Sunday, November 23, 2008

The 80s

A twenty-something family member recently asked me what it was like to be young in the eighties. OK...just the question makes me feel old. I can clearly remember posing a similar question to some ancient forty-year old; the only difference, of course, is that I was asking about the nineteen fifties! You know--poodle skirts, Wolfman Jack, dice on rear view mirror. Have big hair, overly bright clothing styles, and lace tights received the same type of stereotypical over-exposure? Can it actually be that the era of my young adulthood has attained a pop culture status only attributed to time periods that were, well...A LONG TIME AGO?

Apparently so. (Sigh)

Oh well. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Looking back, I would have to say that my twenties were a precursor to real adulthood. A training ground of sorts. Fun, heartache, attraction, drama, break-ups, enlightenment, rebellion, creativity, introspection, discovery. All of that stuff. Some people don't need that time to become real adults. I did. Boy did I. In fact, a wounded love interest once told me, "You'll be 21 until you're 40"...shortly before he chucked a few bills at the check and unceremoniously left me sitting alone in a Thai restaurant in the Haight. Turns out, he was only off by about a decade. It's fair to say that I had the mindset of a twenty-one year old until I was about, say, 30ish. So I was a late bloomer.

Better late than never.

Anyway, here are some of my standout memories from the eighties:

First year of college. 1984.
Broke it off with my high school boyfriend. At the time, he was crushed. Truthfully, I was relieved. I knew enough to know that I wasn't supposed to be making wedding plans at eighteen years old. I handled the break-up very poorly and for that I'll always be sorry. He deserved better and I just didn't have the maturity at the time to do it any differently. Anyway, he went on to marry another girl from our high school class. For all I know, they are still married. I hope they have been blessed with happiness.

Other than this initial drama, the world was my oyster that year. Everything was new, fresh, and enlightening. My first brush with freedom and I loved it. I wanted to know everything I could cram into my head about politics, religion, art, literature, writing, philosophy, and history. Participated in the anti-Apartheid protests on campus. And boys/men. Um...let's just say I had lots of dates, more than a few boyfriends. This is when I discovered that beautiful men, young and old, come in all kinds of diverse packaging. A certain Korean-American wrestler stole my heart early in the year. If I had married him, my first and last name would have been the same. What a lovely, appreciative young gentleman. We weren't intended for the long haul but whomever married him is a lucky woman, I'm sure. And EJ...who still tops my list as one of the all time greatest people ever. (I see 'ya Mr. Morris Day from The Time. You know you did The Bird). LOL. A friendship that endured despite the odds. A friendship of which I am immensely proud. My husband thinks he is "one great guy". And he is. I have to meet that wife of his 'cause if he picked her, she has to be great too.

Summer of 1985. Partied like it was 1999. Actually, considering all of the craziness that summer, it's a feat that I made it to 1999. The Palladium in San Francisco was where we could be found most weekends. Or the I-Beam. Throw in Das Club, The Edge/ Vortex. We CANNOT forget DV8! In San Jose, it was Oasis, Club 47, and Paradise Beach. Worked a temp job which started each weekday morning at 7:05am. Most nights, I was out until 4am. And I made it into the office and on time, fresh as a daisy. Now, I'd be nearly comatose if I attempted that even once. Went to a house party in Woodside, California where the dwelling had suffered a catastrophic fire a few nights before. Only nineteen year-old kids would think it a nifty idea to set up a kegger among smoldering ashes. "Burning Down the House" was played numerous times that warm, summer evening. And of course, we also heard..."The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, we don't need no water let the motha****** burn. Burn motha******, burrrnnnnnnn....". Oh brother....

1985-1988: Shared a house with three men. (Had my own room, of course.) All of them were quite a bit older than me and had long since graduated from college. I was surely ready for some sanity after a year in the dorms. The owner of the home was especially protective of me. And I got to live in a beautiful, hillside house, relatively close to campus for $250 a month. Kid you not. The owner still lives there and is married. I will forever be thankful to him for the safe haven he provided.

1987: Met and fell head over heels for someone who was great...just not great for me. Learned about art, photography, and much more. Developed my own cultural awareness for the very first time. Began questioning all kinds of things I once believed as immutable truth.

1988: Was called a N***** lover by some random idiot. I can still feel the sting of that insult. For the first time, I really understood what racism must feel like. Internally. I witnessed first hand how it can chip away your willingness to trust others. How it breeds inner suspicion. How it
destroys innocence.

1989: Finished my thesis, graduated from college and blew off the establishment. Became a vegetarian, lived in the Vulcan Warehouse artists' community in Oakland, California and dropped out of mainstream life. Pierced a few body parts. Met people from all walks. Next door neighbors were several members of a Bay Area thrash metal band. Begged them to lower the amp volume one night so that I could finish my senior thesis. To their credit, they turned it down, despite their need to practice for a gig that night. Apparently, even Dirty Rotten Imbeciles can be swayed by a college girl's tearful pleading.

Discovered that a pained, struggling, artist's existence is a romantic notion but not a plausible lifestyle most people can endure for the sake of a craft. More than a few people I knew at that time are now what might be called "high visibility". No names mentioned here, of course.

There is more to tell. Lots, actually.

"The 90's", however, is another post. Duty calls.


Anonymous said...

You LIVED the '80's. I went to college and went home every weekend. Listened to Madonna on the radio. I think I went to DV8 once in 1990, but it was too loud for me. So not my scene. I did wear leggings. I did have a perm. That was about it. You were 21 until you were 30ish. I was 40 when I was 21. Sad in a way, but I don't think I would have enjoyed the chaos. I was happy. I'm happy now. Don't know what else to say...Good post.

James H said...

I loved the 80s

mum6kids said...

I remember the 80's. I left school in '83. Struggled with college and art work and God knows what. Started full time work and left home (thank God) in '86. Met the man of my life and married him in '88 and we had a bright orange baby boy the following year.
Ah those days...

Leigh said...

Yes,I lived the 80s. Probably more than I should have. Had I little more focus, I probably would have gone to law school instead of worrying about "some guy". Oh well. I certainly can't complain about the way my life turned out. Only by the grace of God.

James--I loved the 80's too-- to a point. We could do without some of the stupid fashions. We could definitely do without the hedonistic, overly material ways of that era, I dare say.

mum...I forget how your school system works in the U.K. but if I'm guessing right, if you left school in '83, you and I are about the same age. (I'm 42).

Patrick said...

is that eddie murphey?

Patrick said...

also, was that you in the ah ha video?

Leigh said...

Patrick - Not me, sorry. I know which video you're talking about though. It's kind of live action/animation combined. If memory serves, it had a Dick Tracy vibe to it. The figures were rendered in a Lichtenstein-esque way. Cool video but that group was quite the one-hit-wonder.

Leigh said...

Patrick - No...that is most certainly NOT Eddie Murphy. Although, I seem to recall that EJ would hear that comparison being made from time to time.