29 March 2010

I Explain 1986 And The Hot Tub Time Machine

"We were young. We had momentum." So says John Cusack's character in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine. It's about three friends who time travel back to 1986 and inhabit their own then-twenty year old bodies. I was 20 in 1986 and recently I've been missing it.

I don't really yearn to be in 1986, or lament the time gone by, but I liked the music and the detente of the Cold War. It was boring. Once in awhile we bombed Khadafi but we didn't have the open-ended war that we do now, nor did we have an enemy that was as pesky as the ones we have now. Back then I thought of Ron Reagan as my dad's president, but now I miss the old guy. Clinton lowered the bar and Bush Jr. just totally wrecked it. Reagan could speak clearly, his personal actions while in office weren't disgraceful (aside from being married to Nancy Reagan) and he single-handedly brought down the Soviet Union. It's true, you can look it up. Living through history is a weird feeling. The realization that you are living through history will make you feel old, and if not old, like a seasoned veteran.

I never dressed for 1986, with the thin tie or the mullet, but in 1985 I did own a white jacket which I might have worn two or three times (this was before I stole my roommate D.J.'s personal style). I'm glad grunge fashion came in and did away with all the silly colors. Suddenly, people like my dad became stylish in flannel shirts, jeans and boots. You could say the style came to him, which will happen if you dress the same way for forty years.

1986 is a year that changed my life. If I went back in time, like the guys in the movie, it would be imperative that I not change my first meeting with Eric or George or D.J. Everybody who's seen Back to the Future knows that when you time travel, you can't touch anything in the past, because if you do, you might not be born. Well, if Eric didn't walk in my room the second or third day of school and introduce himself I might not have met George, and if I hadn't met George, I wouldn't have met D.J., and I wouldn't have asked D.J. to be my roommate, and we all would've gone on to live life without each other. We wouldn't be PhiSigs and I wouldn't be writing this right now. They wouldn't be my best friends. Which is impossible.

The moral of the story, or movie in this case, is that although we think things were great in our youth, the reality is that we had problems even back then. The difference is, yeah, we had problems, but who cares. Let's get a keg and have some people over, put on some Beastie Boys, visit Tommy's room, and all is good with the world. Personally, I'm lucky because I get to go to Camp with DJ, and hang out, drink beer, and not much has changed. He's still responsibly employed and enjoyably manic. We don't have the House to go to anymore but that's been true since 1991. At the House we could drink and dance and be the center of the party. All of us, not just me and D.J. There were people there. Young people. If I miss anything it's the freedom of being there. All I had to do was get there, by bus or van ride or old car, and everything would be ok. I could see my friends and I would get back home somehow, eventually.

I like putting on the Classic Alternative music channel and hearing the old tunes, although it's hit and miss. I want to hear Jesus and Mary Chain and XTC and the Smiths, not Duran Duran. But, just like real life, you gotta take the good with the mediocre or just plain awful. How many hair bands did the '80's put out? Eventually I started listening to Neil Young, which was everything I liked about the world and life. Images of nature and country life, some manic energy, some tin soldiers and Nixon references, and an overwhelming feeling of bliss. I saw Neil in Pittsburgh with D.J., Johnny, and Eric, and I remember that Neil, at 45, kicked my ass and exhausted me then kept going. I may have been young and had momentum on my side, but Neil was a seasoned veteran. I hoped that I could keep it up when I was Neil's age. As we were leaving the stadium Eric was singing when a guy, probably as old as I am now, leaving the concert in a BMW was idling in traffic nearby. "Hey hey, my my," Eric sang, loud enough for the guy to hear. "My hair is gray but I got some dye." The old guy gave Eric a dirty look and we all laughed. Ah, youth.

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