Last night I was watching some AMC on the flat screen TV at the bar. The Karate Kid was playing. To my right sat a dark skin gentlemen who looked a few years younger than myself. To my left was a good friend of mine, a child of the 90's. I mentioned under my breath, “did you know, the reason I took karate classes when I was young, was because I thought Ralph Macchio was the absolute coolest person ever?” Both of them ignored what I had said, but the ice was broken.
As I watched him learn many things from Mr. Miyagi his karate instructor, I was reminded of the fact that both the main character and I had no father figure, we were both raised by a singe mom. When my father was home, he was either extremely mean, or just not present. He was usually away for years at a time. I learned to prefer his absence very quickly.
As I watched in awe while Ralph Macchio performed the crane technique, at the end of the movie, I recalled dreaming about one day mastering that technique and kicking all my foes in the forehead, with the bone part of my heel. Sadly, it never came to be. I felt that the movie was a kind of a stand up to bullies movie. I was bullied quite a bit. Thank goodness I never tried that technique.
While on the topic we then started to chat about Michael J. Fox and how influential he was to us as children. I actually started to learn how to skateboard because of those few tricks that he pulled off, which made me instantly respect and admire skateboarders enough to become one. When we found out the MJF had some degenerative brain disease we were both heartbroken. I mean sure he is out there in the media doing the best he can, but as a kid you don’t understand those things, you just get real disappointed and move on to a new perfect person to admire.
I was a pretty good skater when I was young all because of MJF. I could ollie 3 boards, kick flip, only one direction, and shifty left and right all over the street. I even remember studying the trick in which you push down on the tail of the board and the front pops up right into your hand, just because MJF did it.
In the eighties we had no Tv’s in our rooms. So we had the next best thing, posters. My walls and ceiling were covered with neat and perfectly aligned posters of Alyssa Milano , Samantha Fox, Sheena Easton, and Corey Haim. There was an unspoken contest in which the kid with the most posters was secretly revered as a god. I filled up every inch of my bedroom ceiling and walls.
For toys, I had quite the collection of GI Joe figurines who would be in chronic battles. I designed a rope swing for them and due to their ability to hold a position for hours, I was able to create a complex system of zip lines so one side could triumph over another. I knew how to set them so they could ride the whole length of the Zipline. After all, knowing is half the battle. I kept my GI Joe figures in a box with individually labeled tombs which resembled a platform tomb, an above ground burial for those with no souls. They just stayed there, waiting for me to come breathe life into them and animate their arms and legs into fixed upright battle positions. Sometimes they were a bit tough to balance with all the weapons they shipped with. But I surmised a way to make them stand no matter how tempting it was to give up.
The music I enjoyed, which I really didn’t start to appreciate until I was about 11, were some of the most popular bands of the decade. I liked Skid Row’s 18 and life, Twisted Sister’s We aint gonna take it, Def Leopard’s Pyromania Album, Motley Crue’s Girls Girls Girls, Guns and Roses Sweet Child of Mine and Patience, Cinderella’s hit song, Aha’s Take on Me, and many others. Each of these albums were contained inside a small rectangular piece of hard plastic with a magnetic black tape inside of it, which would magically travel over a head with a slow speed and play these songs in the order that they were on the tape. My father believed this music contribute to my delinquent behavior and horrible sense of entitlement. As I said, I preferred it when he was away.
We had no Compact Discs back then. Imagine having to listen through each song on an album just to hear the next song. If you didn't, you could risk never finding the correct song at all. The fast forward, play, stop, and eject buttons were the only buttons found on these machines that played magical magnetic cassette tapes. To rewind the song, the tape would need to be ejected, flipped over and fast forwarded to a good estimate of the time that it rewound on the other side. Remember, everything you did to the one side if you flipped the tape over would occur in reverse. For instance fast forward was reverse with the tape flipped over. It took a good amount of critical thinking just to play the desired song on a tape. This made radio much more appealing to the masses.
Truth be told during middle school we wore some strange sh#&t. I remember wearing an all white outfit with pink suspenders and fluorescent neon paint splatters all over the pants and shirt, to a high school dance. I also remember wearing another brand of pants called Z. Cavarriccis and how odd they were to have a hundred buttons that kept going from your lower abdomen area the the middle of your stomach. Also, when summer broke, so did the length of the pants. The only difference was the we called these short length nightmarish fluorescent mess of colors, that were way over the knee, Jams. Not sure what the origin of that was. Anyone remember Zubaz?
In other fashion, torn or ripped clothes were considered to have high sex appeal. Of course there did have to be some style or pattern to the rips and tears on the pants and shirts and blouses. As in fashion, to be cool, you need to follow the rules. You couldn't just rip them willy nilly. Also, the proper way to display the bottom of your jeans or pants was to fold the bottoms as tightly as you could around your shins and then hike up your white socks as high as they would go over top the pant legs. The goal was to see was socks, not pants bottoms. The stuff we wore was so weird back then that nothing really lasted.
The only fashion still in effect from those days is the infamous motorcycle jacket, sans tassels. Michael Jackson influenced us all to wear motorcycle jackets because he wore one in a few of his videos. How was I to know many had worn them way before he did. Michael Jackson was truly the epitome of cool. When his first set came on the scene music videos were beginning to air for the first time, on this new TV channel called MTV, it was like a tidal wave hit our nation. Soon after, Madonna came on the scene with her sexy music videos that took the focus right off off MJ’s cool moves and one handed sequent glove. She put the focus right on her backside and chest area. MTV was clearly breaking down barriers of what and what not should be on TV.
Michael Jackson was so cool that we all ran out and bought dance instruction videos which led eventually to the discovery of break-dancing; a robotic flowing motion that moved in cycles though out your body while the other parts stayed perfectly still and motionless. This led to the cardboard box era where people were taking old refrigerator boxes, laying them out on the ground and spinning themselves all for hours upon hours. I bought an instructional Break Dancing Video Tape and learned how to perform the worm on the red carpet of my Grandfathers bedroom.
Watching a videotape back then was no easy task. There was always some type of issue with the option called “tracking”. It took just the right person to nudge this setting so the static would be removed from the screen and the purple lines and other video noise could be hardly seen. This took a great amount of skill and patience to correct. We dealt with it just fine.
Oh yeah and if you were a girl, I felt really bad for you because you had the spray the crap out of your hair with superglue to get the bangs up higher than any object could last on ones head with out falling off. Girls spent hours getting their hair just right and it was weird. I really liked girls when I was a teenager. My goodness how much I liked them. I had no dignity, and thought they all liked me back. Much to my disappointment they all did not. Hormones were clouding my mind.
The eighties was a weird fun time to be a kid in this country. People’s values were changing rapidly, computers were first introduce to the public, and Media was changing just about everything expected to see, hear or read about. It would have been impossible to convince the smartest man on earth at that time that children would now be walking around with pocket computers more powerful than any computer the size of a whole floor of a small building. This article is being typed on a portable computer, or laptop which when closed is less than half an inch high. It’s both amazing and frightening to see how much has changed since the eighties. If I had the chance I would go back there again just to visit. I am sure one day we will be able to do that as well. Anything is possible with time.