Jen and I got to talking over coffee yesterday morning about mixtapes and 45’s and the first albums we had as our own people (not inherited from our parents or siblings). In 1984 my sister and I both got boom boxes for Christmas (the exact model I had is in the picture above), with a selection of five cassettes to listen to. My five were:
Looking back on that selection, it’s pretty solid, from an early 80’s point of view. There weren’t a lot of clunkers there—the Def Leppard album fell off on the B side pretty steeply and there was some filler on that particular Van Halen album, but everything else was tight. I played all of these constantly and then when I got my first brick of blank tapes I started taping songs off the radio. At some point I probably had 30 or so cassettes like this, where the DJ was talking over the intro to the song, it played through, and they came back in again only to cut into another song. You Kids Don’t Understand, and all of that.
But man, I miss mixtapes. I miss the time and patience it took to sit by the radio and wait for the DJ to mention he was gonna play a Who deep cut at the top of the hour, and I’d sit with my fingers over the Record button hoping it would be Baba O’Reilly because there was no way I was going to spend $12 on Who’s Next for one song. I had a whole stack of “goddammit” cassettes, a hundred dollars’ worth of store-bought albums that sucked except for that one good track, and that really sucked at a time when when I was making $7.50/hr slinging tacos. Mixtapes may have sounded shitty, but we got the music we wanted.
620 South Lakewood Avenue, 2002
I spent all of my available time from Friday morning to after midnight on Monday working on a video project for WRI. Much of this was in direct communication with a remote video editing team, but there were sections of time where they were working and I needed to be on call near a computer. So I busied myself with some digital archaeology.
The path to the rabbit hole began with a simple question I had about my old 68K Macs, and I spent a fair bit of downtime on Sunday shuttling machines up and down the stairs to boot up and check out. At some point I’d wiped and formatted two of my legacy machines for looking through legacy files; it’s been so long since then that I forgot what I’d done. So a lot of this was a pleasant surprise. I made a list of all of the legacy machines, their specs, their OS condition, and any notes needed to make repairs or updates to each one.
Then I got to thinking about files. I’ve got CD’s burned with working files that date back to 1997 containing work I did all the way back to 1995. When I organized the drives on the basement server I copied a lot of it to a new disk. But there are things I know I had that I couldn’t find, so I dug deeper. Buried within some of these disks I found more of what I was looking for:
- Old backups of my original website, the first and second versions, which I’d thought were lost to time
- Old pictures of the Scout, which I also thought were lost to time. I remember taking a lot of pictures back then; the number of good ones I have of that truck are strangely few
- Work backups from Back In The Day—my first two pro jobs, to be exact
- An archive of the Mad Puppy work I did with Robby, back in the day, which I thought was lost forever on a scratched CD drive
- Email backups from 2002-2006 (gotta figure out how to save these in a viable format)
- Pictures of my first house, many of which I only had small thumbnail versions of. Gonna find something good to do with those
- Various writing projects, some of which make me cringe rereading them 20 years later; some of which make me feel good. I found something I wrote about driving up to Grandma’s funeral that I thought was lost forever
- Backups of the old IHCDigest from 1998
- Tons of my site archives from System Source, from the Wild West days of web development (I miss that time)
There’s more to sift through but for now I think I’m done.
Brian sent me this picture with the caption “13 years ago today”.
This video totally brings me back; Dad owned a repo agency at the same time this video was produced, so a lot of this stuff is very familiar—”Japanese cars are the easiest to break into” made me nod my head without thinking about it. I remember figuring out how to slim jim a domestic car (24:03) in one afternoon; I’m mechanically inclined but cars were engineered so simply in those days it wasn’t really that hard. He shows a special tool for busting into the Ford Fairmont (12:13); I just made them with coat hangers. The part where he busts into the garage made me laugh; I wonder if this guy got sued or prosecuted for making this.
I’ve written about my grandfather’s brother, Tom Dugan before, and mentioned his experience as a sailor on the USS Borie in World War II. The Borie was a WW I era destroyer pressed into service escorting convoys in the early days of the war, and it fought the most desperate and close-quarters battle with a U-Boat I’ve ever heard of. The History Guy does a good job of finding stories like this to feature, and he just released this video explaining the battle.
I got some mail from Maryland529, the folks administering the College Trust Account we have set up for Finn, and had to do a double-take at the address, which looked very familiar at first glance. Turns out it’s the same building I used to work in at my last gig. Hopefully the mojo in that place has changed for the better. It was a cool old building—one of the only ones in that area to survive the Baltimore Fire (the original Alex. Brown & Sons building around the corner is still pockmarked and stained from the fire) and used as a storage facility for the banks in the neighborhood. There was a great old diner in the ground floor of the building that appeared in many Baltimore-based TV shows and movies which is now under new ownership. I hope they left all the 1940’s era fittings and furniture intact.
Somehow, the axis of the earth shifted beneath my feet, and I didn’t feel a thing.
When I was a teenager, in the heady days of MTV and before the second wave of video games hit, we had only a few things to do to get out of the house. When we were too old to build forts in the woods or make jumps for our bikes, we bugged Mom or Dad to drive us to the Mall, where we could go hang out and wander for hours and maybe meet up with our friends and not look like miserable lonely schlubs. I’d spend a half an hour in the Koenig Art Emporium, looking at brushes or expensive oil paints; I’d go to the poster store and maybe buy a cardboard-backed picture of a Porsche or a Lamborghini. I’d go to one of the two music stores and agonize over whether I should spend $15 on a cassette that might only have two good songs on it. And I’d always stop at the Gap.
The Gap was my touchpoint for fashion in the 1980’s; I wasn’t a Chess King guy (we quietly made fun of the pleated slacks, Capezio and black fedora set in our high school) and I had more style than Sears or K-Mart offered. The Gap was always mobbed. They played decent music, and all my friends and I bought clothes there. I worked for months to afford a fleece-lined denim Gap jacket. I had the Gap’s version of Jams when Jams were cool. I had multiple Gap polo shirts, alternating those with J. Crew polo shirts which hid my pencil neck—I only popped the collar a couple of times, I swear.
I still buy Gap jeans, as they have a wide selection of available styles which still tend to fit me in a 25-year-old way and not a Dad way, and usually it’s a breeze to buy them online during a sale and have them delivered—if they don’t fit, you run them back to the store. After I had a wave of knee blowouts in my “work uniform” this winter, I ordered three pair to replace the fallen soldiers. Two fit as advertised, but one pair was so skinny as to be latex, and I can’t rock that look without major ball squishage (I’m so old I remember when the Gap’s clothes were all 14 sizes too big). They’ve sat in the bag patiently, waiting to go back for a couple of months now, and my blood draw this morning took me in that general direction so I stopped in to the mall to return them. Donning my mask I noticed several shuttered storefronts (the beads and baubles store is gone; the Apple store moved further down the row and has been replaced with a Lululemon store. Macy’s is closed, darkening one whole wing.) When I reached the storefront where the Gap was, I was faced with a boarded up wall.
I was momentarily flabbergasted. Having a mall without a Gap is kind of like having a hand with no thumb; inconceivable to a child of the 80’s like me. They’ve been in dire straits for a long time now, so I can’t say this is a complete shock. But I figured with Columbia’s clientele and proximity to middle-class shoppers, this would be one store that would have stayed open. The closest I’ve got is a factory outlet in another nearby mall, and hopefully they’ll honor the return. If not, I’ll have to squish my balls into some skinny jeans and pour another one out for the inexorable march of progress.
When I was a kid my Dad gave me his wooden X-Acto toolkit and a plan for a balsa wood Sopwith Camel. I spent hours in the basement cutting and gluing and assembling and doping (the fabric, not myself) until I had a working, barely flyable airplane model. I graduated on to a TBM Avenger that I kept for awhile until my buddy Stas and I filled it with fireworks and flew it off the roof of the house to explode over the driveway (Hi, Mom!).
Finley has decided she wants to make a miniature kitchen set with working appliances, and the plan we found online is constructed with balsa wood and glue. In helping her work on the project this afternoon, I recall the pleasure of completing the models and flying them, and the hours of painstaking work it took to get them there.
Working with balsa wood again, I’m really tempted to buy a new model and start building it; this B-24 has a 4′ wingspan and looks like it would be fun as hell to assemble but it’s currently on backorder. Maybe that’s a good thing…