Today is September 25th, 2012.
And this, a page from one of my old journals, was written exactly nineteen years ago.
If I have things straight, I would’ve been in the ninth grade. A frosh in high school. God.
It’s one of the few pages I feel comfortable sharing. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to share all of it, and am shielding the worst portions from your prying eyes with obnoxiously colored rectangles.
I’ve written about my old journals before, but the short of it is, I started the habit in elementary school and stuck with it on and off through college. Whenever I’ve tried to keep a journal in more recent years, it’s never lasted more than a few weeks. Ten years spent writing for audiences sort of eradicates one’s ability to speak honestly to himself.
In the ninth grade, I was one unhappy camper. I wouldn’t call this particular entry “upbeat,” but it’s way nicer than the surrounding pages. The entry following this, for example, would be damning evidence in a court of law.
I used to name each of my journals. As I remember it, the first was called “Journal Stellix,” after the fictitious surname I used when envisioning myself as a comic book superhero. “Matt Stellix.”
By this point, I was onto Journal Ankh. I got into ankhs by way of Neil Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost of Living, because nothing thrilled a depressed idiot quite like the sight Death herself, dressed like a cute goth girl.
In most of my journals, it was standard “diary entry” procedure, paragraph after paragraph. For a brief time during Journal Ankh, I starting writing each entry like this – my idea of a newspaper page, even if it looked much more like the classifieds section. Well, I guess those are still newspaper pages.
Separating my individual thoughts and the day’s events into crudely drawn windows, I’d just sit there, thinking up random shit until the page was saturated. If I had to toss in random phrases and bad sketches to fill out the space, so be it.
I don’t know if I like who I was on 9/25/93, but this page paints a pretty complete picture of that person. I was into toys, the mail, pro-wrestling and Archie McPhee. (And I’ll finally admit that my Easter Island moai obsession really did begin with Archie McPhee catalogs.)
In the ninth grade, I didn’t have many friends. I mean, I did and I didn’t. I had buddies at school, but we never hung out outside of it. The kids I used to play with had moved on from me, which in retrospect seems perfectly reasonable, as high school freshmen who counted down the days until their plastic frilled lizards arrived by mail really weren’t easy to relate to.
I was different, but make no mistake, it wasn’t in any sort of “cool” or “edgy” way. Not. At. All.
This was a bad, bad time. This entry doesn’t tell the story at all. I was a lonely, awkward and ugly jackass. And ever since Darlene Conner taught me the word, I was weirdly obsessed with depression, too.
But I still appreciate this era of my life, because even if I don’t like everything I see in the mirror right now, that era helped shape some of the parts of me that actually turned out okay. Or, you know, mostly okay.
Below are some random explanations of the things you’ll spot in this entry.
“Wrote an astonishly good song/poem!”
Wow, that’s irony. I was bragging about my writing ability and using nonexistent adjectives to do it. Some things never change. As I remember it, the poem was about a knight fighting a dragon to protect his castle. It was awful. I only thought it was good because I drew a neat dragon on top of the loose leaf page.
“Another Dad plan, which obviously involves my help. Fuck off!”
I loved my father. I still think about him every day, and he was the funniest, most unique person I’ve ever known. But I think every kid goes through that period where their parents are the worst people in the world. In fact, I’m sure there’s some biological “leave the nest” mindfuck that happens to all of us, which manifests as a strong desire to kill your parents. My relationship with mine was never that bad, but I sure did hate being an assistant for my Dad’s constant renovation projects. He was a tool-lover and an architect by trade, and I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t breaking down one of our walls.
“Crush? A bad guy? Thanks, Coach.”
I can’t believe I was still calling Coach Kurt’s wrestling hotline by then! It was something like 75 cents a call, and our ultimate Coach Kurt bill had to be hundreds of dollars. I was calling that guy twice a day for years. In the pre-Internet age, Coach Kurt was my best source for behind-the-scenes wrestling scoops. This time, he told me about Crush’s heel turn before it even happened on television.
This was that heel turn:
“Heel turn” refers to a good guy wrestler turning into a bad guy wrestler. There was no quicker way to establish a new villain than teaming him with Mr. Fuji.
MAIL MAIL MAIL MAIL.
With so many notes involving the mail, it’s hard to pick just one. I lived and died by what the mailman brought me, and there was rarely a point when I wasn’t expecting twenty different catalogs, packages and pointless vacation brochures.
On 9/25/93, it seems I was expecting a MAJOR package from Archie McPhee, including their legendary “Quart of Tiny Treasures.” This was a clear, plastic jar filled with hundreds of thumbtack-sized toys and trinkets. I loved it to goddamned death.
I was also on the lookout for an Adam & Eve catalog. They sold vibrators and blow-up dolls, and their catalogs had lots of terrible nude drawings. My interpretation of porn, or at least, porn I could get my hands on without getting caught. I feel no shame in this, considering that the ninth graders of today can land on a Dirty Sanchez with the power of two keystrokes.
Apparently, “CDs” were on the way as well. Guess I was about to rip off Columbia House for the seven thousandth time. I’d get my 12 CDs for a penny or whatever it was, and never worry about fulfilling the rest of the obligation. Why would I? It would’ve been tough for Columbia House to sue “Matt Stellix.”
“Can’t Wait Till X-Mas!”
For anyone who believes that my holiday obsession is a put-on for the Internet, it really isn’t. It was late September, and I was already dying for Christmas.
Random 8-Ball Sketch.
See the 8-Ball in the lower-middle area? Pretty sure I stole that design from a pog. I had so many pogs depicting 8-Balls against zany backgrounds. Next to skulls in sunglasses, those were my favorite types of pogs.
Look for the sketch of a dog. That’s Sandy, our old dog, who died some years after this. Sandy went berserk when you mentioned “squirrels” in her presence, immediately bolting to the back door and flipping her shit until you let her out. I don’t remember Sandy being an especially smart dog, but in retrospect, it’s kind of impressive that she understood “squirrels.”
Most dogs will chase a squirrel if given the chance, but Sandy thought about it all the time.
“I H8 TJ’s Radio!”
TJ was an older kid who lived nearby. When he got his first car, he constantly tinkered with it. Whenever he did, he blasted (and I mean BLASTED) his car radio, which was rigged to a pair of speakers that ate up his entire trunk. All day long, our walls bounced in response to TJ’s horrible music.
As a collector of many stupid statuettes which lined dozens of thin shelves across my bedroom, I hated TJ’s radio so, so much. The reverberations constantly knocked things down from my shelves, and I’d just sit there, tearing my hair out, waiting for him to get hungry or die.
I could go on and describe every bullet point from this page, but that would take a lot of words. If you have any questions about the other boxes, I’ll answer them in the comments.
PS: See the doodle of an eye? Nineteen years later, and I still can’t draw one any better.
As for 9/25/93, well, I’d never want to live that day again. But it’s fun to look at when it’s so far away.