Ah, memories! When I think back on all the great music, movies, and television that I was privileged to be surrounded with in my childhood, it gives me the warm fuzzies. With that in mind, I’ve recently begun to revisit the wonder of my youth. I mean, who had it better than me? It’s time to pay homage to the awesomeness that was my childhood!
Having been in middle school and high school from the late 70s through the early 80s, I had achieved the perfect age to enjoy all the best the entertainment world had to offer. I was there for the opening of all three original Star Wars movies, was able to see all those classic Spielberg films in all their cinematic glory, and saw some of the best horror films made when they were first run.
On TV, I used to watch classics like All in the Family, Happy Days, and Laverne and Shirley.
Stephen King books kept me up at night, and I’m pretty sure that I was far too young to be reading a book like Salem’s Lot at the age of ten. I’ve got a shelf of books that I’ve read over the past forty years that I consider my favorites of all time, all in hardcover first edition, and most of them signed. These are the touchstones of my youth, and about ten or twenty years ago I felt the need to revisit them. To remember how wonderful they were the first time I read them.
I couldn’t even make it past the first hundred pages of Salem’s Lot. Sorry, Steve, but the writing in it was just bad. Stephen King has come a long way since then (I think he’d agree), but his stuff from the 70s is almost unreadable now. Other books that I’ve tried to reread just haven’t had the same effect. The magic of connecting with a book has as much to do with the writing and story as it does with where you are in your life at the time that you read it. You’ll take different things from a book that you read as a teenager than you do when you’re thirty years older.
If you remember reading something that was wonderful, I’ve found, it’s best to leave it alone. Enjoy the memory, and don’t ruin it by trying to relive it.
I should have taken my own advice.
When I saw that HBO was going to do a remake of Westworld this fall, I got really excited. The movie, made in 1973 with Yul Brynner as the bad robot, was one of my favorites as a kid. It was $5.50 on Amazon! How could I go wrong! And look! Logan’s Run was on sale, too! That was one of my favorites! And there’s the original Tron!
I scooped up the Blu-Ray editions of all three movies, anxious to share the excitement I felt as a child with my wife.
When I tell you that, while watching those movies, both of us wanted to claw our eyes out and were longing for the solace that death would bring, I’m not exaggerating. They had to be the worst things I’d ever seen, and I was embarrassed to have put my wife through that. It was Salem’s Lot all over again!
Like the punchline to a bad joke, it got worse. Last week, I went to a local retro arcade. I played Tron, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, and a host of other video games. And guess what? They suck. They suck just as bad–or worse!–than the movies did. Oh, how I longed to be home playing my Xbox One, where people looked like people and not little blocky-looking boxes made up of thick horizontal lines!
And then there’s the TV. You can always accidently come across a rerun of Happy Days when you’re flipping through the channels. One night, we did … and boy, were we sorry. “Did this suck so bad when we were kids?” I asked my wife. She agreed that it did not. We used to look forward to the show every week, but now, it was just unwatchable. (In all fairness, I still think All in the Family is a great show and has stood the test of time).
Okay, so I’ve come to the realization that my childhood, in all probability, sucked big time. But there were some highlights as I’ve mentioned before. At the time it seemed great, but in retrospect? Not so much. And we did spend a lot of time outdoors playing with other kids and inventing new games to play with junk lying around, like coffee cans, hoops, and sticks. You don’t see that very much anymore.
But you know what was great about my childhood? The music. If you didn’t grow up in the 70s and 80s, I’ve got bad news for you: Our music kicks your music’s ass. And still does. I think the worst thing to come out of the 70s was disco, and that’s still way better than what’s on the radio now. Only in the 90s did music start going to hell in a handbasket. And as for music today? Forget it. I feel bad for kids growing up now. Imagine people in their forties going to a 25th high school reunion and saying, “Hey, DJ! Put on that awesome Kanye song we grew up with while we reminisce about the Kardashians!”
Not gonna happen.
So my humble advice is this: If you have fond memories of something in your childhood, leave it back there where it belongs. As I said before, don’t ruin it by trying to relive it. And if you’re under 20, get yourself a greatest hits collection from Queen, ELO, U2, David Bowie, Boston, Kansas, even Blue Oyster Cult. I could go on an on. There’s a reason a lot of songs from my generation are used as samples in today’s songs. They sound even better today than they did when I listened to them on vinyl through crappy speakers, so if you’re a kid, that’s something to be thankful for.
I’ve learned that sometimes it’s good to be old.