Not ’95 Anymore

“Our love is like water, pinned down and abused for being strange.” ~Live

It was the summer of ’95 all over again, when Live was on everyone’s lips, when they sold out amphitheaters and arenas seconds from the tickets being available, when they had the rock world by the throat and weren’t easing off. It was taking the ferry across the river knowing that on the other side would be anthems you could sing in your sleep, and a band that truly connected with its fans in a way I hadn’t seen from many bands in live forums before.

But that was 23 years ago, the summer of ’95. That was a simpler time, before digital took over, before CDs went the way of Betamax, before concerts became passe, before rock bands took a back seat to what passes for hip-hop and rap anymore. Yet, for one night, it was easy to believe we were back there because, for one night, it was Live again, doing what they’ve always done better than most — rocking a live show. I guess they were aptly named.

Of course, during the summer of ’95 I hardly ever had good seats to shows. I saw Live about 20 times that summer, and the closest I got was section H in the Spectrum (think nosebleeds — Michael Jordan looked small from that spot). In amphitheaters like the Mann Music Center and the Camden Center for the Performing Arts I was always on the lawn, fighting my way through the crowds to the barrier that separated us from the roofed in portion of the venue. I screamed my lungs out, but we were too far away, even though we were in the same place, at the same time. Continue reading “Not ’95 Anymore”

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300 Writing Prompts: #145

“What was the first thing you ever saved up your money to purchase?”

My first real job was at a travel agency. I know what you’re going to say. It was just an internship, but it counted. Besides, it was a paid internship, so it really counted in every way that mattered. For the first time in my life I was getting a steady paycheck, even if it was only for a summer, and I worked hard to make sure that money got spent.

I’m sure you can imagine. I never shoveled driveways for neighbors. I never got an allowance. I never really had a chance to get some solid money for myself until the Rosenbluth Travel Agency, and I had a list of items I wanted. First, there was a CD player that I had my eye on. Before the CD player all I had was a Walkman and the family stereo, which featured dual tape decks (snazzy) so I could tape the radio. But a CD player would put me in a whole new echelon.

I also wanted a VCR, so I could tape my shows (the two principal of which were Days of Our Lives and Beverly Hills 90210). I was addicted to Tori Spelling, but my mom wouldn’t let me stay up late enough to watch the show. And of course I was at work (and later in school) when Days came on, so I needed a way to tape both shows to watch when I had free time on the weekends. I swear I invented binge watching because I would sit there on my bed with popcorn catching up on all the goings on in Salem. Continue reading “300 Writing Prompts: #145”

Endless Summer

When I was a kid, summers were for having fun outside. They were all about riding our bikes, swimming (if we had the chance), playing in the hydrant (more often than swimming), YMCA camps, and staying away from bologna as much as possible. It was the time of year when, even though we had responsibilities, they weren’t as immediate or as detrimental to our precious time as at other times of the year.

That’s because summers were truly endless. It was like someone flipped the switch, the room became bright, and the bulb didn’t burn out until three months down the line. It didn’t matter that we still had church every week because nothing else was really set in stone. Because summers were for us kids. My mom still went to work every day, and she left us a chores list, but we would blast those out of the water and move on to the more fun stuff.

It’s funny. Even though we lived in the poorer part of town (sorry, North Philly) and there was a lot of… activity around, it was like we were in our own protective bubble, being kids. Continue reading “Endless Summer”

I Am My Own Uncle

wp-1525652296590.jpgMy uncle used to swing me onto his shoulders and fly me around the sidewalk like I was an airplane. It wasn’t piggyback for us. It was real aeronautics, complete with propeller sound effects and a touchdown landing when we were done. I remember giggling for days over something so silly, my imagination ran wild with so many possibilities for our next game, it would carry me through for weeks. Which was, coincidentally, how long it would be until I saw my uncle again.

I think back on it, and realize I was craving a father figure back then, someone who would lift me onto his shoulders every day and give me the love and affection I needed. Don’t get me wrong. My dad was at all the “big” things, like my baptism, and my high school graduation, but those were the only things he really attended. He wasn’t there when I was crying after skinning my knee playing ball in the street. He wasn’t there when I wanted someone to talk to about all the feelings I had during puberty. He just wasn’t there.

And it was easy to blame him because my uncle was so cool. He was the man I would have picked out if someone had asked what my version of a father would look like, even

wp-1525652049158..jpgthough he had no biological kids of his own. At times I even hoped that he would be around more, not that my dad would, because my uncle was undeniably cool. That was back in the days when cool was good, and everything else was bad. Cool meant he was awesome in an ’80s kind of way, which was the kind of way I needed.

My uncle bought me my first bike when I was ten, or nine, or whatever age it was. I fell down so many times I would forget I was supposed to be up on it, riding against the wind. But he was there with me, to help me balance even when I felt unbalanced, to get me back up on the horse when there wasn’t a horse to be seen. My uncle stayed there until I got it right, until I was riding around like I hadn’t a care in the world, and I loved him for it. Then he was gone, and I missed him again.

You see, I was a boy, and growing up it was hard to explain these kinds of boy ideas and feelings with my mom. My dad was hardly around, but he was more a stern disciplinarian anyway, and I felt like he was inaccessible in a way that my uncle never was. If my dad was a part of speech he would be a preposition — before, after, or apart. And my uncle was a verb — always active. I wanted to be just like him, to carry with me even just a small part of his essence, so that one day I would be cool too.

IMG95201805059511012093495HDR.jpgWell, that day was yesterday. I don’t even know how to describe my feelings while writing this. Maybe I’m cool, and maybe I’m not. I’m not sure how the adjective would apply these days, in this world of hashtags and virtuality. But I am sure of one thing — I am past the age now that my uncle was when he watched me graduate from high school, when he patted me on the back and told me he was proud of me. And yesterday, my nephew graduated from college. I clapped him on the back and told him I was proud of him. I’m sure it meant just as much to him as my uncle telling me the same thing so long ago meant for me.

As I stood there on that immaculate lawn, watching the boy I saw come into this world enter into adulthood, it was so surreal. He was the boy I helped learn how to read, the boy who spent his summers with us, the boy I put on my own shoulders and pretended he was an airplane. He was the boy who didn’t know if he was going to make it through 20180505_101905.jpgschool, the boy who I gave emotional and mental support to for all of those years. But he was more than that. He was a man, and I was just so proud of him for reaching that destination, for getting done with this one stage of his life, ready to move on to what awaits in the wide world.

And it was real for both of us. While he was no longer that boy, neither was I. I wasn’t just the fun uncle who helped him fly. I wasn’t just the one who took him to the Baseball Hall of Fame, or the one who told him he could when he didn’t think it was possible. I was my own uncle, just twenty years removed, giving him the best of what was in me, just as I had always gotten the best of my uncle. I hope he sees that, after all this time. I hope he realizes that I’ve always had his best intentions at heart. I know he saw the tears in my eyes, tears of joy at him realizing this step of his journey.

Because he is now a man, as I became one so long ago, and I know he needed me as that figure to look up to for so long. But he doesn’t need me for that anymore. I will always be there for him, but I was serious. He is his own man now, just as I arrived at that stage before him, and just as my uncle was there for me then, I am here for him now. I am my own uncle, but not because my nephew is me all over again. He isn’t. I am my own uncle because I see now from the other side of the glass, and while it’s surreal, it’s only natural.

As natural as can be.

Sam

I Am A 90’s Song

sometimes-britney-spearsI am a 90’s song. Not quite electronic enough to be 80s. Not quite teeny bop enough to be early 00’s. I’m like Britney Spears’ “Sometimes.” I wanna believe in everything that you say, ’cause it sounds so good. But if you really want me, move slow. There’s things about me you just have to know. It takes time, though, to open up, because like most people I’ve been hurt before. I’ve trusted the wrong people who have let me down. And I’ve let down others, but I’m trying.

Sometimes I am guarded, and I retreat into my shell, while others I am gregarious and over the top. Sometimes I play to the stereotypes of what others expect of me, as some kind of a joke on them (Shhh, they’ll never know I was playing a part). Sometimes I go the exact opposite direction of what others might expect of me. But always I am a 90’s song, ready to explode into a soaring chorus… when the mood arises.

95b5d0531990cd9ef08a0822a04ba1df--nada-surf-song-lyricsSometimes I am like that Mm Mm Mm Mm song, where I simply hum along with the beat, whoever is setting it at that moment. While other times I am “Popular.” I’m head of the class. I’m popular. I’m a quarterback. I’m popular. My mom says I’m a catch. I’m popular. And if I say it enough to myself, in my mind, I start to believe it. I start to think that everybody should love me, even though I know that’s setting myself up for a fall. Obviously not everyone can like or appreciate everyone else. But I wish it could be the case.

I am Tevin Campbell in that “Can We Talk” video, chilling under that bridge because he knows the girl is going to give him the time of day if he just looks cool. I take selfies because I’m trying to affect that cool look. And not even for others, but for me. At least sometimes just for me. I don’t share the vast majority of those selfies. I am that Spice Girls song, “Say You’ll Be There.” There is no need to say you love me. It would be better left unsaid. I’m giving you everything, all that joy can bring. This I swear. And all that I want from you is a promise you will be there. I fear being alone. Does that make me codependent?

hqdefaultSometimes I am that Gin Blossoms song, “Follow You Down,” even though most times I’m a leader. But when the ball gets rolling I can tend to get caught up in the momentum without thinking ahead. I know we’re headed somewhere, I can see how far we’ve come. But still I can’t remember anything. Let’s not do the wrong thing and I’ll swear it might be fun. I have to always remember that, to keep it in the back of my brain so I don’t go off the rails. It might be fun.

But I try not to worry about the friends thing, even though I’m like a dog chasing his tail when it comes to that. I try to stay slightly aloof about it all, not to dive headfirst like I’ve done before just to drown. But if I can’t swim after 40 days, and my mind is crushed by the crashing waves, lift me up so high that I cannot fall. Lift me up. Lift me up when I’m falling. So I try to keep my head above water, even when it seems that the world all around me is a flood.

hqdefault (1)I am a 90’s song because I can’t help being one, because I’m a tortured soul living a life that gives me everything I want. I’m like that R.E.M. song, “Everybody Hurts.” Well, hang on. Don’t let yourself go. ‘Cause everybody cries. Everybody hurts sometimes. It’s okay to feel things. It’s alright to be disappointed with how things are. But it’s not okay to dwell on it to the exclusion of appreciating what’s wonderful in my life. I look around me, and I am so grateful despite the letdowns. Maybe even partially because of them. Because how else would I grow?

Sam

That Zack Morris Swagger

1989It was the late ’80s. Every guy was trying to affect the Don Johnson look, every girl had hair bigger than life, and I was dealing with some serious acne and an identity crisis of my own. As a boy coming of age at the end of that glorious decade it was easy to find role models. They were everywhere: from the graffitied billboards, to the movie stars, to pretty much everyone I came in contact with.

But the ones who were always there for me were those on the small screen, where I could find them once a week when I needed them. Stars from shows like Who’s the Boss, Family Ties, and The Cosby Show showed me exactly what I needed to do, how I should behave, and what advice to follow so I could be a well-rounded human being. And they all did it in just a half hour every week.

The best part was that they weren’t real, but they were at the same time. I could imagine how it would be if I was friends with them, yet I never had to deal with their rejection. I could look up to them, but also judge them from afar, because they were royalty in a kingdom I would never visit.

savedcastMy favorite show back then was Saved By the Bell. It was so overwrought with stock characters and predictable storylines, but it was fun.. Saved By the Bell had it all:

  • The Jock
  • The Cheerleader
  • The Nerd
  • The Fashionista (who doubled as the token black character)
  • The Student Body President
  • Zack Morris

I really wanted to be Zack Morris (and not just because of his bitchin’ cell phone either). He could stop time at any point and offer commentary on his fellow characters. He had amazing blonde hair. He was the cool kid without being too cool, because he made a ton of mistakes and was forced to grow as a character in order to fix them. And the best thing about Zack Morris was the glint in his eye when he had just come up with one of his dastardly plans.

Zack was the king of the swagger, and to a pubescent boy in the late ’80s it was easy to try and imitate that. There was nothing Zack couldn’t do, no lengths to which Zack wouldn’t go, in order to get what he wanted. And yet he was still likeable. Yet he still had a group of friends who were loyal to him even after he had humiliated each and everyone of them at some point. He was redeemable because he was real, because his swagger didn’t make him a villain.

It made him one of us.

Sam

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