Adoration Revisited, part sixteen

Welcome to Not Knowing How: Adoration Revisited, a capsule newsletter by Lisa Locascio Nighthawk in sixteen parts. Names have been changed. The version of events is my own.

  1. August 24, 2023 Note on my phone:Powered into adulthood on the fumes of that adolescent person, eyes slit in math class, dreaming of the life I’d lead, soundtracked to my favorite music, humid and dank and sexy

  2. I went to a concert a few nights ago. Beside me was a very young person who seemed to be the event’s official photographer, in a blue canvas jacket with a large Colt 45 patch sewn on the back. “I like your jacket!” I said. He received me like a kind of devil grandma who needed to be warded off with heavy magic.

  3. After the Pumpkins broke up, I stopped listening to them. Not entirely and not always, but slowly their music began to make me sad, where it had always relaxed me before, made me feel included, seen, on. If I played a Pumpkins song, it was with a dull curiosity that rose a wave of feeling I could barely withstand.

  4. Living in L.A. I wonder about Billy’s life in L.A. James’s, D’Arcy’s—

  5. Since I started paying attention again, the Pumpkins have celebrated many anniversaries. The thirtieth anniversary of Siamese Dream. The twenty-eighth anniversary of Mellon Collie. The twenty-seventh anniversary of The Aeroplane Flies High. The twenty-fifth anniversary of Adore. I’m not really sure what these numbers mean, other than that the band’s social media manager is on top of it. At the very beginning of my relationship with the band, I was a young fan. Now 2023 teenagers are discovering the Pumpkins, and I’m a 39-year-old parent. The music bears the mark of its time, but it doesn’t really seem to age. I can’t think of anything like it, even after all this time. Maybe My Chemical Romance, a band I may never listen to, is in fact the heir to SP. But after all these years the band just sounds like itself to me. I am glad to be hearing them again.

  6. In October my husband drew a chart:

This absolute assassination by spouse may have been provoked by my determined insistence on playing a bargain basement basic Apple Music “Classic Halloween” playlist in a ploy to make the holiday magical for our baby, and in what universe a demon song called “Spooky, Scary Skeletons” is a classic I do not know, but I once again had the uneasy feeling that I am seen.

  1. I always thought I would go back and live in Chicago, but then California did something to me and now I feel that if I can continue to live here I will have retained a dear thing. The other day I was driving and thought of the glory I’d feel if I die a resident of California. My mother understood these feelings; she called it “Your beautiful life in California that you love so much.” Even though she herself said that she did not want to live here. At one point. At another point, years later, she told me she wanted to move to Mendocino, where I lived then. “I think living here might save my life,” she said, right before her final crisis began.

  2. At the concert I went to I stood right in front, not two feet from the mic stand, as close to the performer as I was to Billy at the last Pumpkins concert twenty-three years ago tonight.

  3. September 23, 2023 Note on my phone: Two dreams last nightJames Iha taking Jasper and I to a music video shoot, a very busy and compelling dream full of famous people, lots of waiting and walking around and meeting people. I woke up feeling happy. There was some tension—he offered to bring us to a party after the shoot, Jasper wanted to go home but I wanted to stay.Before that, Mommy taking care of me, taking me on errands, being diligent and present, getting the job done so I was ready to go.

  4. Recently, I’ll have weeks where it just seems like everything is hard, really so very difficult. I am now deprived of the old comfort of the idea that my life will change dramatically via a heroic plot twist waiting just around the bend. Then I’ll talk to someone and discover they are having an impossibly rough time. I’ll talk to someone else and find that they are also suffering badly.

  5. I knew the entry for “17” would take the form of a seventeen-item numbered list. But in writing it, I have felt the pressure of the content creator, a person and a type of work that is different from that of a writer. The form exists to satisfy readers longing for content. For so much of this year I have endeavored to finish my novel, a novel I’ve finished again, and again, and again, but not quite well enough, a thing I want to exist in the world in the shape that it revealed itself to me. My challenge is to make that shape intelligible to readers. The newsletter is different. It exists as an intelligible object, however, much I might twist and deform it. It exists as a conduit, a connection, a way of reaching out and saying I’m here. My husband calls Not Knowing How my blog sometimes. During the heyday of blogging, I resisted it, because I thought blogging would take time away from my fiction. Yet, also, I had a blog.

  6. At the concert I went to, early on, I was weaving my way through the sparse crowd, making my way to the front, and some woman tried halfheartedly to block me, to step so that her row was closed. She has no idea who she’s dealing with! I thought. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd at the last Smashing Pumpkins concert. I got in front of a whole crew dressed like the band in the “Tonight, Tonight” video. Then I almost passed out because my shoes were so uncomfortable, a security guard lifted me out of the crowd, a waitress gave me free water, I was wearing a fucking wig—and I pushed my way back to the front of the crowd! 

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  1. Diving back into the world of the Smashing Pumpkins has opened up an almost infinite core of content. I could keep Adoration Revisited going forever. I could make a hard career pivot to being a full-time Smashing Pumpkins nostalgia content creator. (Couldn’t I?) There’s so many things I haven’t written about yet. Like the absolutely deranged tsunami of merch Zuzu’s/Billy/Billy’s marketing-savvy wife Chloe (? maybe) are churning out these days:

I am tempted to buy what seemed to be a reissue of my long-lost Adore shirt, but the font on the back was just too tragic. Guess I’ll have to save up for a vintage one.

I’m not on TikTok but I’ve read in other newsletters that there’s a current vogue for the Nineties. SP imagery is also being licensed out to outfits like Huf, which I think is just fine. So fine that I bought this shirt, provoking layers of feeling: my thirteen-year-old self would have loved this; I am engaging in the nostalgia for an milieu I experienced authentically the first time around; authenticity is an illusion, one whose falsity I touch as I swipe around the internet, seeking the object that can slot my past in with my present; I wonder what band’s merch my son will first ask me to buy.

  1. There’s a thought that’s haunted me this year, as I’ve struggled to write, and have suffered professional disappointments. Maybe I’m not a writer anymore. The idea flies in the face of everything I say about writing and writers in my profession as a program leader, and also really of everything I believe about writing. To be a writer all you need to do is write. And writing isn’t the only way of writing. Reading, thinking about writing, longing to write — in my view all of these things make one a writer. If you want to be a writer, you can be. So maybe a different way of looking at it is to say that I have longed to be a writer. That’s why I started this newsletter, and it’s why Not Knowing How will continue beyond Adoration Revisited.

  2. There are many things I’d like to write about in this space: California. David Lynch. The witchcraft industrial complex. Music. The past. Academia. Parenting. Sex. Creativity. Art. The present. I needed a space that gave me permission to say the things that I wanted to say without the mediation of a gatekept platform. But writing this newsletter hasn’t made me stop longing for those platforms. Sometimes, after laboring on one of the essays I’ve published here I’ve wondered if I made a mistake. If I should’ve edited it, sent it out to journals like I know how to do, in that cycle that has become one-sided in the last few years. When I started this newsletter, I had the feeling that my writing might not exist unless I made it exist. I want my writing to exist just like I myself want to exist. It and I are not the same thing, but they have a lot in common. Both of us are burnished by the incredibly kind comments and responses this project has received. Thank you.

  3. The last track on Adore is “17.” It’s seventeen seconds long, an ephemeral piano phrase. The lyric booklet included with the CD gives these lyrics:

17 seconds of compassion

17 seconds of peace

17 seconds to remember love is the energy

Behind which all is created

17 seconds to remember all that is good

17 seconds to forget all your hurt and pain

17 seconds of faith

17 seconds to trust you again

17 seconds of radiance

17 seconds to send a prayer up

17 seconds is all you really need

According to Reddit, the melody of “17” is from “Blissed and Gone,” a song originally recorded to be the last track on Adore. I guess I can hear this now. But I’d be lying if I said I knew this before sitting down to write this today. After the grand emotional sweep of the album, the one-two punch of “For Martha” and “Blank Page”, “17” always feels like an afterthought flourish, an epitaph. Have I ever really listened to it?

Of course I have. I have listened to every moment of Adore. I have listened and listened to it. And for the past year I’ve written about it here, reencountering myself in the drift of the music. The textures the sounds me to. The fibers of the oriental rugs that lay over the hardwood floors in my house pressing into my cheek. White string fringe in my hand. The warm, almost hot, cracklingly dry heat of my bedroom at night in the winter, my little amp sinking into the pile of pink carpet. The cold mornings I stepped into wearing a coat my mother feared was too thin. The shadows cast by the banister by the tall window with the long lace curtains that came with the house when my parents bought it. I was there. I remember.

  1. Not Knowing How: Adoration Revisited (a name whose baroque length has only increased my enjoyment of it) launched a year ago today, on the anniversary of the last Smashing Pumpkins show—supposedly, purportedly, in one universe, at one time—at the Metro in Chicago, twenty-three years ago today, on December 2, 2000. I was there. I remember.

Thank you for reading! This is the final installments of Adoration Revisited, which was released between December 2, 2022 and December 2, 2023. If you enjoy my newsletter, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. And I’m always interested to hear about your obsessions and memories.