Okay, after a day of rest and turkey I got all contemplative, so this is going to be a long one.
Today’s audio is a song, “You Lied,” written and performed by Janes Remains, that is, me and Jane, forty percent of the by-then-defunct Janes Plane. It was recorded on an old boombox with an inbuilt microphone in Jane’s bedroom. We’d been smoking. The microphone wasn’t really up to the task (nor, frankly, after a lot of hash, were my vocal cords). I was 22 going on 23.
To put this in context, here’s an excerpt about those times (1983) from my memoir And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes from a Writer’s Early Life. It includes scans of my actual diary (aged 23). If you can’t read my handwriting (just click the images to get a bigger version), you can see a Word file transcript here.
Jane the guitarist and I started doing music together. We called ourselves Janes Remains. We sang at the Spring Street Theatre bar, during intermission, and after the show. I only have one poor copy of a cassette tape recorded on a cheap boombox in Jane’s bedroom. Some of the lyrics were based on the poems I remembered writing at seventeen, when I was studying for my ‘A’ levels (Corner for You, Fragile Spirit). One was about Charlie’s (Charlie’s). One was a hurt rant for a lover who had left town and was never coming back (You Lied), because while I had many lovers I cared for them all (I really understand those polygamous Mormons: both the urge for many wives and the wild look in their eyes). They were my family. Not to the degree that Carol was, but family nonetheless.
Carol and I started looking for another flat, this time to share, and finally found one, a big, roomy place on Princes Avenue, above a hairdressers. This is where I began to write in earnest, where I realised that writing was what I was born for. I still wrote with a fountain pen. I still wrote on lined paper. I still didn’t know what I was doing, but now I read magazines at the library about query letters, the submission process and so on.This is a photo of me reading in the front garden outside Heidi’s house. She took the photo.
I started writing poetry again–and this time I kept it. “Sometimes” was for Heidi, who had left to get a master’s in theatre at Smith College.
I cry for you
when love stalks
through my dreams.
My soul flies for you
battering at windows I’m afraid to open.
A woman called Carmel bought me a beautiful blank notebook. I began to keep an irregular diary. I’d make a short entry, or a long one, whenever the urge struck me: sometimes twice in one week, sometimes nothing for a year. So here, in my own words, are some snapshots of my life between 8th December, 1983 and 16 June, 1986.
I’ve included a facsimile of one entry so you can get a sense of the physical object, but just transcripts for the other entries. Here I realise that writing is not only joy and inspiration, but work. And I understand that work is tiring.
It’s so strange to listen to that song, to read the poem, to read my 23-year-old thoughts on writing, and to view them from my current perspective and story expertise. I want to fix them, particularly the diary exerpt and the song. Oh, god, that song. I hadn’t yet learnt what to leave out; I hadn’t learnt the value of silence. Still, I hope you enjoy it for what it is.