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.

Poisonous And Hateful Sarah Palin

BREAKING NEWS: I just started hating Sarah Palin. She was cute before, back with the McCain candidacy, when she was posing with a skeet rifle. Now she leaves this note on Twitter: Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" She writes this after the phone threats left for members of Congress, after members of Congress get spit on, after representatives are called "baby killer" and other assorted death threats are made against those who supported health care.

If you read this blog you will know that I don't like the health care law and I don't want to be forced to pay for a service I don't want nor should I have to pay a fine to refuse to pay for said service. Now I would almost change my mind if it meant I didn't agree with a vile person like Sarah Palin. Does she not have any sense of decency? Reload? You want the people who made these threats to reload? Maybe they'll sack up and use live ammunition this time Sarah. Maybe just making threats won't be enough for those who want to protect our Liberty. Is the stupid bitch trying to start a Civil War? She downplayed her gun rhetoric this weekend, writing an "inspiring" speech to the teams of the NCAA tournament. You see, all this talk of violence is just silly. Gun rhetoric is used in sports all the time. It's just like Ann Coulter's use of satire when she tells Muslim students to ride their magic carpet, and if they don't have one, to ride their camel. Yeah, it's satire, not inappropriate and racist. Like, hmm, Ann Coulter is a soulless, callous ghoul. No, that is too close to the truth to be satire.

During her campaign as Vice-President, McCain's camp gave Palin a crash course in 20th century history. Her response? "Wow, this stuff is awesome!" Yeah, history is like that. When Katie Couric asked her what she read to get her news, and her response was basically, I read, like, whatever!, I knew she was a lightweight. When I saw her address the Couric interview later, she disingenuously said that she was insulted and refused to answer the question in a forthright manner. It was like Katie Couric was asking her if she could read! That's why she stumbled and stuttered over the question. Bullshit Sarah. I know people and I know body language - you were stumped then and your cover-up was almost as thin. But it did reveal something else. Sarah Palin has an innate ability to play the victim with a sense of moral outrage and then change the subject. When David Letterman made a joke about her daughter, the one who got pregnant before she was married, Palin told everyone the joke was really about her thirteen-year old. Outrage, sure. Inventing something that wasn't there? Absolutely. I like that she steps down as Governor of Alaska, eighteen months into her term, to "help America". You see, the issue is that she wants to help America, not that she is not fulfilling her obligations to her state.

Now, amidst violent threats she thinks nothing of telling people to reload. Sarah Palin was once one death away from history. Now, she may be again but for totally different reasons

The Reagan Years

With all this talk of Hot Tub Time Machines, I've been thinking about the past. I liked growing up in the Reagan years. It must have been similar to the people who had FDR for a president. In 1980, Reagan's first year in office, I was still a kid. I was in that awkward stage between make-believe and real life. When we are children we pretend. When we start to grow up we don't pretend anymore. That's when we're supposed to play sports, or music, or embrace some other non-pretend activity. Then, after high school, after we've devoted ourselves to being square, to fitting in and "finding out who we are", we go off to college as fully formed people. Yeah, right. This is when we discover that alcohol is the new pretend activity.

When Reagan left office in 1988 I had had too many new experiences to count. They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Well, for me, March was like Reagan. If there was a checklist of adult activity, it would have been blank when Reagan came in and all filled out when Reagan left. I had a) had sex, b) had sex again, c)hooked up with some nurses on a weekend in the Thousand Islands (we had sex), and d) the list goes on. Driving a car, being on my own (somewhat responsible for myself anyway) and on and on. Reagan's presidency demarcated my childhood from my adulthood.

I started drinking when I was sixteen. Over at Pete Dugovic's house (my best friend for awhile) I had six beers. I was drunk. I didn't drink again until the next year when my friend John Pooley and I would mix whiskey and cokes from his parent's liqour cabinet (sorry Jack and Liz) and walk down on the rocks by the creek. I drank sporadically after that until I went away to school. After that it was SigPi's, the Teek House parties, and anywhere else we could get beer. Not to mention the summer of 1988, which I spent in a crazed frenzy of escapism. The last summer of the Reagan presidency went out with a bang, not a whimper.

1988 was the year I made my first adult plans. D.J. called me one December afternoon and told me we were moving to Arizona. "We are?" "Yeah," he said. "We're gonna go to ASU. Where Eva lives." Okay, I thought. Sounds good to me. We flew out that April. The first morning we were there we dropped Eva off at class at Mesa Community College, got a twelve pack, and drove to the highest point we could find. It was a park, not unlike Mendon Ponds Park or Cobb's Hill (for those from 'round here) with rocks and cactus and scorpions (poisonous varmints). We sat on the rocks and drank our beer and I really felt like I was somewhere I had never been before.

The rest of that year crashed to the ground like Springsteen's calliope and I ended up retreating to Edinboro, to waste the days away with George and Eric and everyone else, going to Stealer's Fair with Johnny and reading Steinbeck. I didn't get back to Arizona until years later, when Eric became a park ranger out there (Dead Horse Ranch State Park). George Bush was elected president that fall, the next year the Soviet Union fell, and the year after that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The 1980's were finally over. From then on my life would continue to go in cycles, but they would be smaller cycles, and more compact. I think time speeds up as you get older, but if you spend some time looking back, it feels like looking at an ocean of time.