Monday, June 29, 2009

Tempus Fugit

It's a funny thing how music triggers memories.

We were standing in the check-out line at the Winn-Dixie today, and this Van Halen song came on the sound system in the store. It was from their 1986 album called 5150. The eighties are now considered "the oldies", and what was once cutting edge heavy metal for the wild and crazy young is now grocery music for middle aged shoppers browsing the produce section.

But it made me think about that particular time in my life - though I was specifically pondering a couple years before that particular song.

The summer of 1984 was exactly 25 years ago. Where does the time go? That was a wonderful year. I was 20 years old, still living at home. My dad was about to turn 45 that fall, the same age that I am now. My mother (who went on to her eternal glory only a decade later) was a vibrant 38 years old at the time, and had not yet been diagnosed with MS. My brother was 13 and also at home. We were a close family. My dad and I used to take excursions together in those days, usually camping in the hill country of our ancestral West Virginia to do genealogical research - though we also went on other adventures, such as a van trip to DC and a motorcycle odyssey to Arkansas and Oklahoma. We did ham radio together, watched the Cleveland Browns on TV (we did actually attend a couple playoff games in the mid eighties at the now-nonexistent old Municipal Stadium on the Lakefront), and rode our Suzukis like there was no tomorrow.

In 1984, I was a carefree college student at the University of Akron and had a great part-time job as a clerk in the Sears Parts store. I was good at my job, and I liked being a student - though admittedly, I would sometimes blow off my classes to hit the campus library in order to read theology. I could run like the wind, and weighed about 130 pounds dripping wet.

I had been a Lutheran for two years, and by this time, I was helping teach confirmation students - who were only seven or eight years younger than I was.

My friends were all really good kids. We played a lot of basketball, went to concerts, made group outings to various parks to picnic and to toss around frisbees, bowled, went to the movies (those were still the days of the drive-in theater), played video games, ate a lot of pizza, worked out at the Natatorium, played miniature golf (and a little par-3 as well), and enjoyed just driving around together drinking Coke and Dr. Pepper while listening to WMMS 101 ("Home of the Buzzard") or to cassette tapes (CDs were as yet unheard of). All in all, pretty tame stuff back in those days.

We did get a little wilder when we started going to nightclubs in Akron and Kent a few years later - but even then we watched out for one another and nobody got involved in fights or arrested or anything like that. We just hung out and enjoyed the music scene. My friends and I would later befriend the members of a popular local heavy metal cover band (U.S. Metal) and they would often let us hop up on stage with them to "help" them out. One of the singers later went on to replace Rob Halford as Judas Priest's front man.

This was the era of big hair, parachute pants, jeans and black concert shirts, bandannas, and (for some reason) crucifixes. The pectoral cross I wear today as a pastor (which was ceremonially presented to me at my ordination) dates from this time. I actually used to wear it while playing basketball at the park - which in retrospect, doesn't seem like such a bright idea. It's a wonder no-one lost an eye.

For some reason, my buddies all had Firebirds. One of them had a magnificent stark-white Formula (I believe it was a 1979) with baby-blue interior and a tiny racing-style steering wheel. He kept the car immaculately waxed and polished. We teased him that he never went faster than 20 mph so he could show off his chrome wheels. I, on the other hand, was stuck with a sensible beige 1982 Ford Escort with a stick shift. There is simply no way for that car to be cool - especially when arrayed with the Firebirds. I don't think it even had air conditioning. But my prize ride was my aforementioned Suzuki GS850L - with a Windjammer fairing complete with sound system (and yes, I did listen to Van Halen and other hard rock and heavy metal bands while I cruised). That was one heckuva machine (my dad had the same bike, though I think his was a 1980 and mine was an '81 - or vice versa). The Suzuki 850 had mag wheels instead of spokes, and a drive shaft instead of a chain - features which were not all that common in those days. We had really cool Nava helmets, leather jackets, and trunks mounted on the back. We both had highway pegs and primitive "cruise control" so we could stretch out our legs and get comfy on those long rides.

My dad and I were pretty crazy when it came to our bikes. When it got cold (this was northern Ohio, after all), we donned snowmobile suits, gloves, and boots, and we just kept right on riding. If there was no ice or snow, it was a pretty good bet that we were on our motorcycles.

And maybe time has a way of sanitizing our memories, but it did seem to be a simpler, more innocent era.

Not long after that time, we all grew up. Eventually, my friends and I all left behind our part time jobs, graduated from college, left the Firebirds and Suzukis behind, got married, bought houses, and had children. At least most of us grew up. My dad, who turns 70 this year, still rides. He now has a very cool little mother-of-pearl colored Yamaha 250 Virago Route 66 (pictured below). Spiffy!

Me, I drive a dirty-white Toyota minivan and listen to Van Halen on the speakers at the Winn-Dixie.


Past Elder said...

Summer of '84 was a big one for me too. Put something about it on my blog (shameless plug).

That's what cracks me up about this confessional Lutheran thing -- most of the guys I agree with on church stuff are 10 - 20 or more years younger than I am, and the other-than-church music they listen to sounds like crap to me! Pretty much Blues and Jazz when not "classical". Didn't even like the Rock and Pop of MY era!

OTOH, maybe I'll live long enough to see some of you guys replace my generation in district and synod level stuff.

Greg said...

Summer '84 - yes I remember it. I too was 20, starving in Texas as a college student. Trying to mend from a motorcycle accident the year before, I nevertheless managed to work a little, and even managed to convince my girl to marry me. I was too young to buy the celebratory bottle of wine we had that night, she had to do it.

Wow, the big 25th anniversary this August... today two of our three children are older than I was then.

Memories, thank the Lord for them.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

I went the last two years of high school in Stow, Ohio in 1979-1981. Lived in Monroe Falls. Went to church in Cuyahoga Falls.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PGA:

Did you go to Redeemer?

Peter said...

Beautiful piece of writing. (Though Van Halen never did anything for me)
Class of '84

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Yes I did. Pastors Belasic and Boehlke.

Now I think I am recalling that we discussed this once at CTS a few years back.


Father Hollywood said...

Ha! I do have a vague recollection.

I wandered into Redeemer one day when I was 17 and asked Pastor Boehlke what Lutherans believe. I explained to him that I was raised Baptist but had studied Roman Catholic theology at Walsh Jesuit.

He handed me the Augsburg Confession. That did the trick.

What a great pastor - great in his humility and in devoted pastoral care. He was the calmest person I've ever met. He just retired recently. I never really got to know Dr. Belasic - he went off to be a DP at some point.

I was baptized in June 1982 as an adult. I wonder if you remember that. It was me and about seven adult Hmong people (as Eastwood said in Gran Torino: "Everybody blames the Lutherans").

I always sat up front in the 4th pew with Ted and Mary Cerecke. We were great pals. Ted was born in 1890 in Poland because his parents were fleeing the Franco-Prussian war. They used hire me to do odd jobs. They lived in a former chicken coop with no electricity in the woods in Northampton Township. Mary raised goats.

I did occasionally make friends with younger people. I used to play tennis with Verl Harnapp and taught confirmation with Eric Klingensmith.

I'm afraid Redeemer has fallen for a lot of church growth nonsense in subsequent years. I was heartbroken last time I visited.

I wonder if you and I knew each other. I have a congregational facebook somewhere - I'll look for you.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear PE:

District and Synod stuff? Are you trying to kill me, or destroy my faith? ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Greg:

Great story! We'll have to swap motorcycle war stories some time. My biggest one was hitting a deer. That was interesting...

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

The funny thing is that I wasn't a big Van Halen guy either. But we listened to so much music back then, we ended up listening to just about everyone - and it all kind of lingers in the back of my head now.

I thought Sammy Hagar breathed a little life into a Van Halen that was getting a little stale with DLR.

As you know, I was always partial to The Who, but I also dug AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin - which was all part of my well-rounded Jesuit education.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

June of 1982 ... I went to school at Concordia RF in fall of 1981 but I would have been around that summer. I know the Harnapps (all names with a V!) and the Klingensmith name sounds familiar. I was only there really for the last two years of high school then I was at college and was there less and less. But my senior year in high school 1980-1981 I would have been around.

I agree with your assessment of Boehlke. Very pastoral. Belasic was kind to me but I never knew him well.

My parents moved from Ohio to SC in 1991 and so we lost touch with the church. My two younger sisters went to the school there up to 8th grade.

Let me know if you find me in the picture book.

Past Elder said...

By the time it happens, shouldn't be too much stress. All the adolescence-as-an-adult-lifestyle types of my generation will be gone by then, except me I hope to rejoice in the day.