Saturday, July 23, 2011

The '80s

What I remember is lying on my stomach in my grandparents' living room, watching television on that big brown piece of furniture.

Too much of it, truth be told. "Scooby Doo" and "Inspector Gadget" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" at first. Stuff like that. Peanut butter dipped straight from the jar.

I can remember watching "The Greatest American Hero" one Friday night with my sister. Somebody broke in to a neighbor's house across the street. "Don't go outside," they told us, just before they went outside. I can remember suspecting that somebody was creeping up the back steps.

Seems like it was always Saturday, cartoons, chocolate milk and egg sandwiches eaten from a Pac-Man TV tray. "Captain Kangaroo," "Muppet Babies," Bugs Bunny and Pee Wee Herman. Mr. Wizard and "Mr. Ed."

I never minded it when the president would interrupt my favorite shows. I loved the man. I really did. I thought he was everybody's grandfather and this was before I was old enough to understand or care about Republicans and Democrats. I liked the way he talked. I think I could sense his confidence. No matter what happened, we'd be OK. Ronnie would make sure of that.

It was never more stark than that cold and awful Tuesday, the day the shuttle fell. We were off from school. But the weather cleared enough so that just before noon we were at Pardon's Jewelers on North Broadway. My grandmother came back to the car.

"The shuttle exploded," she said.

My aunt screamed and I became agitated and we watched Dan Rather when we got home. I can still see him trying to explain what happened while holding that miniature model. I remember seeing the explosion, over and over again, blinking every time. My aunt sat in front of the TV for most of the afternoon and cried. I thought about that teacher. It made it real. It brought it home. I can remember being bothered by it all and wondering if maybe their ghosts would return to earth and haunt my dreams.

But Reagan told us that they had slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God. That made me feel better. It really did.

Wednesday nights were with my dad. We'd watch "Head of the Class" and "Growing Pains" and, for awhile, "Magnum, p.i." I can remember staying up late to see the finale. Was Higgins Robin Masters? Yes. No.

More than that, I remembered when Magnum got shot, went into a coma and walked around unseen while the show wrapped to its end. "Sometimes I fly like an eagle; sometimes I'm deep in despair." It was supposed to be the final episode, but they renewed the show unexpectedly, probably because Tom Selleck's "Three Men and a Baby" had become a hit. It should have been the end, my friend, because what ultimately became the last episode didn't tie up a damn thing, even though they called it "Resolutions."

When I didn't like what was on I'd curl up on the couch with those blue-spined "Hardy Boys" books. I wanted a boat and a jalopy, even if I wasn't quite sure what one was, and I really wanted to be a detective. I got my mom to buy me a magnifying glass and baby powder to find fingerprints. Mostly I made a mess.

Radio was WIVK and U102, "We Are The World" and "We Built This City." Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys, George Jones and John Conlee, Elvira and All the Gold and I'm a Common Man, Drive A Common Van. (My dog ain't got a pedigree.)

Early memories recall Cronkite's farewell and the "M*A*S*H" goodbye. I can remember the aftermath of "Who Shot J.R.?" and the outrage when Victoria Principal dreamed the 1985-86 season. Nobody talked about "Dallas" much after that.

It took forever and it was gone in a flash and it seems like a long time ago.

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