Till Summertime is Through (Won’t be long now) is one short story in a compilation called “Soundtrack for Hindsight.” Each story is a riff on that classic John Cage quote: “music is a means of rapid transportation.” The story’s title is taken from a song by The Beach Boys.
Growing up in the 80’s provided a constant stream of optimistic outlooks. And, if I could go back and bring something with me, I would choose that optimism over Rubik’s cubes, parachute pants and Pac Man. Some might say it was just the innocence of youth I’m remembering.
Honestly, as long as we’re telling secrets, I never was that innocent. But I was young enough then, to still be pointlessly optimistic.
And, let’s face it, if rebellion defined the 60s and excess defined the 70s, optimism pegged the 80s square and true. Geeks got the girl, and nerds were cooler than the rich kids. You could learn karate in a month from the guy who fixed your kitchen sink. Matthew Broderick saved the world by playing tic-tac-toe with a kid named Joshua, who was really dead, and also a national defense computer named after a flame-broiled hamburger. All that and he still had time to sing both Wayne Newton and the Beatles before riding off into the sunset in Cameron’s vintage Ferrari. Yep, that was the 80’s. Ferris saving the world while Save Ferris was still banging away on mom’s Tupperware.
In my little corner of the 80’s, my big brother was the coolest guy I knew and I was the gangly, goofy-looking kid who always won classroom review games. Then time passed. Puberty turned my brain into creamed corn and my body into a spastic volcano of testosterone-fueled chaos. Then, the ultimate indignity – Hammer pants. Meanwhile, 80’s culture blew a tire, crashed through a retaining wall and exploded into a fireball of absurd contradictions.
The Berlin wall fell. The free world celebrated by singing a cheesy acoustic ballad written and recorded by a German heavy metal band. Beer goggles and kegs were swapped for porcelain mugs and Cappuccino machines. Coffee became more expensive per ounce than cocaine, and we all started ordering it in Italian. The entire nation became irritable and then experienced a collective caffeine headache. Big Pharm stepped up to bat with a rainbow collage of antidepressants. Coffee shops started putting ice and cream in their coffee, while steadfastly refusing to call them “shakes.” Fast food joints started putting coffee in their ice cream.
Kurt Cobain did his best to make sense of all of this, and we all pretended to understand. Along the way we traded our cassette tapes for CDs, and pencil manufacturers coast to coast filed for bankruptcy. Ah, progress. It does have a dark side. And sometimes, when you set it to music, it looks like a chubby little girl dancing in a bumblebee costume.
But there were pockets of resistance. Call us late adopters or counter-counter culture, but across the bridge on my little island, we still clung to the Big Ego 80’s. Ours was a sunshiny horizon protected by the biggest missiles. And, no, we were not compensating for anything. While the Top 40 was crowded with Blind Melons and Cracked Rear Views I chomped on watermelon and hung out in Paradise City. In my universe the hero never brooded and still got the girl. So of course, life, which would rather snap cynically than clap hands lifting a lighter, chose that summer to rip my still beating heart out of my chest and stomp on it. Yep, this is one of those stories. The hero gets the girl, but then finds himself standing on the train platform in the rain with a funny look on his face because his guts have just been kicked out.
Except in this story the hero is the girl and I’m the one who didn’t know what I had until it was gone. Just don’t be too hard on me until you’ve heard the whole story…