes, Joyce in the front row is wearing a FRIENDSHIP ANKLET!!). I’ll give a gold star to anyone who can pick me out of the group. Click to enlarge!

UPDATE!! Dee has correctly identified me! I’m in the back row, fourth from the right in the oversized cardigan, black hairbow, and body-wave perm. Yesssss. That’s Terrill next to me. Rest in peace, sweet girl.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve made a mix tape. Like…uh, maybe 15 years? And considering making mix tapes used to be one of my all-time favorite activities, that’s kinda sad. (Confession: I still have a giant box of 20-year-old mix tapes—most of them gifts from Cure fanzine penpals—moldering in my basement. I just can’t get rid of them!) I found out about 8tracks from Honey Kennedy, and I think it might be the cure for my mix tape longings. Basically, you can upload 8 tracks (about 30 minutes) of music (or more than that, what do I know!) and make a little mix that you can share online or through your iPhone. Neat-o!

You can find and follow me on 8tracks as doorsixteen, but I’ll post my mixes here, too. My very first mix is Summertime Jams—a whole bunch of stuff that makes me feel happy that today is officially the very first day of summer. I hope you like it!

Late last night one of my all-time favorite movies was on, and about 45 minutes in I decided to start taking screen caps with my iPhone. I wish I’d started at the beginning! I can’t even say that these are my favorite scenes, because really? EVERY scene in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is the best scene. It’s like a completely perfect movie. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve seen it upwards of 100 times…and yet, it’s still not enough.

The first time I saw Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was in 1985, when it first came out. My brother Gordy was home from college, and he could not stop talking about it. He took me and our mother to see it at Upstate Films, the local independent theater (remember, Pee-wee’s TV show didn’t start until a year later, so at that point he was mainly an underground/cult phenomenon—and nobody knew who Tim Burton was yet, either). I screamed when large Marge did her thing, of course, and choked with laughter during Pee-wee’s big shoe dance. A lifelong love of Pee-wee (and of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, too, though I didn’t realize it until a few years later when Beetlejuice came out) was born that night.

I strive to be a little bit (or maybe a lot bit) like Pee-wee, and I still wish every day that my mornings could be like this. Yes, the décor and everything (Nerd-alert: Pee-wee has an Eames DKR chair in his kitchen next to his stove—check out its cameo at the 4:40 mark!).

Maybe I need to start keeping a roll of Scotch tape in the bathroom just in case.

Atlantis, Coney Island

Here I am at Coney Island in 1996, when I was 21 years old. Back when I used to take photos of signs.

Looking at this photo got me wondering whether the sign behind me still exists (I was sure it doesn’t, and I was right—it’s long gone, replaced on one side with a Nathan’s, and on the other with a joint called Cha Cha’s that promises “Live Entertainment For The Hole Family”), and I was led to some other old photos of the Atlantis taken over the course of the past century…

Atlantis, Coney Island
Top: Archival, via Coney Island; Photo by Philip Greenspun // Bottom: Photo by Verplanck; Archival, via Cha Cha’s Club

I haven’t been to Coney Island in years, mostly because I’m afraid it won’t be as beautiful anymore. I don’t say that to glamorize decay, but rather to mourn the loss of so many old and beautifully designed things (like the Atlantis sign!) that should really have been restored rather than thrown in the trash. I feel sad about the little pockets of New York City that aren’t well protected by preservation boards…yes, even old signs on clam bars.

1994

This photo was taken right after I turned 19 years old. I was a sophomore in college. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and I’d taken a trip to my tiny hometown, Rhinebeck. My mother had moved away following my high school graduation, but I posed in front of the house that I lived in for eight years prior.

I looked exactly how I wanted to then. That’s not to say that I felt particularly self-confident—I didn’t—but I had the haircut I wanted, the clothes I wanted, and the makeup I wanted. The nosering I wanted, too.

Truth be told, my style isn’t that much different now. I still favor shapeless cardigans with extra-long sleeves, black and white paired with a bit of pattern, layers, leggings, and boots (you can’t see them here, but I was wearing this great pair of black canvas French ranger boots). My haircut and color are roughly the same, though I no longer shave the sides (I do think about it…). Okay, so my nosering is long gone and my clothes are less tattered, but all in all, I haven’t really progressed that much style-wise in the past 17 years.

now

See what I mean?

I can remember being a teenager and wondering what I’d be like as an adult. Would I have a job that required me to wear a suit…or worse, pantyhose? Would I eventually stop dying my hair black? Would the day come when black nail polish no longer felt appropriate? Would I be…”normal”?!?! (No, no, no, and no.)

I like who I was when I was 19. Sure, if I could live my life over again I’d probably do some things differently, but I knew who I was and the general shape of what I believed in from a pretty early age. I’m thankful for that. It also matters to me that 19-year-old Anna would have liked 35-year-old Anna, and I don’t just mean in terms of clothing.

I’m still waiting to become an adult, though, frankly. Somehow I always imagined that there would be a day after which I would be a grown-up, but that hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes I look around me and am shocked that I own a home and drink coffee in the mornings. I mean, how did I get here? And am I really old enough to have a glass of wine with dinner? Well, as long as my hair dye is now covering gray roots as well as brown, the answer is decidedly yes.

But then I look over at my cute boyfriend husband and the Morrissey poster hanging above our bed, and I’m a teenager all over again.

partyup
Photo by Allen Beaulieu / Ripped out of Rock & Soul magazine about a million years ago

So, about that concert I went to the other night…

I would have written up a little review yesterday when everything was still fresh in my mind, but I’ve been outrageously work-busy and just didn’t have the time or energy. I want to make sure I document the experience, though, because it was truly phenomenal.

I know I say this every time I post a reaction to a movie or album or book, but I always feel lame writing “reviews”. My instinct is usually to let the work stand on its own instead of picking it apart, but at the same time, I like to share my feelings about stuff I love. I just think I come off like a goofball (um, I’m pretty sure using words like “goofball” doesn’t help…) trying to sound like I have some kind of insight but failing miserably. Honestly, I don’t know how professional critics sleep at night.

So yeah, the Prince concert was AMAZING. Like, super ridiculously so.

By some miracle (probably because I was only buying a single ticket), I managed to score a seat on the floor in the front row behind the “fancy people” section, right by the tip of the love symbol-shaped stage. Given that my last eight or so attempts at buying Prince tickets have resulted in utter failure (I refuse to go through brokers), I felt like the luckiest girl in the world walking closer…closer…closer…until I found my seat number! I was even able to hang my coat and bag on the barricade in front of me. Nice!

I admit I had a wee bit of trepidation about seeing Prince in 2011. Since becoming a Jehovah’s Witness about ten years ago, he’s stopped playing his more sexually explicit songs and no longer swears (Cee Lo Green, who opened the show, had to let the audience sing the chorus to his big hit with the really great video—there were even signs on the stage reminding him, “NO F-WORD”), and since we’re talking about someone who arguably built his career on being about as dirty as they come, I kind of had to wonder what we’d be left with.

Well, I need not have worried. Incredibly, Prince has managed to turn his decision to not play certain songs as a means to tease the audience into getting completely crazy. For example, I was sure he wouldn’t play “If I Was Your Girlfriend” (one of my favorite songs ever), but he did! He started and stopped until the crowd was screaming for more, then said he couldn’t continue (“You don’t understand, if I keep playing this, someone’s gonna get pregnant!”)…but then he did continue, at least to a point—he segued into another song just as he was getting to the nasty bits. So no, it’s not like he was up there playing “Sister” in a pair of bikini briefs, but it was definitely still a Prince concert. I mean, let’s face it, the guy could do nothing but covers of John Denver songs and they’d still come off as being super hot. Prince can’t fight the sexy. Not that he’s trying.

Watching Prince play guitar is a lot like watching Michael Jackson dance. It seems so totally effortless, like the sound is just naturally coming out him and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. I’m not one of those people who gets all crazy about guitar solos and stuff like that, and maybe that’s why I’ve always loved Prince’s style. He’s just doing his thing up there, all natural and fluid and full of emotion. The guitar is an extension of him. Magic. No matter how many times I’ve watched him perform live in movies and on TV, nothing can compare to being 20 feet away and seeing it all happen right in front of me.

Oh, the setlist! Including the main set and three encores, Prince played the following (in whole or in part): Laydown, 1999, Little Red Corvette, The Beautiful Ones (with a ballet performance by Misty Copeland), Controversy, Purple Rain, Raspberry Beret, Cream, Cool (with Questlove on percussion), Let’s Work, U Got the Look, Nothing Compares 2 U, Crazy (with Cee Lo), Let’s Go Crazy, Delirious, Dreamer, When Doves Cry, Kiss, Nasty Girl, Forever in My Life, Sign “☮” the Times, Alphabet Street, Love Bizarre, Hot Thing, Pop Life, I Would Die 4 U, Single Ladies, If I Was Your Girlfriend, Insatiable, Scandalous, Adore, Mountains (♡♡♡!), Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), Everyday People, and Higher. PHEW!

There’s been a lot of talk about Prince giving Kim Kardashian (please let this be the only time her name is on this blog) the boot for not dancing after being invited on stage to do so, and this post on Dlisted sums up the whole episode quite nicely. I mean, I guess I feel a little badly for her, but seriously? I dance like Elaine Benes, but you had better believe I’d have been working it hard if Prince had brought me up there with him! Prince did make a quip afterward about America being a country “where a girl can get famous for doing absolutely nothing”, and I guess he has a point.

As long as I’m talking about Prince, I’d like to take a minute to thank my mother for letting me listen to the music I wanted to when I was a kid. And for being cool with me having posters of a half-naked man plastered all over my bedroom. Oh, and for letting me paint ALL of my furniture purple and black. (No, really. I honestly did that.) The mid-’80s were the heyday of the PMRC and their “Filthy Fifteen” (the top two of which were written by Prince—though I could never really understand their fixation on “Darling Nikki”; I mean, he’s written plenty of much dirtier stuff), and the prevailing attitude was that we were all going to be driven to Hell by the likes of Sheena Easton and Cyndi Lauper, and only Tipper Gore could save us. (Thank goodness for Frank Zappa, ever the voice of reason.) Frankly, I can’t imagine my childhood being Prince-free. Those would have been some quiet and unfunky years.

Prince was my first big musical obsession; the first artist that got me interested in the idea of collecting, of seeking out rarities, of swapping bootlegs, and of looking for more than what was readily available. I also had a hardcore crush on Prince that put my earlier childhood crushes (namely Kermit the Frog and Michael Jackson) to shame. I know guys don’t always get why the ladies like Prince so much, but the man is 98 pounds of fiiiiiine. Then and now. He’s a freaky alien, for sure, but aren’t all of the best musicians?

I’m sorry that it took so long for me to get myself to a Prince concert, but at least it finally happened. My coat pockets are still full of purple confetti—and no, that’s not a metaphor.

When I was in art school, I had a great professor, Bill Deere, who encouraged me to take notice of “environmental typography”—everyday type on the street, whether good or bad. Salon windows, department store logos, menus, information systems, and so on. He wanted me to think about how design relates to environment, and how typography can dictate first impressions.

I started taking photos of signs in 1996, and quickly got hooked. I continued until 2002, which, not coincidentally, is when I got my first digital camera. It’s not that I think I was ever a particularly good photographer, but when I was using a cheap film camera, I seemed to think more about composition and angles and such a whole lot more. Somehow the instantaneous nature of digital photography (not to mention how inexpensive—free, even!—it is to take shot after shot, do-over after do-over) has made me much more careless. That’s my own shortcoming, though—I don’t blame the tool or the format.

While looking for something on an old backup drive earlier today, I came across a folder of scans of my old sign photos that I had posted on my old blog, Absolutely Vile, back in 2001. They’ve all been resized to be quite small, unfortunately (hey, I was working on an 800×600 monitor back then!), and the corners are rounded (how very early ’00s of me), but seeing the photos made me feel happy. Happy and inspired.

Most of these pictures were taken in and around White Plains, New York and Las Vegas, Nevada between 1996 and 1998.












If you were born in the United States in the 1970s and your family owned a television, chances are you got to see some pretty wonderful sitcoms (many of them produced by the great Norman Lear) when you were a kid. When I was really little I didn’t watch much more than The Muppet Show, but by the time I was six or seven years old, I had discovered the magical world of syndication—mostly notably on WNYW, WWOR, and WPIX, for those of you who grew up in and around New York—and started watching a whole lot of sitcoms after school.

Aside from providing 22 minutes of outrageous plots, slapstick comedy, social commentary, and “very special episodes”, these sitcoms had GREAT theme songs. For some reason, I’ve been getting some really BAD later-era intros (like Webster and Valerie…ugh) stuck in my head lately, and I was driven to YouTube to find relief in the arms of some of my beloved favorites from my childhood.

I know, I might as well just end this list with Three’s Company, considering it was the greatest TV show of all time (by the way, I’m totally up for discussing and debating any and all aspects of the series, as well as its spin-offs, Three’s a Crowd and The Ropers), but I’ll keep going after the jump…