Are you a centenarian in Internet Years? Did your home have a rotary phone, likely avocado green with a permanently knotted cord? While watching television, did you ever change the channels by turning a dial*? Do you know what UHF is? Can you recall purchasing 45s in department stores like KMart? Were you ever desperately afraid you might be caught entering a Kmart, or even worse, purchasing something while it was on a blue light special? Have you ever waited by the radio with a blank cassette in an attempt to capture a song? As a child did you spontaneously play with fellow neighborhood children without your parents scheduling the activities in advance? If so, let me be the one to break the news: you are old. You have analog memories. Welcome to the club. Here are some bits of odd, arcane Middle School colloquialisms that until now, were lost to history.
Monkey Plastics [muhng-kee plas-tiks]
A term of bitter scorn and humiliation, used in reference to a pair of sneakers that did not adorn the logo of a popular name brand.
Jeff’s sneakers resembled Air Jordans, but were, to his dismay, Air Ryders. Purchased by his rational, hard working parents, who couldn’t imagine why they should be expected to pay 125 dollars for a pair of gym shoes. As soon as Jeff entered Phy Ed Class, he was not in the least surprised when someone pointed to his shoes and yelled, “Look at Jeff with those monkey plastics!”
An interjection of a small, and stupid victory. Often times inflicted by a jock type over a nerd type. An overused ritual prank popular in the 1980′s.
A wiseguy would come up to you, extend his hand and say,
“Hey, give me five!”
You, being the good sport that you are, attempt to slap his hand in return, as was the fashion of the day.** Whereupon the wiseguy would quickly remove his hand, and in a continuous motion, slick back his hair. As you caught nothing but air, the wiseguy would yell, “Psyche!” You had been the victim of a psyche out.
If your attempt at comedy went over like a fart in church, someone would inevitably call you out by saying, “Dud.” The “dud” craze sweeping my Junior High was delivered a blow by Mr. Baggot, teacher, fourth grade Social Studies, who banned the word. This was in no small part due to his liberal use of puns and other lowly witticisms.
* If you turned that dial too quickly, one of your parents would freak out, claiming that this would harm the TV. The only reason they believed this was due to the fact they were of an even more distant time, when television sets cost as much as a car, and were fragile, fussy instruments. In fact, televisions of the 70′s and 80′s are nearly indestructible. For example, my Grandmother’s beloved mammoth Zenith cabinet television purchased in 1983, only just recently died. She now sports a digital wide screen. I do not have cable, and still use rabbit ears. It is shameful thing when your 83 year old Grandmother who cannot operate a DVD player is technologically younger than you. I’m curious though, Grandma Show Off: do Judge Joe Brown and Cops come in high definition?
** I believe the last time I gave someone five in earnest was in August of 1987, after a rare, but successful top-of-the -key-shot completed in a schoolyard game of Horse.
School is back in session. My favorite time of year. Cheap and abundant office supplies. Kids blowing off steam at recess, the finest din imaginable. Shorts will be disappearing from the landscape. I always get an inexplicable surge of energy come September. Today, the coffee shop worker asked if I get the student discount. Bless you. I’ll pay 10 percent extra if you’ll ask me that every order.
If you’re with me, why not celebrate with some:
Back to School Cinema
(Click through to Netflix)
1. Bad Boys
Compare Penn’s performance to his turn in the unforgivable Mystic River, and meditate on how far he has strayed.
2. Over the Edge
Matt Dillon’s first picture. Burnouts blow up the school. See what happens when you close the rec center?
3. My Bodyguard
Aside from one horrible montage (was there a law in the 80′s that movies must contain them?) this is one of my favorite high school films of all time.
5. The Chocolate War
Recently released on DVD, catch it if you’ve played out your John Hughes. Fine soundtrack.
I cut this article from a Spin Magazine, sometime in the 80′s. It’s been a fixture above my desk ever since.
How to write with style
I’m always glad to get some good news from my hometown. When I discovered New York toast-of-the-downtown playwright Adam Szymkowicz’s Deflowering Waldo is coming to Racine, Wisconsin, I practically did a spit take. The Racine I grew up in was not exactly known for cutting-edge theater. Mucho kudos are in order to the Over Our Heads Players for bringing a smart comedy and a little edge to a culturally conservative city. Their entire season is comprised of original works– can’t wait to check them out the next time I’m in town.
Wisconsinites mark your calendars:
Deflowering Waldo by Adam Szymkowicz
Apr 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26
Sixth Street Theater
318 Sixth Street
Racine, WI 53403