The enemy within


April 7, 1992

I’m worried about my mental health. Things are going reasonably well. The family is healthy. I’m not nursing a broken heart. I’m gainfully (albeit, unsatisfactorily) employed. Yet, I zone out and get these horrible, violent visions. I imagine terrible things happening to me or the family. Torture or disease or a fatal accident or crime. When I finally snap out of it, my teeth are clinched so tight that my jaw hurts and I have a tremendous headache. I project my angst onto others and assume anyone successful looks down on me and laughs behind my back. I hate people at work who are nothing but nice to me simply because they have a clear career path and I’m headed nowhere. I’m consumed with envy and uncertainty.

Poor Shannon wants to be friends in the worst way but she commits the unforgivable sin of being born into a wealthy family. Old wealth. Really old wealth, according to Ethan. [Note: Ethan was our boss.] I’m mean to her. She invited me to a spring party at her family’s estate. Ethan said it’s a rare opportunity and I should go, if for no other reason, just to see the mansion. It’s got a name. Like, Olde Crest Manor, or something like that. Of course, I told her I wouldn’t go. I don’t have the poise to spend an entire day with blue bloods.

I spoke to Jennifer. She sent some work down to us. I told her about my attending the pro-choice rally in D.C. and mentioned the chant I wrote for it. She laughed. It might be the two best lines I’ll ever write. She seemed genuinely happy to hear my voice. Towards the end of the evening, around 10:00, she came down to pick up her work. I kept my head down and shuffled pages like a news anchor. It’s so sad what happened. She seemed to like me well enough but I couldn’t get past her being a Yale graduate. It’s all I’d think about when we were together. I heard she’s got a boyfriend. Probably someone who isn’t ashamed of what he does for a living, but not as funny. I haven’t had a proper girlfriend in a long time. As soon as they see which way the wind is blowing, they bolt.

My wrist, arm, hand and shoulder are still cramping-up. I’m waiting for the pain to dissipate on its own but it’s not getting any better. I don’t know what to do.

We were in the Times the other day. We’re the #1, top dog PR firm in the city.  It’s because we take all the scummy clients. Those are the ones who pay the highest fees. Last night I worked on something related to the NHL strike. We’re representing the owners, of course. We have all the sin products. Liquor. Tobacco. It’s nauseating.

Today is Billie Holiday’s birthday. The college jazz station has been playing five solid hours of her music. Holy cow, is it depressing. But so good.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered the power and profit of fashion when they mounted a career retrospective of Alexander McQueen in 2011. It proved to be so popular they had to keep the museum open 24/7 on the weekends so they could accommodate the masses. Since then, they’ve feasted on a steady diet of fashion exhibits. Who could blame them?

I can be sized-up in about two seconds as someone who doesn’t know a thing about fashion. But I found the current Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology exhibit satisfying from a design perspective. I also enjoyed its outrageousness. I don’t speak a word of French but I would guess that haute couture and pret-a-porter are synonymous to bizarre and strange.

Alexander McQueen
Hand- and machine-sewn nude silk organdy and net, hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, freshwater pearls, pieces of coral and dyed shells.


Pieces of coral?



Iris van Herpen
Hand-stitched strips of laser-cut nude silicone feathers, machine sewn white cotton twill, hand applied silicone-coated gull skulls with synthetic pearls and glass eyes


Gull skulls?



Gareth Pugh
Machine-sewn black silk-wool gazer with overlay of black mesh, hand-embroidered with black plastic drinking straws

Drinking straws?


Machine-sewn white silk-wool gazer with overlay of white mesh, hand-embroidered with clear plastic drinking straws


72 thoughts on “The enemy within

  1. Call me crazy but what use is making clothing that nobody can possibly wear? Or maybe call me practical.

    Every time I see you write about your (hopefully past) discomfort with folks from the Ivy League it sends me back. I used to be so intimidated by these folks. But over the years I realized that I am just as smart and much funnier. As are you. We had to prove it. They had to live up to expectations.

  2. Aw! I stood in line for that exhibit, waited for hours and finally gave up when I thought I’d never make it in before the museum closed. Dumb I didn’t know it was open 24/7!

    • First and foremost, you’re new. Hi. Welcome and thanks for stopping by. As a point of clarification, that McQueen exhibit was open 24/7 on the weekends only. They were completely taken aback by the crowd size. There was nothing like it. If you can get to this current exhibit, I highly recommend it. They just announced in the paper today that it’s so popular they extended it. It was to close on August 14 but now it’s up through Labor Day. Fashion! Who knew!?

      • Thanks! Sadly I don’t live there anymore, but if they ever bring it to London I’ll make sure to go! I thought the same thing about the Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibit. I don’t have much interest in fashion but was totally engrossed in that one. Sounds like they’ve had a number of other exhibits as well.

      • I actually do like her, am hoping to make it there in a few weeks. 🙂

      • Right! So that’s why it looks so awful on the outside, ha. I think they’ve just opened a new building actually. I’m not sure if that means they’re going to move everything or if it’s just an additional wing. It seems quite nice.

  3. I married a Yale graduate who is very connected (we are divorced now). He was trying to prove something (people are just people) and so was I (people are just people). We were wrong. In any event, I learned that they’re just people. 😉

    I don’t understand fashion either. It’s art??? It’s fantasy??? It’s there because it is??? (or something like that).

    • Here’s the tragedy: Most of those people I was dealing with were quite nice to me. The two girls I mention above would have been lovely to spend time with but I was so wracked with low self esteem that I couldn’t be gracious and accept the attention. A terrible waste.

      I don’t really have much interest in fashion but if you’re going to start designing far-out pieces like that, that cannot possibly be worn to a show or a restaurant, then I want to see them.

  4. Milton and I waited several hours to see the McQueen exhibit at the Met on its final weekend in 2011. We’re fashion morons, too, but we found what he could do with feathers, brilliant. He truly was a genius to think those meticulous designs up and to pull them off. I see high fashion as the top of the mountain. Its influence eventually trickles down to the the 20 something sitting on the train applying her make-up at rush hour. But in her case, it’s in a version one thousand generations removed from the original designer’s vision. Instead of sporting gull skulls, she might be wearing a tee shirt with silk screens of gulls on her shoulders. Something I would undoubtedly deem “WTF is she wearing?”

    • I didn’t think I’d be interested in the stuff at all because I have a fairly dark view of fashion. It’s a predatory industry that preys on the vanity and insecurity of (mainly) women. It tried to convince them they’re nothing without this crap they peddle. But stepping aside from that, I *GUESS* it can be considered an art form. Too bad about the commerce aspect.

      Go to the previous post and watch those clips of the pigeon exhibit I saw in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Pretty amusing stuff.

  5. Orange is a prison jumpsuit color. That’s the only way I ever see it.

    You wrote so beautifully when you were keeping your journal. You were more honest with yourself than most people EVER are. Did you have writing aspirations back then?

    • Orange was Sinatra’s favorite color. Not kidding.

      Thanks for your flattering words. I don’t take that stuff lightly. I think I had vague aspirations to write but was always too afraid to act on them. What if I fail? I was afraid of my own shadow back then. Such a pity.

  6. You said no to fooling around with Shannon because she came from a wealthy family? Did I read that right?

    That coral dress should have been worn by Dorothy Lamour in a ‘Road to’ movie. I’m laughing at Bob Hope’s wisecracks without even hearing them!

    • That’s right, pal. I was too downtrodden to take advantage of a girl from a rich family who threw herself in my path. I wasn’t very nice to her. I wonder where she is tonight?

      I’m pretty sure you’re the only person who’ll come up with a Dorothy Lamour reference for this post. Nice work. Very impressive.

  7. I like how you resented all the rich people back then and weren’t afraid to admit it. I’m still that way, sadly. Money doesn’t solve all your problems, but wow, it would make so much shit easier if I were rich.

    • Most of those rich people I worked with were completely indifferent towards me. It’s only my low self-worth that made me so angry and jealous. It’s a shame I wasn’t healthy enough to take advantages of some of the opportunities available to me. Hope my daughters don’t inherit this unsavory trait.

  8. I was gonna call you a fucking pansy but i figured you had enough self-esteem issues, lol, still you should have taken advantage of the wealthy, i’d have went to the mansion just to lift the silverware but as you know i was a bit of a wayward youth, i do marvel at your political engagement and conscience back then, my only worries in 92 were where my next tab of acid was coming from and which female i was going to bed next, usually in that order, as for the dresses, meh, i only like wearing women’s clothes not looking at them, i still with i had that pair of banana yellow polyester women’s pants, they left nothing to the imagination, there is a story on the lounge somewhere about those pants… speaking of which i have a few posts i need to put up, maybe i should take my face off the bong one of these nights… good stuff my friend as usual…

    • Man, I WAS a fucking pansy back then. Afraid of rich people. Afraid of some women. Afraid of my own shadow sometimes. What an incredible waste of time. I eventually grew out of it but it took longer than I would’ve liked. I wonder where all these women I tossed aside are. I might have saved myself some serious trouble but I sure wish I’d had just a bit more to taste than I did.

  9. Excellent journal entries Mark- so honest and real. The fashion? OK, i’m sure it will inspire many knockoffs of normal fabric.

      • I worked for a retailer that had a fashion department. I spent a few days with a buyer checking out new designs and such as a part of my training. They take components of the runway hits – like shoulder slope or dress length, or sleeve length – and reproduce them in low cost collections. They’re actually quite good at it – knocking off components without trampling copyright (or what ever it is called in dresses).

      • Dude…how many hats have you worn?! It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you made a casual remark about having been Prime Minister in your youth. My, what an eclectic, checkered history you have.

  10. Well I certainly hope those dark feelings have never returned. Tell me, don’t you regret never going to that party at the mansion?

    Must dash, I have a straw frock to make for tonight’s party in the pub. They’ll love it.

    • The dark feelings occasionally visit like a long, lost, unwelcomed friend, but not with the fever they did back then. And they dissipate quicker.

      I TOTALLY regret not going you that party. I regret lots of stuff, but that especially.

      How does it feel to be back home?

      • It feels weird. Inertia. My initial reaction was to immediately book a flight back, which I have done to return in late September. Straight into NYC so you can buy me a cocktail if you’re about like you promised. I figured I need another two months to do the things I missed. However, after a couple of weeks home, I’m noticing the things I love about England like the greenery, the countryside, the fresh air, quirky places, beautiful architecture and mostly, the biting wit!

  11. You were a tortured soul back in 92. How did you survive NYC with such low self esteem? You’re a winner now! Nice detailed pics of the dresses. I don’t know how they come up with these ideas. I would say this is Art too.

    • I’m still a tortured soul. The only difference now is I’ve learned to manage my torment. Back then, it had its hooks in me pretty good. But I don’t think being at peace is in the cards for me.

      Did you click on those dress pics? Pretty fascinating.

  12. Boy fashion sure can be ugly and expensive. If I made a dress of plastic cups I wonder what it’d go for especially if they were the clear ones?! lol

  13. I had no idea that I could identify with your low self esteem. I’ve always felt inferior to folks that have a college degree- and who are higher on the social ladder. To compensate for what I lacked, I worked at being the best that I could be at my job. Many with the degrees came to me for advice and exclaimed about my psych and medication knowledge. Now I don’t give a fig (retired).

    At some point it would be good if you can let go of feeling inferior because you’re not. You have so many strong points and you need to pat yourself on the back. I sense that you are a very kind person and I know that you’re a talented writer.

    Now about those arty fashion pics. I suppose that if you look long enough the outrageous becomes beautiful or in the least intriguing.

    • Ah, to not give a fig. The sound of one hand clapping. What bliss that must be. Retired. I can’t wait.

      That journal entry was from 25 years ago. I am happy to report that I’m not the same person I was then. I still have a few hangups but nothing as crippling is what I was experiencing back then. Hallelujah!

      I don’t see those dresses as dresses. They’re not! There objects of art. You can’t wear them. They have no practical purpose.

  14. I’ll take one of each outfit, minus the skulls. The closest I got to the Alexander McQueen exhibit was trying to part the lines waiting to see it, like the Red Sea, to get in to see the rest of the museum. Can’t remember if that was the one time I went to the Met or if the exhibit also made it to the Chicago Art Institute.

    I love your honesty about being intimidated by the wealthy. Those with money are the new aristocracy here in the land that refused the monarchy. My brother married into money – not name-the-manor wealth, but a damn sight more $$ than I’ll ever see – and our whole family (all college educated, dad’s a dentist, etc,) felt like the Clampetts around them. Honest to God, I had to fight the urge to chew on a piece of straw and say “Golly gee, Goober!” when in their presence. I’m not sure how much of that was our insecurity or them actually looking down their noses at us. I think both were true, frankly.

    Extreme wealth is still a bit intimidating, but the older I get, it’s mainly a matter for a shoulder shrug.

  15. Hey, I saw that Alexander McQueen exhibit with nursemyra in 2011! How can it be that long ago? Seriously, it seems like yesterday…

    Oh, and what was your pro-choice chant? I’m reading through posts backwards… don’t know if you’ve already posted it. I’m lazy. help a sister out…

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