Flashback Fridays: My First Xanga

Moving to New York for College

When I was 16, I went on a cleaning binge and threw away more than a couple volumes of diaries I’d kept since childhood (a moment of silence please).

I’ve been beating myself up ever since. Not because they held any particular genius, but because I have a bad memory and a person needs stuff like that to look back on and remind you of younger carefree times.

After that, I still kept a diary but wrote more and more online. Apparently I had a Blogger Blogspot even before I started a Xanga, but I definitely don’t remember that (another moment of silence, please). What I do know now, having recently, miraculously unearthed my old Xanga password, is that in January of 2003, I started a Xanga because “everyone else seems to be doing it.”

You guys. I thought my first Xanga was lost forever and it made me so sad because I knew there was some good stuff in it. But I found it! It was like discovering a long lost friend – a younger, happier, lighter, more carefree me who was only just beginning to discover these “heavier” things called life and responsibilities (long learning curve here), and who moved to New  York with the wide-eyed hope of “making it,” without really understanding what she wanted.

I gave myself the username dharris, thinking it was preeeeetty literary. I took the “d” from Demian, a book by Herman Hesse that I’d bought used from my local library and never read (I actually just bought it from Amazon for $3 so I’ll let you know how it is), and “harris” from Thomas Harris, the author of Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, because I was young and thought dark stuff like that was cool.

I blogged diligently at dharris.xanga.com for 4 years, January 2003-December 2007, then moved to “citizenneb” (long story about that bungled username), and finally created Very Highbrow in 2010. But those first four years! For most of the time I was overweight, sported a Jackie Chan haircut, and was borderline obsessed with badminton. I had crushes on Edward Norton, Daniel Radcliffe, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Jackman. I didn’t care too much about punctuation or spelling or grammar and typed in a manic energy that, if you were to read my posts aloud, wouldn’t have left very much time to catch a breath.

It was also a time when the Xanga community was robust in and of itself. There was no Facebook or Instagram – nothing too pretty or composed or curated – just straight TALK. Sometimes too much. We were all budding Woolfs and Joyces. Instead of “likes” you gave someone “e-props,” but mostly you commented because it was a dialogue and people took the time to read and react – mostly my cousins and friends who also all had their own Xangas – because it was the time, at least for us, of innocent self expression.

But why dharris? Why am I especially overjoyed to have this time come back to me? Because I experienced New York for the first time as a blogger under this username. First as a visitor, and then as a college student. Even now rereading my first few posts, when I was a two-faced high school junior and senior (happy at home, unhappy at school), there’s an incipient dread because I know what lies ahead. A dark, depressing period in which I’m realizing that I’m either not cut out for the city or the city is trying to cut me out.

What follows is a post from August 30, 2004, my first summer in New York, when I’ve just moved there for NYU and while school hasn’t yet begun and my mom, brother and cousin are still there helping me move in, I am realizing just how different it is from Orange County. Also, I was very comfortable (as I am to this day) about making huge generalizations about Chinese people. I haven’t changed anything minus some minor formatting.

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August 30, 2004

So i guess the new thing in new york is to not be from new york. I cannot tell you the number of times i’ve turned to ask someone how to get someplace and been met with the response: “I’m sorry, i’m not from around here.” Most of the time they are Europeans with thick accents and hairy long legs that end in those monster hiking sandals. Other times they’re just regular americans, trying not to look too touristy even though they have on baggy gray shirts with SAN FRANCISCO or DISNEYLAND embroidered on them in those obnoxious teal letters. yeah, most of the idiots are like me, from california.

There are so many crazies in this city it’s- well, crazy. We were walking down the street after a late lunch and some lady with wild hair and a filthy bag came stomping down the crosswalk, coming right at us like an angry waitress who didn’t get tipped. I caught her eye for a brave split second before looking away, and right when i did, her mouth opened real wide and you could see she hadn’t brushed her teeth for about a year, but before you could give that factor of her appearance any more thought, she started singing (or yelling, rather)- a blaring, croaking sound that can only be avoided by walking away from it. If i were in the room with you right now, i’d imitate the sound- not the song, just the way it hurts your ears and makes you laugh.

They’re not always dirty or whatever, some of the times they’re just young men with goatees and ripped jeans. Clean though. They step down the curb to cross the street (for some reason i always meet the singing crazies at a crosswalk) with their long fingers stuck halfway into their pockets and stride towards you and when it seems as though they might want to ask you for a light, they break out into a strange song…i wish i was musical so i could hear them and nod along to their tunes, but it’s always some depressing tune about…i don’t know what. they’re all insane.

Nothing beats a crazy experience like the face to face kind though. I had my first taste of Crazy black man encounter today, but i was brave enough to laugh in his face. Crazys often meet their match in the Chinese, perhaps its our history with Japanese torture methods- so we feel like we can slam on the world; But i happen to be a Chinese with a streak of crazy. I was walking down the steps of Grand Central station, just leaving to catch the sixth train back to our hotel when i spotted him. “Definitely a crazy,” I thought to myself. He was dressed in dirty black pants and army boots, and he had a prisoner’s hat perched precariously on his wiry black hair. His eyes were wide, and they looked straight at me, a haunting combination of fear and anger. His gnarled black fingers clutched a half-empty starbucks cub. He gripped the steel handrail and dragged himself up the steps, muttering to himself but staring at me the whole time.

I watched the coffee slosh around his cup until we finally met on the same step. Then with the coffee hand, he pointed one finger at me and said in a voice that told me he’s had a hard life and don’t i be giving him no shit for it, “I’ve known you for fifteen years! Fifteen years! And you ain’t NEVER helped ME!”

I stopped on the steps, raised an eyebrow, and laughed. That’s right. What else do you do when you meet a crazy on the steps of Grand Central? The olsen twins would have done it, and so would have donald trump. I didn’t laugh a nervous “what the hell are you talking about?” kinda laugh. That’s weak. I simply shook my head, raised an eyebrow and laughed. And you know what the crazy said? His eyes got real wide and he looked about ready to start something, but he thought better of it, shook his head and muttered, “And you still laughing.”

We must have been friends in another life.

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