My current re-read of the SPIN archives started as a form of spiritual research for both the ongoing series of record and RPG posts. A good chunk of that mnemonic real estate was situated in the first half of the Nineties, so I thought it would be useful to sift through that psychic detritus, see how it tracked against my memories, and possibly unearth some angles which might have become clearer in hindsight.
The voyage began with 1989, the second half of my junior year in high school when the death of my mother was still a raw open wound. It’s the year I got into punk rock (by way of a brief flirtation with thrash metal) and attempted a wider engagement with contemporary popcult in general (if only to pick up the reference my new social circle were throwing out). I followed the thread from there, though the death of hair metal and the rise of grunge, the ephemeral adoration for Hypercolor and “ice” beer, and the earliest stirrings of the double-edged sword known as the Internet.
It was an enjoyable (and occasionally embarrassing) process at first, pegging the mass market music mag record of events to specific memories of those days. My senior prom date’s Deee-Lite ‘do. The culture war as manifested through the various student orgs on the fourth floor of Wheatley Hall. Reviews of tracks played at the New Year’s Eve party I attended with Maura a couple weeks after we started dating. Me wheedling Maura between mouthfuls of Mezzo Mezzo pasta about who she voted for on Election Day 1992. Shows I attended and videos I watched while hanging out with Leech or Maura.
Things took a turn for the unpleasantly weird once I hit the tail end of 1996. Up until that moment, everything had been parsed through the nostalgic lens of the “Good Old Days,” a fuzzy mythological construct walled off into its own discrete compartment. After that point, however, there was a sudden and jarring jump into the realm of “recent memory,” stuff my brain acknowledged as happened over two decades ago but still feels as fresh as yesterday.
The Playstation and the Saturn and Goldeneye? Dig Your Own Hole and Squirrel Nut Zippers and third wave ska? That wasn’t that long ago, was it? It couldn’t be because a lot of it still inhabits my physical and mental space, which would be absurd, right? One of my earliest memories of working at my present job was hearing “Don’t Speak” playing on a co-worker’s radio and a student employee telling Maura that she “looked like Natalie Imbruglia.”
And there’s the crux of the matter. 1997 was the year I (finally) graduated from college and landed what would evolve into my current job. It also followed on the heels of the comedy troupe disintegrating and my old cluster of college friends moving on to their own separate tracks. Apart from getting married and moving up to the house on the hillside, the situation has been the prevailing status quo ever since.
It’s not unsettling because it makes me feel old or reminds me of roads not taken, because it does neither. It’s strange because I never really considered the existence of of clear demarcation line between my concepts of “then” and “now.” The closest I’d had was my mother’s death, which was a life-altering event on multiple levels and even still contained distinct strata of experience.
When the massive meteor strike ended the age of the dinosaurs, it left behind a layer of iridium-laced clay — which, to be honest, is a lot more dignified than the Reel Big Fish CD wedged into my temporal boundary zone.