Back-B-Log: Another Summer in Hell (1988)
[Author's Note: This brief memoir from 1988 is posted here as it is related to my story of my ongoing unintentional persecution by Richard O'Brien, which includes part of my summer of 1983 spent in the GCC Walnut Mall 1 2 3]
SUMMER IN HELL – A User’s Guide
a lifetime in Philadelphia, one summer...."
-- W.C. Fields
How do I cope with Summer? How do I survive? I don't know... it seems that every summer calamities swarm
around me like flies on shit in the sun.
My last decent summer was after I graduated from high-school. Since then
the wisest thing to do is to pack off to hermitage at the first signs spring
boiling over: late suns, final exams, and sticky tanning oil.
Let's do a quick chronology:
1983 -- ended freshman year with 3
incompletes nervous collapse due to my
freshman obsession rejecting me, my psychotic girlfriend accepting me, and my
father's most severe nosedive into Parkinsonism to date; lived in same house
with woman who rejected me, destroying the remains of our friendship; worked
slave wages/hours in movie theater with broken air conditioning; somehow
finished incompletes and took Spanish credits to return to Penn in Fall
1984 -- tried living briefly with
psychotic girlfiend who forbade me to contact my friends; worked 10 days as an
encyclopedia salesman, then sold leather goods from a stand in a mall
1985 -- spend most of the summer trying
to break up with psycho-bitch-monster instead of laboring on incompletes (5), after
attempting to push me off a roof she breaks into my room and steals all my
work, a restraining order is nearly issued, but her crank phone calls keep the
receiver from its cradle every night
1986 -- after not graduating with eight
incompletes under my belt, I am depressed by the seeming lack of prospects and
all around hope for my future, but at least I stay employed, I begin living
like a monk, seeing human beings only at work and other formal occasions
1987 -- the woman I've been obsessed
with for ten years falls in love with one of my best friends, after I introduce
them, he reciprocates, and my plans to move in with his brother and another
friend remain unchanged (big mistake) this was a Summer that kept going until
November. Along the way I manage to alienate or lose about half my friends,
half my sleep and most of my sanity, but at least it's the first summer that I
have an air-conditioner.
O.K., granted I made some mistakes, all
of these Summers were spent in Philadelphia which was probably once one of
God's early drafts for hell, abandoned because even the damned don't deserve
this. The smell of rotting garbage
which spreads thickly evenly throughout the humid atmosphere; in Summer, air in
Philadelphia isn't smooth, it's chunky.
Almost the only reason to get an underpaying job is to avoid being baked
all day in the heat, but with an air-conditioned job your body will be
assaulted by alternating freezing-burning temperatures which will probably
have you enjoying the flu. Philadelphia
in Summer is the explanation for why you will find people wading through
medical waste at the Jersey shore -- it's an improvement.
This summer has been par for the
course. I've been ill for months: weak,
constant low grade fever, coughs, pains.
On top of which I over-extended myself, working forty-hours, twelve
hours of class a week (not counting outside studying and work), and moving my
parents on weekends. This is not the
way to do it. Here are some rules that everyone should follow during Summer
(and I hope to -- next year – follow)
1. After May 1st, do not trust anyone:
Case in point -- I took in a friend of
a friend to sublet one of my housemate's rooms. I didn't need to, would have been no financial or spiritual onus
to me if I hadn't, but I felt sorry for them (beware this is never a good
motivation, whatever the time of year). Step by step, what seemed to be a quiet
suburban Catholic girl has turned into a drugged out kleptomaniac who expects
me to clean up after her orgies (I stopped counting how many condom wrappers
I've picked up off the couch). I'm
eating the rent and the utilities she hasn't paid (over $500).
Do not visit your parents without mood altering drugs.
My parents are in a highly agitated
state this Summer, they just moved from their house of forty years into a tiny
apartment. They are losing their minds,
and when you stay with them, they share the experience. I've just spent a year
hunting down and caging the demons I released last summer: "I don't need
no more neuroses!" If the drugs
don't help you cope with your Parents (valium, psilocybin and lithium are
recommended), you can always give them to your parents to allow them to cope
If you have any possessions, sell them, nail them down, or put them in
storage -- they are not safe.
Yes, everything you may cherish, and
even what you merely own and paid dearly for, will be threatened from all
sides, by disturbed roommates, their spot-welding boyfriends, and even
relatives (my sister stole a puppet from me).
Spy on your realtor, they will attempt to evict you while you are out of
town (mine tried to rent my house without telling me). People who you haven't seen for years will
attempt to set fire to your home.
Which brings us to last but not least:
Hide, or at least keep moving.
Sharks have survived and prospered
during many a summer using this tactic.
You need not be ruthless like the shark, just lay low, real low. If you
go abroad, go to
a country where they haven't even heard of Americans yet so they haven't
started hating us. Don't go to the shore, you'll drown. If you stay inland, don't travel on
freeways, you'll be slain in multiple car pile ups. Don't ride the backroads, you'll be butchered by rednecks. Don't go into the air, you'll be a
statistic. Stay out of the cities,
you'll be killed by hordes of nomadic plague ridden yuppies: stay out of the
country, animals wild from toxic wastes and PCP will eat you alive -- Face it, just stay away from SUMMER. It's cursed, that's all there is to it.
Advanced Expository Writing, Professor Cavallo, August 1, 1988, Assignment #6)
[Author's Note: To those of you disparaged directly or indirectly above, apologies. I appreciate we've all grown up now, and, at least those of you whom I'm still in touch with, we turned out O.K. Keep in mind this is the raw perspective of an undercooked youth.
Diana Cavallo's writing course was possibly the best I've taken, and I
wish I'd taken her other writing courses as well. Anything wrong with
my writing sure ain't her fault.
It should be noted that the following Summer I did not take my own advice completely, I travelled to Britain to interview for the job that changed my life, and haven't stopped moving since.]
Labels: Back-B-Log, Life Irritates Art, My Life in the Movies