Monday, July 24, 2006

Youth Gone Mild

"Melodrama coming from you is about as normal as an oral bowel movement." -- Randal Graves

For the most part, I've done my best to ensure that this little experiment of mine concentrates far less on me personally than it does on my opinion of the world around me. I've gone out of my way to see to it that I avoid making this any kind of online journal -- choosing instead to concentrate on what I hope are more universal themes: politics, pop culture, music, movies, the fact that M. Night Shyamalan is a dickhead -- that sort of thing. I do this because I'll probably never be able to put to rest the nagging feeling that the daily, frivolous details of my own life simply aren't worth hearing about.

I mean, really -- who gives a shit what I think about the world?

And if that's true, then for God's sake -- who could possibly give a shit about what I've done or continue to do with my life?

As it turns out though, an unusual confluence of events over the past few days has left me in a mood that can only be described as oddly nostalgic, and for some reason I feel kind of compelled to pry it out of my head, heart and nether-regions and document it. In other words, you're gonna have to humor me for a few minutes.

Beginning last Friday morning and continuing through this afternoon, I felt as if I were reliving my life -- from my teenage years through the late-90s -- thanks to a series of seemingly random events and interactions which acted as not-so-subtle cues, setting off a chain-reaction of surprisingly clear memories. What struck me most was the fact that these cues unfurled in a natural, perfectly chronological order. Friday morning, I received my first trigger -- which transported me back to my life as a teenager -- and by the time I left work today, the process had completed itself, and there I was staring the me that I was in 1996 right in the face.

It's no coincidence that what I consider to be a memorable era effectively ends 10 years ago; I don't think I need to point out to anyone that the pain and loss that occurred during any period of your life tends to sweeten over time. As the years go by, all that crap gets washed away and you marvel at how wonderfully innocent it all seems in retrospect. The present is the present -- and it's very good. The recent past is, at the very least, too fresh in my mind -- and at most, may never be looked upon with any kind of bittersweet longing.

This is all sounding far too fucking self-indulgent, so I'm going to stop the unnecessary exposition and just get to it. If you're bored already, I have one piece of advice: stick around, because in a few moments, I'm going to admit to something which could conceivably change your entire opinion of me -- unless that opinion is already negative -- and cause you to permanently delete this web address from your computer.

How's that for a tease?

Sherman, set the Way-Back machine for Friday, and 1983.


It's been out for awhile now, but three days ago I realized that a new Killing Joke album had been released.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the band, Killing Joke is quite possibly the most sonically-massive, furiously brutal musical experience ever put to tape. They sound like the apocalypse. They sound like a cathedral being destroyed with a buzzsaw while a choir is still inside. They sound like a knife to the stomach. They are without a doubt the most honestly angry and darkly beautiful band to come out of England's original punk scene. They were the forefathers of goth -- but with none of the silliness. They were the forefathers of latter-day punk and nu-metal, but with none of the self-deprecation or prepackaged rage-without-reason. They sang about the political climate at the time and how it was bringing about a form of social armageddon, and they did it without so much as a hint of clever irony. You didn't "mosh" at a Killing Joke show; you were too fucking scared. You just bowed in reverent awe. They were gods -- and they were my favorite band growing up.

Today, they're worshipped by the likes of Trent Reznor and Dave Grohl.

On Friday morning, I sat and listened to their new album from start to finish; I let it wash over me like a fucking tidal-wave, and I thought back to what it feels like to hear music that punches you in the gut and speaks to your soul for the first time. I remembered when that kind of overwhelming feeling was completely new to me. It was indescribable.


Miami used to be a very cool place.

Back before it became one giant hip-hop video set, my hometown was as weird and diverse as it was dark and mysterious. It was the new Casablanca -- a dangerous yet somehow oddly laid-back snake-pit that was unlike any other city in the continental 48. In the span of one summer, we had a deadly race riot that left a good portion of the city on fire, a boatlift which brought thousands of Cubans to our shores -- so many in fact that they had to be housed in tents under I-95, and of course a series of drug wars settled in the streets with MAC-10 machine guns wielded by the so-called "Cocaine Cowboys." It was all documented by writers like Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, and Edna Buchanan.

It was the baddest fucking place on the planet to grow up.

Then in 1984, Michael Mann somehow captured the entire vibe of Miami perfectly -- and brought it to TV.

Miami Vice terrified the chamber of commerce; they tried to prevent its release for fear that it would give the city yet another nationally-recognizable black eye. What the show wound up doing however, was revitalizing Miami in unimaginable ways. The models and artists that would eventually swarm over South Beach -- declaring it their own -- would relentlessly debate the catalyst that turned the beach from a desolate strip of apartments inhabited only by the elderly, into a neon Mecca that drew crowds from around the world. Some would claim it was Versace, whose own blood would eventually stain the sidewalk outside his beloved beachfront mansion. Others would claim it was the arrival of the modeling agencies.

None of them would ever admit the truth -- that a show which had become painfully dated within the span of just a few years, was solely responsible for the renaissance.

This past Saturday night, in an effort to hype the upcoming movie, NBC showed the pilot episode of Miami Vice.

I watched, with the biggest, dumbest smile on my face.


Seeing Clerks for the first time was revelatory.

For me and many others, watching the movie was less about sitting and laughing for an hour and a half -- which we did -- and more about realizing that in fact, there were other people out there like us. Kevin Smith managed to somehow look into my brain and grab every conversation I'd ever had, and every obscene inside-joke I'd ever laughed at and put it up on the screen. For me -- and as it turns out or my entire generation -- nothing would ever be the same.

For the last 12 years of my life, Randal and Dante, Jay and Silent Bob, have been like family. They became part of the lives of myself and the group I chose to hang out with back in 1994. We laughed at their banter and repeated our favorite lines, and we realized that whether or not we worked as Clerks ourselves, these guys were us. I can't thank Kevin Smith enough for creating them.

Sunday night, I saw Clerks II. It was like hanging out with old friends again.

The final shot, as the camera pulls back and the film once again goes to grainy black-and-white -- as Soul Asylum's Misery plays -- I gotta admit, I almost cried.


Here's where things get messy -- literally.

In 1996, I briefly dated a co-worker -- well, one particular co-worker I mean; I've dated plenty of co-workers unfortunately.

We worked side-by-side at a busy big-city television station; she was a reporter, I was a senior producer. Up to a point, our interactions involved nothing more than hanging out together in a large group at a bar around the corner from the office. We talked, laughed, flirted casually -- the usual. One night after a few too many drinks, we wound up making-out in my car -- an event which qualified as a surprising development for your humble narrator; at that time I still believed that on-air talent didn't fraternize with the lowly off-camera types.

The day after the impromptu encounter, we decided to set up an actual date.

The next Saturday evening, I picked her up and took her to a trendy little place with a gorgeous outdoor garden. We ate and drank -- and drank, and drank. At some point during the evening she gave me a drunken smile and suggested we go back to her place. I of course didn't argue.

She put trip-hop on the stereo and led me into her bedroom, the centerpiece of which was a beautiful stark-white canopy bed, complete with sheer white netting around the sides. She stripped down to a lace bra and thong panties. The moon shone through the blinds, splitting the bed with long, parallel shadows. As imagery goes, the entire scene was flawless.

After a very nice amount of early foreplay, during which her bra managed to find its way to the floor next to the bed, we were just about ready to, well, "take it to the next level," when she looked me in the eye and -- with an undaunted smile on her face -- explained to me that...

I'll be as subtle as I can here.

The little visitor was in town.

She didn't appear to be willing to allow something so anomalous to stand in the way of our good time, and asked me if I had any issue with the arrangement. Being drunk, turned-on and -- well, me, I of course didn't give it a second thought.

And now the denouement.

A few hours later, it looked like the Manson family had been there. The white bed was a nightmare of color. There was even spatter across the ceiling of the canopy -- though to this day I have no idea how the hell it got there.

At the time, I remember thinking that it was sick beyond words.

It was also the coolest fucking thing I'd ever seen.

The reason I mention any of this is that today, I saw that woman again. She's now a national news anchor. Strangely, although I immediately had to fight back a chuckle at the thought of that night with her, I felt nothing else -- no doubt a sign of growing out of that age of juvenility, when every whim or desire had to be immediately satisfied.

Incidentally, my wife knows this story and has laughed at it -- mostly because she realizes that in the heirarchy of my past relationships, this person doesn't even have a chair.

So, there you have it.

I can't argue that it was -- and is -- good to look back, particularly as the stack of days behind you begins to tower over the stack of days ahead of you. But the nostalgia I feel isn't for a better time -- some bygone era of simplicity and freedom.

These days, the joy in looking back is in understanding what was eventually to come.


P-stone said...

Lessen my opinion? Nonsense. That's hilarious and kudos to your for sharing it, I'm going to check out killing joke ASAP too

Buzz said...

Chez, you rule! Very classy, not mentioning the woman's name. I've never known a guy who's ever been dissuaded by the 'little visitor'. To me, that just means laundry and having to use a wash cloth later.

alicia said...

...Katie Couric?

Chez said...

Dear Lord no. : )

VOTAR said...

Having known this story from roughly around the time it happened, I can say that to this day I can not watch that person deliver the news without imagining the scene that was described.

A similar anecdote was once related to me by a mutual friend, who worked for a number of years here in Miami, at that station, you know the one.. While using the women's room, she realized quickly that the evening anchor was in the next stall...taking the loudest, stinkiest, most violent crap ever to escape the ass of a human.

That anchor has moved on to other locales, but while she was here, I could not even bear to tune my television to that big loss, after all, it's that place, you know the one...

Jason said...

Was it Cokie Roberts? Hehe, God I hope not.

Meredith Vieira would be more likely and more appealing.

I'm new to the blog but I like what I've read so far. Thanks.

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Alex Sinykin said...

Cheers mate. You gave me reason for trepidation. The title alone, youth gone mild, was a bit of a turn off. Then there were warning that we might not want to hear about your boring life. I was ready to read stories about morning showers and breakfast routines. Despite all of that I was thoroughly entertained. Good story. Cheerio mate.