(Non) Fiction Wednesday: Musings on a Motel Room

Apologies in advance for missing my self-imposed deadline on Open Slay. The damned thing is that I have this week’s part ready in my head and am slowly leaking it out onto the page, but it’s nowhere near the point where I would present it to you. I’m hoping to have it by the weekend, but don’t hold your breath on that. Next week will be even more difficult with being holed up in training for five days, but I will do my best.

Health problem has been looked at and the verdict is…overwork. Well, specifically a heart murmur caused by stress and too much caffeine. Rhythm is normal, EKG “could be used as a model for normalcy”, and no signs of any damage or anything like that, so no need to freak out. As I said yesterday, just a sign that I’m no longer 25 and can’t burn the candle at both ends and then pour gasoline on the middle. Doctor’s orders are to take it easy for a few days, and I’m doing just that. Even the act of doing so has opened my mind back up and my concentration is slowly returning, so…we have this.

This entry came about with the release of the deluxe version of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (it’s currently WAY overpriced, but if you’re interested it’s on Amazon and all other fine retailers). I hadn’t listened to the album in quite some time, and had never heard some of the nuances that have been brought out in the reissue. I’m not here for a review, though I could certainly fill space with that, but it grabbed me by the throat all over again.

Side note, favorite track on the album? Hint hint:

But again, not here for the music. Not entirely. No, it’s more a matter of what the music itself evoked in me, some long-dormant, half-forgotten emotions. Moments that form so much of my emotional identity, a sort of DNA for the moments that you see in my fiction, but which have faded into the wallpaper of my life.

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The Motel 6 in question. See the second door from the right on the very top floor? That’s the scene of the crime.

March, 1996, and I sat in a cold (and I do mean cold) motel room in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This trip had been the only logical outcome of an online flirtation and engagement, the story of which could serve as its own book. This was the bad old days of the Internet, where you interacted via IRC and not much else. If you don’t know IRC, look it up, and maybe give it a shot, it’s still out there. I had met Jill (name changed to protect the innocent) through an IRC channel and…well, hadn’t exactly fallen in love so much as fallen in a situation of mutual convenience. Oh, I believed I was in love, enough to propose when she pressured me to do it a month into the “relationship”, but…well, what can I say? I was 19 and had never had a real girlfriend before. I figured this would be my only chance at love.

Despite that, just as I’m not here to talk about the music per se, I’m also not here to bury that relationship. I’ve done that many times over and you can only go to the well of self-pity so many times, especially when you’re pulling up nothing but sand these days. I’m here to talk about distilled emotion, since it’s so much the stock-in-trade of a writer.

So why Mellon Collie? Why such a dark album in the middle of what should have been a happy meeting of young lovers, ready to screw their brains out and make nuptial plans and all that fun, fun stuff?

If you guessed that things didn’t go the way we thought they would, congrats! You have some sense of how human relationships really work. Neither of us really knew each other, so there was a great deal of shock and shyness in the air. Add that we were supposed to be a happily engaged couple and you can just imagine the trainwreck. A few days in and she began to avoid me, leaving me alone in sub-zero (and I do mean sub-zero, like 50 below windchill) temperatures with no vehicle and no public transit. My sole companions were my CD player, my notebook, and the television, which got something like five stations.

So I wrote. A lot. And I listened to Mellon Collie. A lot. If you haven’t heard the album, it perfectly captures the emotions that I cycled through in that motel room. There were the swelling flourishes of Tonight, Tonight, which mirrored the hope that things would eventually get better; the dark anger of songs like Tales of a Scorched Earth and Where Boys Fear to Tread (apropos, certainly) that captured the feeling of being “abandoned”. Confusion. Betrayal. Sadness. Everything that an undiagnosed depressive can throw out there.

But hey, why tell you when I could show you? I dug out a journal from this period recently, and I think it speaks a lot better than I could from where I stand today:

“The pain begins to drift out, absorbed into the earth, where I tap my feet and think, without thought, of what is beneath me. Letting the words flow out of me, abusive attitude and think out loud.

Bit my tongue, swallow, worry, love, fear, hate. Mixtures and faces, or one face. Taking the business back to us, one place after another, station-to-station. Creation lets flow without a problem but the temperament worries, binding one to another.

Struggle struggle struggle and that pain keeps clawing at my chest, pushing out my rib cage, feeling the inside.

Tears for her. Nothing. Struggle, why this is so long. Anger. This is a forced fake burning but moving what I had to do to remove.”

All very melodramatic, and I’d never write something like that today, but I do think it’s interesting as a capsule of a certain time, and I can easily see the Pumpkins’ influence.

As Kurt Cobain once said, I miss the comfort in being sad.

Sometimes, at least.

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3 Comments

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing the words of youth, Jonathan. Why not write something like that, today? Maybe you don’t feel those melodramatic passions of youth, but you remember them, and they make for great stories 🙂

  2. Well that’s just the thing, I don’t feel that those words actually communicate much of anything past raw feelings. I still pour a ton of my emotion and my personal story into the stories that I write (friends are constantly spotting little moments and sayings from our shared history), I’ve just learned to do it in a more controlled fashion that actually seeks to communicate rather than broadcast, if that makes sense.

  3. Yeah, I think as you responded to Marie, the key is to incorporate that emotion (and poetry, really) into your current writing.

    I really liked “Mellon Collie.” I was a fan since “Gish.” And this is one of the best songs off the album. I also like Porcelina. Both come up pretty frequently on the random mode of my iPod.

    Great post. I like the use of the actual hotel image. And honestly, while I know you said the journal sets it up better than you could today, I thought your description of being there, and the isolation and cold and limited channels set the picture more vividly than the poetry.

    Paul

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