Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spirits from the vasty deep

Pink Flamingos family portrait, modeled after a Diane Arbus photo (right).

What's in my filing cabinet.
Probably the oldest thing I have in my apartment, other than what's in the refrigerator (that's a joke; my fridge is empty), is a large gray filing cabinet that I keep in my bedroom/home office. It's an ugly, ungainly monstrosity that dates back to, I'm guessing, the 1950s. There's nothing elegant about it. In fact, it has sharp metal corners that have injured me several times. Why do I keep it around? I don't know. Sentimentality, I guess, though I can't say for sure where the cabinet came from or how it came into my possession. I used to have two of them, but I threw one out. So what's in the one remaining filing cabinet? Junk, mostly. Old CDs and VHS tapes take up the top three drawers. The fourth is filled with manila folders, containing assorted papers from the late 1980s and 1990s.

I was more of a pack rat back in the '90s. I was also more fanatical about my pop culture obsessions: Rocky Horror, They Might Be Giants, Spinal Tap, John Waters, Phantom of the Paradise, A Clockwork Orange, "Weird Al" Yankovic, etc. I still like all that stuff, but I'm not a rabid collector the way I used to be. I have a few thick folders of newsletters, postcards, and clippings related to They Might Be Giants, dating back to about 1988 or so. Nowadays, I barely keep up with TMBG. I think I've skipped their last two or three albums, something that would have been unthinkable to my teenage self. I haven't seen them in concert in god knows how long. Sixteen years at least. Yikes.

What happened? I dunno. People get older. Ardor cools. Adulthood calls. There are bills and dental appointments and shit like that. The Internet killed a lot of my fandom, really. When I started out as a TMBG fan, it was hard finding their stuff. I had to go to out-of-the-way record stores to locate EPs and singles. Press coverage was minimal, so I obsessively clipped every magazine and newspaper article I could find. That was oddly rewarding to me. Now, with just a one-second Google search, I could find more information about TMBG than I could ever hope to get through in a dozen lifetimes. Yawn.

But every once in a while, I get the urge to go through that filing cabinet and rifle through my grunge era memories. Today I went through my personal John Waters archives. Mostly, it was articles I'd photocopied at the college library. There was a mid-1990s Polyester Odorama card, too, and it very much retained its original smell. To a fault, you might say. The oddest, most personal find was a bit of fan art I'd apparently started and then abandoned about 20 years ago. It depicted the cast of Pink Flamingos posed as if they were in a Diane Arbus photo. Drawn in pencil on fragile typing paper, it was badly faded and barely visible. You can see it at the top of this post. Other than making it darker so that it shows up on your screen, I've left it as it was back then. It reminds me of the person I used to be, the one who would do crude fan art while watching VHS tapes of his favorite John Waters movies.

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