My Favorite Memory of the ’80s

31 Dec

I’m not sure of the exact date, but this short story appears in a spiral Pen-Tab notebook I labeled “April 2001.” I wrote this in response to the pop-cultural revisionist history that surrounds the mysterious ’80s, one that spins intricate rose-colored webs of deceit for a rapt younger generation, dazzling them with fluorescent baubles and camp potential while ignoring the fact that the ’80s, despite their retrospective nostalgic value, were a rather colorfully dull and oppressive decade dominated by a celebration of ignorance and vanity. I’m amazed today that somehow they’re considered more important than the ’90s, when we were finally jarred from our super stupor and started asking questions.

So in a curious pique I wrote My Favorite Memory Of The ’80s, which, like The Wedding Singer, crams as many tired fads as possible into a tenuous storyline. Eventually, my anger seems to have subsided and I was feeling romantic again, throwing in one of my pre-teen crushes. I certainly wasn’t alone in feeling this way, but I’m pretty sure other young boys’ fantasies weren’t this hackneyed and ridiculous.

It’s 1985, and I’m in the seventh grade. Brad Sanders arrives at school with a Vans Off The Wall shoebox crammed with cocaine. Not a half-bad haul for a couple junior Sean Penns, right? So after sixth period P.E. we throw on our Members Only jackets, soothe our sprayed-down mullets (no sideburns) and saunter out to the football stadium to do some heavy lines. But we got stopped short of the chain-link perimeter by two track-and-field superstar sophomore socs in Generra Public sweaters and shrink-to-fit 501s who taunt us, calling us punk rock fags because we both have the Anarchy symbol etched into our noses and we’re wearing Vuarnet and OP T-shirts. Further enraged by our skateboards, they pound the shit out of us while a nearby boom box blares Ozzy Osbourne‘s blood-curdling Bark at the Moon — a more appropriate soundtrack, I do not know.

All that halts their brutal assault is a pair of yuppies in Izod uniforms, who screech into the stadium parking lot in a fresh-shined DeLorean. They’re loaded on Riunite and Bartles & Jaymes. Anyway, the yuppies see the jocks, the jocks see the yuppies, nobody’s wearing socks in their shoes, so they decide to leave us be and concentrate on the extinction of their own respective species, because jocks and yuppies are sworn bitter rivals, more so than jocks and punks. So Brad and I hop on our BMXs and head to the hospital, where a glitter-gloved doctor gives us both a clean bill of health, prescribing more shoulder pads for our jackets.

That night is the big seventh grade dance, so Brad and I part company for a while. I go home and shower, slap on some Old Spice, some L.A. Looks for the tip-top, and a clip-on tie and head back to the school, making a pit stop at Brad’s place to watch TV and rock some more blow. Family Ties comes on, followed by the news, where a solemn-pussed anchorman informs us that Manimal has been canceled — but we shouldn’t worry unduly as long as Scritti Politti is America’s favorite band, given that distinction by the big man himself, who later interrupts a very special after-school Miami Vice with the following invigorating speech:

My fellow Americans, right now our motto all over the world is “Frankie Say Relax.” Well, I’m here to tell you that I bring another message: “Ronnie Say Retax,” which is what I’m gonna do right after I eat a couple of babies right here, on live national television.

Sickened by the carnage, Brad and I leap onto our scooters and beeline for the dance, where special guest W.A.S.P. is performing the whole of The Last Command for the student body, all under the hateful gaze of our chaperones, the PMRC. But the dance is a kick, anyway. I get to slow grind with Missy Gold‘s doppelganger during The Fixx‘s “Less Cities, More Moving People,” and Brad has his paws full o’ Doublemint Twins on Spandau Ballet‘s “True” and Paul Young‘s “Every Time You Go Away,” respectively. By the time Chicago bleeds into the first notes of “You’re The Inspiration,” I’m somewhere between nirvana and weightlessness.

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Outside later Brad and I do some more blow with a Bubblicious chaser when suddenly we realize we both have a drug problem and need help, which we get, thank God. We stop our mad addictions and go clean 15 minutes later, returning to the gymnasium for the first time sober that night. Everyone’s so shocked by the vibrant Hamiltonesque hue of our flesh, and we admit it, man, we tell ’em it’s because we’d said no to poisoning our young bodies with illegal chemicals. Then some kid has the nerve to approach us with a sandwich bag of toot and shove it in our faces, yammering, “Wanna get hiiiiiiigh? I don’t think you have the willpower to resist. You’ll never set your monkeys free.” But we apply our recent lessons and refuse to succumb to peer pressure. We decline his offer. This action is rewarded with a solitary clap emitting slowly from the darkness, which gradually spreads and grows into tumultuous applause, then an emotional surge of triumph. “Hey, kids!” shouts the nearest posthippie chaperone, “Seagram’s Golden Wine Coolers for everybody!” The cheer that followed could deafen the valley and loose the Sherman Oaks Galleria. “I love this stuff!” I swoon. “It’s wet . . . and it’s dry! The best of both worlds!

But my night’s about to get better. As I slurp down the last of my Cranberry Sluice, the onstage deejay hands me a note, which reads:

Cory: You told me to cue a certain song when and if a certain someone showed up at the dance tonight. Well, put on your best Converse, my man, because she’s here. Now don’t turn around (der Kommissar is not in town, ha ha). I’m gonna start the song, and she will appear at the most crucial point, ready to dance in your arms.

You are the luckiest man who ever lived.

Suddenly, it begins. There is a time when a man needs somebody to talk to/Someone to hold on, somebody who’ll always be there . . .

I can’t resist turning my head. So many faces, so many corsages, so many hairstyles, so many pretty girls. Where could my dream date be?

All alone/Nothing seems to matter . . .

I peel open the note again. There’s a postscript I hadn’t noticed the first time:

Don’t try to get around it, I’m very good at establishing these dramatic moments.

So alone/Doesn’t get much better . . .

But I notice something out of the corner of my eye. It’s the cast of Goonies, minus one person. Now, Goonies is one of my most favoritest movies in the whole wide world; I can’t understand why the entire company would show up at some measly Oregonian middle-school sockhop. Unless…

Can’t explain/Something that you’re feeling/For the very first tiiiiiiiiiiiime . . .

Oh, my God. My heart reaches an orchestral crescendo along with the music. A spotlight irises along some faraway curtain. There’s activity, some rustling, but everything has been timed beyond perfection . . .

THEN ALONG COMES A WOMAN

The curtains explode apart and I see every object of my prayers personified in flesh and bone. It’s the lovely Kerri Green, unknowing breaker of my heart, her red locks enchanting me from movie screens, her smile bewitching my every move. She’s so beautiful tonight, her corsage just perfect, pinned to the loveliest pink silk dress I’ve ever seen. Man, it’s like something out of a Chicago video.

The spotlight trails her train as she parts the crowd and floats to me. I’m agape, barely cognizant of reality.

“Hi, Cory,” she says. “Would you like to hold my hand?”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhheyeyeyeye,” I stammer, searching everywhere for confirmation. All I see are envious friends and despondent girls and the cast of Goonies, all nodding their approval. The deejay fires a thumbs-up. I collect my nerves in a tight little bundle and recover with aplomb.

“Why, yes, Kerri. I would be delighted.”

We swarm onto the dance floor as the music changes. “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.” She begins singing it in my ear, punctuating it with “This is our song. It’s time to bring this ship into the shore and throw away the oars forever. . . . Never let me go. Hold me close. Closer. Tighter. My, you’re so responsible and adult for a seventh-grader.”

“It’s my upbringing,” I admit shyly. “I was brought up to have respect for pretty actresses.”

She looks up from my shoulder, her face wet with tears. She doesn’t even bother to wipe them away; they are fresh with truth. “That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me,” she chokes. “It’s like a storybook romance.”

“It is, baby,” I coo. “It’s a story we’ll be telling our grandchildren someday.”

She’s a bit taken aback by this bold proclamation, but it’s only a matter of seconds before she sees that I’m right. A smile explodes across her already luminous face, creating creeks and valleys for her sobs. “Yes, Cory,” she whispers. “Of course I’ll marry you. Tonight. Right here at the dance.”

“Hey, everybody!” I bellow to the throng. “There’s gonna be a weddin’ tonight!”

No one believes it. There’s yelping, whooping, artilleries of hats and clip-on ties exploding in the dark. We cause such a commotion that the local police are alerted. We all back into a corner as the officers check the scene, dust for prints, and are generally satisfied that nothing untoward is happening. The ’80s are, of course, a simpler, more innocent time. But I notice something a little odd. One of the cops has much longer and curly hair, tucked under his hat, like he doesn’t want anybody seeing who he really is. Not only that, he has partners who all look terribly familiar. Within minutes I put two and two together and announce:

“Hey, everybody! That’s Garry Gary Beers! And that one’s Michael Hutchence! They’re not cops at all! It’s rising pop sensations INXS!”

Revealed, the cops have to, well, cop to my accusation. “Yes, it’s true,” says Officer Hutchence, removing his cap. “We are INXS, the rock stars responsible for such hits as ‘Original Sin’ and ‘What You Need,’ and it would be a great honor for us to perform at your nuptials. Our instruments are back in the squad car. We’ll get them if you like.”

Man, what a reception. INXS on stage, blazing through Listen Like Thieves like it ain’t no thing. The most beautiful wife ever. All my friends and enemies gathered under one roof. And to think that only that afternoon I was single and beat-up and a junkie. It only goes to show what a little determination and ambition can do. “You know,” I tell Brad as I watch Kerri open our gifts, “I don’t know how much better this night can get. If I ever complain about how much the ’80s suck, seriously, I want you to ram a rifle down my trachea and pull the damn trigger.”

“I will,” he promised, warding off Alyssa Milano.

“Hello,” Michael Hutchence calls from the stage. “Um, we’ve just gone through our entire repertoire, but we do have one song left that we’ve composed for this very special occasion. We’ll probably release on the album after the album we’re doing next, but right now I would much appreciate it if the groom and the remainder of the cast of Goonies stepped onstage and provided background vocals. How does that sound?”

Well, shoot, I don’t have to be asked twice. We all rush the uprise. I join Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, Ke Huy-Quan, and Martha Plimpton at a free microphone and we proceed to rock the burg to ashes:

You’re so fine

Lose my mind

And our world seems to disappear

All the problems

All the fears

And our world seems to disappear

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It’s a magnetic performance by all. I coil my arms around Feldman and Astin and we’re laughing over some joke involving a dog and a blind rabbi. We promise each other that we’ll return in 20 years time and do it all over again, because we all would still be criminally young, criminally beautiful, and criminally hip. Kerri leaps on stage and into my arms, croaking, “I love you, I love you, I love you” and the camera cranes back, finding Brad and Alyssa applauding in the corner, yelping, “Way to go, Cory! Way to go!” Inspired, I lift Kerri in my arms and carry her out of the gym and into the future, followed by well-wishers and fist-pumpers. Behind us Corey Feldman boards Halley’s Comet with Corey Haim and blasts off for parts unknown, just barely missing my wing-tips as they rocket heavenward. “I wonder where they’re going?” I ask Kerri between kisses as we parade down the street.

“Who cares?” she shrugs. “Let’s live for the now.”

And that’s my favorite memory of the ’80s.

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