Sunday, September 14, 2008

Turning Bad Memories Into Art

For the last three years, I have struggled around this time of year. What, 9/11? No. Three years ago today, I endured the worst day of my life. Also, the week before was nothing special. The month after was indescribably bad. I did get a Chapter One out of it for Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, and an entire Curse of the Hippo if I ever work up the nerve to write it.

But enough wallowing is enough, and I am SO DONE with feeling sorry for myself. Today, instead of wallowing, I took care of some metaphorical housekeeping and dealt with some awkwardness. And this past week, I harnessed my black mood, borrowed my friend Denise and Thanos' new Zoom digital audio recorder, and made a little art out of an old cassette I'd found in my garage.

The cassette was recorded by my mother in the early eighties, I think. We had these insane next-door neighbors who would sit outside, drink and get stoned all night, and screech and yell at each other and at anyone who passed by. They were violent and would get into fights with each other and passerbys. They would harass us for fun. Once, after I was away at Antioch, they actually tried to burn down our house, starting with the backyard. Hilarity ensued.

Maybe not hilarity, but the funny part was that my then-boyfriend's mother had dragged me from Brooklyn to an "Est" meeting, one of those feel-good groups where you stand up and talk about throwing a party. I was 19, and some guy was giving me the hard sell as I told him that my puny salary I earned writing obituaries as an intern at the Staten Island Advance newspaper truly did not give me enough disposable income to join his program. "But it's an investment in your future!"

I weaseled out of the meeting and called home.

"The neighbors tried to burn down the house."

I looked back at all those loopy people paying thousands of dollars to pump up their egos, and laughed at the world.

WARNING: DO NOT watch this with children nearby. DO NOT watch this at all if you are offended by foul language. DO NOT watch this if you are my mother and hate to hear this shit. Don't say I didn't fucking warn you.

And turn up the volume.

Click here if you prefer to watch high res on a fast connection.


Marie Javins said...

You should hear the out takes. Denise is a hilarious faux-therapist. We're thinking of making a short serialized audio series, though I am famous for having too many projects going at once.

Amanda Castleman said...

Wow. No: WOW. Awesomely, awesomely wow. The content is hella powerful and the multimedia mix deft. Spun out and embroidered with some musings on Americana, I could see this on NPR's website.

You rock the kasbah, Marie! Now get pitching.


Marie Javins said...

I've gotten a few e-mails from people who seem to think that the shrink part is reflective of reality.

Hey, the neighbors are real. The shrink part is me and Denise hamming it up to produce a framework for the neighbors piece. Denise is my friend from down the street, not a real therapist.

So no, I'm not going to fire her. In fact, I'm going to give her a raise.

chummy's mum said...

Jesu Cristo! Wowee... That is an amazing slice of [your] life! Bravo for turning that around, must be very cathartic for you. I totally agree, NPR material all the way.

Marie Javins said...

Imagine the number of bleeps required!

J.T. Campbell, Jr. said...

Great job, Marie, thanks for sharing!

Sue said...

Wow Marie. Horrifying but really fantastic! The therapist angle really ties it all together. I will stop griping about the biker scum/meth heads two doors down now, since they only fight with each other at 5am in front of their house.