The blood in my dad’s beard

img_2154The blood in my dad’s beard hardly looked real, more red-orange than ruddy, almost clown-like, but terrifying when he stretched his neck tendons and tightened his jaw, his eyes rolling like an animal in distress to show a lot of white, a panicked horse or rabid dog. He was chained to the bed and thumping the wall with his fist for a dramatic boom, and us kids were scared shitless, all boys barely 10, giggling like girls.

The photo album sat in my mom’s eating area in Germany so it was easy to go through but we rarely did; it had an energy (more a weight) because there was so much there to consider: when she captioned the pictures you couldn’t help going back, forced to face all that never got fixed, all that the past presents.

There was my mom and dad dressed up for Halloween with their friends in the kitchen, and now I could tell they’d been drinking by the goofy look in their eyes.

A photo of me at college graduation after my parents split up and dad was with my stepmom Ivanna, no accident she and my mom are on opposite sides of the photo, balancing the boat.

What the American Indians thought about cameras and pictures I don’t really understand but can appreciate. The photos stop you they’re so real, it’s jarring seeing slices of yourself beneath glass like that, a microscope into the soul.

On my walk to the lake it’s just rained all night, and everything’s hanging low and dripping. It was that first morning the spiders all had their webs up, and with the dew it made them sparkle: with the fog and mist over the lake you couldn’t tell the difference between the sky and water, no line separated the two, and I found a dry spot beneath a tree, a place to set my coffee and take it all in.

Dawn says she thinks that’s why her grandmother lived so long, she wasn’t nostalgic, she didn’t dwell on the past, but lived in the present. Whereas her grand-dad lived with a regret that seemed to kill him from the insides — how much time he missed with his kids going off to work, his business — and why Dawn’s mom thinks it’s mostly men who have that sadness because they missed so much of their kids growing up, they just weren’t there.

The time my grandparents visited me in Seattle, the last flight my grand-dad took, and we went to my favorite bar and he bought dinner, and the next night asked if we could go back it was so good — but it’s never the same the second time.

When the fog thins over the water a line appears along the lake and in its reflection an upside-down version of the trees and the docks, the lakefront homes reversed, a perfect copy like a mirror or photo, but you can’t trust it below the surface, it’s just a rendering.

I know it won’t come out right, but I take a picture of the first spiderweb I see going to the lake: the pretty lines in their work, some broken with gaps, each one unique but hard to tell apart, like our writing at times: writers like spiders hanging from the rafters trying to look natural, waiting for someone we can trap.

My mom gets super-nostalgic with the photos, talks in a dreamy voice, tells my birth story over the phone or email every year, but it never bothers me because of her obvious love and the fact no one else can tell it like that.

And that’s why we should tell our stories I think, they make us feel real through the retelling. Though you can imagine the eyes in them move, the photos don’t talk — and maybe that’s what bothered the Indians about them, they give the impression they’re alive when they’re not, they took away something you can’t get back, the present.

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Father and daughter

img_4580One day you will notice what the days do,
how they curl and build
and fall apart
like the waves,
most times indistinct,
sometimes disappearing

like socks in a drawer
you can’t find,
they fold over on themselves
and get separated
for no good reason.

My dear, when you discover it all
don’t be sad: step back
and take it in while you can,
although they may feel the same,
try to notice each one.


(For Lily, inspired by the Cat Stevens song Father and Son.)

Photo by Loren Chasse (Oil City, WA).

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Early autumn mixer

img_5432In the morning the moon was a hook and we sat under it going down. Lily and I went birthday shopping for Charlotte intent on a guitar and a bake set but came out with a $120 giraffe. No one knew how much the giraffe cost, it’d been there so long they had to look it up, and we shied away at first but came back and said alright we’ll take it, had to wrap it with our jackets to hide it from Charlotte it was so big — but needed to hurry back to pay the gardener and let the dog out — Lily said the giraffe had been there since she was a little girl, since she could remember, and when they tied a bow around its neck and lifted it over the counter I think they were sad to see it go.

Ginger and I went back to Cougar Mountain for a final summer hike, zig-zagging the hillsides until we got above the sound of the construction trucks and the morning commute, the first ones up the trail so we broke all the webs — and I blipped between the past and the present, the future, sometimes going so deep I removed myself entirely and all that was left was a shadow.

We cut back to the boardwalk planks over a shallow trench of mud and though it was morning, the forest was dark and still. The sound of the woodpecker’s wings was like a wiffle ball that slowed down as it passed so you could hear the air curl through the holes and the bird followed us up the valley like that watching, hiding between branches, flickering in and out.

The section of trail was called the C7 but there were many more colorful names (Shy Bear Pass, Far Country Falls, Clay Pit Road, the Fantastic Erratic) and it reminded me of a trail near my mom’s in Germany I used to walk named after a crocodile with a handmade sign saying Krokoweg and a hollowed out log on the ground with rainwater for horses and dogs to drink out of, they carved it to look like a crocodile smiling and over time it’d gotten so smooth and weathered it looked almost real.

There was the morning I came to the bottom of that trail to the mouth of a valley, late winter but with spring coming on — and though it was misty the ground was green and brown in patches, you could tell the farmers had been out doing something, they were always coming and going and startled when they saw me.

It was the morning I realized I’d had a strange dream about someone I worked with whose face changed to a robot from the cover of a Queen album, and I sat there on a bench trying to break it all down, to understand what happened and why: it was an album I’d found at my grandparent’s house in the late ’70s, must have belonged to my uncle: just a blank-faced robot holding its hand out with blood running down the wrist, the band members crushed in its palm — and this person from my dream, their face changed and eyes hissed like a TV station gone static at the end, that’s what I associated with it, the emptiness in its expression, how it scared the shit out of me as a kid, and why that fear got stored inside of me and paired with a memory from work I can’t say.

I met Dawn at the Microsoft campus to help her set up for a happy hour mixer and stood outside waiting to be let in, watching people come and go, imagining myself working there and how I’d fit in, some of them looking glazed and distracted with earbuds talking to themselves or someone else; I thought they could be life-sized avatars, their bodies just a shell with their real self off somewhere else, doing other things. Dawn laughed and said they’re engineers and developers who work at that building, they all look that way.

I swapped out inserts for plexi signs Dawn had to get reprinted, fixing some mix-up in the wording someone was sensitive about (one said “Group,” the other “Team”), and when I got done and went back to the parking lot I’d forgotten where I parked, there were cars in every direction but it made me happy for my old piece of shit Volvo, probably the only one like that in the lot.

They had that look of being there but not there, the people with their earbuds, I thought. I realized I was almost out of time on the trail and had to get back home so I started running, lumbering at first but improving once I saw my shadow which looked pretty good, my form, and after a while I went so fast I lost track of my legs, I’d forgotten how good it felt to run like that, every time I thought I was empty there was still something left, like a hook through my lip or a hold keeping me from slipping, it drew me on.

In the morning before the party Ginger smells the giraffe’s crotch when I bring it in and I go to the store for more frosting and powdered sugar, it’s so early in the parking lot it’s just me and the crows, they’ve bulk-stacked pumpkins outside and taken the flowers in — and back home I sweep the lawn for dog poop before the party and hang the bistro lights, find the fourth horseshoe hidden in the grass and sink it on the first try, points facing in.

 

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90s nostalgia: Brent Stavig | ‘Neverminding Seattle’

In case you missed it, yesterday I announced a last-minute post on the 90s nostalgia theme I want to feature, two other blogs with a call for content, and more. Today’s guest post is from my friend Brent Stavig, on the early days pre-grunge in Seattle.


Neverminding Seattle,
by Brent Stavig

In order to describe the impact that Nevermind had in my world I’ll need to delve into a brief history of the Pacific Northwest rock scene that led up to Nirvana. I turned eighteen in 1980, and the two most popular bands in Seattle were “New Wave” bands: The Cowboys, and The Heats.  Both mimicked the fashion of The Cars, Split Enz, Blondie, etc., and had that tough, post-punk attitude that defined the New Wave genre. While neither ended up having much success, they were treated like rock stars in a town where nothing else was happening. I recall going to see Pat Benatar at the Paramount Theater in 1980, and the front row of the mezzanine was cordoned off for The Heats. When they strolled into the venue everyone stood up to stare at them, like they were Seattle’s own Beatles.

I’d been playing guitar in my own New Wave band at Western Washington University, The Blitz, and we played punk and new wave cover songs at high schools around the state, usually for homecoming dances and Sweetheart Balls. I’m proud to say that my band probably introduced many unknowing youngsters to bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Clash, and Squeeze, and perhaps inspired some of them to form their own bands.

After one year of college I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in a rock band, and since Seattle didn’t hold much promise I set my sights on New York City. At the age of nineteen I packed a suitcase, grabbed my guitar, and took a Greyhound bus to Manhattan. Unfortunately there wasn’t much going on there either. The heyday of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City were over, and the scene had become a droll collection of black-t-shirt-clad mood shifters, doing their best ‘Velvet Underground meets Talking Heads’ impersonation. I joined bands and played these now-legendary venues too, but the overall mood was dark and unpromising.

While this was going on in NYC, back home in a town called Olympia (south of Seattle) my childhood friend Bret Lunsford had formed a band called Beat Happening with two college friends. They started to make cassettes, and distributing them via their own label, K Records. By 1983 my cousin Sid had moved from Seattle to join me in my quest for rock and roll success, and we’d listen to the Beat Happening songs with a sense of wonder. They were so primitive and childish. Rudimentary musical skills and base lyrics. It was easy to dismiss them as a lark, but pretty soon they started to receive coverage in the national media, as well as the attention of a young Kurt Cobain (who would later slap a K Records sticker on his guitar). Beat Happening – Bret, Heather, and Calvin – visited us when they were playing in NYC, and it was hard to relate to their vibe, which I’d describe as latent-Hippie mixed with societal disdain.

Around this same time another childhood friend – Daniel House – also came to visit. He was living in Seattle and had recently formed Skin Yard with Jack Endino, who would later produce and record the earliest Nirvana tracks. Daniel told us stories of how the Seattle music scene was about to explode, and how A & R reps from major labels were always checking out the local bands. I found this preposterous. The Seattle I’d left behind for the greener pastures of NYC was void of any real promise, or so I’d thought.

In 1985 or ’86 (I’ve lost track) my band Lyrical Whips was playing CBGB’s the same night as Green River; a Seattle supergroup (in hindsight) that included Mark Arm and Steve Turner who would shortly form Mudhoney, and Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard who would shortly form Pearl Jam. We swapped stories about Seattle, and the challenges of playing in NYC clubs, and once again we heard amazing stories about the Seattle scene, re: the enormous number of good bands, the camaraderie, the promise of getting signed to a genuine record label, and how we should leave NYC and move back home. We decided to stay in Manhattan rather than retreat back to Seattle having not achieved our dreams.

However, even though a buzz was happening in Seattle, no one had really broken out nationally yet. The Minneapolis scene of the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, and Soul Asylum was dominating the regional-scene attention. When I told New Yorkers that I was from Seattle they usually had a hard time visualizing where it was. “Is that sort of south of Alaska?” they’d ask.

Soundgarden was the first Seattle band to get some national attention. Their second album Louder Than Love was getting some radio airplay, and almost made it into the Billboard Top 100. By now I was starting to wonder if maybe there was something happening in Seattle.

By 1990 my cousin Sid had given up on making it in NYC, and had moved back to Seattle. One day I received a cassette in the mail he’d made, a collection of bands he thought I hadn’t heard yet. The first track was Nirvana’s “Sliver”, only released as a single in 1990. I was intrigued the moment I heard Kurt’s voice for the first time, and also by the nostalgic lyrics about mashed potatoes. I spoke to Sid about this strange band called Nirvana, and as a manager at the Seattle Tower Records he was enthusiastic about them, and told me that they were going to be huge.

I neglected to pick up their first album Bleach, but made a point of grabbing a copy of Nevermind the day it was released, and of course I was blown away. In the history of rock albums there aren’t too many opening tracks as powerful as “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I stood in front of my speakers, volume cranked as high as I could get away with in my apartment, and marveled at the production, the guitar tone, the ferocious drumming, and Kurt’s amazingly shredded vocals. I played the album all the way through, and then played it two more times. It had been a long time since I felt like I was hearing something groundbreaking, but it seemed like rock and roll was about to head in a different direction, and Nirvana was blazing the trail.

The national media, as well as music fans around the world, latched onto Nevermind like they’d been waiting for it their whole lives. Virtually every magazine had Nirvana on the cover, MTV was drenched in Nirvana coverage, and everywhere were essays and commentaries trying to explain their rapid ascent. Some compared them to the Beatles, others dismissed them as talentless noise jockeys, but “grunge” was suddenly a household word.

I found myself proud, at last, to say I was from Seattle. Now when New Yorkers heard that I was from Seattle, they’d ask about Nirvana. Did I know them? Do I really think they’re any good? But the best part was that I no longer had to go into detail about exactly where Seattle was located.

Nevermind remains a touchstone for me. It opened the door for countless other bands, spawned many imitators, and inspired me to take more chances with my own music. It also kicked open the door of the 1990s, and paved the way for a wave of incredible rock bands who (I felt) stepped up their game a couple of notches after hearing Nirvana, and who released some of the best music of their careers. These include, Screaming Trees, Dinosaur Jr., Buffalo Tom, Urge Overkill, Soul Asylum, Grant Lee Buffalo, and Smashing Pumpkins.

Of course the story of Nirvana is bittersweet, and to this day I still feel sadness when I think of Kurt’s death. Like Highway 61 Revisited, Revolver, Moondance, and Never Mind the Bollocks, Nevermind is firmly nestled in the pantheon of rock’s greatest records, and I feel lucky to have been paying attention when it landed.


Brent Stavig is a contributor to Seattle Music Insider.

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The end of nostalgia (no, not really)

IMG_3811First I need to come clean and say I’ve got one more 90s piece I’m sharing tomorrow even though I said I wouldn’t. It’s told by a musician trying to make it in Seattle pre-grunge who left for New York just as the scene broke here. Look for it tomorrow.

Thank you for the enthusiasm this week in a pretty self-indulgent project (but isn’t that the nature of nostalgia?) — it’s made me rethink what I like most about this blog, and that’s grooving off the joy of reading and writing, encouraging others to share their stories and indulge in our past, where we connect.

If you started writing something but were unable to finish it, send it to me when it’s done and I’ll feature more over the coming weeks.

You can also visit these other cool blogs: Michelle and Walt are accepting submissions on themes ranging from joy to horror, something we can all relate to.


In 1996 I was working at a Starbucks drive-thru on Mercer Island. Our lease was up at the Sponge Factory loft in Philadelphia and my girlfriend suggested we move to Seattle. My best friend Mike lived here and was trying to get me to move for years. My boss just called someone saying he had a guy who wanted to relocate and they said OK, and that was that.

Starbucks was celebrating the 25th anniversary of its inception in 1971 (which is a stretch, but you can get away with that in marketing) and the theme in the stores was around the psychedelia and music of the time. They had a CD compilation with John Lennon, Love and Traffic they were selling, and we all got tie-dyes we could pick from in three different color schemes.

One night I got a call at the store from someone at corporate saying they needed a shuttle driver, someone to drive people from a parking lot to the office in a mini-bus, and was I interested? I declined but asked what else they had, and that triggered me moving out of retail into corporate, and all that led to where I am today.

The guy who took that job I’m now realizing is the writer whose post I’m featuring tomorrow, Brent Stavig.

We’d climb into the shuttle and he’d take us to Pioneer Square over the lunch hour, or to our cars, as the main parking garage had a wait-list and most people parked a half mile away.

Brent always had good music playing and turned me onto one of my favorite artists to this day, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters. We’d lend each other CDs and went out to a show once, the singer Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse — I saved a free button they gave out that night and still have it in the pocket of my jean jacket.

When I left Starbucks I hadn’t really thought through my plan. I knew we’d be relocating to Europe, but because I wasn’t sure I didn’t tell anyone, and it was strange for someone to leave without obvious plans to be doing something else. Over the course of a week I went around saying goodbye and Brent was one of those people I met with over a coffee to share my story and shake his hand, in hopes we’d meet up again one day.

So, here we are now:

Be sure to check out Brent’s post tomorrow morning, and thanks for reading this past week.

Bill

 

DSC_0078

Starbucks tie-dye from ’96, in Connemara, ’09

 

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90s nostalgia: Jon Eekhoff | ‘From the muddy banks of the Wishkah’

Here we are now, on the day Nirvana released their breakthrough album Nevermind 25 years ago. I’m pleased to end the 90s nostalgia series with a piece by Jon Eekhoff today, and his memories of what it was like to live out here in the Pacific Northwest, where the band originates from. Thanks to all who followed along this past week and participated, it’s been a lot of fun!

Jon Eekhoff has several unpublished novels on his computer waiting to be held hostage by Russian hackers. His fiction tends to be about strange people who don’t understand how the world works. His non-fiction/blog writing focuses on how he doesn’t understand how the world works.  He enjoys cold beer, hot coffee, and warm socks right out of the dryer. 


From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah,
by Jon Eekhoff

Most people haven’t been to Aberdeen, Washington, and that is a good thing. There aren’t more depressing towns in North America, the overcast skies, the deteriorating downtown, the muddy tidal rivers, and the rain…the rain is the type of rain most people think of when they think of Seattle, but Aberdeen has the real stuff: cold, blowing in sideways, and heavy. There aren’t many reasons to go to Aberdeen unless you are one of those people in search of Kurt Cobain’s hometown, or looking for a meth fix.

In 1990, I was living and finishing up my seventh year of college in Spokane. I worked evenings at Cavanaugh’s Inn at the Park as I tried to cobble together my multiple years of education into something someone else would recognize as valuable. I had a couple degrees but my friends all agreed, we didn’t know anyone from our college who had a real job and that was what I needed, a real job. I had been married for a little more than a year and my wife had started looking for teaching jobs around the state of Washington. The late nights of neon Chinese restaurants and Spokane summers were coming to an end and it wouldn’t be long before my friends and I were separated by the pull of adulthood and responsibilities.

Todd and Scott were the guys I spent most of my time with. Todd worked for an environmental agency in a small office in a dirty part of Spokane and Scott was the Guest Services Manager at Cavanaugh’s. We shared a love of basketball and music. Our empty hours were spent in the rougher areas of Spokane playing pick up games on courts where scores were kept by someone on the sidelines to reduce the fights and in record stores looking for something new.

Todd was the one who found Nirvana first. It was only right. He always had a nose for the new cool thing. He rode his bike to work before it was cool, he smoked cigars before they were cool, and he had an ear for music that introduced me to Teenage Fanclub and The Stone Roses…he was one of those guys. (The last I heard from him he was spending summers in a van down by the Columbia River to windsurf and winters skiing at Whistler before anyone knew Whistler existed.) So when Todd popped the new Nirvana album into Scott’s tape deck and the noise started to fill the car, I held an open mind for as long as I could. I didn’t like it. The lyrics were convoluted and ridiculous. The self-absorbed lead singer was far too dark for me, but I hadn’t been to Kurt Cobain’s hometown at that point in my life.

A few months later, when Nirvana could be heard in places other than Scott’s car, I was in one of the branches of the Spokane Public Library looking through the Yellow Pages for Grays Harbor County which included Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Elma, and Montesano (the four horsemen of depression) because my wife had been offered a job at a small school, Wishkah Valley, near Aberdeen and we were considering moving across the state to start our lives. I looked for restaurants, movie theaters, and other things that could make our stay in a tiny town worth the move. There were no WebPages, no Yelp to help me know anything about this place other than what those yellow pages offered.

A job I was qualified to fill opened in a beach town nearby and before August was over we had moved into a small moss covered house in Westport, Washington. My wife commuted to her tiny school 45 minutes each way. It was a long drive for her, but we decided living at the beach was better than in Aberdeen because we only had one car and, well, I wanted to live near the ocean because I was still a Californian deep in my heart and living near the ocean was a dream I could only fulfill in a place like Westport.

The sun never came out. Never. On days that Seattle had sun it rained in Grays Harbor. On days it rained in Seattle it poured buckets in Westport and Aberdeen. By the time we reached October I understood Kurt Cobain’s depression.

Grunge filled the airwaves and Seattle suddenly became the coolest city on the planet. It was a shocking shift from Day-Glo Miami Vice colors to plaid flannel. I wish I could say I took advantage of it, but I didn’t. I knew people who traveled the two hours to Seattle to see Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains at the Showbox, at the Paramount, or if they were really lucky at the Crocodile, but I never went.

I didn’t really get how big grunge was while I was standing right next to it. I was the age when you figure that life is like that, everything revolves around you and your presence bends the world. There was the MTV Real World in Seattle, the MTV New Year’s Party where Nirvana played a disturbingly sloppy set, and then there was Nirvana Unplugged. Unplugged was where I finally recognized the brilliance of Cobain but by that time he was spiraling into the thick black abyss. He looked fragile in that pale green Mr. Rogers cardigan as he strummed through the acoustic set in a performance that even I couldn’t deny was otherworldly.

I remember traveling to California over a Spring Break and walking through a mall, there were Nirvana shirts everywhere. Girls wore flannels, combat boots, and ripped jeans in 90-degree heat. It was California grunge. It looked like grunge from a distance, but it wasn’t the real thing, it was the cleaned up corporate version stamped out in t-shirt factories around the world and shipped back to places like Wichita so kids could be cool. They didn’t realize the darkness of Aberdeen, they didn’t get that Cobain’s angst wasn’t like Kiss’s devil worship kitsch. Jocks liked Nirvana, popular kids liked Nirvana, and the outcasts who liked Nirvana were mocked for wearing a Nirvana shirt when they should have known better. Cobain’s lyrics resonated with kids who were grounded from their BMWs over the weekend, kids who hadn’t seen the Wishkah River when the tide was out and the mud looked like thick black tar.

It happened in a hurry and then it was over.

It wasn’t until years after Cobain’s death that I bought my first Nirvana album. By then the internet and iTunes made the purchase much easier than committing to flipping through the record stacks, picking an album that everyone already owned, standing in line with that album, and spending money on a Nirvana album as opposed to something I couldn’t hear on the radio.

For me, it’s still hard to separate Nirvana from Aberdeen. I hate Aberdeen. There isn’t much to see other than closed businesses, empty sawmill lots, and a busy Wal-Mart filled with desperation. People who survive there are heartier than I am.

Cobain hated Aberdeen too. The town motto is “Come as you are” and I do wonder if Cobain ever missed his hometown: The gray skies, the rain, the grit and dirt that soaked into him and made the world bend to his music.

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90s nostalgia: Walt Walker | Late night thoughts on a decade

We are winding down a great week of 90s nostalgia, prompted by the 25th anniversary release of Nirvana’s Nevermind. I was hoping my friend Walt would come out of his box for the challenge, and he’s taken a pause from monocle-polishing to provide us his classic Walt insights, enjoy.


Late Night Thoughts on a Decade,
by Walt Walker

In the 90s I dated a girl who wouldn’t let me lie on the floor in front of the tv to watch Cowboys games without climbing on top of me. If my life had been a Hollywood movie — or I guess a Netflix original, these days — that might have been very cool. But I really wanted to watch those games. The Cowboys were good back then.

I tried really hard to stay offline until the year 2000. I mean, like, I had never been online, and I was trying to make it that far, as a point of pride. To not even experience the internet, I thought that would be a cool thing. I made it to 1999. When I got a free computer rebuilt by my (3rd) step dad, I couldn’t hold out any longer. Some people say I cheated because I had used email before that, but I don’t think so. I don’t think using email counted as being online. I hadn’t visited a website, hadn’t “surfed the net.”

I dove into internet dating pretty quick after I got online, though. I had to, because I was hurt bad by that girl who didn’t like me watching Cowboys games. She’d dumped me and moved to New York City.

People thought online dating was sleazy back then. I got a lot of flack for it. Now there is Tinder. Swipe left, swipe right. Seriously? To the people who got on my ass about online dating in the 90s, I offer as evidence of my innocence the stack of emails I printed out on my dot matrix and still have in a shoebox somewhere. It’s 19th century courtship, by comparison. I might as well have travelled by Hansom cab to meet at that TGI Fridays that always seemed to work as a halfway point.

Friends. That was a show that seemed raunchy to me back in the 90s. Jesus. What sweet innocence, by comparison.

Seinfeld. It’s funny how the first years looked so 80s. Go back and watch them. Very 80s looking. But that’s how all the decades go, in the beginning. The first years of the 80s looked very 70s. The later 90s looked very 90s, which is funny to say now, because it’s only recently that I realized the 90s had a look. Until recently, I thought the 90s weren’t all that long ago. I’ve only just realized the math says otherwise, as does the look (I found some photos of me and Ms. New York, and I saw what I was wearing). In fact, just this year I rid my closet of the last remnants of the 90s. A cross country move will do that to you. (You should do it before you move, though, not after.)

Speaking of Seinfeld, what a turning point. A show about nothing, with a rule of no hugs and no learning. Revolutionary at the time, and just what people wanted, or rather didn’t want, depending on your perspective. All in the Family had been funny and heartfelt, at times provocative. MASH had been funny and heartfelt, at times profound. Cheers had been funny and heartfelt, at times life affirming, or at least romance affirming. But Seinfeld was just funny, and heartless. Icy and mean. We didn’t notice because we were sick of heartfelt, and we loved the characters, they were so like us in their discrimination, their nitpicking, their heartlessness. Then came the series finale, which fell flat for everyone. Because in the end we wanted something more, despite what we thought were our calloused hearts. We didn’t get what we needed from the end of Seinfeld. We got the same old no hugs, no learning taken to the nth degree; our beloved main characters looking back — in jail, no less — and seeing a trail of scorched earth. And mocking it. Distancing. It hurt. Like when my girlfriend moved to New York because I wanted to watch a Cowboys game. What would Jerry do? Label ’em, shrug ’em off. No hugs, no learning.

I got over it. I drove back from Dallas one weekend morning listening to Lou Bega’s Mambo #5 with the windows down, wind in my 90s hair, wearing my tee shirt under my sleeveless sweater vest, really able to relate to “a little bit of Monica in my life / a little bit of Erica by my side / a little bit of Rita, all I need.” All thanks to AOL’s neolithic version of match.com, which didn’t exist at the time, and probably doesn’t anymore, because of Tinder.

The 90s. I’m not in the mood to write this, and I think it’s coming out that way. I’ve written about the 90s quite a bit, actually, especially Cobain, who was a big deal to me. He didn’t make it out of the 90s, and in a way, I’m not sure I did either. Did any of us who came of age in that decade? Don’t we all want a little bit of that innocence back? If you can even call it innocence, because it wasn’t, and we weren’t. But it seems like we were, in retrospect. But we are here now. Entertain us. We are stupid. And contagious.

In the 90s, Bill Clinton put on sunglasses and played saxophone on Arsenio Hall. Within a decade, late night talk shows were the place for candidates to relate to America, and today America chooses candidates from late night talk shows, from reality tv. Here we are now. Entertain us. It’s contagious.

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