Appels + Oranjes
Adoration revisited, part eight
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.
What if what is isn’t true?
What are you going to do?
What if what is isn’t you?
Does that mean you’ve got to lose?
Once, in high school, I did something bad. I heard a rumor that a boy I didn’t like, because he was always so gregarious and friendly and loud, had given his Spanish teacher a pamphlet after she announced her engagement. The topic of the pamphlet was How To Be A Good Wife.
I don’t remember if this was an actual rumor or just someone’s snarky exaggeration. The boy was a member of a religious group that held retrograde and sexist beliefs, for which he was known to evangelize, and so it was conceivable that he might have given the teacher such a pamphlet. The story ignited some impulse in me, righteous, vindicated, certain of the rotten intent hiding in plain sight, of my own special ability to perceive it. I spread it like wildfire.
This boy sat near me in a class, where we often had pleasant conversations. Within a day or two he approached me, clearly hurt, and asked me why I had told a story about him that wasn’t true. “I didn’t do that,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that.”
I can’t remember how I reacted. Probably I sputtered, looked away, said I didn’t know what he was talking about. Lied.
Dissatisfied, he confronted my boyfriend David with my wrongdoings. David made no excuses for me. “Lisa is a parrot,” he said. Meaning, I guess, that I’ll repeat anything.
One foundational story about the Smashing Pumpkins is that although they were—are—nominally a band, a collaborative group of musicians, in the studio Billy does everything except play drums. He writes all the music himself, this narrative goes, and and is too much of a control freak to let the others actually record their parts. Supposedly this dynamic pervaded the recording of the band’s second album, Siamese Dream, considered by many to be their greatest. When he reformed SP a few years after breaking it up in 2000, former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, who joined the band after D’Arcy’s departure, said, “Everyone knows Billy doesn't need too many people to make a Pumpkins record, other than Jimmy [Chamberlin]—who he has on board."
If you asked me, I would say that my characters are not me, or that I don’t always write about my life, or that my writing comes from a mysterious place deep inside me that defies easy explanation. And if you asked me at another time, I’d tell you that all of my characters are me and all of my fiction is a thinly veiled representation of the concerns, obsessions, and events of the life I’ve lived, however sliced and diced into what I hope is a compelling story. Neither type of answer satisfyingly explains why I write so little about parents in my fiction and even less about sisterhood.
If you asked me, I would not say that I give fair consideration to, or even include, the perspectives of others in my writing. That is not the point of writing, to me an act of dominance, of forcing the reader to see as I see.
But as my Goodreads indicates, the world is full of those who do not see as I saw.
When I was a child I loved to make up stories at my sister—not necessarily for her, which implies a kind of happy playing-together, an entertaining. One of my favorite games was pretending to be a newscaster. I’d walk around and interview people with my fake microphone, insisting they participate. I did this every time my parents brought out the video camera.
Sometimes, when my sister and I were swimming together, I’d go under water for as long as I could hold my breath. When I came back up again I’d pretend to be someone else. A mermaid, a nymph, mythical and menacing. I’d insist I was this other person as my sister became more and more upset, begging me to admit that I was myself.
Then, when I got tired of the game, I went back to being myself, friendly, normal, pretending like I didn’t know what I had just done.
As an adult I forgot this until my sister reminded me.
The original Adore recording [of “Appels + Oranjes”] included guitar and bass contributions from Iha and Wretzky, but Corgan scrapped them all and re-recorded it from the ground-up. "While that might seem disrespectful," Corgan told Guitar World, "I fully acknowledge that I probably wouldn't have arrived at the final arrangement unless I had their original parts as a jump-off point."
“Your memory, the way we all agree it’s so strong and accurate,” my sister has said to me, “makes me doubt my own version of events.”
In the wake of my mother’s death, I took to saying that all three of us—my father, my sister, and I—all had different experiences of grief, despite the fact that we were mourning the same person.
“Is that true?” my sister asked, after I’d been saying it for months. “Or did you just say it and we all agreed it was accurate?”
In eighth grade, my sister starred in her middle school’s production of The Music Man, playing the curiously virginal Marian. Everyone in my family loved the show, perhaps too much. I screened a recording of it for friends visiting from California on a cross-country road trip. To this day, people reminisce about her performance, including my father and I. This despite the fact that my sister went on to perform in plays in New York and England, and then became a director of immersive theater productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West End, among many other places and venues. We are proud of all of her work, but we loved her so as Marian, singing “Dream of now, dream of then.”
It is true that we also loved her the following year in The Fantasticks, and her performance of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” at my grandmother’s funeral in 1998.
In a rare glimpse into the creative process of the group, D’Arcy and Corgan explained that one of the album's more poignant songs, “Appels + Oranjes,” almost didn't make the cut because Corgan began to have second thoughts about its lyrics. The song features the revealing line “digging for the feel of something new,” which D'Arcy said she really loved, but Corgan admitted that he was still uncomfortable with. “I really like it ‘cause it can mean so much, so many different things, you know,” D’Arcy said, soliciting a Beavis and Butthead-like “ ‘digging’ is good” response from Iha. Corgan, however, said he saw the line as more sentimental than existential. “Like, there were lines like: ‘What if all the birds decided to walk? What if Fellini wanted to be a singer? What if we all moved to Rome? What if we all just showed up late?’ It was all more like a jokey thing.”
Unsatisfied with those abstract, jokey questions, Corgan said he decided to take the song in a more "cerebral" direction, adding more simplified lines such as "What if the sun refused to shine? ... What if the clouds refused to rain?" But those didn't quite feel right either. "I was gonna change those because then I thought they were too stupid, too plain," Corgan said. D'Arcy, though, felt that removing the lines would be a mistake, according to Corgan. "And, actually, that was the moment that the song got named, because then she said, 'Well it's all apples and oranges or something.' "
Since I went back to work I’ve been paranoid about my breastmilk supply. I have a freezer stash, but I worry about it getting whittled down, disappearing. So this week I began “power pumping,” which is when you pump for twenty minutes, rest for ten, pump for ten, rest for ten, and pump for ten again. Almost immediately my yield increased.
“You can do anything when you set your mind to something,” my partner said.
I felt giddy. Now I will have enough milk. Now my baby will be safe.
“But if it’s true I can do anything, why can’t I do everything I want?” I asked him. “Is it just a matter of will?”
He looked at me. “It’s pleasure, not just will,” he said. “Will alone doesn’t motivate. You are elementally a hoarder, not like a pack rat, but like a dragon—you like to have a hoard. You like to have all of the dried beans. And now you’ve found you can make the dried beans and use them to feed your baby. Of course you want to make as many as possible. Plus I stepped up and said I would exclusively wash your pump parts, as many times a day as you want.”
It came from your thoughts, your dreams and visions
Ripped up from your weeks and indecisions
What is memory but a hoard?
I wanted to write about my sister, about the problem of authorial authority, about what it must have been like to be eight and nine and ten and eleven and twelve and thirteen and fourteen while I loved the Pumpkins so much. But I am forced to admit I don’t know, that maybe, for once, it’s not my story to tell.
“I just thought you were the model and definition of a cool teenager, doing exactly what you were supposed to do. And it was all very benign in the end,” she told me about myself, recently.
My sister laughing beside me, in the pool, in the backyard, in the lake, in the car, in the living room, in her bedroom, in my bedroom, in our parents’ bedroom, on vacation, in New York, in London, in Los Angeles, in Chicago. Her birthday parties, bright and festive, with balloon arches and catered meals and visiting zoos. Her performances and the shows she makes as a director, rich and delicate, effusive, pure. Her hands, small, soft, expert. Talking to her for hours every week, our voices across time and space. Her pale face and beautiful dark hair, calm and determined, doing her homework in her room, protecting and caring for our mother at the hospital.
I wish she lived next door to me, with me, in the same house, that we could be together every day.
This week I went to the ER with what I thought was a heart attack. The doctors told me I was in perfect health. Through my own investigations I have determined it is some sort of sinister high-level reflux. Trouble digesting.
In 1997, the year before I discovered the Pumpkins, the fall I met Moira, I collected an enormous Halloween candy haul. I kept my candy in a plastic drawstring bag, feeling enormous satisfaction in saving it, not eating it, planning to eat it someday.
My family traveled to Texas for a wedding in the second week of November. I brought my candy, and on the first night in the hotel, I opened my bag, ready to consume. Peering in, I was horrified to see tiny bugs crawling on my hoard. I thought it was safe, every piece individually wrapped. I thought that everything I saved would last forever, unmolested, true.
Thank you for reading! This is the eighth of sixteen installments of Adoration Revisited, which will be released every Friday (well, almost) between December 2, 2022 and March 17, 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.