All posts filed under: Throwback

Raise Your Hand If You Think You’re Cool

If charged with the task to assess, based on a scale of one to 10, how cool people think I am, I’d say I’m a 6.25. I’m neither un-cool nor super-cool. In fact, I’m barely cool-adjacent. On the first day of ninth grade, I took the liberty assigning a (moderate) coolness quotient to myself. My own self-ranking put me modestly above the kids who scavenged for recognition and markedly below the ones who seemed to always hover in the uppermost echelons of the lunchroom pecking order. Suffice to say that when I was in high school, I never once sat at the cool kids’ table. I didn’t even deign to sit at the table next to the cool kids’ table. No, I made a beeline for the table next to the table next to the cool kid’s table. Granted, my faulty memory could be inaccurately reporting my cafeteria habits of yore. And if so, then I’m sure that one of my Facebook friends from The Graduating Class of 1995 at Manheim Township will swiftly post a correction on …

Henry Rollins Helped Me Become the Coolest Girl in School

In the fall of 1981 in San Pedro, California, I led a double life. By day, I was the senior class co-president, well liked and respected by my peers and teachers, if not Homecoming court-popular. As a student, I was something of an underachiever — I ended up getting into both Berkeley and Oberlin, but I was often bored in class and put in the minimum effort required. I read Sylvia Plath and Kerouac and felt that nobody knew “the real me.” Perhaps all teenagers feel this way. But in 1981 in L.A., there was a home for a certain kind of young person who felt a dissatisfaction, a longing for something unnamed, and this “home” was the punk rock scene. So by night, I was a punk rocker. My female friends and I would don thrift store dresses, ripped tights and combat boots while our male counterparts wore ripped jeans and band t-shirts. We would drive to various nightclubs or halls or occasionally garages to hear bands like The Minutemen, The Dead Kennedys, Sonic …

My Plea for the Pledge

The year is 1966. I am a first-grader at the H.B. Milnes School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Every morning, my classmates and I stand beside our little desks, hands over little hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Our teacher then bangs out the chords to one of a dozen patriotic songs we know by heart. My personal favorites: “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” Though a few youngsters mangle some of the lyrics, there’s no doubt that one tenet has already been deeply inculcated: America — and the flag that stands in the corner of every classroom — is to be respected and cherished, for we are the greatest and freest nation in the world. As a kid, I embraced this fully. It had to be true since my teacher said so, as did my parents and President Johnson. For not only was the United States strong, it was generous. If another country’s citizens were hungry, we sent food. If they were attacked, we sent help. America …

What’s That On Your Head? A Wig

“By the way, I have a new wig. I don’t think the reddish one will survive another concert.” Shelly called me to plan our get-ups for the next B-52s concert next Sunday night. “It’s a bob but I can tease it, cause it’s gotta be big. It can not be half-assed. It has to be awesome.” Since 1977 you could probably catch The B-52s playing somewhere in America. In the last decade or so they’ve been touring almost every year. I know, because Shelly and I go, almost every year. But when did we first put on the wigs? It’s difficult to say. In the beginning, we would fashion our real hair into sky-high beehives. She was Cindy. I was Kate. Always. I’d tease the hell out of my thick brown hair with a rat-tail comb, Shelly found either a cardboard toilet paper roll or a Styrofoam cone that she’d twirl her blonde hair around and up. One of my dearest friends, Shelly and I both of hail from the Philly area and share an …

What the Bullied Girl Taught Me

Reunions are like reflections. At least, that’s the thought I had after a recent high-school class reunion, though I could apply the same sentiment to family reunions, or really any encounter with people I haven’t seen in years. For at least a moment, you flash back to how you remember them — and yourself — at that time. Then there’s the inevitable question, “what have you been doing since I last saw you?” A friend once told me our reactions arc over time, much like our responses. At early reunions, like the five- or ten-year, familiarity still tends to run strong. You’ve stayed in touch with many old friends. They know what you’ve been doing. The range of individual achievements and failures remains fairly consistent. Many graduated college and got their first job; some got married. I was moving to New York. I was on my way up. By the 15th year, though, you start reflecting on the things you had planned for when you grew up. Because now you are grown up. You are what you are going to be. Is it what you thought? [pullquote]By …

Drive-Thru World: A Never-Get-Out-Of-Your-Car Road Trip

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Philadelphia City Paper in 1993. Caveat: we were four snarky 20-somethings spending the day in the car in Philly and New Jersey. Since then, Six Flags Great Adventure no longer has the drive-thru Wild Safari, MAC machines are called ATMs, there are cell phones and Shelly and Roderik are still married. A few edits have been made for clarity and brevity — this sucker was long.  Three friends and I — Dave, Shelly and Roderik — decided to seek out all the things you can still do, in and around Philadelphia, without getting out of our car. It should be noted that one of our participants, Roderik, is a native of Holland, where they don’t do drive-thru. “It’s a very American thing,” he informed us. For entertainment in those dull moments of highway ennui, we brought Star’s special issue: Inside the FBI Secret Files, a Yes & Know trivia book with secret decoder pen, a Bugs Bunny magic slate (the kind that erases what you’ve drawn …

In 1978, My Local Drive-in Was Mecca

The Hillcrest Drive-In in my hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, was exactly 2.6 miles from the house I grew up in. But to me, a small child in the late 70s, it might as well have felt as far away as the moon. My life, then, was so different from what my seven-year-old’s is today. It was a time of less immediacy and certainly less solvency, especially for our little family of two: me and my mom. Special occasions were special; they were cherished, infrequent events that, in hindsight, are the numbered pinpoints in the happy, pastoral, connect-the-dots of my childhood. My mom was a kid back then herself, having had me at just 18. She worked full time and put herself through college while I was in grade school. We lived in a tiny little house where our “home entertainment center” consisted of a 12” black and white TV (complete with foiled rabbit ear antennae and a clunking, hard-to-turn dial), and a turntable upon which The Beatle’s Abbey Road and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon were the weathered, scratchy …

The Generational Pop-Culture Trivia Gap Explained

“Dig this guy cutting a rug out there like he’s Rerun or something.” I’m standing at my company holiday party, chatting with a coworker next to the dance floor. He scrunches up his face in reaction to my comment. “Huh?” Oh boy. Here we go again. “I said he’s cutting a rug — that means dancing — like the character Rerun.” “Rerun of what?” “Rerun. Rerun is a character. From the show What’s Happening!!” “Oh. Right.” He punctuates his acknowledgment with a blank nod and smile. I know this look. That’s him registering zero. I do a little Gene Gene the Dancing Machine shuffle to finish off the exchange as weirdly as possible. I’m writing this piece from what I call the Pastless Present: a place where brilliant youth are reinventing our future but seem to be utterly unaware of anything has come before. More specifically, I work in tech. In fact, I’m a woman in tech, and I’m 42, which is kind of like being a unicorn tap dancing on a rainbow. I like …

Songs We Worked Out To in the ’80s (If We Worked Out At All)

Back in the 1980s, working out wasn’t inextricably linked to music, the way it is today. There weren’t Zumba songs or “Jock Jams.” We didn’t listen to playlists oriented by BPMs. We didn’t have a handy, clippable iPod touch. Yes, we had our Sony Walkmans, but I had nightmares of trying to “jog” with that thing affixed to nylon shorts and watch it crash to the ground. While the ’80s saw the advent of aerobics, and Jane, and Olivia, of course, we did our jumping jacks to whatever music was bouncy. I remember taking a “dance fitness” class in 8th grade and my young teacher playing the Moody Blues “Tuesday Afternoon,” which we thought was the coolest thing ever, if completely inappropriate for Jazzercise. So we conducted a purely unscientific poll of friends, asking people what music they worked out to back then, and found a wide range of tunes — from the obvious to the obscure. We say, whatever moves you. Good For:  Aerobics 1.0  “Can You Feel It” — The Jacksons Everyone remembers the …

gossip tuenight music

The Kids Are Alright (And So Is Their Music)

This piece is a response to Margit Detweiler’s essay about contemporary music, “The New Pop, Pop, Pop Music (And Why I Don’t Like It).” First, let me say that I don’t entirely disagree with Margit. I, too, am underwhelmed by a lot of what I hear on the radio, and my son went through a Psy phase that almost made me lose the will to live. But I’m more optimistic about the current state of music than she is, and even though my ears are old, I’m not ready to cover them just yet. Full disclosure: I was a Top 40’s kid in the 1970s and 80s. My only exposure to New Wave came from MTV, and the underground and alternative scene was completely alien to me and my suburban boom box. I owned a pair of Madonna-esque fingerless lace gloves, and I spent angst-filled hours listening to Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” on my tape deck. Oh, and my favorite band? Chicago. Yeah. That all changed when I went to college. I got the musical …

Letters TueNight Margit Detweiler

People Used to Write Letters! And I Have a Box to Prove It

I have a green box. It is filled with dusty old letters, organized by names and folders. Ex beaus. Lost friends. Professors who kept in touch with me after college. Grandparents. I haven’t looked at this box in probably 20 years. I mean, I’ve seen it sitting way back in my closet, every time I shuffle shoes around. I’ve used it as a sticker repository it over the years (Black Flag! AOL! Obama! Biden ’08!). And it remains. I know it’s there. But I never open it. Too much old emotional artifact bound to swallow hours of my life. Who has time? For some reason, this year, I went excavating. I dared to have a peek. Inspired, perhaps, by my parents who have been downsizing and doling out old letters, photos, diaries, books, and matchbook collections to us kids. While going through that old stuff you unearth buried treasures, and, of course, a few rusty nails. [pullquote]I’d imagine my own shoeboxes of unorganized, dog-eared letters disintegrating, and that over a century their context could be …

My Magical, Hand-Painted Levis

When I was 12 years old, a chic French clothing store opened up right next door to my mom’s first boutique. The owners, from Paris, were impossibly cool and the best dressers I had ever seen. The store was named “Vanilla” and I loved just about every item of clothing in it. One particular vêtement caught my eye — a pair of hand-painted Levi’s jeans. I was smitten. The jeans were a baby blue shade with two large, bold images painted on each thigh. One leg had a floral bouquet and the other the face of a woman. By simply adding beautifully drawn hand-painted images, they went from reliable staple to fashion statement, as well as a marker of self-identification. Each pair in the store was unique – just like their future owners. And they looked impossibly cool in the window paired with a black blouse and heels. I was smitten. These jeans represented everything that I wanted to be at the time: sophisticated yet a bit hippie, polished but not uptight, approachable, and cool, …

Betty: Boss of the Bus

Sixty minutes is a long school bus ride, especially when it’s 92 degrees in early September with no air conditioning, the seats are sticky with sweat, and every row is filled with hormonal middle schoolers. That 60 minutes seemed interminable to us, the said middle schoolers. From my 47-year-old vantage point, I know now that it must have seemed even longer to Betty, my middle school bus driver. Our ride was protracted because we were Catholic school kids in rural Southwestern PA. There wasn’t a neighborhood school on every city block. We had to wind our way through several towns and along mountain roads: Possum Hollow Road, Rustic Knob Lane, Fish Hatchery Road, Zion Church Road, Rectory Road. Reminiscing about the street names takes me right back to the mountain environment. Gorgeous wilds, sparse population, and a uniformly Christian citizenry. Not uncommon: the shack with a washer (dish-or-clothes variety) and a couch on the front porch. There was no “as the crow flies” route. The only option was to pack 72 eleven through 13-year olds …

The Start of School, Once Again…

Once the beginning of September rolls around, TV and newspapers are filled with images of preppy kids in long sleeved shirts, jeans and jackets excitedly taking on great outdoor playgrounds as they go back to school. When one grows up in Arizona, the start of the school year is simply an extended summer — it’s still 110 degrees outside, phys-ed teachers still make you run the half mile regardless of the heat index, and those images of children in long-sleeved clothes are pure fantasy. Just as the summer reached its hottest point, and the world moved as slow as molasses, that was the time that school started again. As a kid, I both loved and dreaded the end of weeknight slumber parties. The new school year was an exciting opportunity to transition another year of life – to grow, learn and stretch. It signified renewal and a chance to embark upon great adventures. By June of the following year, I’d be in an entirely new place and it would seem as though lifetimes had passed. Staples …

The History of My Hair: A Timeline

Hair has always been the proving ground to see where you fit in, while trying your best to look good. As I cycled through my past hair trends, I realized I was casting out and reeling back the parts that worked — and the ones that didn’t. I went through a few bad cuts, got blonder and curlier than I meant to be, but eventually figured it out. Whatever quality it was that made me want to change my haircut every year is as much a part of me as anything else.

The Microcosm of Bunk Life

In many ways, life inside a summer camp bunk is a microcosm of the adult social world, especially for females. The atmosphere can be simultaneously congenial and competitive, intimate and exclusionary. In a space the size of typical two-car garage, a variety of personality types are thrust together, forced to navigate an often-complicated jumble of events and emotions. And, if you were like I was some 40 years ago, you loved it. For me, camp was a place to both be myself and test myself, to slip into my beloved pair of broken-in Tretorns even as I tried out new skills. Those dusty, musty cabins provided us temporary inhabitants with stability and solace even as we pushed boundaries during the day. At camp, there are no parents around to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, or catch you when you fall. It’s a place to figure out stuff on your own, be that how to soothe yourself to sleep on a homesick night or stand up to a snooty bitch. But it’s also …

How I Tried to Get Kicked Out of Camp — And The Life Lesson I Learned

I was six years old when I first went to camp. It was a month-long sleepover camp in Canada, hundreds of miles from my house. It was also my very first time away from home. My best friend was going, so of course it was all that I wanted in the whole wide world. For God knows what reason, my Mom said yes. I was all big glasses and big heart and I couldn’t wait for camp to start. My mom and I bought a trunk. We neatly packed summer clothes. We hid contraband Twizzlers and other sweets that wouldn’t melt. We packed stationary, stamps and addresses. Once we arrived and my cabin was assigned, I met my fellow campers and got the grand tour. Everything seemed a-ok. The first few days were filled with meeting new people, playing games, going to free swim and electives like arts & crafts. But starting around day six, I got tremendously homesick. It started as a small trickle at first. I missed my bed, my house, my mom. …

The Day I Cut My Hair, I Lost More Than Locks

I was 14 or so before I grew the tops of my ears back which had been practically singed off by the dreaded hot comb. I’ve survived the beauty parlors — aka Mrs. Bank’s and Mrs. Tabb’s kitchens — where the familiar scent of bergamot was as pervasive as the aroma of chicken, fish, collards, homemade biscuits, pound cake… and pressed hair. One day after school, when I was in the 9th grade, I decided I was too grown for ponytails and bangs. I knew that if I asked to wear an afro the answer would be “No!” After all, this was in Williamsburg, VA in the early ‘70s and we were not yet quite so hip. So without asking I did the unthinkable and broke out the shears, cutting off shoulder-blade length locks of hair in two too easy strokes. Fortunately my father was the first one home from work that day, finding me standing in the bathroom holding two long plaits and looking helplessly like “Now what?” Realizing the noise and fury that would …

In the ’80s, I Was Lori With the Big Hair

I was born bald as a cue ball and stayed that way until I was almost two years old. Both my mother and grandmother tell me stories of how they scotch taped bows onto my bald head for parties and pictures. But once I turned two, something happened. My hair took off, with a vengeance. A thick, wavy and wiry vengeance. I have vivid memories of tearing up at the kitchen table as my mom struggled to brush my insane mane into giant pigtails or what was perhaps the world’s biggest ponytail. As a young girl I was so envious of my blonde-haired, fair-skinned girlfriends. I admired their ability to wear braids, tortoise shell headbands and effortlessly run a comb through their soft, shiny hair. I kept a giant lavender comb in the back pocket of my Jordache jeans, but it was more for decorative purposes; there was no way I could ever run a comb through my unruly hair without major incident. But then came the 1980s, — the decade my hair was born …

6 Amazing Analog Things My iPhone Has Replaced — And I Kinda Miss

While organizing the basement, I uncovered several old, beloved analog things that made me realize just how amazing our iPhones are, and how much has changed. Yet, there are some knobs and levers that still work better. Like all things in life, striking the balance of old and new technology is key. Now, to get those Super 8 films converted to digital… 1. Super 8 Camera. Our family Super 8 captured lots of fun moments as well as my brothers creative stop-action animation. And we never had to worry about recharging — we just wound up the motor. 2. Boombox. My boombox from the 1990s, complete with CD player! At the time, it was the slickest thing on the block. 3. Rabbit ear antenna. From way back in the analog days — even the TV could “go to eleven.” 4. Accordion.  I’m still desperately trying to learn how to play. Luckily, there’s an app for that. 5. A 45″ single. A song by Style 32 (my brother’s band) from 1982, entitled “She’s a Digital Girl But It’s an …

Then & Now: 5 of Your Favorite Classic Toys Get a Facelift

This past holiday season, classic toys — the ones we loved and played with as kids — were de rigueur gifts for all the children on my shopping list.  I had just finished writing a book on the 50-year history of a classic toy — the Easy-Bake Oven — and decided to limit my shopping list to toys that had made it into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. The good news was that many of the toys on my list were still being produced and available at traditional toy stores and online retailers. What surprised me was how many of the toys from my childhood had been redesigned – resulting in some of the “new and improved” pale facsimiles.  That’s right, I’m looking right at you, Lite-Brite, with your LED flat screen!  Here are my top 5: 1. BIG WHEEL Then: Growing up in rural Massachusetts in the ’70s and ’80s, the Big Wheel was a big deal. On my street this toy “low-rider” with a huge front wheel was …

Looking Back: The House of Saint Fannie

It was located on a familiar, winding, bumpy road that held the memories of youth. There was always a flurry of activity in our house growing up, along with the daily traffic that cut the tree-lined suburban street and turned it into a raceway. Each driver navigated the sharp curve as if they were Mario Andretti, minus the looks and money that went along with that type of fame. A 1950’s split-level, the house sat a stone’s throw from the center of the universe (Manhattan) and it gave off the feeling that anything was possible. I lived with my mother and my grandparents. My grandfather stood out as the only truly present man in our lives, and his moral center was paired with Saint Fannie, my grandmother, the matriarch who cooked a mean eggplant parmesan and was my favorite person on earth. As a child growing up in 1970’s suburban New Jersey, nothing could touch us. Life was good — golden, in fact. I had no siblings, so it was always just the four of …

Why I’ve Stopped Wearing Black

I grew up in Oregon, where folks wear a lot of color. It’s pretty natural to match your surroundings, and on the left coast of my childhood, you’d see a lot of browns (earth), greys (sky) and blues (water, which is everywhere). So it makes sense to me that New Yorkers also want to blend in. Their shiny skyscraper windows are black. The wet pavement is black. And as we transition from fall to winter, the night sky becomes blacker then black. I’ve lived in this city for almost 20 years now, and like my fellow urbanites, I’ve started to blend in, to reflect my environment. But each year when I pull out my winter clothes, I get a little depressed. It could be the leftover habit of back-to-school anxiety, could be related to September 11, could be that I just hate cold weather. But I think there’s something else a little… grey. Actually, darker than that. It’s black, and I don’t like it. I don’t like black and I’ve decided not to wear it …

My Big ’80s Pink Prom Dress: A Love Story

At the ripe young age of 17, I fell in love. With a dress. While shopping for the prom, this pink sateen confection wooed me in the couture department at Saks Fifth Avenue in suburban Philadelphia. I can’t remember the designer, but in my mind’s eye — which may not be accurate due to my affinity for revisionist history — it was of a Christian Lacroix poof vintage Everything about the dress said “Big ‘80s” sophistication: the above-the-knee length, the strapless, heart-shaped neckline, the shimmery fabric that unfolded in soft layers like petals on a plump rose. Plus, it was pink, my favorite color — and the only color I could imagine myself wearing to the prom. I was never much of a “girly girl,” but I always loved iterations of pink. It might be because someone once told me that it complimented my complexion. But I also think pink is a happy color. (Plus, it’s said to have a calming effect.) [pullquote]“The Dress.” I had to have it. There was just one problem: My single mom couldn’t …

My Passion for Purple: Prince, Donny and Me

 In Europe and America, purple is the color most associated with vanity, extravagance, and individualism. Among the seven major sins, it represents vanity. It is a color which is designed to attract attention. Purple is the color most often associated with the artificial and the unconventional. It is the major color that occurs the least frequently in nature… (“Psychologie de la couleur: Effets et symboliques” by Eva Heller) Back around the time I turned double digits, in 1976, I changed my sign-off from “Dori” to “The Purple Princess.” My signature on letters to real and imaginary correspondents, for example, was now Love Always, or Sincerely (or whatever), The Purple Princess. Or even more often, was written over and again and with calligraphic flourish on the myriad scraps of paper also doodled with flowers and hearts and such. This newly-imagined identity was a quiet, pissy rebellion on my part. If I wasn’t going to have a popular name that could be found on pins and belt buckles at roadside gas stations or gift shops – like, …

Then & Now: Your End-of-Summer Mixtape

Discovering bands that are fresh for your end-o-summer playlist — and actually good to listen to — can be tricky and time-consuming. And you have to know who to trust (“But Aunt Margit, Carly is AWE-some!”) To that end, we’ve compiled a few bands  you might like, based on some old sounds you probably already know. Our picks aren’t all brand new, but a few have gone under the radar, and we insist you listen: 1. Slightly sappy, ’70s singer songwriters Then: Seals & Croft, “Summer Breeze.” Now: The Autumn Defense, “Back of My Mind.” While their album Once Around (2010) isn’t new, we can’t get enough of these two ex-Wilco bandmates and their California, easy, breezy pop groove. “Back of My Mind” is a standout for September.   2. Edgy, unclassifiable R&B Then: Erykah Badu, “On & On.” Now: Lianne La Havas, “Forget.” Is Your Love Big Enough (2012)  is a melange of jazz, pop, R&B and rock, and this 24-year-old’s emotional debut album is a stunner (and woefully overlooked.)   3. Peace, love …