I had a dream last night that I had to do 20-page book report for school for a book I'd never read, and I really didn't want to read it or do the report. I knew that if I didn't do the report that my grade would be dragged way down, so I decided to approximate what I thought the book was about, and instead include stories about my feelings, my friend Mike, and episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I wrote about 6 pages, and then I heard on TV about how if there's not enough of the actual book in the report, that the teacher would know.
I then tried to figure out how to get a Cliff's Notes version of the book, while noting out loud that they were referred to as "Cleland Notes" on The Cosby Show. I found this guy with a computer, and I frantically tried to rush order the Cliff's Notes from Amazon. I ordered them, knowing that they would arrive at my house in 20 minutes, and I had to quickly get home. I tried to board a bus and then I turned into a tiny Brooke Shields, and I was then riding an elephant, holding on to its tail while my face was pressed into its butt.
The other night our treadmill, which does not feature any audio setting (with the exception of a "beep" sound) started broadcasting a radio signal, it was the freakiest thing. I was flushing the toilet, and all of a sudden I loudly heard "THE OFFER ENDS AT MIDNIGHT, (something something etc)," it was the most bizarre signal interference I've ever been witness to. It was my own Max Headroom incident. I only knew what was happening because I used to record with a karaoke machine and it would sometimes pick up a signal from CBs. I don't believe in supernatural occurrences, but I guess I was spooked enough where I still had a dream that night about our appliances coming to life.
On March 13, 1987, they aired a David Copperfield special on TV called "Escape From Alcatraz." I was looking forward to it all day, like, "YES, I am going to watch Escape From Alcatraz," and about 6 minutes in (queued up here) I started to have a severe anxiety attack. As was customary in the 1980's, if you were parent seeing a kid having an anxiety attack, you began to yell, as my dad did at me telling me to turn the TV off, which I did through tears.
I turned it back on later to see a minute of the baby magic tricks they were doing afterwards, but I wasn't in the mood anymore.
Top 40 radio was generally frowned upon in my house when I was growing up. I was mostly raised on classical music, showtunes, and Roger Whittaker. I would do my best to sneak in some pop music on my alarm clock radio, and I often times I would forget to change the station back to Cleveland's classical music station, WCLV 95.5 FM. My mom would inevitably ask for an explanation if she noticed pop music coming from my bedroom, and I would tell her that it was because my radio had been set to a different channel so I could listen to a sports broadcast and then forgot to change it afterwards, and we were now listening to station's regular format.
That all seems really weird and extreme when I see it typed out like that.
However, my morning and afternoon bus rides were my salvation. Our sometimes-mean-but-usually-ok busdriver Miss Clark always had the radio dial turned to Power 108 FM for us kids. For a few years in the late 80's, it was my primary source for popular music, and it helped furnish my love of music overall.
Sticker with the mighty Power 108 Logo
I think of 1988 as the prime year where the school bus was rockin' every morning and afternoon. This was before puberty, and before there were group divides between all of us, so we all rocked out together, often loudly singing along to the songs on the radio. My absolute favorite song was "Wild, Wild West" by The Escape Club, who I thought was named "The Ski Club" for a while.
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin was a song I possibly liked even better, but it seemed to be played rarely. I thought the lyrics to "Faith" by George Michael were, "Cuz I gotta have sex, a-sex, a-sex."
Other favorites of mine included:
"Got My Mind Set on You" - George Harrison
"Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Together Forever" - Rick Astley
"So Emotional" - Whitney Houston
"Heaven Is a Place on Earth" and "I Get Weak" - Belinda Carlisle
"Wishing Well" - Terence Trent D'Arby
"Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car" - Billy Ocean
"Simply Irresistible" - Robert Palmer
"Tell It to My Heart" - Taylor Dayne
"Red Red Wine" - UB40
I really hated "Could've Been" by Tiffany. However, when I would hear it, I would imagine a scenario on The Wonder Years* where Kevin and Winnie had broken up, and Kevin was pedaling his bike away from her house. I didn't start off hating "Endless Summer Nights" by Richard Marx, but I eventually hated it because it was so overplayed.
*I had yet to seen a single moment of the show at this point
On May 12, 1992, the station abruptly changed its callsign to WENZ and flipped its format to alternative rock, branding itself as "107.9 The End". As a publicity stunt, the station infamously aired a 24-hour loop of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". A lot of people took that it to mean the world was actually ending, and I suppose a part of my world did end that day. The kids were all super pissed at the time, because we wanted our Power 108 back, and we didn't know who the Talking Heads were. But of course, I grew to love WENZ, and there were eventually other pop radio stations for those who were interested.
There was a "Lake School" in Aurora, Ohio, I swear to you. It may have been torn down long ago, but I'm telling you it very much existed. (I suppose I should check next time I'm in the area?) There doesn't appear to be any record of it online. Well, that changes today.
That school pictured above isn't it, I just Google'd "run down school." It maybe didn't look quite that run down, but it was a piece. One thing I can tell you is that Aurora was hit by a tornado in March of 1986, and it tore the roof off part of my elementary school. My mom told me that the roof was rolled up like it was a sardine can. My family and I were on vacation at the time, so we completely missed it. I think it was Spring Break, so nobody was at the school except for a group of hapless Girl Scouts, who according to a teacher were screaming in terror and not following the safety protocol we all seemed to engage in weekly. If you're from the Midwest, you know of that head-down, curly ball thing I'm talking about.
Anyway, I don't recall how we spent the rest of that school year - it was possible we were shipped off to Lake School right after, but I can tell you for certain we were there come Autumn 1986 so that damaged parts of our real school could undergo repair. When I say "we," I'm talking about just my 3rd Grade class. I don't know why our class was singled out. I think we were told some bullshit reasoning like "Well, the 4th grade class is getting ready to go to Middle School, so we don't want to jostle with their emotions, and the younger kids are too young." So there we were, the 3rd Grade, shipped away to this dump known as Lake School. I remember when the bus pulled into the driveway of the school, my older neighbor friend was like "Oh, this place?" It was coincidentally right near where I lived, but at the time seemed just as far away as any other place. It was no doubt known as "Lake School" because it was right on Aurora Lake, which also bordered my backyard. I had never been there before, but it was basically a destination for neighborhood fights and cool boys riding 4-wheelers. I don't think it was being used prior to our arrival, and it certainly showed.
It felt like the Wild West being there - no doubt burgeoning hormones had something to do with it, but I feel like it was a constant barrage of boys punching each other and kicking each other in the balls. The classrooms and hallways were pretty dirty, and the gym floor was made of this weird rubbery material that you could pick apart. My memories of that year are pretty vivid party due to the drastic relocation. And well, here are some...
I remember farting being a big deal that year. I sat next to my friend Pat, who was big into BMX/Skateboards, and we would talk about farting all day, and try to outdo each other with farts. I remember when I had my best fart of the year, it sounded like I was playing a musical scale with my butt. Sadly though, Pat was away at the pencil sharpener when it happened, but this kid Alex heard it, and he laughed his head off. If you ever see Alex, ask him about the fart.
Flipping people off was also important. I was constantly giving people the finger, even my own family when they weren't looking. It was nothing personal, more of an OCD thing. I remember one day walking back to my desk and giving my teacher the finger, and when she looked up she might have seen me doing it, because she looked down and shook her head in disgust.
I remember our music teacher practically having a nervous breakdown. One day she was teaching in our classroom, and we were all being so rowdy that she picked up her stuff and walked out in the middle of the lesson. On the way out she paused wide-eyed, put her hand up in the air and said "No one touch me..." After she left, she told our teacher, and when our teacher confronted us about it, my friend Bobby was like "That's a lie!"
One day we were assigned to make PSA-style posters. A lot of kids were doing something stupid like "Don't Do Drugs!," but I made one that warned "Don't eat something if you don't know what it is." The poster had a drawing of a guy taking something out of a cupboard, eating it, and then I drew a gravestone to show that he died from eating the thing.
Garbage Pail Kids were still a fad, but they were on their way out. I mentioned in a prior blog entry that during 3rd Grade I gave away my GPK cards during random moments. I would sanction races between boys in our school's gymnasium, and the winners would get a card. I remember I told my friend Scott I would give him a card if he jumped six times in five seconds, but he angrily yelled "I can't do that!"
I brought a couple of G.I. Joe figures to school one day for show & tell, and they later got stolen out of my locker. I had never had anything stolen from me before, and it broke my heart. I pretty much know who did it, it was the same person who stole stuff from me multiple times over the years. I won't name him here, because of the possible beatings.
We just spent that one year at Lake School, by 4th grade we were back at Craddock Elementary. What a time. I don't want to be a kid again, but I can't help but get a little nostalgic, especially when talking about stuff like BMX riding and skateboarding. My family couldn't afford a BMX, and they didn't want me riding a skateboard because I'd break my neck. If only we couldn't have known it was the mid-80's while we lived it.
I think this is the second time I've used this picture of BMX rider Ron Wilkerson on this website.