Thursday, November 10, 2011

The 1988 Time Capsule

The companion post to the 1987 time capsule I put up back in June (I like to have a lot of different unfinished series going on at a time), based on the important catch phrases of the year according to my high school's yearbook staff. A cursory glance indicates that this list is even lamer than that of '87, and that I am not going to have much to say about most of the subjects on it. However I feel compelled to go through with the exercise.

White Snake Isn't it Whitesnake, just one word? Long-haired, pop metal group whose videos were ubiquitous on MTV that year. The singer had formerly been in another band which I had never heard of but seemed to have great respect in the hard rock community. They did nothing for me at all.

Fawn and Rob I presume this is Fawn of Iran-Contra fame. I don't know who Rob would be (A search for "Fawn and Rob 1988/7" turns up very little. Perhaps refers to Robert MacFarlane, National Security Advisor?). Overlapping episode from '87. I really had no interest in this or sense of what the big deal was at the time.

Winter Olympics Calgary. The Olympics of the inept ski jumper Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards and Commie glamourpuss Katarina Witt. The eastern bloc countries, especially the USSR and East Germany, were dominant. The U.S. did so humiliatingly bad (and looking at the medal standings it was even worth than I thought--a grand total of 6 medals, 2 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze) that shortly thereafter the I.O.C. began declaring recreations such as snowboarding and double-cross X to be Olympic sports in a shameless ploy to pump up the U.S. medal total and protect their television fees. I remember it as kind of a fun Olympics, obviously the last winter games featuring the communist sports machines, though the severe beatdown at the hands of our mortal enemies at the time, who then appeared as driven to make a mockery of our entire way of life via athletic dominance as the Chinese do now by standardized tests, was wince-inducing, at the very least. To reiterate, the tally in total medals was, USSR & East Germany, 54, the US of A, 6. Restricting it simply to gold, the Commies had the advantage 20-2. Woe!

Platoon Also on the '87 list (Did they even check it?). Oscar-winning Vietnam film that seems to me to have been downgraded in stature in the years since.

Iran Contra hearings Zzzzz.

Godspell Must have been the school play that year. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was. I didn't really pay attention to the student productions, either in high school or college. I'm sure I didn't miss that much artistically, but it wouldn't have killed me either. Plus it seems like would have been an easier way to meet girls than attempting unsuccessfully to play sports.

Andy Warhol I think he died that year. I don't remember its being much of an event at school. The listmakers of '88 were much more enthralled with national and world events at the expense of local trends than their predecessors in '87. As to my general impression of Andy Warhol, I find his art to be amusing. He obviously had a good instinct for what would sell, catch the eye, what have you, and there is a lot of cleverness in it--a lot of the things he does seem simple or obvious, only no one else would have thought of them, or thought to execute them, in just the way that he gets right, as far as it goes. Whether any of it means anything substantial in world-historical terms I have no idea.

illegal aliens There was a controversial amnesty around that time, which primarily effected California, I believe. The issue wasn't a pressing day-to-day concern in Portland in the late 80s. In the last decade there has been a decent inflow of immigrants into the city, particularly from Somalia (I am always tempted to make a joke about the wisdom of settling Somali refugees right on the ocean like this, but that's the kind of thing that the people I need to try to be friends with don't think is funny). Given that they are designated as refugees, I presume that they are legal. Our school appears to have about a 10% nonwhite population now, which still seems pretty low, though the school district at a whole is around 21% (which suggests that most of the immigrants attend the other, more 'inner city' high school in town). Of course these figures are up from essentially zero in the 80s/early 90s, so it is not an insubstantial change. I don't really have a point in all this--obviously, the standard line coming from everybody respectable is that the schools and everything else in town is better as a result of this modest diversity than they were before--I find demographic studies of all kinds to be interesting, especially of course when they involve places with which I am familiar. I read the book Outcasts United, which is about a soccer team of refugee kids from a lot of different countries in a suburb just outside Atlanta, not long ago. It's a journalistic read, though it was engaging enough that there was no doubt that I was rooting for the refugees when they played the team of evil blond kids with $300 shoes and aggressively Blackberrying parents (even though my children are mostly blond, they couldn't make it onto that team either). It does provoke a lot of interesting questions about the future of America, given that very poor immigrant children whose parents have quite low levels of education such as these make up a substantial portion of this next generation. If the children of ordinary married college-educated parents--and less than 20% of American children under 18 currently live in such a household--have, as we are often told, little hope of leading productive and fulfilling public lives unless they step it up in a big way, how are we supposed to be optimistic about the prospects of kids like this? Something has to give here. Sorry to go off on that digression. A lot of thoughts on these kinds of things strike me and I have a hard time putting them all together.

divine Possibly a slang word? I don't remember it. Perhaps it refers to the grotesque movie actress from the films of John Waters, who I see died in 1988. I still have never seen any of the immortal pictures featuring this icon. This list isn't resonating with me. I didn't hang out with the yearbook kids, obviously.

John Huston He also would have died during that school year, though again I didn't notice that his work cast much of an influence over the personality of our school. I have written about him elsewhere. I think he even has his own category on the sidebar.

Aids Aids was big news in 1988 even in Maine, which I think had around 2 confirmed cases at that time. Nonetheless, since getting it seemed to involve doing naughty stuff with exceptionally naughty people around 99.8% of the time, no one I knew figured there was much of a realistic threat of their contracting it. Even the depraved people in Maine are modest about the extent of their depravity compared to what they surmise goes on out in the great world.

Presidential elections They would still have been sorting out the primaries when the book went to press. I did vote in '88 in the general election, though I certainly would have had no idea on what basis I was voting, other than that I vaguely sensed even at that age that Republicans seemed to be hostile to people like me--my idea of a desirable life at that time was the avoidance of business and the adoration of money to the greatest extent possible--so I figured I would not be doing myself any favors by voting for them, which assessment was probably correct, as far as it went.

Dirty Dancing The great hit of the season of course, whose legend has only grown stronger in the years since. Never a favorite of mine, naturally. My sensitive feelings were hurt right in the beginning when Swayze sneaks the girl out of the lame, parent-sanctioned party and they go to the real party, with rock and roll, black people, drugs, and, you know, dirty dancing. Which crowd do you think I identified with?

SuperQuest I have no idea what this was. (It looks like it's some kind of computer competition. The first one was in 1988. I could not have been more out to lunch as far as computers were concerned during the entirety of my youth. I had no interest in them whatsoever).

Wok In...crawl out The real expression was "Wok in...Fuck out!" This place was open until 2 or 3 in the morning, which made it besides Denny's the only place in town open after 10 o'clock or so. This meant that from around 11pm to midnight on weekend nights it was swarmed with obnoxious teenagers such as myself, many of whom were inebriated to some degree. The night manager's English was limited, so when he had to dispatch of an especially unruly patron, not being able to summon up the entire expression "Get the fuck out!", shortened it to "You! Fuck out!" Looking back from the vantage of Police State America 2011, it's remarkable how much was tolerated at this restaurant. To begin with, the dining room would be utterly trashed, not necessarily on purpose but as an effect, after this nightly rush, with chairs and condiments and trays and dishes moved all around the room and left as they were when people were finished with them. Especially during the winter the floor was about as filthy as you can imagine with everyone tracking in snow and sand and mud and then moving constantly around the room the whole time they were there. Sometimes fights would break out, usually in the parking lot. The police certainly made a point of stopping in on their rounds most days and if there was a substantial crowd lingering outside they would order everybody to leave. I don't recall anybody ever getting arrested for doing anything that was not blatantly provocative however.

The Wok-Inn is still in business, and apparently as successful as ever. I stopped in a couple of years ago when I was in town. I used to go over to Portland a couple of times a year when I first moved back up this way, but lately I've only been making it every 2 or 3 years. I also always used to make a point of stopping in whenever I was passing through on the way to somewhere else, which I still do a few times a year, but lately I've stopped doing that too. It still has some meaning to me but it has ceased to be in any way a place I could claim to belong to for a long time now. I used to entertain sometimes the idea of moving back there too but my wife, not having the same connection to the city that I do, never developed much enthusiasm for it and in time I suppose I have come around to looking at it more through her eyes and less through those of my 16 or 17 year old self. So it is more like a lost love that has long moved on and left me behind now rather than an organism with which I maintain any sort of active engagement.

California Raisins You've got to be kidding.

"This is drugs, this is your brain on drugs" My personal favorite anti-drug ad was the Jon Bon Jovi spot which began "I've partied with the best of them. But drugs were never a part of my scene." Please.

Jim and Tammy Not interested in them.

Donna Rice Not much interested in her either, though she is admittedly still in the front rank in looks of political mistresses (post-Kennedy era) all these years later.

Vacations in Florida I didn't go to Florida at that time, but I have acquired the habit since and come to respect the power of the ritual for New Englanders.

Jesse Jackson Active in the primary campaign that year. Reputedly came to my wife's high school in New Hampshire, which may have been even more extremely lily-hued than mine was, that year, and had the progressive part of the student body anyway whipped into a frenzy to go out and demand retribution from the power structure for its many sins.

mini skirts I do remember mini skirts being a trend, especially denim ones. This may be because a girl that I imagine to possibly have liked me is wearing one front and center in her class picture in the yearbook. In other words, I imagine I could actually have been immersed to some extent in the very fine details of this fleeting fad, if I had been a little more alert and ready to spring into action during the brief two week period when this window of opportunity may have been open. Probably not though.

"I don't remember saying that."--R.R. More Iran-Contra stuff. Somebody on the staff was really into this. By '88 it was widely accepted I thought that Reagan was in cognitive free-fall and was in no way actively participating in the running of the country's affairs.

Colors L.A. gang and drug movie starring Sean Penn and featuring the dramatic Ice-T title song (from the same era as his sublime "Girls Let's Get Buck Naked and Fuck Tonight"). This was big at the time. I haven't seen it referred to in some time. I have two memories associated with this film. The first is during one of the drug busts in the film a woman was arrested, handcuffed and taken into the police station completely naked, which is absurd. The second is of a guy who used to sing the song all the time as a kind of nervous tic. He was one of the most socially hopeless people I have ever known in my life, who actually tried. Everything was just not working though. Brillo pad hair. An exceptionally weak chin area. Thick glasses, a doughy body, mouth always appeared agape. Not very smart. Just a disaster. He latched on to this other guy who was in contrast almost preternaturally winning; square jaw, fiercely chiseled body, irreverent, shoulder length hair and mustache, but in a handsome way. One weekend the handsome guy took care of business with a girl who, according to this sidekick, "could have been in Playboy", which was doubtless the highest compliment he could think of. When the stud came into school on Monday he had put the episode behind him, but his chinless friend had not yet recovered from the contemplation of his master's deeds, because when saw him in the hallway he literally began to foam and pulsate with the second hand excitement. "That's what I'm talking about! That's what I'm talking about! That's what I'm talking about!!! My boy got paid! My boy got paid!!!!" It was truly one of the most bizarre, as well as funniest displays of behavior I have ever seen in my life.

Broadcast News Another movie? Never saw it.

Stress I was not very stressed myself, at least not about attaining a dominant GPA and succeeding in the college sweepstakes, which I'm sure is the stress being referred to here. I suppose I should have been more stressed, but I was bizarrely in love with what I perceived to be my abilities at this time, and was sure that wherever I ended up going to college that my teachers would love me and my fellow students look up to me as a genius and everything in my life would magically take off. In general I have had a very stress free life, though a woefully uneventful one.

Oprah Winfrey Her show was just starting to take off. She never meant anything much in my life.

puffetts I don't have the slightest idea. Are they the puffy sleeves that adorned certain articles of girls' clothing? I liked that look all right.

Fatal Attraction End it with the movies already. I never saw this either.

Exchange students There were four at our school that year, a boy and a girl from Spain, a girl from Germany and a boy from Austria. They were all of well-above average hotness and social graces for us, which was unusual among exchange students. The Spanish girl fell in with the haughty artsy clique and didn't have much to do with people outside of that, but the Austrian propelled our soccer team from the middle of the pack to the #1 seed in the state tournament (though we were upset there), as well as took a number of American girls to bed, the Spanish guy smoked a lot of weed and enjoyed no insignificant amount of feminine companionship himself, and the German girl came to all the parties and school activities and glared upon everyone with a contemptuous scowl; she was highly attractive in doing so, however, which inclined most of the weaker people to forgive her.

No "Appetite for Destruction?" Yes, the exchange students were the end of the list. How out of touch were our DHS elite not to have noticed that Guns and Roses breakthrough record was the album of the year in 1987-88? I swear to God I did not go anywhere that whole year where this did not get put on at some point. Portland was seriously loving G n' R. Major omission. Throws the credibility of the whole list into disrepute.

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