Whenever I visit my parents, my Mother picks me up at the airport and my radio station request is always the same. Sirius Radio ’70s on 7. And every time we play a few songs, and Mother remarks, “I don’t know how you’re so into ’70s music.” and my reply is always the same: “Because it’s the music I grew up on.” which Mother doesn’t understand, because for some reason we always want to remember the past as linear. “But you were born in 1982.”
“Yes,” I explain, “But you don’t stop listening to albums the year after they’re released. You don’t stop wearing sweaters the year after you buy them. In the mid-80s when I have my earliest memories, there was plenty of holdover from the ’70s.” For example, of the records (yes, records!) I most remember Mother playing while she was cooking dinner were from the ’70s, despite it being the late ’80s by the time my memory is that vivid: Carole King’s Tapestry (1971); Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (1977); Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits 1974-78 (1978); Barbra Streisand Live Concert at the Forum (1972), and the of course the immortal contemporary hit Dirty Dancing Soundtrack (1987).
I also have vivid memories of creeping out of the Jacuzzi to reset the needle on the record player to the beginning of Looking Glass’s Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl), which was released ten years to the day before I was born on May 18, 1972. Another bizarrely vivid memory of the record player was of the wooden handled cleaner that we had; that wooden handle was hollow, and contained a compartment for a small bottle of cleaning solution. I also seem to remember being fascinated by album covers – you’d slide the record out and there was an additional thin paper tissue cover for the record itself. And somehow, even though I was quite small, I somehow knew exactly where to drop the needle on the record to reach the beginning of the song.
Time is absolutely not linear. We didn’t become ’90s kids on January 1, 1990; we were living in the ’80s for a few years afterwards, even if we really weren’t. And Alaska and Hawai’i move at a slower pace. When I was in Palm Springs with my Dad in the summer of 1996 I went shopping and he warned me “Keep in mind, it takes a good two years for fashions in California to reach Alaska”. Of course, that was the reason I liked them. Status symbols among Anchorage high school students in Anchorage seemed to be either brands only available at Nordstrom, or that were clearly expensive and indicated a more than passing interest in the outdoors (North Face), or anything that couldn’t be bought locally, suggesting the means to travel. In the mid-’90s that meant basically everything from J. Crew to Gap (Gap finally opened in Anchorage in 1998, and it broke systemwide single-store sales records for years afterwards).
I also blame the cabin at Big Lake. Cabins have a tendency to get items second hand, so the cabins we had on Big Lake were both like museums of the ’60s and ’70s. At the first cabin on Big Lake, on Long Island, we didn’t have a microwave or telephone until the late ’80s, likewise indoor plumbing (which even then was a marine toilet that was dumped at the end of the weekend so the contents didn’t freeze). There were plenty of vintage Sears Roebuck catalogs, snow gear and wetsuits at least ten years old, and perhaps a most vivid memory is a good old fashioned metal tin of Saltine Crackers. By the 80s the boxes were cardboard, but for years we’d just buy new boxes of Saltines and put the plastic sleeves in the old reliable metal box. Years later I got curious and looked at the tin to find that the design was copyrighted in 1968 There were also these wonderful wine goblets, both of a typical 1970s glass bevel, another of a neo-medeival metal.
The second cabin on the Lake wasn’t much more modern; the previous occupants also had school age children, and the items they’d left behind in 1990 were generally anywhere from 1965-1980, the most modern of which I would say were the Shirt Tales gang (1982).
You see, that’s the wonderful thing about cultural icons like cartoons and music. Once they’re written, they’re always there. They might go out of style, but they still linger on and on, and they do things like pop up at weird times to give us a taste of nostalgia, or often sheer terror, like the first time we see a show that we remember the original broadcasts of popping up on Nick at Nite (like Friends).
Oh God. Friends is on Nick at Nite. Good NIGHT.