Transmissions from the Outside

Becka and I recently watched the movie the Wrestler, a dark drama following the attempts of a washed-up pro wrestler to revive his career (or even survive from day to day) while trying to mend his neglected relationship with his daughter. During one scene Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei are drinking in a bar when suddenly the pop-metal band Rat’s song Round and Round comes screeching out of the sound-system. They begin to reminisce about all the things they miss the most from the eighties. Rourke’s character summarizes “Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all.” “The Nineties sucked.” Tomei responds. “The nineties sucked.” Rourke confirms.

Indeed, if you are a fan of Hair Metal or pro-wrestling, the nineteen eighties must seem like some kind of hairspray encrusted golden age. Yet, like many people my own age (I graduated from high school just as the eighties came to a close), I am mystified by the current fascination with anything and everything from this decade. I’ll avoid reciting a litany of things that made the eighties the cultural wasteland that I experienced as teenager, as I’m sure it’s been done before (and better) elsewhere. However, I did find myself succumbing to a certain sense of nostalgia as I reflected upon the music and culture that sustained me through the decade.

As a teenager I developed the habit of keeping a fresh tape in our VCR as I trolled through channels late at night into the early morning, searching for some glimmer of hope in a sea of televangelists and infomercials. Occasionally something struck me as important and I would record it for repeated viewings and closer scrutiny. These rare moments seemed to me like transmissions from beyond the boarders of my stale and claustrophobic small-town existence. There was something else out there that seemed real and exciting, hidden between the usual mundane programming like secret messages left for me to decipher. By interpreting these glimpses I created an overall impression of what the outside world must be like. As incomplete and misconstrued as many of my interpretations often were, they gave me hope that there was something out there beyond my parent’s living room walls, beyond the borders of my home town, beyond the myopic scope of my own reality.

Find here some of the fragments that fed my youthful hope for a better way to live. Some of them are minor masterpieces, some of them guilty pleasures. I’ll let you decide which are which as they are too embedded in my sense-of-self for me to ever be view objectively.

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