RECORD STORE TALES #997: De-Programming
On July 8, there was a massive nation-wide service outage in Canada. No cable, no cellular, no internet. As stinky as this situation was, it did create a time machine of sorts. Jen and I were already celebrating the summer of ’89 with albums such as Pump and Dr. Feelgood. The internet outage really took us back to 1989 (and earlier) in a specific way.
I’ve written in glowing terms about childhood and cottage life. Rose coloured glasses, my friends. Rose coloured classes. For this service outage reminded us of the before-fore times when we had two channels on TV and nothing else.
So here I am, writing this in the middle of the outage, into a word document. These are the fresh thoughts as they happen.
Thought the first: Boy, am I ever glad I have my music collection meticulously backed up on hard drives. Otherwise, I’d have no music. To continue the summer of ’89 feel, we listened to the “Fire Woman” EP by The Cult. Then, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich by Warrant.
Second thought: I remember I had something of a catchphrase at the cottage back then. “I’m boooooored.”
Indeed, it is all coming back to me now! I was bored a lot up here. I had my music (on cassette) and some books with me at all times, but that wasn’t enough to stave off the boredom of a pimply teenager with hockey hair.
I think it’s worse today because we’ve been conditioned to be able to look stuff up on demand. As I listened to The Cult, I wanted to read the lyrics. I wanted to look up the production personnel. I’m conditioned to be able to do that. I’m constantly distracted by wanting to look stuff up.
Additionally, I am always used to a steady stream of messages through the day, be they emails or comments. I’m trained to look at my phone every so often to glance at notifications. That reflex is there even now. I’m trying to de-program myself today.
The summer of 1989 was the year that I declared Warrant to be my favourite new band. So let’s go where the “Down Boys” go, and figure out what was so boring about this place to the teenager with nothing to do.
The most exciting thing to do for me back then was to go to town. Then I’d have the opportunity to buy a new rock magazine or perhaps a tape at the Radio Shack or Stedman’s stores. Some candy too if we were lucky. But a teenager needed a family to take him to town, and they didn’t always want to go to town. And if they did, it was on their terms, which meant a lot of waiting around as they tried on shoes or looked at knick-knacks.
We usually split into groups. The ladies (my aunt, mom and sister) would go to the knick-knack stores. My dad and I would go to Radio Shack, Stedman’s and Leisure World. And then we’d sit around waiting for the others.
We’d play games, but you’d have to wait for everybody to be ready. Mom had to make her coffee. Sister had to dry her hair.
I enjoyed helping my dad cook dinner. Always a cottage highlight for me. I’d season the steaks, make the fire, and let my dad take it from there. We made a lot of good steaks over cedar fires in 1989.
I enjoyed when my friend Bob, who had a license and a car (Pontiac Fiero), would drive up for a visit. His family had a trailer about 30 minutes south. His trailer park even had girls! There were never any girls to meet at the cottage. The isolation here was a lot to deal with for a teenager. No MuchMusic, no VCR, no music videos at all.
Just now, I wanted to Google how far away his trailer park was, to get the details right. No internet. Must de-program.
It’s not like I was meeting any girls at home, but at least I could go to the mall and run into school friends. At the cottage I couldn’t even call them. Today I have Jen with me, and my sister is right next door, so the isolation isn’t really an issue. While I wish I could message Harrison or Meat with my latest thoughts, they’ll just have to wait. And if I can’t remember the thoughts to message them, then they couldn’t have been all that important. De-programming!
Compared to yesteryear, I have more freedom. Here I am on the front porch, rocking to Warrant and nobody’s telling me to go to my room or turn it down. If I want to go make a fire, nobody will tell me not to. I don’t have to wait for anyone else if I feel like swimming. If I want to barbecue a steak for lunch, good on me.
One thing that never bored me: a cottage project like putting on a new deck. It was always a communal effort with all of us contributing to cutting and nailing wood. Maybe I’d even be allowed to bring my ghetto blaster outside to listen to music (at a reasonable volume).
Sometimes we’d play baseball (not easy with all the trees in the way), badminton, frisbee, darts. Pellet guns were always stocked with ammo and tin cans were kept for target practice. It’s not that there was nothing to do. It’s that I didn’t always want to do that stuff because I’d rather be bored.
Sometimes we’d be so bored we’d count the seams in the ceiling planks.
This deprogramming stuff is hard. We’ve been heavily conditioned to be connected. I’ve written all I have to say at the moment, so I’m going to pick some more tunes to play, and go make a fire. Fascinating weekend, this will be.