Monday, July 08, 2013

urban fairy tales

1. come and knock on our door, take a stoop that is new

AK and I really needed a break, so we decided to take a quick trip to San Diego this weekend. Then we decided we needed a break from labor-intensive breaks, so we canceled it at the last minute. Who says I’m not capable of spontaneity?

That’s how we found ourselves, Sunday night, at Griffith Park watching the Independent Shakespeare Company perform a play not by Shakespeare (that’s how independent they are, I guess). It was called She Stoops to Conquer, an eighteenth-century farce by Oliver Goldsmith about a young woman trying to determine whether her betrothed is a tongue-tied goof or a lecherous Casanova. He has a rep for being the former with society ladies and the latter with barmaids.

These cousins have to pretend they're in love. Of course!
Most comedies of that era are basically Three’s Company episodes, which is why the heroine sets up elaborate ruses designed to reveal her man’s true character. The moral of every story is, Why communicate when you could use trickery! Also, re: the heroine’s barmaid disguise, which she dons after meeting him in her teal taffeta finery, all characters written before 1900 seem to have that condition wherethey can’t recognize faces. I’m curious whether this is strictly a literary device, or whether it seriously has something to do with how we saw the world before widespread photography.

The play was a little long, as you can imagine a two-and-a-half-hour episode of Three’s Company might be, but well acted, with glam rock touches on the period costumes and a lot of genuine LOLs.

A group of three girls sat on a picnic blanket in front of us, dressed in high-waisted shorts and floral crop tops. I.e., the clothes of the early nineties, which I wore in high school, now worn by college students.

Alberto poured white wine for our little group and said, “Looking at them, I think, This is totally the kind of thing I did when I was in college in New York. But then I remember, Wait, I’m doing this now. Here.

“Nostalgia is weird,” I agreed.

2. love is a dangerous yet well trod angel

I tried to describe what it had been like, on Saturday, to reread parts of Weetzie Bat, a YA book I fell in love with in middle school and again in college. Like the Little House books, Song of Solomon and Rent, it was instrumental in shaping how I write and how I view the world. It’s a sort of urban fairy tale about a pixie-like punk chick and her boyfriend and her bff and her bff’s boyfriend and their magical life in the Hollywood Hills. I can see now how it’s a snapshot of late-eighties punk culture with a touch of New Age culture, but at the time it just seemed saturated with magic.

First edition of Weetzie.
In middle school, the magic was the faraway variety—a taste of queerness and color and danger. In college, it was the so-close-I-could-taste-it variety. Once I broke through the suburban curtain, reading about Oki Dog and Graumann’s Chinese and the Farmer’s Market was like reading about celebrities I’d just met. Having read about them in 1989 was what made them celebrities.

Now, sitting on my bedroom floor and organizing AK’s bookshelf (because now that I no longer have cancer as an excuse, even my weekly cleaning seems like it should be above-and-beyond), sentences like “She massaged My Secret Agent Lover Man’s pale, clenched back with aloe vera oil and pikake lotion” seem kind of comical. Less subculture-y and more Whole Foods-y than I remembered, although in 1989, whole foods were still a subculture.

Or this one: “At Noshi, they ordered hamachi, anago, maguro, ebi, tako, kappa maki, and Kirin beer.” Why the restaurant and beer brand name-checking? This is a text from a time when my references were different, and when the cycle of subculture-to-mainstream-appropriation was just slightly slower and looser.

But other passages still sparkle with their vivid, chaotic lists: “And so, Witch Baby stayed on in the house…eating up all of Duck’s Fig Newtons, and using Dirk’s Aqua Net, and insisting on being in My Secret Agent Lover Man’s movies, and dressing up in Weetzie’s clothes, and pulling heads off Barbie dolls and sticking them on the TV antenna and ruining the reception.”

When the sun set in Griffith Park, the coyotes came out. They yipped in packs just beyond the abandoned animal cages of the Old Zoo. They sounded too close and crazy and human to be real, but they were.

3 comments:

Claire said...

I miss Griffith Park.

It's curious reading your nostalgic takes on books from your youth. I enjoy them, and yet am reminded I didn't become a reader until I was an adult. I read during elementary school but during middle and high, it was just what we had to for school.

Cheryl said...

I took a reading break between undergrad and grad school--it was only about a year, but all I did during that time was watch the Style Network and E! True Hollywood Story.

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