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.

Categories: music, musings, writing

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35 replies

  1. Thanks for having me over, Bill. Been a fun week, and nice to see everyone’s take on the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bill wore sunglasses and played saxophone. Hillary went on Between Two Ferns. When Chelsea runs she’ll drive a hybrid car (because they’ll all be hybrid cars) through fire while wrestling snakes. I liked this piece a lot even though it made me sad to remember we once had it so good.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m still confused about what the ’90s look was. Or is. I still see grunge-style flannel shirts, but it feels like the culture’s gone t-shirts n’ jeans for the duration. No?

    Why don’t we wear fedoras to baseball games anymore? That’s what I want to know …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe it’s just that the 60s, 70s and 80s had what seemed to be more overt fashion styles. Not that that’s a good thing of course, maybe just more distinct. I don’t know what happened in the 90s there, maybe we zoned out and started focusing online instead. That grunge look is still alive and strong here in the PNW today though (my 11-year-old wore flannel her first day of school, black and white checkers, she picked out in the boys’ clothing section). Bill


    • Yes, fedoras to sporting events, I’m for it. Although I do like the ease of going out in cargo shorts and flip flops myself, I’d give it up for a stadium full of dapper gentlemen escorting their ladies. I would definitely go back into Stanley Kowalski mode when I got home though. (Comfort-wise, not behaviorally.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your comment about our relative innocence and how raunchy Friends was perceived was as SPOT ON as one could get. Your comment about Seinfield and how 80s it looked (we own the first four seasons and were watching season one about a month ago) is also so darn true. Man, this was a nicely written article and a great stroll down memory lane. I wasn’t as mentally with-it as everyone here, seeing as I didn’t graduate high school until ought-one, but I sure do have memories… hammer pants… Tony Toni Tone tapes… the works. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed, that Walt Walker fella: I am not so much dialed into the TV programming but I like how it reflects popular culture, and his analysis of it. And tying it around the election, quite good.
      For me, one film that struck a chord was Garden State, and how I felt that was like the Breakfast Club for a different generation. That was my take, at least — and neat how art/film/yes, even TV maps back to that pop cult ethos, or whatever you want to call it. And cool you could relate, and chime in — happy you did my friend, thanks! Hammer pants, yo! We take (like MC Hammer) the best from what preceded us and rework it, I like how that goes….Bill


      • I may have mentioned this before, but I find it harsh the hate there is out there for Garden State. Like resentful, bitter hate. It even makes it into the lyrics of a Spoon song! Poor little movie.


    • Thanks! I do think that tv and film have a huge influence on what we think and feel. What we see in those mediums may start from a vague feeling, a general sense of something that the creative-types are on to, like in the case of Seinfeld, that the hugs and learning has gotten old and tired. And for a while it’s refreshing to push against that. But then the push takes root and begins to legitimize a feeling and change the culture. Seinfeld, as funny as it was, as much as we loved it, legitimized the notion that it’s okay to just sit back and make fun of everything. We don’t have to grow, understand, learn, contribute. We just need to be amused, to find something to make fun of. It’s all stupid, because (here it comes again), here we are now, entertain us. I don’t think Cobain had any idea how spot on he was, or would be in retrospect, at the time.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Love that POV man, thanks for sharing it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There was something vaguely brilliant about “here we are now, entertain us.” Wishing I was as articulate as you are… seems every time I try to type… nope.


      • ‘Here we are now, entertain us’ makes more sense now than ever. That’s who we’ve become in 2016. To have seen that 15 years ago is truly prescience. I’m kind of assuming that’s a word. If prescient is word, then maybe prescience is one too. Sheepishly, Walt.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good word man, right up there with precognition. Peace to you and yours, don’t be a stranger.


      • You know I won’t be, duder. Just trying to find a landing zone. Coming off a week-long out of state corporate thingy and trying to get my feet back down on the ground. It’s good times. Trust falls and such. Selling lots of shit.


      • I’m glad it’s good times, that’s cool. Getting you all up in a froth to SELL SELL SELL. And trust falls, cool phrase. Enjoy that lift as long as you can. No one says duder the same man, I like that. Bill


  5. All we want to do is have some fun. I have a feeling we’re not the only ones.


  6. How fitting that I should read this five years late. Moving up into Laggard territory, at last, a scary move but already considering another advance. Maybe listening to some Cobain is going to happen sooner than I expected.

    An interesting reflection and points of view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that’s funny David I had a couple guest blogger series I did like that and it was really fun posting other people’s work. Walt is one of my best friends out here, have known each other a while now. Good people. Like you!


  7. Nevermind – a ‘fine’ album, which might have done me some good in a decade that started with the bourgeois accoutrements of cloth nappies and a carefully selected wine cellar, and ended with no bottle intact and the severe concussion of divorce.

    Thanks WW; Thanks BP.

    Liked by 1 person

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