After my freshman year in college, in 1991, I went back to Alaska for the summer and, as the White Stripes say, fell in love with a girl. I neglected to tell said girl of my affection, but rather decided I would just stay in Alaska for her, so I took my fall semester of 1991 at University of Alaska rather than Boston University. I figured there were a few required classes I needed to get out of the way, so I would do them at UAF and save some money.
One of my required clases was some english composition class. The prof, who was, of course, a grad student, made us keep a journal for the class. Of course by this point i had already been journaling for.. five years? So I kept at it in the form that I had been before. I bought a lovely hard bound notebook and scrawled something like 300 pages of journals about my life and hopes and fears into that book. Each week we’d turn the book in on friday and she’d give it back to us on Monday with a little note. My journal was by far the most intimate and over time, the notes from my teacher grew more intimate too. it was great. It was also sad when the class ended. I kept journaling, but I missed the reader, the outside reader, who could leave little comments on my journal. It was absolutely this relationship that made me take to Livejournal like a fish to water when I discovered it. Anonymous and safe, but with an outside readership.
The next summer, I was working at the state fair, and my professor Robin came by. She was with her husband. She was genuinely excited to see me, and I was happy to see her. But i felt raw and vulnerable and scared and confused, with someone knowing so much about me, and doubly so because her ultra manly husband was there. I remember her leaving and me feeling shame at my shyness. Now I sort of look back at it and laugh. It’s a talisman and reminder of how bookish and withdrawn I was when I was younger. Hard to imagine today.
Inside the front cover of the first journal, I had transcribed the lyrics to this song. I felt it was some great symbolic song about me missing Boston, and having missed Fairbanks so much when I was in Boston. I discovered This Mortal Coil in high school. The comic shop in Fairbanks (logically called The Comic Shop) had a small record shop in it, where we’d browse through the enigmatic covers of various 4AD artists. I didn’t even know who these bands were, but their covers drew me in. For my 17th birthday I insisted to my mother she buy me both “It’ll End in Tears” and “Filligree & Shadow,” without ever having heard them. Despite some reservations, she complied. I loved those records.
Later, thanks to the indespensible pre-internet Trouser Press, I learned all about how This Mortal Coil was the project of Ivo Watts Russell, the founder of 4AD records, home to so many bands I loved - Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Pixies, Ultra Vivid Scene, Throwing Muses, Wolfgang Press. It was also through TMC and Trouser Press that I learned about Breathless and Cindytalk, two bands whose lead singers appeared on the TMC albums and with which I would later become friends (stories for another day).
While at Boston University, the third and final TMC album came out, entitled “Blood.” It’s probably best known for Kim Deal’s cover of Chris Bell’s “You and Your Sister”. But I really loved “Mr Somewhere.” I don’t listen to it much anymore, but when I do, it reminds me of Alaska, of my professor Robin, Alaska, the love I forgot to tell I was in love with, the cold winter, driving around aimlessly in the snow, answering machines, desk pads, long letters back to friends in Boston and how going to college in your home town can make you feel like High School kept on going.