[Please note: This is NOT the “Tracy” of my other memoir, The Darkness Engulfs Me. The Tracy of “Darkness” lived in a far different region, far away from mine, and was probably in middle school when I was in college.]
We saw many classics in Film class. The first was D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent movie, Birth of a Nation. It may have been blatantly racist, but it was important because it introduced many techniques Griffith had invented, such as irising (blacking out the picture around a particular thing you want to emphasize) and cross-cutting (cutting back and forth from one scene to another during such things as battle sequences).
He was a filmmaking genius, and the movie looked so real, even seen on a small TV screen. Maybe it was the “real” look of the actresses, who didn’t seem Hollywood perfect like the actresses of following years.
They didn’t look painted-up with makeup, even though silent pictures required special makeup, so maybe they were made up differently than in other silent films. It seemed as if these people would look in real life exactly as they appeared onscreen, except in color. The film was surprisingly clear.
As for the other movies mentioned in the textbook, I wasn’t even aware before this that silent movies were made in the days of Merry Widow hats and leg-of-mutton sleeves. I thought they started in the 20s. It was so strange to see movie actresses dressed this way when they weren’t in a costume drama.
It was hard to have to read all the lines and hear only music for three hours, which probably made the movie seem even longer, as did our hard, classroom seats–but it wasn’t impossible. If it weren’t for the racist plot, the movie could actually have been great.
In the beginning, it introduced itself with a words-only screen in which it called itself the “greatest movie ever.” Considering movies were brand-new, this was quite an arrogant claim.
Oddly enough, this movie was a catalyst for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 20th century. The Klan had disbanded in 1869, and then this movie came along and praised it. This movie may have become almost obscure over the years, but in its day it inspired major controversy.
History repeats itself more than many people realize: My textbook read on page 62, “The film was suppressed in some cities for fear of race riots.” I believe a similar thing happened in the early 90s with one or two movies about the ghetto.
Maybe the next day after we saw Birth of a Nation, it was time for much more pleasant movies by Charlie Chaplin. We saw one or two of the shorts (I think one was One A.M.) and then The Tramp.
The next day, we saw the impressive talkie The Great Dictator. Hitler had supposedly taken his peculiar mustache from Chaplin to make himself seem more lovable to the German people; now, Chaplin returned the favor, and played Hitler (Adenoid Hynkel) in one of two roles in the movie.
He poked fun at Hitler in a well-deserved fashion. I loved when Hynkel gave speeches interspersed with such words as “Wienerschnitzel” and “Sauerkraut” and other German words for food that had no place in the speech, and coughs and German words with very English pronunciations (like “joo-den” for “Juden,” which should be “yoo-den”).
I also loved “Tomainia” for Germany, “Bacteria” for fascist Italy, and “Osterlich” for Austria. The last one was my favorite, because it sounded like “ostrich,” and Austria in German is Österreich (oes-tehr-rike). This movie was often serious, but often funny. The whole class seemed to love this movie. It was certainly a lot easier to take than Birth of a Nation.
This film class taught me that there are many, many classics and non-classic but brilliant films which have fallen into obscurity because they are silent movies. In the early 2010s, I would finally have a chance to see Intolerance (Griffith’s ironic response to people being “intolerant” of his own intolerant movie).
I have seen Metropolis (the robot movie clipped in Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” video) on TV in 1985, on DVD in the 2000s, and on TCM in the 2010s, the latter being the finally restored, mostly-complete version.
I have also seen Nosferatu and many other silent movies, thanks to TCM running silent movies on Sunday ever since around 2005/2006.
Since I haven’t been able to find my Winterim syllabus, I don’t remember when or in what particular order we saw the movies, or what they all were. But I do remember they were in chronological order.
I do remember seeing Citizen Kane for the first time and discovering what a masterful work it was (the shadowing, in particular, could not have worked in color, but is exquisite in black and white), The Grapes of Wrath, It’s a Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe, Sunset Boulevard, Rear Window, Easy Rider, Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), The Conversation, Do the Right Thing.
Most of these movies I had never seen before, so I would associate them ever after with Film class. I liked most of the movies we saw, too.
Since it had been years since I read the book Grapes of Wrath, I didn’t mind the film’s liberties with it. (Though I hated the book, I am a purist about movie adaptations.)
Rear Window was a fun and sometimes erotic play on the voyeurism of watching TV. The eroticism may not be apparent to everyone, but it, according to our textbook, had to do with the long camera lens sitting on Jeffries’ lap, and his lack of sexual interest in anything he didn’t see in the TV-screen-like windows across the street.
The textbook also considered certain parts of Dr. Strangelove to be sexual jokes: the two planes in the beginning, apparently copulating; the bomb at the end looking like a phallus symbol which Slim Pickens rides down to earth.
It was a great pity that we could not hear Dr. Strangelove very well in that classroom despite Dr. Nelson’s attempts to fix the problem. This distressed him, because we couldn’t hear all the jokes or appreciate just how good this movie was. We made note of this, and didn’t judge the movie as bad just because we couldn’t hear it. No one knew why it was so hard to hear, because all the other videos sounded just fine.
I went to San Francisco in 1999, and probably saw many of the sights shown in The Conversation. Though the movie often dragged, at the same time I couldn’t see how it could be cut. There was something professional and intriguing, yet abhorrent about the way Gene Hackman’s character kept recording and endlessly replaying the targets’ conversations.
Do the Right Thing both amused and horrified us. Many of the scenes were funny. But the deaths in the end were so awful, especially the one of Radio Raheem, the kid with the jam box, since it seemed he hadn’t done nothing wrong except make an error in judgment. It was such a shame that he, whose jam box was everywhere during the movie, would be killed, so ending his music-loving days.
Also, I saw in this movie what I had read about, perhaps somewhere in the textbook: that in the scenery and composition of his movies, Spike Lee used colors that complemented black skin. It made for a truly beautiful effect.
Some of these movies made you feel good and noble; some made you feel bad and part of a diseased society. But you could see what made them all great and/or significant movies in one way or another.
They weren’t all wonderful movies, but even Birth of a Nation used groundbreaking techniques, making it significant, though not great. I don’t remember what other movies we saw than the ones I’ve already mentioned, just that I liked most of them.
Nelson also wrote suggested movies on the board every day, movies which were being shown on TV that night or week. This was the first I heard of The Graduate, but I didn’t get to watch it.
I saw very few of the movies, though I did try. I wanted to see Stalag 17 again, but it was playing on AMC, which Roanoke’s cable system, Warner, didn’t have. I did see North by Northwest on the 18th and used it as a subject for a response paper, which I noted in my day planner on January 19.
I saw Strangers on a Train and wrote a response paper on it, which I noted on January 20. I don’t remember if I saw A Night at the Opera, but since it was the Marx brothers, I know I wanted to. I wrote down movies even if they were on AMC, probably just in case I still got a chance to see them, however remote.
I Spend a Night with Phil
The miniseries Tales of the City came to PBS; Wisconsin played the censored version, the one without nudity. The movie played over two nights or more.
I discovered after the first installment that Pearl and maybe Sharon had come across it and watched it. As demented as it was (it was about a young, innocent woman’s experiences in the twisted world of 70s San Francisco), with its marijuana brownies and gays and lesbians and free love and a woman who used to be a man, we couldn’t take our eyes off it.
On Wednesday the 12th, Pearl asked me to record it for her that night, since she would have to miss it.
On Friday, January 14, apparently I was supposed to expect Sharon to come over and hang out in my room for a while, but I don’t think she did; Phil, however, did.
We had a long conversation, during which I got my point across, that he wasn’t being fair to either Tracy or me.
Clarissa was out of the room. It was bitterly cold outside. That was the first night of the sub-zero temperatures we had that year. It was cold in our room, too, so as Phil sat in a desk chair, I sat in another chair in front of him and wrapped myself up in my flag afghan.
He said that friends could marry and be happy even though they weren’t in love with each other. One of his relatives had done this. But I didn’t buy it. Sure it could happen, but why settle for a marriage or dating relationship with someone who’s just a friend, when you have someone you can love wanting to love you?
To this day, I don’t understand why he chose Tracy over me. Got there first, hogwash; he already knew I liked him and wanted to go out with him. He’d come right out and asked me about this before he chose Tracy. And he said he knew Tracy better, but he could’ve gotten to know me before making his decision.
I also didn’t know that during this conversation, he realized he was in love with me. He didn’t tell me this for maybe a couple of weeks. It was also much later that he told me how badly he wanted to unwrap my afghan and ravish me.
We finally went over to the Phi-Delt suite, where a bunch of us were to watch my tape of Tales in Jennifer’s room. We ripped on the insanity of the movie all the way through, but enjoyed it at the same time.
Phil said his birthday was on the 16th. He would be 20, the same age as I was.
I don’t remember what else we did that night, but I do remember that it got so bitterly cold (wind chills were probably well below zero) that Phil and I didn’t want to go outside to go home. When Jennifer and her roommate asked us to stay overnight, Phil agreed, and then so did I. I think Clarissa left anyway. I only lived in the next dorm, but if Phil was going to stay there, I wanted to as well.
Jennifer’s Mike was also there; he and Jennifer cuddled in her bed. Several of us crashed on the carpeted floor; I slept with my coat as a blanket and maybe also as a mattress. It was very cold on that floor, but the room wasn’t as cold as some other rooms were.
It was a long night and I got little sleep, since the floor was not at all comfortable. Phil slept nearby in his jacket. We inched closer together all night; I think some of our friends noticed this. Phil had passionate dreams about me.
I was glad when morning light finally came into the room and I no longer had to try to sleep on that hard floor. When it came time for people to wake up, Phil woke up and sat in a chair for a while, watching me.
I suspected he was watching me, but my eyes were closed, so I didn’t know for sure until several days or weeks later, when he told me. He also later told me that he stayed there because of me.
After he left, I spent some time in the lounge with Pearl, maybe Jennifer, and Jennifer’s roommate. I spoke of Phil, but they called me the Other Woman. I was convinced he really wanted me, not her, but they weren’t. They seemed to think it was really Tracy he wanted, and that it was hopeless for me.
On Tuesday, it was so cold that classes were canceled. For Wisconsin, that has to be pretty dang cold: We’re not wimps up here.
According to January 27 in my day planner, that day I got a Gothic novel from the library to entertain myself over Winterim Break. I may have gotten The Monk at that time, though I thought I got it earlier and had the flu while reading it.
The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis was written in the 18th century. This strange book amused me while it scared me, because of all the sex going on in this 18th-century novel. No wonder it was considered pornographic for the time! (Of course, this was the same century that produced Dangerous Liaisons.) For ours, it’s pretty tame, however.
It’s about a monk tempted by a novice who’s really a woman in disguise. Meanwhile, he also lusts after a 15-year-old girl he saw around town, and plots to rape her. She wants to marry this guy she’s just met.
There’s also a couple who break up for some reason I forget, and she enters a convent. The guy comes to see her, and they end up doing things that they shouldn’t. Then, even though she had a part in it, the girl calls the guy a foul seducer.
There’s more, but just in case you want to read the book, I don’t want to give away what happens. I probably finished reading the book on Friday, March 6. In February I told Phil about it, and he jokingly scolded me for reading such a racy book.
On the 27th, Pearl talked to Phil, and he told her he was able to date other people as well as Tracy. The problem was, he’d just found out about another girl who liked him, even though he wasn’t that interested in her. (I think she was 16, and he recently discovered that wasn’t “legal,” so he wouldn’t want to put himself in temptation’s way and end up in jail for statutory.)
On the 28th, everyone else left for Winterim Break, and I stayed. I had tried calling Phil the night before, but he wasn’t home. Now he called me, wanting to hang out, if the weather allowed him to come to the campus that night. It was supposed to be pretty snowy, but he came anyway, around 8:30. Once, while Clarissa was out of the room, he said,
“I decided that Tracy is a good friend and will stay around.” He talked as if he broke up with Tracy nicely. She understood, saying she didn’t expect to hold onto him, anyway. (Not until summer did he admit that he wasn’t so nice. In fact, he said to her, “I’m sick of being nice.”)
He was available again. This made me happy, of course. Finally! No more “other woman” stuff from people! And note the date–exactly two years after the day Peter broke up with me.
I wondered if this was deliberate timing on God’s part, a consolation, giving me someone better (so I thought at the time) on the anniversary of the day that was so black for me. As for Peter, all I had left for him was friendship and concern. What I’d felt the past few months was probably nostalgia.
Phil stayed to watch Mystery Science Theater: 3000 with us, though finally Clarissa wanted him to leave so she could go to bed. Phil and I stood outside in the hallway for a few minutes to say goodbye.
He looked like he might want to kiss me, but as far as I was concerned, this was our first “date” since we became a couple, and kissing should wait for the second date. He seemed to sense this–maybe it was my body language–and didn’t try.
On Saturday the 29th, Phil came over to pick me up at 4:30. It was now Winterim Break, and we had no homework to worry about.
As we walked along the sidewalk that led from the side door nearest the suites, I looked up at Phil’s clean-shaven face and thought, “He doesn’t look as cute now!” I had a strange, momentary loss of interest in him.
But I remembered my loss of interest with Peter soon after we started dating, and realized that this would probably soon pass. I also soon asked him to grow his beard back.
(I didn’t use to like beards. Maybe I did now because all the alternative rockers were wearing goatees now, so all the college boys were also wearing goatees when the school year began, so I began to think goatees look cool. I still think so. Phil’s beard was more shaggy than a neatly-clipped goatee, and had patches which did not grow properly, but I still liked it.)
We went to Phil’s house to watch movies: Top Gun, Dead Poets Society and Room With a View.
I thought he played these for me because he loved them, which impressed me; he told me much later that he liked View more because it was good for dates, than as a movie. At the time, however, I innocently thought that his liking it showed how sweet he was.
As for Dead Poets Society, I believe he legitimately liked this one, because Robin Williams was his idol.
My mom and I had watched View before, the uncut version with the skinny-dipping men getting caught by women. (Turns out that really is in the book, even though it was written about a century ago.) Mom said, “Whoops!”
We watched these movies in Phil’s tiny room. He had no bed, just a couch, which he later said was a sofa bed. There was no room for a regular bed.
On the wall with the door was his full entertainment center, with TV, S–‘s Marcus Cable with Weather Channel reports for S– (rather than Green Bay, which we got at Roanoke–and they even had different colors, fonts and features), VCR, Nintendo, and possibly a stereo. He even had remote controls.
Also in the entertainment center was a porcelain bird, a beautiful, white sculpture, maybe a foot high or shorter. It was probably a falcon, though people thought it was an owl. He later told me about the artist he got it from (I forget the story now). When we began talking about engagement, he said it would be my engagement ring, since he didn’t have the money for a real one.
Up on the back of his door was a picture, drawn on a piece of notebook paper. I think it was a unicorn, and around it were the words, “I love you.” I hadn’t drawn it, of course, so I smiled and asked Phil what it was. I may have feared it was from Tracy, but it was from girlfriend number 6.
I think he had broken up with her only the previous summer, and I don’t think he was mad at her for anything, so he still hadn’t gotten around to removing the picture. I smiled, completely without jealousy, and said nothing about him taking it down. But once, I got up to go the bathroom, came back, and noticed it had been removed.
As we sat on the couch watching movies, getting progressively closer, Phil’s four-year-old nephew kept walking in and talking to us, because the door didn’t have a lock.
He brought in his drink; he chatted with and smiled at me; he acted like a four-year-old who didn’t understand the concept of dating and wanting to be alone. We laughed.
He finally fell asleep in the living room. Phil and I got even closer then, with Phil stroking my hair and kissing the top of my head.
After the movies, Phil turned off the TV. He sat beside me on the left arm of the couch, and looked at me. He half-smiled and may have nodded his head. Then he leaned over and kissed me, leaning me down onto my back on the couch.
He told me he’d liked me as long as I’d liked him, and that’s how long he’d been waiting to kiss me.
We shared so many long kisses that evening that my lips grew tired and chapped. But my stupid daily wear contacts dried out as it got later and later, so I finally had to reluctantly tell Phil that I had to go home and take them out.
During this date or the next, Phil told me that Peter had warned him about going out with me. He named some reasons, and said he had no problem with them. At least one was news to me.
Phil agreed with me that the reasons were petty, and I said how glad I was to be with someone who was not petty. He said, “Peter said, ‘Phil, she waited outside the bathroom for me!'”
We both thought this was the most ridiculous thing we’d ever heard. Where else was I supposed to go, we wondered? Was I supposed to wander all over the building while he was in the bathroom? Was I supposed to ditch him there and go off to class without him?
A short time later, Phil and I were alone in the cafeteria and about to leave. We went over to the doors, then he went into the men’s bathroom, which was between the two sets of doors leading to the hill outside.
I leaned up against a table which had been used for holding various foods during the meal, having nowhere else to go.
Phil came out of the bathroom, saw me, said with a grin, “You waited outside the bathroom for me!” and kissed me for it. He couldn’t imagine somebody not doing this!
My husband also can’t figure out why Peter had a problem with it, and once got upset with me because I went to a nearby cafe in the movie theater instead of waiting outside the bathroom for him!
Whenever we’re out and about, or traveling, and have to use the bathroom, we wait outside the bathroom for each other. So Peter–WHAT THE HECK was so wrong with this?
On Thursday, March 9, 2000, several of my college friends came to my home and, with my husband and me, went to a restaurant for dinner. As we were leaving, the girls stopped in the bathroom for five minutes or so.
And you know what? We didn’t go out to the cars, oh no. We all stood and waited (not my idea) right outside the bathroom for them, with the guys holding their coats, and nobody said a word about it!
I don’t think Phil ever did agree with any of the things Peter told him were supposedly “wrong” with me. For the record, when Phil broke up with me, I don’t believe he used any of those reasons.
In fact, when I told Phil early on that being with Peter too much destroyed our relationship, and that I didn’t want to spend all my time with Phil for fear it would happen again with him, Phil said,
“I’ve had ex-girlfriends tell me that if they’d spent more time with me and knew more about me, like they know now, they wouldn’t have broken up with me. I want to spend as much time with a girlfriend as possible so this doesn’t happen again.”
Peter also told Phil and Phil’s mother that I had talked about marriage all the time. So I told Phil what really happened, that I only talked about marriage all the time because Peter did the same and we were essentially engaged.
Though in many ways I was not yet aware of, Phil was bad for me, in some ways he was good for me, at least for a while, because he showed me that Peter had indeed been petty and not all guys have problems with these things.
Phil said Peter was right about one thing: that I was a good kisser. Hearing that even an ex-boyfriend would say this about me, was flattering. Hearing that two guys thought this about me was even more flattering.
Shawn had complained about how I kissed–but who cared anymore? This proved that it was just Shawn being his usual hypercritical self, never satisfied with anything about me or anything I did.
I was furious with Peter for trying to keep Phil from going out with me. Peter seemed to have turned into Mr. Studmuffin, constantly finding new girlfriends, while Phil was the first guy I’d found since Peter who truly wanted to go out with me.
I deserved love, too. And didn’t he realize that the best way for me to get over him was a new love?
This bit of evidence makes me wonder if other guys did not ask me out, because Peter poisoned the well with his lies and half-truths about me.
As he drove me home with the radio on Top-40, he sang along with songs that said, “I love you.”
The next night, the 30th, I didn’t wear my contacts, so I could stay as late as I wanted to. We ended up falling asleep on the couch, holding each other all night. Yes, we were fully clothed.
We often did this over the next few weeks, though soon it began to be too uncomfortable to spend the night holding each other on a couch. He would begin to pull the couch into a queen-sized bed instead.
The first night, however, it seemed wonderfully comfortable and romantic to lie unmoving and holding each other on a couch.
The next morning, right after we woke up, I had to hide in Phil’s room until he spoke to his mom. When he did, she said it was OK that I was there.
On the way back to Roanoke, he put his hand on my knee, sang along with love songs again, and said, “Don’t think I don’t mean it.”
A declaration of love this early? Aren’t guys supposed to be reluctant to commit, scared away by girls who say “I love you” too early?
Though I loved hearing him say “I love you,” I didn’t know what to do about it. Though I could be in love with him already, it was too soon to be sure.
When we got back to Roanoke, I began to feel as if Phil were already wearing on me. This transient feeling made me a bit sad after Phil left.
What’s this, I finally have a boyfriend, one I really like, and already I don’t want him anymore?
Phil said to Clarissa with a smile as he dropped me off, “I think she’s getting tired of me already.” I don’t know how he knew.
But it only lasted a few hours or more, the aftermath of forbidden fruit no longer being forbidden, but at the time I didn’t know what was going on.
Peter told Phil that I moved very slowly, and that we didn’t kiss until maybe a week or two after we started dating. Phil told him we’d just spent the night on his couch, and Peter was shocked.
As I told Phil, I couldn’t figure out why he was so shocked. I often crawled into Peter’s bed at night when I spent the weekend or a vacation at his house, and we both had wished that I could stay there all night.
I would have, but Peter told me his parents would probably go ballistic and perhaps ban me from his room entirely. We didn’t want to have sex; we just wanted to cuddle. I’m serious, so don’t laugh or say “sure.”
So I wondered why Peter thought I wouldn’t sleep fully-clothed and chastely on Phil’s couch on one of our first dates. Did Peter forget so soon? Oh yeah, he had a way of twisting the truth about me.
As I also told Phil, the only reason Peter and I didn’t kiss right away was because he took so long to do it. I would have gladly kissed Peter much sooner, but though he had plenty of chances to kiss me goodnight, he always chickened out (as he told me later) and hugged me instead. It made me very frustrated with him, since I wanted to kiss a guy before I died.
Also, Peter obviously had no clue how far I had already gone with Shawn. I wanted to go back to innocence, stay away from the things I did with Shawn, but I was hardly the innocent one Peter thought I was, anymore.
I soon learned that Peter was thinking of joining the Church of Wicca. From Christian to atheist to Wiccan: what a change in just a few years! And how incompatible we would have been!
On Tuesday night, February the 1st, just before Spring Semester started, I don’t think I had a class very early the next morning, though Phil did. But at the time he didn’t care, and was more interested in kissing me than in taking me back to school and then going to bed.
Late that night, Phil’s brother Dave suddenly burst into the room wearing nothing but briefs, and said in a scolding tone, “Phil, you have an 8:00!”
He left soon after, and I thought that was so strange. How could he have been so bold as to 1) come into the room without knocking while I was in it and 2) come into the room in his underwear while I was in it?
I believe he was well aware that I was there, so ignorance was not an excuse. I think Phil said Dave really didn’t care.
I was soon to discover that both Dave and his mother had a habit of bursting into Phil’s room without knocking. They did this no matter who was in his room.
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)
Table of Contents
December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?
April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign
October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:
Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams
June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:
July & August 1994: