nostalgia, via pop culture

Over at Strip Mining for Whimsy, Joshua just posted about Hill Street Blues, which you can now download from iTunes.

This ties into something that has been on my mind lately, and that is how one pop culture reference can trigger a whole avalanche of memories and associations. Hill Street Blues premiered on January 15, 1981 — the day after my twenty-fifth birthday. I was three years into a very turbulent relationship with Not-the-Mathematician, an East Coast Italian (ECI), a charming, very tall (taller than Joshua, even), good looking guy with a terminal case of the runarounds. I had just moved back to Chicago from Boston. Urban Cowboy was playing in the theater down the street from my apartment. Reagan was president elect. John Lennon had been dead exactly one month. My associations around Hill Street Blues are not upbeat.

There are movies that have this same effect on me. Annie Hall is the ultimate example. It opened in April of 1977; I was twenty-one. I went to see Annie Hall with the ECI. I also saw Star Wars, Animal House, Saturday Night Fever, and a dozen other iconic movies with him within a few days of release. That list includes (cue the irony) Looking for Mr. Goodbar. I met the ECI in a disco on Rush Street. Not that the ECI was ever physically violent, please don’t jump to that conclusion.

But of all those movies, Annie Hall is the one that resonants most clearly. Watching Annie Hall is like getting into a time machine. I remember Manhattan exactly as it was then, pretty true to the movie. I remember everything about that spring. The Ramones and Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder on the radio. Some really cheesy music, even then it was clear it was cheesy. Torn Between Two Lovers, Feeling Like a Fool (kill me now); Don’t Give up on Us Baby (make it quick); Barry Manilow was at the top of his form. So to speak.

What I didn’t have: money. An answering machine (few people did). Any kind of computer (even fewer people), or the hope of ever having something like a computer. No VCRs, much less iTunes and downloads.

All this makes me feel not so much old as full. Chock full of memories. No more room, and I’ve got, what, thirty more years. Amazing, the elasticity of the human mind.