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.
I had a dream last night that I was in a building and I took an elevator on a random guess to the 4th floor (out of 32) and entered this fancy bar area where a bunch of celebrities and cultural elite were hanging out. I somehow had an arrangement where the people there thought I took on the identity of a dead famous comedian named Charles Cessner, and there was a drink called the Cessner he was famous for getting, which was beer with Skittles floating in it (which many of you know as Skittlebrau). I ordered a Budweiser when the bartender asked for my drink, and he remarked that it was off-brand for me.
I was sitting next to my friend Kevin at the bar, and there were a bunch of fabulous looking people laughing and watching a man talk. I believe the person sitting in the middle at the bar was RuPaul. I had started off surrounded by friends from my hometown of Aurora, but at one point I turned and they had cleared out. I asked Kevin if he could give me a ride home (to my parents house), as he had so many times before. He agreed, and got up from the bar. I asked the bartender how much I owed, and he said I owed $11.14. I gave him $51.14, and he gave me $20 back. He then told me to duck down, as there were some mafia-types outside ready to shoot through the window. I crawled away and told him to have a good night.
I had to pee real bad, and there was no bathroom around, so I entered this cavernous parking garage to find a place to go while double-fisting Budweisers. I walked by these uniformed fascist-looking young men, and then turned into a very bleak, dangerous looking part of the garage. There was a mysterious smiling man standing there frozen who resembled the smoking man from X-Files, and I made sure to walk out of his sight, for fear he would come after me. I pee'd in one of the bottles, and then this teenage boy crashed into a table near me with this cardboard-looking dune buggy. He then crashed into his friend who was also operating one of this bizarre contraptions, and they laughed hysterically at each other. I began to walk back to leave the garage area, and there were now a bunch of teenagers wearing roller skates gathered about. A teenage girl holding a serving tray rolled her eyes at her supervisor and said, "Oh great, it's Go-Kart night."
I was now wearing roller skates as I attempted to leave the garage. I sauntered down the side of the garage trying to avoid the masses of teens on skates. I got to where I was almost in the clear, and I had to squeeze through this tight area that had a wooden barricade. As I shuffled along I started to make a phone call. I left a voice message that said "I know I've been missing for a day, but I wanted to remind you that your son Jim Halpert was still the first to wish you a Happy Anniversary." I then spun around with my legs in the air and woke up.
Since the pandemic started, I've had a couple dreams about traveling to other countries for long periods of time. They're not exactly pleasant dreams, they have more of a tinged feeling of homesickness.
Last night I had one of those dreams, and in it a classmate of mine who died in a car crash in 1995 (same year as my accident, his was after) shortly after he moved to Chicago took this pair of black shorts from me. They were just sitting out on a table, and he asked if he could take them. I said that he could, but then immediately regretted it, because I was about to travel to Asia, and I needed this pair, because I only have that other pair that Mary Alice knows about, the drawstring ones that eventually fall down if I wear them too long.
Like most of you I was unfamiliar with the term "gaslighting" before that famous Teen Vogue article about Trump. If you were a kid that was ever bullied by classmates, you probably experienced it at some point. I know it when I see it, and I often flash back to this one incident. I was over at my older friend's house one afternoon playing this Nintendo game called "Play Action Football," and I beat him for the first time ever. I used his bathroom before going home, and while I was in there, he and my other shithead friend devised a scenario where since it was 5:30 PM, and I was officially supposed to go home at 5:00 PM, that the game never happened, and my win was invalid. I stood there are argued against the logic they were using for who knows how long, until I gave up and went home teary-eyed while they sat back with shit-eating grins on their faces.
Once home, I was up in my dad's bathroom, just standing and staring angrily out of the window, and I heard my mom call me to set the dinner table. I flipped out and started screaming and crying so loudly that she thought I was severely injured. I tried to explain the situation to her, but of course it made no sense to hear it as an adult in the year 1990. I was obviously more upset at their stupid-ass attempt to manipulate me, and that they thought so little of me as a person. My mom later told my therapist what happened, which sucked, because I hadn't planned to.