Tag Archives: 1980s

Pride Week @ CLP: The Stories That Won’t Let Go

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There’s a story that won’t let go of me.

Some days, this book takes the form of a novel. On other days, it has flirted with being a collection of linked short stories and at times, it feels like it wants to be a memoir.

You won’t find this book on our shelves here at the Library (yet) because I’ve written and rewritten this story for … well, let’s just say it has been a few years.  Like most things in our lives, it is a SomedayMaybeLifeIsntGettingAnyShorter work in progress.

As those of you who are writers know, sometimes it takes longer than we’d like for a story to find its voice and its path.  And that’s where I am with this novel/short story collection/memoir of mine, which focuses on a family losing a loved one to AIDS in the midst of the epidemic.

So what to do when the words won’t come and the story won’t allow you to give up?

You write. And you read.

You read the stories of love taken too soon. You discover Mark Doty through his eloquent poetry and his gorgeous memoirs. You listen to Dog Years on audio and you — admittedly, not much of a dog person — cry on your commute home.

You read Paul Monette, who reminds you that we are all on Borrowed Time.

You read the impossible, improbable love story of Marion Winik and her husband Tony in First Comes Love.

You read Randy Shilts’ And The Band Played On and you wonder how different things would have been if better decisions had been made by the people in charge.

You read Michael Cunningham and you believe that every single one of his fictional characters are real.

You read Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, and your admiration for the incredible quality of what is truly groundbreaking YA (young adult) and teen literature today increases exponentially. You are inspired and intimidated to add your words to that.

You read and you read some more. You realize that you have so much you want to and need to read and learn about the LGBTQ history, the sociology, about those who have gone before and those who are here now. You stand in awe at the shelves, at the words they hold, the lifetimes and legacies they capture. There is so much, and at the Library it is yours; it is all right here.

And then you realize why your story – and all of these stories – won’t let go.

It’s because you owe it to those whose stories have already been told and those whose epilogues were written too soon. It’s because you are a privileged white, straight, married female and you have an obligation to be an ally and a voice for those who are silenced and silent, and who don’t have the same legal rights as you do because of who they happen to love. It’s because there is a new generation emerging with opportunities that yours — the one growing up silenced, the one learning about love amid the stigma and fear — never did until it was sometimes too late.

“There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future.

As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined.”

~ page 1 of Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

~Melissa F.

 

 

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June 10, 2014 · 5:00 am

Disco Sucks!

I grew up on Long Island in the late 70s/early 80s, when one could see that slogan in graffiti everywhere. My friends and I were firmly in the “rock” camp, although this did not preclude me from surreptitiously seeing Prince’s Purple Rain or purchasing an Adam Ant record. One friend was a Rolling Stones fan, another, a Jimi Hendrix aficianad0, and still another was constantly blasting the Doors from her HUGE boom box. My favorites at first were Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and later Frank Zappa and King Crimson, which I listened to through my headphones on my stereo system in my room.

Ah, those were the days of the vinyl record, when you could lie on the floor and study the relatively large album covers. I use the adjective “vinyl” before the word “record” so that you, the reader, would know what I mean; in those days we just said “record” and knew what that referred to. We were all so righteously against anything “pop.” We deplored the Studio 54 club scene and its clothing style. Yes, I felt this way too, even though one of my very first record purchases was the seminal Saturday Night Fever, when I was twelve.

Then the music video revolution came along. I still remember the very first videos I ever saw. I slept over at a friend’s house to watch the movie Woodstock on HBO.  Right afterwards two videos from Devo aired: “Satisfaction” and “Jocko Homo” (Are we not men?).  We were dumbfounded. Not only did we not have the words “music video” in our vocabulary, but we had never heard music like that before; we talked about how weird it was for weeks. MTV exploded all over America, even making its way to a TV installed in our local deli/hangout, “Eat Joe’s Hogie” [sic]. A clever friend dubbed it “MTVoid” and thought up alternate lyrics to songs we were subjected to over and over, such as “We got big feet!” for the Go-Gos’  “We Got the Beat,” and other less blog-friendly quips.

While disco evolved into MTV new wave, we anti-pop-rock kids were developing a taste for hardcore punk or prog rock. Your high school years are often the ones in which the music you listen to defines you as a person. While I enjoyed going to CBGBs in the city with my punk rock boyfriend to see his band play with bands like The Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front, I retained my own musical identity by keeping my hair extremely long, wearing deliberately unfashionable clothes (hip-hugger elephant bell bottoms), and listening to jazz fusion and prog rock bands like Return to Forever, Gentle Giant, and Gong. I was always amused that a group of people so adamant about saying how non-conformist they were actually conformed just as much to their punk style as any other adherent of any other musical style. The girls in the bathroom didn’t talk to me until I let my friend’s sister’s boyfriend give me a mullet.

A good twenty or thirty years later, I am nostalgic to hear any disco, new wave or classic rock song that comes my way, regardless of the genre, and I happily sing along to old songs to which I mysteriously know every word.

–Joelle

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Talking to Girls About Duran Duran

I love the ’80s, and I am not ashamed.

The 1980s, that is. The 1880s were jam-packed with interesting phenomena, to be sure; however, no matter how many serious, “grown-up” books I read, sometimes what I need to make it through the day is a healthy dose of cheese-tastic teenage nostalgia.

It was acceptable in the 80s.

Scoff if you must, but music critic Rob Sheffield understands.  His latest memoir, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, is a heart-felt, hilarious love song to the decade permanently associated with hair metal bands and extreme fashion trauma.  Each chapter bears the name of an ’80s pop hit, and weaves Sheffield’s memories of the music with his poignant, yet snicker-worthy, tales of being young and confused during the Reagan era.  “Purple Rain,” for example, relates the saga of Sheffield’s stint as an ice-cream truck driver during a sweltering Boston summer; I laughed so hard while reading this chapter that everybody else in the coffeeshop went out of their way to give me plenty of personal space.

If you remember the ’80s fondly, or wish to understand the psychology of those who do, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is an excellent summer read.  Put yourself on the reserve list ASAP, and, while you’re waiting, consider taking Sheffield’s first memoir, Love is a Mix Tape, out for a test drive.

 Leigh Anne
who still passes the dutchie on the left-hand side

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How I learned to fear New York City.

In Leonard Bernstein’s musical “On the Town,” the visiting sailors sing Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s lyrics, “New York, New York / It’s a helluva town.”  Well, twenty-five years ago, my movie watching would perhaps inspire one to simply sing, “New York, New York / It’s a hell…”

The Warriors (1979)
Just as I thought, New York is full of gangs including ones dressed as baseball players, ones with girls with crimped hair, and the especially scary ones wearing striped shirts and overalls who ride roller skates. 

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
My mother is from the Bronx and she wouldn’t let me see this movie.  Obviously, she didn’t want me to see her childhood home taken over by various gangs including bikers, dancers, street hockey players, and more roller skaters. 

Escape from New York (1981)
In the 90s, New York City became a maximum security prison.  I mean, in this film, in the 90s, New York City became a maximum security prison.  Also in the film, cab drivers use Molotov cocktails to keep the “crazies” away.

C.H.U.D. (1984)
If you don’t know what the acronym C.H.U.D. stands for, you’ll sure be surprised when one comes up out of the sewer to attack you while you’re visiting New York.  See this movie to get the full story, though I will warn you that it’s got too much plot and not enough C.H.U.D.

I don’t know how many C.H.U.D. are in real-life NYC, but after watching all these films, I’m afraid to go there and find out.

— Tim

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