Month: June 2014

Exit 9. Six songs that have shrunk off me.

In other words, today I will be sharing six songs that I used to like, or at worst feel neutral toward yet respect for their cultural value, yet I can’t listen to them anymore.  I’m calling this phenomenon “shrinking off me” because it’s the opposite of “growing on me.”  I can be very passionate about music and what specific events and people I associate with certain songs.  Sometimes I hear a song once, and I know it’s going to be one of my all time favorite songs.  Sometimes it takes a while for a song to grow on me; the first time I’ll hear it, it’s okay, but it takes a while for me to figure out that I love the song.  Either that, or I’ll see it in a different way after time passes.  And sometimes the opposite happens; sometimes I like a song, but then after time, for various reasons, I realize that I don’t like the song after all, or the meaning or association of the song changes in a way that makes me not want to listen to it anymore.

I didn’t have anything better to write about for this week, and one of the songs on this list came on this morning, so I thought I’d share.  And there’s nothing special about six, nor is this an exhaustive list, nor is the list in any particular order.  I just figured five is a nice round number, so I’d think of the first five such songs with interesting stories behind why they shrank off me, and write about those.  I thought of a sixth before I actually sat down and took the time to write this.  These are just my opinions and my experiences; I suspect many of my friends will disagree.  If you like these songs, that’s fine.  Good for you.  I’m not going to judge you for it.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with these songs; I’ll even link to them in case some of you reading don’t know all the songs.  I just can’t listen to them anymore.

Since Independence Day here in the USA is coming up in less than a week, I’ll start with…

1.  Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the USA” (1984)

Any of you who are making playlists for July 4 celebrations, please do yourself a favor and leave this song off of it.  At least listen to the lyrics first before you decide… the rest of the lyrics, not just the part that goes “I was born in the USA.”  The song is not a celebration of the USA; it’s about a Vietnam veteran struggling to make his way and find meaning in his postwar life and lamenting what his country has become.  Brutally honest, but not exactly what we’re celebrating on July 4.  This is not a patriotic song in that sense.

This song reached its height in popularity during Ronald Reagan’s campaign for reelection.  Reagan began quoting the song (only the chorus, of course) in campaign rallies and holding up Springsteen as an example of the hardworking conservative American values that he sought to associate with his candidacy.  Someone on Reagan’s staff didn’t do their homework, or else they’d know the well-documented fact that Springsteen was a liberal Democrat who had been known to criticize Reagan and conservatism in comments made between songs at live performances, not to mention in song lyrics themselves.  And I’m so tired of this song still being misunderstood 30 years later that I just choose not to listen to it.

Speaking of comments made between songs at live performances…

2.  Pearl Jam, “Black” (1991)

This was a difficult song to stop listening to, honestly, because I’m still going to say it’s a beautiful song, in a dark way.  It’s so sad and full of anguish, just like me sometimes.  The reason I’m not listening to this anymore has nothing to do with the song or the lyrics itself; it’s more of a personal vendetta against Eddie Vedder.  (I could have just as easily included Alive or Even Flow or any other Pearl Jam song on this list, I don’t listen to any of them anymore after this, but I chose Black because it’s my favorite of theirs.)

First, some background information that seems totally unrelated but isn’t: In 2008, the owner of the Seattle Supersonics basketball team (Eddie is from Seattle and Pearl Jam started in Seattle, remember) gave up after many failed attempts to get a new arena built in Seattle and moved the team out of state.  They are now the Oklahoma City Thunder.  In 2013, the owners of the Sacramento Kings (my home team) reached a deal to sell to a wealthy San Francisco businessman with Seattle roots who intended to move the team to Seattle.  The owners never publicly announced that they were considering selling the team, and they made little if no attempt to find new owners who wanted to keep the team here.  Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a retired NBA player, used his connections to get an ownership group together willing to match the offer, keep the team in Sacramento, and build a new arena here, which ultimately led to the NBA owners voting 22-8 against moving the team to Seattle.  As soon as that vote was in, the owners started talking to the group wanting to keep them here, and they sold relatively soon after.

Meanwhile, a group materialized getting petitions signed that would require a public vote for any sports facilities built partially or completely with public money.  The rich guy who tried to move the Kings to Seattle secretly and illegally donated a buttload of money to this group.  Some jerks just don’t know when to quit.  After he was caught, he made a token hollow celebrity apology, but the group still used the signatures that his money funded.  The petition was thrown out by the courts because the group didn’t follow proper procedures.  I could write a whole lot more on these issues and my stand on them, but I’m straying from the point here, the point being why I don’t like Eddie Vedder right now.

At a concert in Oklahoma City, Eddie was saying something about their city stealing his team, then went on to say that “the people that really f***ed us over is Sacramento.  F*** Sacramento.  When you think about it, if you’ve ever been to Sacramento, they’re already kind of f***ed.”  You want to talk about my home that way?  Fine.  I don’t need you.  Don’t take it out on me that you’re just angry that you had one great song 23 years ago and haven’t done crap with your life since.  I’m sorry your city is full of people who can’t get a plan together to keep their team, who have to resort to dirty politics when they don’t get their way.

By the way, If any of you are like me, you’re going to want to get really technical here and remind me that I don’t actually live in Sacramento.  I don’t think such things really go through the minds of those who give pissed-off profanity-laced rants before crowds of thousands.  “F*** Sacramento.  But the suburbs aren’t so bad, and neither are the pockets of unincorporated neighborhoods that the city never annexed.”  Yeah, I don’t think Eddie sees it that way.  And I could just as easily go on with what I really think about Seattle, but I’m not going to stoop to that level.  I’ll just go enjoy walking outside without a raincoat instead.

3.  Bill Batstone and Andy Crouch, “To Every Generation” (1996, but see note)

I’m not sure exactly to whom to credit this song.  The above link is performed by the band at Intervarsity’s Urbana 1996 conference, which is where I learned the song.  After Urbana, it quickly spread to evangelical church worship services and local chapters of Intervarsity and other college and youth ministries.  In my research for this article, though, it appears that this song, as I knew it in the ’90s, is actually the chorus of an earlier song (by Batstone) combined with a new verse (by Crouch).  Batstone’s original had different verses.

Anyway, back on topic… before any of you accuse me of blasphemy for including a Christian worship song on this list, hear me out.  One reason I don’t like this song anymore is because of how it was so overplayed, and so repetitive.  The lyrics are very true and uplifting, but I just got sick of singing the same thing over and over again every week.  Worship, and Christianity in general, shouldn’t be about repeating the same things over and over again.  That’s how one’s beliefs and faith degenerate from something meaningful from the heart into a mindless, meaningless ritual.  There is another reason, though.  The Church With The Problems, which I have mentioned in previous posts, took its name from a line from this song, and for a while I associated this song with that church.  I wanted to get away from that and not think of them, to put that behind me.  That was a while ago, I’m over all that, but I’m still sick of this song from it being so overplayed.

4.  Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “Zoot Suit Riot” (1997)

Yeah, you know this song, the song with which most people on the outside associated the resurgent popularity of swing dancing in the late ’90s.  Back then, I was in college, and some of my friends, the same ones with whom I sang “To Every Generation” again and again and again and again at church, got really into swing dancing.  I wanted nothing to do with it; I thought they were crazy and obsessed.  A few months later, in June of 1998, I got invited to go swing dancing by some cute girls, and that was all it took.  I went off and on for a year and a half, quit because most of my friends didn’t go anymore and the crowd was kind of cliquish and unfriendly, started again in 2007, and have been going ever since.  And this was the song that they played every week that got everyone excited, because it was the swing song that you actually could hear on the radio.

The reason I don’t like this song anymore is a combination of the Born in the USA effect and the hipster effect.  No one seems to know what the song was about (specifically the mistreatment of Mexican-Americans by American military personnel, and the military personnel’s wives/girlfriends cheating on them with said Mexicans).  It’s dirty and inappropriate… it’s not the cute dancing song that some thought it was (and not to mention the band’s name being pretty inappropriate as well).  And, it was, to quote the stereotypical hipster, too mainstream.  This is the song that people who knew nothing about swing dancing associated with swing dancing.  There were so many better songs out there to dance to.

Despite the fact that I refuse to dance to Zoot Suit Riot, however, I’m perfectly open to dancing to this song:

Interestingly enough, I never knew this until I started writing this article, but the lead singer of Cherry Poppin’ Daddies is named Steve Perry.  He is no relation to the other Steve Perry, who was the lead singer of…

5.  Journey, “Faithfully” (1983)

I spent the later months of 2011 in a long distance relationship.  One time, I was spending a three day weekend visiting her.  It was an eight hour drive, and when I left, I shared this song on my Facebook.  One of my friends, who knew where I was going for the weekend and why I shared that song, said it made him cry.

We broke up on New Year’s Eve 2011-12, and it was not exactly a good breakup, by which I mean I never saw her again, and our only communication after that was a text the next day regarding giving some stuff back that I had borrowed.  So why can I still not listen to this song?  There are plenty of other things that remind me of her even more directly that I didn’t cut out of my life when we broke up.  Maybe because this one is actually about a long distance relationship (in a way).  Maybe because of my friend’s reaction.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just weird.  I still love Journey, they still have plenty of great songs, but I just can’t listen to this one.

6.  John Lennon, “Imagine” (1971)

Wait a minute.  “Imagine?”  How can anyone not like that song?  Isn’t it about peace and love and unity and all that good stuff?  And Mr. Lennon died tragically at a fairly young age!  What kind of heartless jerk are you that you don’t like that song?

Unity, yeah, great, but no, “Imagine” is not about peace and love.  It’s about atheism and communism.  Again, listen to the lyrics.  I do not believe that atheism and communism are the ways to achieve unity.  We didn’t win the Cold War just so a new generation can rediscover this song and use it as a touchy-feely rallying cry after every national tragedy.  Seriously, though, I’m not saying America is perfect, but I would much rather live here than in a communist dictatorship with “no possessions” and “no religion” to turn to for hope and meaning.

Will I never listen to these songs again?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  I can think of several examples of songs I didn’t like for over a decade, then suddenly something happened to change the way I saw them.  Maybe that will be another post.

Exit 8. Beautiful, in a desolate, dusty way.

I recently drove across Inyo County, California for the first time.  If you don’t know where that is, don’t worry; a lot of Californians don’t know where that is either, and many who do have never been there.  There really isn’t a lot there.  It’s pretty rural and desert-like.  I stayed on the main highway (395), so there were lots of other parts of Inyo County that I didn’t see, mostly mountains.  Most of what I did see from 395 looked like this:

Image

I thought It was beautiful… in a desolate, dusty way, but still beautiful.

Most normal people don’t think of deserts as beautiful.  Deserts are hot, and dry, and dusty, and there aren’t enough trees.  I get that.  But deserts have their own sort of beauty.  Sometimes it is amazing that there is life at all in harsh environments such as this.  It says something about the resilience of nature, as well as the resilience of humanity that there is a human population here, even if it is only 18,000 people for the whole county.  Being outside in such an environment, with no sound except for the wind and, when close enough to the highway, an occasional passing car or truck, brings about a sense of humility.  Highway 395 runs through the Owens Valley, one of the deepest valleys in the US with mountains on either side that are, in places, almost 10,000 feet higher than the valley floor.  Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the US outside of Alaska, is on the western border of Inyo County, visible from some points of my trip.  Being around that has a way of making you feel small.

How did deserts get to be that way?  Were they always like that?  Sometimes it is a purely natural process; it is believed that the Sahara Desert has been dry for thousands of years.  Sometimes humans can bring on deserts themselves.  I had a recent conversation with a fairly new friend who is the child of San Joaquin Valley farmers.  She was talking about how in this time of drought, farmers are drawing more groundwater to irrigate their fields, and it is believed that the land may reach a tipping point where the groundwater will never replenish, turning the productive farmland of the San Joaquin Valley into a desert.  And sometimes deserts can be forced upon residents by outsiders being jerks, which is what happened in Inyo County.  Until about 100 years ago, the Owens Valley was productive farmland and ranchland, until Los Angeles manipulated and deceived them out of their water, leading to the same result that my friend described above.

Life is full of metaphorical deserts as well.  Sometimes things just dry up.  Every life has good times and bad times, periods of abundance and periods of drought.  Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t.  And just as it is with real geographical deserts, the metaphorical dry spells of life can form the same three ways.  Things could fail to go one’s way by chance.  Things could get difficult for someone because of their own poor decisions.  And life could get rough because someone else is being a jerk.

It is in the dry times that some start asking questions along the lines of “where is God now?”  The truth is that God didn’t go anywhere.  No one can have everything go their way all the time.  If the Owens Valley gets some of their water back, Los Angeles will have to go without.  Hard times are a part of life, and going through hard times makes one appreciate the times of abundance all the more.  One can only become strong and resilient through enduring hard times.  In difficult times, one learns to trust God.  There are no beautiful lush coastlines and forests to admire, but God’s creation and handiwork is no less evident in a desert.  There are still mountains and rocks and canyons.  And in the metaphorical desert, God’s handiwork is there as well.  It may not be what is expected, but you and I are not God, and sometimes what we expect isn’t what should be.

Being in the desert also teaches patience.  For several hours, the landscape changed little from the picture I posted earlier.  But when it finally did change (in the next county to the north), it looked like this.

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Waiting is part of life (the hardest part, according to a certain musician).  After an extended dry period of life, it puts the abundant periods in the proper perspective and helps one remember to be thankful and count one’s blessings.  So hang in there.  If you’re in a desert in your life right now, look for the beauty and be patient.  You’ll come out stronger in the end.  You got this.

Exit 7. The ’90s are gone, and no amount of sitting in a bean bag chair and watching X-Files will change that.

Living in the past… the phrase often brings up images of middle-aged people who never made much of their lives, who have so little joy in their present lives that they have to place an undue emphasis on their past accomplishments in order to feel that their lives have had any meaning at all.  And often, those past accomplishments are relatively insignificant in and of themselves, like having been a cool kid or a star athlete in high school.  Like this guy.

(This is an original post, but I’ve written on similar topics over the last few months on my personal Facebook page.) As I have now attained middle age, I’ve thought a lot more about this idea of living in the past, because it’s something I’ve started doing a bit of.  I’ve amassed quite a collection of ’80s and ’90s music, because it reminds me of when life was simpler and the future seemed to hold a lot of hope and promise that hasn’t always come to pass (and, well, because some of it was just good music, of course).  I’ve also mentioned before that I host an event at my house a few times a year that involves staying up late playing old video games from the ’80s and ’90s.  And when I read my Facebook news feed, most of my friends from high school and college that I’m still in touch with are posting things about what their kids are doing, and jokes about how they never stay up past 10 anymore, whereas I’m posting about how I stayed up until 4am at a blues dancing party or how I sat in the back of a pickup truck watching the stars and making Doctor Who-themed Yo’ Mama jokes with friends who are at least a decade younger than me.  (Yo’ mama so fat, she’s bigger on the outside.  Yo’ mama so old, she and the Doctor were in the same kindergarten class.  Yo’ mama so ugly, she’s the reason the Weeping Angels cover their eyes.)

I know why I do those things.  Because I can and because they’re awesome.  I’m good at video games made before 1994, and I’m not as good at the ones made after that.  Being with friends all night is fun.  But I have to be mindful of reality too.  The ’90s are gone, and no amount of sitting in a bean bag chair playing A Link To The Past while watching X-Files will change that.  I have to live within the world the way it is in 2014, mindful of the fact that I am 37 years old; some things have to be done differently from when I was a teenager and a college student.  I don’t have football to look back on like Al Bundy does, but I look back on being in high school and college, because back then, life was easy, every year brought new classes and new opportunities, and the path to success was simple: study hard and get good grades.  I’m good at studying hard and getting good grades.  I’m not good at doing whatever it is to succeed in life as an adult.

I was reminded of this in a rather harsh way a few months ago.  (Some of my real-life friends have heard this story before.)  I tend to be rather sentimental; if you have written me a letter on paper, a birthday card, a form letter for Christmas, anything in the regular mail within the last 20 years, I probably still have it.  While cleaning out the garage, I found a box that contained all the personal mail I had received from the time I moved out of my parents’ house in 1994 until I moved to Sacramento County in early 2006.  At the bottom of that box were fourteen letters written to me by a pen pal of sorts that I had from 1994 to 1996.  She was one of the first girls I talked to in an AOL chat room back when that was still a new thing for me; she rarely did AOL chat rooms, but gave me her address and phone number to stay in touch.  And I did, for a year and a half.  We lost touch rather abruptly; I think life just got in the way and she didn’t have time to write anymore.

Anyway, I read those letters again a few months ago and got to thinking about tracking her down, here in the age of Facebook and Google.  I debated whether or not to do it, because it would be great to hear from her again, but since I didn’t know what she’d been doing since 1996, I had no idea how she turned out, and I might find out something that would tarnish the happy memories I had from when we were younger.  I eventually decided to go for it, and after looking through about 40 people with the same name who came up on a Facebook search, I found her, and I sent her a message.

A few days later, before she had replied, I went to Picnic Day* at UC Davis (and I listened to a mix CD of ’90s music on the way over).  While walking around the campus, I discovered that the dorm where I lived freshman year—the same dorm room where I lived for much of the time I had been in touch with that girl, where the first ten of the fourteen letters had been sent—had been torn down.  I would never see my old room again, because it didn’t exist.  And that really got me thinking about how, even if she did write back, even if we did get back in touch, there was never any way things would be the same.  I was remembering her as a teenager, and if she wrote back, it would be the present-day 35-year-old version of her, not the teenager that I loved writing to and hearing from so much back in the ’90s.  She did write back, a few days after seeing that my old dorm wasn’t there anymore, about a week after I wrote her, but only to say that she didn’t remember me.  She said that she remembered knowing someone from Davis, but that my name didn’t ring a bell, and that that was a long time ago.  She wasn’t interested in reestablishing contact.  It’s understandable—as a beautiful, sweet, and friendly teenage girl, she probably had the attention of hundreds of guys, and can’t reasonably be expected to remember all of them when she’s 35—but it was still disappointing.  It’s probably for the best, though, because like I said, things will never be exactly like they were in the past.

Some say that I am immature, because I still stay up late (it’s 2:22am as I write this), I play video games, I don’t do adult things, I live like a college student… whatever.  I tend to think that those people can suck it.  But, on the other hand, sometimes I wonder if they have a point.  I have a hard time relating to people my own age because I don’t live like them, and sometimes I feel like this also has to do with why I’m still single.  Whether or not that block is real or just in my head is something I need to figure out.  I don’t want to change who I am, or change my lifestyle to fit in with others; that goes against everything I stand for.  But it’s not healthy to keep living in denial either.  The trick is to find a healthy balance… and that’s something I’m still working on.


 

* Picnic Day is alcohol-free and family friendly.  If this conflicts with what you have heard about Picnic Day, then you mistakenly have Picnic Day confused with people who use Picnic Day as an excuse to get drunk off campus.  Do your research.  And, by all means, go to Picnic Day, because it’s awesome, but stay on campus.

Exit 6. Don’t hang up your cape.

I’m on vacation this week, so I’ll post something I wrote in 2009.  I’ve made a lot of friends since 2009, so many of you probably haven’t read this one.


I saw something in the newspaper that made me sad… well, I see a lot of things in the news that make me sad, but this one was different… because it was intended to be funny. And, well, it was, but sort of in a melancholy way.

bizarro clark kent cape

What must Clark be feeling in this scene? He’s looking into the closet with a pensive look on his face, gazing at the symbol of his long-gone glory days, now wrinkled and probably ill-fitting. He’s thinking about whether to give it away, whether to let go of something that so completely defined him for many years but now just takes up space in the closet.

As I get older and I see the world around me getting younger, I wonder if I’m a bit like Clark here, thinking about my glory days that are gone now. Now I don’t have super powers, contrary to popular belief, but a lot of great times in my life have come and gone, and I’ve let a lot of opportunities pass me by with no way of ever getting them back. What do I do now? As I sit there staring at my cape, do I keep it as a reminder of what I once was, or do I give it to the Salvation Army to make room for something I’m actually going to wear? This is something I’ve struggled with a lot as I’ve gotten older. I don’t want to be the type of person who has so little to look forward to in the future that he has to spend all his time reminiscing about a past that is never coming back, but I know I can have those tendencies sometimes.

There is a third option, one which will avoid the necessity of making the decision that awaits Clark here: don’t hang up the cape in the first place.

My glory days don’t have to be over. I’m older now than I used to be, it’s necessary to live life differently, and my life is never going to be like that of movie or TV characters, or even like that of friends of mine whose lives have fallen more nearly into the stereotypical patterns. But none of that means that I’m through living. I don’t want to hang up my cape. I don’t want to live like my best days are behind me. Because they aren’t.

Don’t hang up your cape.

Exit 5. In my dreams it’s still the same.

Fans of ’80s rock music will recognize the title of this post as a line from this song.  I came across it recently after having not heard it for probably close to 20 years.

Fans of the Disney Channel in the early ’90s, on the other hand, will recognize the title of this post as a line from this song, which until I started thinking about this post, I hadn’t heard in even longer, for well over 20 years.

In the ’80s, I listened to a lot of pop radio and watched a lot of MTV back when they still played music videos.  Somehow, though, I missed Dokken.  But I was a huge fan of the Disney Channel in the early ’90s, and I didn’t figure out that The Party’s song was a cover until a couple years later.  The Party was, as I said, a Disney project, made up of cast members of that era’s Mickey Mouse Club, of which I was a huge fan in my early teens.  They had a few other minor hits besides In My Dreams, but they didn’t really get a lot of attention beyond the Disney Channel.  The five of them took turns on lead vocals, and as far as I know they didn’t play their own instruments.

Now I’ll be making a point with all this, but first, there is something you should know about me.  In my early teens, I listened to a lot of teenybopper pop, bubblegum hip-hop (MC Hammer and clones), and whatever else the radio and MTV told me was cool.  Around age 16 (which would be 1992-93), I made a very abrupt shift and turned my back on all that and started listening to rock, both classic rock and so-called “alternative rock,” which was a word used in the early ’90s that meant absolutely nothing.  I’ll call this my Great Music Shift.  The reason for the Great Music Shift, as best as I can remember and figure, was probably growing up and outgrowing childish entertainment combined with having friends who didn’t like pop or hip-hop.  At that age, I was influenced more than I’d like to admit by what those around me thought.

As an adult, I’ve spent a lot of time celebrating the nostalgia of my childhood.  I host an event at my house every few months which involves staying up really late playing old video games from my childhood while listening to music from my childhood*.  Pop culture from my generation has become sort of trendy in some circles these days.  (Now I’m starting to sound like James Halliday from Ready Player One.  I don’t have his millions of dollars, though.)  Some of the music that I abandoned after the Great Music Shift has found its way into my playlists for the sake of nostalgia.  Like this, for example.

And some of the music I hated back in the ’90s has found its way onto my playlists as well.

So all of this presents an interesting question: Despite all of this revival of what I did in my childhood, why did I not, until just a few days ago, so much as acknowledge the existence of The Party, given that I was a huge fan of theirs before the Great Music Shift?  Why have I continued to leave that fandom buried in my past, instead of putting them on my ’90s playlists?

My gut reaction is because I’m embarrassed to have been such a huge fan of a teenybopper pop group.  But the more I’ve thought about this the last couple weeks, I think that it doesn’t tell the whole story.  For one thing, it’s not like this is the only time that’s happened, and it’s not like I’ve kept all my musical guilty pleasures hidden.  I still have musical guilty pleasures today; some of my current real-life friends are probably about ready to leave a comment on this regarding Carly Rae Jepsen right now.

I think part of the reason I’ve left The Party in my past is because (in my opinion) a lot of their work really isn’t that good, or at least hasn’t stood the test of time.  In My Dreams was a great song, but Summer Vacation is just kind of cheesy now that I’m not 14 anymore.  And I kind of knew back then that not all of their songs were all that good.  So why, then, was I such a passionate fan of them at all?  I think part of it was the Hipster Effect.  Modern-day “hipsters” are often stereotyped as listening to obscure music and bragging about how they knew the early work of bands before they were cool.  And I knew of The Party before they were The Party, because I had been watching them on the Mickey Mouse Club since the show’s debut (or, technically, revival) in early 1989, over a year before they formed The Party.  And I enjoyed the Mickey Mouse Club.  It was a variety show for pre-teens and teenagers, a show just for my age group.  And it was pretty darn funny, at least as far as the sense of humor of pre-teens and young teenagers goes (although a bit cheesy at times).

I think there are two other things at work here in terms of why I’m so embarrassed about this, besides some of the songs’ lack of ability to stand the test of time.  As for exactly how embarrassed I am, I hadn’t listened to In My Dreams between 1992ish and two weeks ago after I came across Dokken’s version, and I hadn’t listened to any other The Party songs until just today when I sat down to start writing this.  Really, this has been a difficult post to share.  And what’s really funny about all this is just how these songs still come back to me instantly while listening to them for the first time in over 20 years.  Anyway, two reasons… one is that I went a little overboard with my fandom of this band.  There was a time when I knew all of their full names, dates of birth, and hometowns.  I wanted to hang out with these people, as well as the other Mickey Mouse Club cast members, probably because I didn’t have a lot of friends of my own at the time.  They were my escape from reality.  I did not obtain this information in a stalkerish way; the Disney Channel was a premium service in that time period, and they sent a magazine to all their subscribers, which often contained information about and interviews with the stars of their original programming.  But still, by adult standards, that just seems a little weird and creepy.

The other reason is my parents.  Mom and Dad made fun of these guys all the time.  Mom and Dad make fun of a lot of people, for being too fat, too skinny, too funny-looking, talking funny, having a funny name, whatever reason you can possibly think of.  And just about any individual who appears on television was fair game for them.  And this would make me self-conscious by extension.  Remember, the members of The Party were practically my imaginary friends, and Mom and Dad were always making fun of them.  Especially Damon.  For some reason, I felt ashamed to like something that Mom and Dad always made fun of.  So it was natural to leave this in the past once I stopped listening to their music.  (By the way, Mom reads this.  I’m not mad at you, I’m just writing about how I felt.  And if you try to embarrass me about anything on this post, just remember that I have plenty of embarrassing dirt on you, and I’m friends with a lot of your Facebook friends too, so hush.)

In retrospect, I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with having liked embarrassing things in your childhood.  I mean, some things really aren’t meant to stand the test of time.  Sesame Street is a classic, but it’s for kids.  I don’t know many adults who sit around watching Sesame Street on their own, when they’re not watching it with their children, and I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  Some entertainment products are meant to be consumed by children, or by teenagers, and their lack of appeal to other age groups or generations isn’t a weakness, nor is changing one’s tastes as part of the process of growing up.  It’s ok to relive parts of your childhood occasionally–the Backstreet Boys recently played live here, and while I have never been a fan of theirs, a lot of my twentysomething female friends attended that show and had a great time, good for them!–but you shouldn’t go overboard with that either, because no one was meant to be a child forever.

While thinking about this, I discovered something interesting.  The Party reunited (minus Tiffini) in 2013, now in their late 30s, and made this, and are slowly working on another album:

They aren’t embarrassed of their past either.  And this song is just as cheesy as Summer Vacation was almost a quarter-century ago!  So if they aren’t ashamed of their own work, what do I have to be ashamed of?  That’s why I decided to write this.  I have no reason to be embarrassed that I was once such a big fan of a teenybopper group.  It was music for teenagers in the early ’90s, and I was a teenager in the early ’90s.  The best way not to be embarrassed about something like this is to admit it and confront that fear.  Will I put any of their old music on my ’90s playlists?  Maybe.  Will I buy their new album, or look at any of their stuff from the ’90s from after I stopped listening to them?  Maybe.  But everyone has embarrassing stories about things they used to be in to as kids, and now I’m adding this to my collection of such stories.  I’m kind of wondering right now if any of my thirtysomething friends, or other readers of this blog, will come forward and admit that they were fans of The Party too back in the day.

And after all, I don’t exactly have room to talk about being embarrassed about listening to pop music, considering that I’m a grown man and I have a favorite Carly Rae Jepsen song that isn’t one of the 1.5** songs of hers that everyone knows.  And I’ll leave you with that.


* If you live near Sacramento and this sounds awesome, send me your contact information, and I’ll add you to the invite list for this.  Comments are moderated, so if you leave a comment with contact information, I’ll edit it before I publish it.

** “1.5” because Good Time is a duet.