10. Betamax videos. Remember these? If you were fortunate enough to have a VCR, you too could own movies for somewhere around a hundred bucks a pop back in the day, should you fail to return them to the video store. And the rewind fees? Oh, the rewind fees. You were all but dead if you weren’t kind and forgot to rewind.
9. The Cosby Show. I’m not being ironic about the sweaters, either. This was my first foray into something beyond cartoons on television, and it was heavily influential on me, despite my not living in New York, nor being African-American, nor part of a large, unified family. In fact, it had nothing to do with my life at all, beyond my admiration of Theo’s sleazy attempt at a mustache. I loved it.
8. Noxzema pads. These were a salvation for a greasy pre-teen kid like me. By slathering yourself in rubbing alcohol, you too could eradicate the humiliating chaos known as the pimple years.
7. Social distinctions. At that time in my life you belonged in one of two camps: cool or not cool. I easily slid into the not cool category, and it was a miserable day when I realized that I would forever be on this team. The upside? There were no sub-cultures to contend with, no hipster nerds or emotional jocks. No Coldplay, no Napoleon Dynamite. I can only imagine this is a major stressor in today’s self-identification gyrations that the kids must endure.
6. The Soviets. Those guys were a credible threat back in the day, and I was raised to fear and loathe them in equal measure. What with all of the various countries around the world who currently hate our guts, it’s hard to keep track of where we stand anymore. At least in those days you could patriotically hate someone without fear of offending anyone. I have family who still refers to anything remotely sketchy as “commie propaganda.”
5. Fanny packs. They seemed like such a good and handy idea back then, precisely because they were. Satchels, messenger bags, laptop carriers…..all these now popular personal property conveyors owe their existence and evolution to the hip bag. Only the Euro-tourists and senior citizens seem to appreciate this anymore.
4. Atari 2600. This video game platform, while being mesmerizing, was still no match for reality, thereby forcing kids to still go outside once in a while, dammit. Today’s gaming systems are so realistic, there’s no need to ever get out and terrorize the neighborhood with mutinous revolution. How can a cardboard box spaceship compete with a Wii? Answer- it can’t.
3. Bowling leagues. I miss these not because I ever bowled, but because it was the night it got the parents out of the house, and, in the absence of willing babysitters, I was left in charge of the house and my brothers. That could only mean one thing – it was time for Rusty’s Pizza, Diet Caffeine Free Coke and Airwolf, the epic Ernest Borgnine television show. Him and that other guy.
2. Day Glo. There was a period in my life when I wanted everything painted construction-grade Day Glo orange or yellow. I searched in vain at local hardware stores for just the right tone of screaming colors to try and paint my room/bicycle/random pieces of wood. I wasn’t the only one.
1. Vans. So much so, that I recently bought a pair of old school kicks, and it was like stepping back in time. I might’ve been an uncool kid in a fanny pack, but I wore some sweet shoes, perfect for BMX, skating and hanging out at the video arcade. They’ve gotten more wear than anything else I’ve bought in the last 5 years.