Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ah the Eighties

Yesterday when I got home from work, my daughter, Tiffany, said to me "Hey Dad, tomorrow at school, it's 80's day. How does this outfit look? Do I look 80's?"

Well now, I must tell you that while my kids have done many things over the years that have made me a proud papa; this one moistened my tear ducts. Because of all the things I've claimed to be expert in,(and there's a lot of them) the 80's is at the very top of my list. This was a decade that introduced me to football, Run DMC, Ac/DC, and a girl named Cindy. Actually, every boy in my neighborhood was introduced to Cindy. Not only was she pretty and um...mature for her age but she had every boy around thinking she loved him. How pretty you ask? So pretty that on one occasion, one of us pretended to sprain an ankle so he could put an arm around her and have her help me, I mean him walk home.

That all came to an end once young Cindy learned how to file a restraining order. You know what they say, "If you love someone set them free, if not, you could end up on house arrest for 12 to 18 months depending on your behavior...or so I've heard.

I have many fond memories from this, my favorite of decades. Like this one: November, 1980. It's the eve of the presidential election and I'm watching the results pour in, state by state.
Being only 12, I wasn't political. Heck, I didn't know left from right, didn't understand taxing or spending and I didn't care to. What I did knew was--that my once proud country was down in the dumps. The cold war was at it's peak, and America didn't have a leader that would stand up to the Russia, the evil empire, as Ronald Reagan would later dub them.
To make matters worse, local people would say, "If the Soviets ever launch a nuclear missile, the first place they'll hit is Jacksonville, Florida because we have three naval bases."
"This is great.", I would tell myself, "I must have won some sort of geographical lottery." How lucky can a kid be right?

I recall being ecstatic as network after network called the election in Reagan's favor. I had remembered seeing the campaign ads in the months leading up to that night. They showcased things like missiles being launched, and they spoke of how this current Governor of California was was tough on defense. I liked that.

At the same time. Iran had been holding 53 Americans hostage for over a year and gave no indication of releasing them anytime soon if ever. Iran's leader the Ayatollah Khomeini, was as evil as they come and back here in the good ole U.S.A., you could buy everything from dartboards to toilet paper with his likeness on it. Flea markets all over the nation were prospering from this patriotic run on terrorist imprinted toys and toiletries.
The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, right after Reagan was sworn into office. Earlier that year, Jimmy Carter had sent out two military helicopters to rescue the hostages. Both choppers crashed in the dessert sands, leaving for soldiers dead. This only reinforced my belief that America needed a protector. Someone who would lead through strength and not be pushed around. Other world leaders would think twice about taking on the United States lest they get a Toby Keith style boot up their a**. And now we had that leader, and I, like many other Americans, breathed a sigh of relief.

Now brimming with confidence and a new found sense of security, knowing that my house wouldn't be microwaved anytime soon, I started out on my journey into what would become my favorite era so far, the wild, wonderful, everything goes, 80's. I remember watching Mtv after school(I can still see the astronaut planting the Mtv flag on the moon) and seeing Dexys Midnight Runners dancing in the streets singing "Come On Eileen." You know, back when they played music videos on MUSIC TELEVISION!

I still remember when rap music was fun and wasn't filled with hateful vitriolic lyrics.
I can vivdly see Doug Flutie, quarterback for the Boston College football team, dropping back and heaving the ball 60 yards into the endzone, and his friend and teammate Gerard Pheland hauling in the pass behind two stunned Miami Hurricane defenders. Whenever you watch a football game and hear the term Hail Mary from the announcers, this is the play they are thinking about.

The movies of the 80's were great as well. Sure, when you watch them now, they may seem a little cheesy, but not then. No way no how! Just look at this line up: "Terminator" 1&2. "Rocky" 1-4. "Rambo" 1&3, "Raiders of the Lost Arc","Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "The Breakfast Club", are you kidding me? I could go on, but I digress.

There were a lot of great memories I have from that time in my life but the 80's was about so much more than movies, music, and merriment, it was about the world being a better place than the decades before. It was about having no more gas lines, everybody was working(everyone who wanted to anyway),and prosperity reigned supreme. So much so in fact, that prosperity is what ended the cold war as we knew it. America simply out-spent the Russians. They couldn't keep up and ultimately collapsed in around themselves. Then in 1989, the last year of that marvelous decade, the Berlin Wall fell.

Now my little girl is standing in front of me so excited that she gets to dress like Molly Ringwald. To her it's all about the style and music of that era, which is fine. But to me, it's much more.

I can still hear Ronald Reagan uttering those historic words...

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"


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