[This is The Diary Project’s 100th post! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to wax nostalgic about kids cable shows of the 80’s and 90’s.]
Wednesday, April 1, 1992
I am writing this from my own room in our new apartment! I love it here! I love my room! It’s small, but it’s so cozy and perfect that I spend a lot of time here instead of other places. Anyway I get to take a different bus in the morning (I see the same people in the afternoon, though) and on this one, the bus isn’t so dead and boring like it was on the other one.
I am content and happy. (For now!)
From the time I was in third grade, my parents and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment. It was spacious enough that we didn’t feel like we lived on top of one another, and Mom and Dad usually stayed in the kitchen or living room, so I often had a fair amount of privacy to watch television, read, moon over boys, and write. But it wasn’t the same as having my own space. The move would mark the end of my elementary school friendships, though by then I had drifted apart from everyone, anyway. It was also mark the beginning of my love affair with cable television.
Dad’s new job not only meant a bigger apartment, but also a television in my new room, and a cable box with many of the premium channels, though I’d spend most of the next year or two tuned to Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, and MTV. I still remember that thrilling day when it was installed and my viewing options were extended from seven channels to dozens (and now my cable channels go up to the quadruple digits, which still kind of blows my mind because who has that much time??).
I was still loyal to my favorite shows including Perfect Strangers (Balki!), The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (back when Will Smith was rapper first, actor second), and Blossom, but now I had all these additional channels with shows filled to the brim with entertainment. There was Salute Your Short, a goofy Nickelodeon comedy centered around a summer camp, which I found additionally fascinating because I never had the sleepaway camp experience. I became instantly hooked on Nickelodeon’s riveting Canadian teen soap opera, Fifteen, which featured a young, wonky-eyed, annoying character named Billy, played by one Ryan Reynolds (it’s still strange to see him grown up as this big sex symbol)
Ryan Reynold’s wasn’t the only one who cut his teeth on kids shows. I was a big fan of Kids Incorporated, especially reruns from the 80’s The Disney Channel would broadcast. The premise surrounded a band made up of girls and boys, which looked for any excuse to break into song wearing colorful matching outfits made of the shiniest fabrics known to man. I was dazzled by the sequins and by covers of such hits as “Let’s Hear it For the Boy,” “Into the Groove,” “Gloria,” and even Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” One of these boys was Mario Lopez, of Saved By the Bell and whatever-the-hell-he’s-doing-when-he’s-not-showing-off-his-abs fame. One of these girls was Stacy Ferguson, better known these days as Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. Another girl was Martika, who ended up with the smash hit “Toy Soldiers” (“step by step, heart to heart…” SO GOOD!) and sadly became something of a one hit wonder. What’s even sadder is that she released an even better, excellent song a few years later, “Love Thy Will Be Done” (written by Prince) but it didn’t find the same success. Oh, and Jennifer Love Hewitt was also on Kids Incorporated (famous for a bunch of shows I never watched).
Then there was The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, or MMC on The Disney Channel. This variety show was more of a star-making factory. It bred Keri “Felicity” Russel, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, JC What’s-his-boy-band-face, and Ryan Ridiculously-Underrated Gosling. What the hell did they put in the water on that show?
Then there was MTV. This is back when the channel showed music videos and lots of them. So many videos that there were shows devoted to specific genres, like 120 Minutes for alternative music, Headbanger’s Ball for metal and hard rock and Yo! MTV Raps for, well, duh. It would be a few months before the first episode of The Real World aired, one of the first reality TV shows, which was initially fascinating in its depiction of “real people” going about their daily routines. Subsequent seasons grew more irritating in the way they became a showcase for vain, attention-starved, monstrously ambitious young people engaging in petty squabbles. Of course, that didn’t stop MTV and numerous other networks from creating shows with just that template. Which is a shame, because that left less room for the music. Music videos were an art form, and MTV was their gallery. Nowadays they’re a marketing tool more than anything and MTV itself… well, I don’t even know what that channel is anymore today. And since I’m not probably not their target demographic, it probably doesn’t matter to them, either.
April 17, 1990
I had a terrific Passover at Anna’s house.
I also talked to Elaine on the phone recently and we thought of another plan to not only get revenge on sleaze-ball but also to break up sleaze and Rose!
What Elaine, Chen-chi (we need her help) and I will do is go up to sleaze and Rose (Elaine and I will go up to Rose and Chen-chi will go up to sleaze) and we will tell Rose that we saw sleaze kissing another girl, and we’ll tell sleaze that we saw Rose kissing another guy. We’ll tell them both not to tell each other or they will both deny it and we hope that one thing will lead to another and that they will break up.
I know that it’s a pretty cruel plan but they both had it coming and they both deserve it!
Passover is a holy holiday in Judaism to celebrate the Hewbrew’s enslavement from Egypt. Observing it involves spring cleaning, avoiding leavened bread, asking a bunch of holy questions/praying, and eating things like Matzo, gefilte fish and hardboiled eggs. Typically, it does not involve hatching devious revenge plans on the boy-who-done-you-wrong and so-called-friend-who-has-the-moral-code-of-a-mosquito.
I was not allowed to watch Dynasty when it was on the air, because of its late evening time slot and adult themes. So I don’t know where I picked up such Machiavellianism, because it wasn’t until just recently that I became acquainted with the legendary feud between Alexis and Krystle Carrington. I am equal parts embarrassed and impressed that I was capable of conjuring such a manipulative scheme at such a tender age.
The real question is whether such a complicated plot would work. Would Elaine and Chen-chi be convincing enough? Would Mitch and Rose take the bait? Would I finally find the vindication I so desperately wanted? All would be revealed soon enough…
New Years Eve!!
I can’t wait until later tonight! I am going to my cousins house for a party. (Anna’s)
Yesterday Mitchell didn’t call me so I went shopping and got these amazing “New Kids on the Block” jeans! They are so cool! I absolutely love them! Later!
This is quite possibly the only time the words “New Kids on the Block” and “so cool” were used in the same sentence together.
As a new decade was about to dawn on us, did I take those last moments to reflect on the last ten colorful years? Did I ponder what the dawn of the 1990’s might bring? No and no. Instead I enthused over a pair of acid washed pants with airbrushed graffiti on them spelling out “New Kids on the Block” in bubble letters down one of the legs and the band members down the other. (I have scoured the Internet looking for a comparable photo, but there isn’t one, which can only mean they were one of a kind. Thank heavens for that.)
I could try to defend myself by saying that not hearing from Mitchell caused some sort of fashion temporary insanity. Because there’s retail therapy and then there’s retail suicide. The truth is, I was briefly a fan of this boy band (Joey was my favorite, in case you’re wondering, which you probably aren’t). My taste in music and clothing would take another few years to improve, but at least I ended the decade on a sufficiently tacky and colorful note.
As for the end of the 80’s, I always thought I was born ten years too late. While I was blessed with some fantastic cartoons and sit-coms (Thundercats, Jem & The Holograms, The Facts of Life, Perfect Strangers, Diff’rent Strokes… my definition of “fantastic” is probably not the same as yours), I missed out on a lot of the pop culture being so young. Sure, I had the enormous hair and wore enough shoulderpads to stand in for a quarterback, but I never got to get tarted up like Lucky-Star-era Madonna back then. Wearing fingerless lace gloves a decade later just wasn’t the same. And sure, in recent years I ended up seeing a lot of the new wave and post-punk bands I was too young to appreciate back then (Pet Shop Boys, Sisters of Mercy, Duran Duran, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Human League, etc.) but it would have been really special to see them in their heyday.
I think a lot of people feel out of time in their era. I was a reluctant participant of the 90’s and will always feel like I was stuck with a bum decade to come of age in. And as a another new decade is about to roll in I can’t imagine what kids growing up today will contend with. All I can wonder is whether we’ll ever get those damn flying cars.
In the meantime, I hope somebody out there is tinkering with and putting the finishing touches on a time machine that will one day let me return to the 1980’s and experience it in person again, this time as an adult. I’m sure I’ve glamorized that time period far too much in my mind, and maybe it’s best left in those nostalgic corners. Still, a girl can hold out hope.
Tomorrow I am going to Elaine’s birthday party.
I want to try something new.
Well since the new year is coming, and the new decade, I want to write down my new years resolutions.
1) Go steady with Mitchell.
2) lose seven pounds.
3) kick my knuckle cracking and nail biting habits.
4) learn how to ride a bike. (I know that I won’t keep that one, but who really cares.)
5) talk my mom into letting me get second holes in my ears.
Well I geuss that does it. I hope I have a good year and decade.
Ah, resolutions. I don’t know where I got the idea to make this list, but it was probably inspired by something I saw on television (did the girls in The Facts of Life ever make resolutions? I’m thinking a strong maybe on that). This exercise sparked what would become a lifelong fondness for making lists, though I no longer make resolutions. Why should the calendar dictate personal self-improvement?
Back in the late 80’s (how sad it will be to usher in the 90’s. Can we have an acid washed moment of silence?) I think I misunderstood the idea of making resolutions with making a wish list. In the spirit of hindsight, I’d like to revise that list for my 12-year-old self. This is what is should have looked like:
1) Realize that being in a relationship is not always something one can control.
3) Now that the nails are safe, kick the cuticle-biting habit (it’s pretty gross).
4) Learn to drive (I probably won’t keep that one, either).
5) Thank mom for not letting me get that second pair of holes in my ears, because accessorizing with one pair is challenging enough.
Today I went out with Mitch and we had a lot of fun.
We saw Jason, Charles, Yanmei (the bitch!), Rose, Penny and Elaine at the movies.
What a coincidence! Really! But it was really fun anyway. And I think that me and Mitch will have something going. Also at the movies (we saw “back to the future II”) I found out that Charles wants to go with (make-out with) Rose but I know that Charles is just desperate (someone told me.) so he asked Rose and they will probably go out. He might like Rose but I still know that he’s desperate. Elaine is really upset because she really likes Charles and thought that he kind of liked her too, so now she’s depressed because she wanted Charles to ask her out. Oh well. I hope things work out between them because if they don’t things can get messy between Elaine and Rose.
Between these type of diary entries and watching old episodes of Dynasty via Netflix (if you’ve never seen a catfight between Krystle and Alexis you are missing out, my friend), I have about all the 80’s drama I can stand.
There’s nothing like going on a date only to find out that you’re being stalked by half a dozen of your classmates. That sort of thing only happens when you’re a kid or a character in a movie filled with wacky misadventures. As annoying as it was to have the group sitting a few rows behind us at the movie, I found it even more irksome that the entire crowd also followed us on the seven-block walk back to my apartment building. It gave us something to laugh about, but made the date more awkward by a factor of ten. The only real privacy Mitch and I had was the elevator ride up to the fifth floor and the three foot walk to my apartment door. There was no kiss and I don’t think we even held hands, so I’m not sure what made me believe that the two of us might “have something going.” But at least I was completely over my crush on Charles and could be a mere bystander in the unfolding love triangle surrounding him.
A few words on Back to the Future Part II. I remember enjoying the movie but feeling cheated that the it ended with a cliffhanger which reduced the film to a trailer for the third installment (the first movie did that too, but still felt more complete). I did love all the special effects, including the hoverboards, flying cars, and holographic theaters, and managed to suspend all disbelief regarding the time travel logic, so that I could enjoy the movie for entertainment’s sake. It’s something I wish I could do more often today.
Today two people are going to come in and talk about drugs.
I was probably too overwhelmed by the visit to write more about it.
That day was a somber one in the classroom, and our teacher told us to be on our best behavior and give our guests our full attention.
One of the visitors was a police officer, dressed in uniform, probably to intimidate us with his authority (in my case it worked, in spades). The other was a civilian, probably a drug educator of sorts. They walked around the classroom with a small open suitcase which contained samples of drugs and drug paraphernalia, in order for us to more easily recognize narcotics and say “no.” There were also diagrams and we got a lecture about the dangers associated with the different drugs. Physiological effects were detailed and anecdotal evidence shared, such as the kid who smoked PCP, thought he could fly, and jumped out the window.
Up to that point, my only exposure to drugs was limited to what I had read in books and seen on television. In the Sweet Valley High series of books, one of the characters tried cocaine and died almost instantly of a heart attack. There was also that Very Special Episode of Growing Pains when Mike Seaver was offered coke by a pretty blonde played by Kristy Swanson (of Flowers in the Attic “fame”). There was also that now-iconic commercial where an upset Dad confronts his teen son about finding drugs in the youngster’s room, only to be told “I learned it by watching you, Dad!” All of these fictional incidents disturbed me and hammered home the point of how scary and dangerous drugs were.
None of these moments unsettled me quite like the school visit, though. I found it terribly spooky and could not understand why anybody would take drugs, why they would risk their lives for a temporary high. Those classroom scare tactics made a believer out of me. I didn’t even touch a cigarette until I was 18.
For some reason, despite keeping up with regular entries to the composition book journal, I still wrote in the Hello Kitty diary from time to time. It had three sections of pages: pink, then yellow, then blue. I think the completist in me was determined not to waste paper and make it to the blue pages, though I never even made it out of the pink ones. I ended up mostly sticking with the composition book, but these rare entries show a snapshot of where I was at the time with less filler (despite the repetition of content). A prime example:
I don’t like Charles anymore (he’s a pain in the !?!?!?) but I am madly in love with George. But the good thing is I think he also likes me! I hope he asks me out and that my parents will let me go out with him.
I still love Jonas and a lot!!! But I know it’s impossible for anything to happen with us, but me and George have a chance to get something started.
Me and Marcela (the bitch) are not friends anymore because she walked out on my birthday party which went even better without her.
-Bye- (4 now)
The last time I mentioned George was back in November, 1989, when he started to tell me something that I suspected was a confession of love (or at the very least, strong like). Despite rarely mentioning him in the other journal, I evidently still carried this torch for my opponent to the vice presidential race of our elementary school. What baffles me today is how I interpreted his ambivalence back then as reciprocated interest. Good thing you can cut an eleven-year-old some slack for being clueless in matters of dating (as for later years…well, we have plenty of time before we get to those comedies/tragedies of errors).
And Jonas. Oy, again with the cute third grade hall monitor. I’m awed and embarrassed at how many entries there are in both diaries devoted to Jonas, years after he graduated and long after I randomly saw him at the movies. (I’m also editing a lot of them out of this blog… you’re welcome). At the very least, I was aware of the futility of any relationship. It’s kinda difficult to “get something started” when you never see the person you allegedly love “and a lot.”
I know it seems like I throw around the word “love” a lot in my diaries, and I do, but let’s review a list of some of the other people I “loved” at the time (parents notwithstanding): Debbie Gibson, Corey Haim, Cyndi Lauper, Stacy Q, Blair from The Facts of Life, and Madison the mermaid (as portrayed by Daryl Hannah in Splash). Need I say more?