There’s this subtle difference between the journal entries that I used to post, and the ones that I post now. Ever so slightly, I think about whether or not to include parts of my life in what I share with the world.
I need to mute things. Yesterday, in one of my classes, a student was teasing another student, to the point where the other student was in tears. In my journal, I could be a lot more visceral in my description of how angry this made me, and the desired fate of the student who was harassing this other student, laughing wildly all the while; because I’m sharing this with others, I will simply say that my mind was not in the brightest place when it contemplated the desired fate of this young man.
If this were a journal entry that I didn’t share with everyone, I wouldn’t be thinking of the consequences of the words I write quite so much. Alas, it’s not so much a question of concerns over hurting people with my words (I think I’m pretty good about making sure I don’t do that); instead, it’s concerns about those words coming back to haunt me.
We live in a time in which it’s more difficult to put words and actions behind us. There are things I’ve said, written and done in which I’m happy that those things are gone forever. Now, everything can be saved as a group of ones and zeroes, forever there on a network somewhere. Lurking. Waiting.
I like to think there’s an opposite to this. I like to think that there are things that we can post that will come back to help us, or help someone else. It seems that most of the time (actually, it feels like all the time) those pictures and words are all about someone pointing out that another person did horrible things. Just once, I’d like to see someone pull an image or set of words out of the past that highlight something good about someone about which none of us knew.
I wish, for example, that there were some way that I could have recorded the experience of the time, back when I went to The University of Massachusetts, that I hung out with my friend Bob.
It was October, I think. I was incredibly homesick, and didn’t feel as if I had a friend in the world. I would eventually have great times at this place, but I wasn’t yet aware of the places in which I could have those good times.
To many people, Bob’s room was something of a clubhouse. He worked at Moondance Comics, a store in the Hampshire Mall on Route 9, which runs just south of the UMASS campus. Frequently, he would bring comics to people who wanted to buy the latest issues of whatever comic they followed.
Bob was the one who turned me onto Frank Miller, who’d just written “The Dark Knight Returns.” This was the comic book series that ushered in the new portrayal of Batman with a depth that made its way to Christopher Nolan’s films two decades later. He also turned me onto “Watchmen,” Alan Moore’s groundbreaking series that, when bound into one volume, earned a spot on Time Magazine’s list of the best books of the 20th Century.
I don’t think that Bob, until now at least, knows just how much that day in October meant to me, when I hung out in his room and he turned me onto Nancy Griffith. I shared my newly discovered love of Tom Waits with him, and felt this surge of happiness that comes from sharing something with someone who you hope will be your friend, and finding out that the person enjoys it.
Because of Bob, I felt as if I belonged. I found my way through a massive school, made other friends, and began to find my place in the scheme of things.
Bob, in turn, introduced me to Tom, who would become the arts editor of the college newspaper, The Collegian.
I loved working for Tom. In a subsequent semester, when there was a kind of election for arts editor--one that Tom lost to another person who was more than a bit obnoxious--I vowed that I would never write for the paper again until someone more like Tom became the arts editor, and I didn't (eventually, a lovely person named Jennifer took over the reigns, and I started writing for the paper again).
Tom would later tell me that I was the best thing about his tenure as arts editor. That meant a lot to me.
Much later, after I graduated--and encountered the post-graduate depression that most people encounter--I lived in Los Angeles for a while, and hung out constantly with Laura, who worked at the youth center I frequented back when I lived in New York.
Every other day, it seemed, we went on a road trip somewhere. One time--and we still speak about this time fondly--we just packed up my drums and her guitar, drove to Joshua Tree National Park, set up my drums in a clearing in the middle of this desert landscape, and just started playing.
People stopped and took our picture. Somewhere, I hope, there is still one of those pictures. I’d love to see it; it documents when a good friend made me happy.
I still have faint scars on my left earlobe from my 25th birthday, when Laura suggested that we drive to Tijuana. And so we did. I got my ear pierced there, and bought cheap stiletto knives that I gave to friends.
“How am I going to get these across the border,” I asked the kid (yes, he was a kid, with a scary scar above one of his eyes) who sold the knives to me.
“Just stuff them in your pockets,” he said, “they don’t check.”
I mailed these knives all over the place, including one that I sent to Megan, who, at the time, was studying abroad in England, and who had gotten a piercing of her own, in her nose (hey, she was dating a punk rock biker at the time). Also, she was smoking on and off at the time, so I sent her a lighter and some lighter fluid.
All of this stuff--the knives, the later, the lighter fluid--got to their intended recipients.
It was a different world.
Also, when I lived in Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time with my friend Jim, and my cousin Angela. Jim and I saw a ton of movies together, and discussed them passionately. Angela showed me around Los Angeles, and would become like a sister to me.
And one good thing about my writing about this is: now people reading about this know more about these people. Bob, Tom, Laura, Jim, Angela...they did lovely things, and I’ll cherish them forever.
Now you know.