It was thirty years ago today

Sgt Pepper taught some punks to play…

Woke up this morning and realized that 2020 did have some emotional impact on me after all. We bounce back thirty years to one of those spectacular inflection points that you run into in life and look around.

(Those of you who’ve known me for a while can testify that I can be kinda reticent. Rarely talk about the deep past. Most of those enemies can no longer find me or have forgiven me and we chat now on social media. The future is weird.)

January 1990.

I have just graduated from Wichita State University with double majors in Philosophy and Political Science and a minor in Geography (Thanks, Dr. B!). Six months ago, WSU won the College World Series. a first for a team from a state north of the southern border.

In six months, I will turn 21. In eight months I will pack my ass up and head out of Los Angeles, to start a new adventure at Claremont Graduate School (I still have shirts from before the name change). (Coincidentally, the week I’m set to drive out, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait and gas goes from $2 to $4 overnight. Yum.)

I continue to have a part-time job at the law firm where I’ve worked the last few years, happy that they cured me of the notion of wanting to go to law school. I would have been an amazing lawyer, and utterly miserable. Used to joke that I’d be on my third trophy wife by now.)

I have a group of gamers that I regularly get together with in the evening. We’re mostly employed and not going to school, so we might play 3-4 nights per week.

I still chat with two of them these days, but have seen neither in more than 20 years. Another one died of mysterious health issues in his late twenties, give or take 1997. I only found out after the fact several months later and apparently nobody who was willing to talk knew.

Several women made interesting offers in those days, to go with me to Los Angeles and escape the places where life choices had taken them. I didn’t take any of them up on it. Still chat regularly with two of them on social media, but haven’t seen one in 8 years and the other in 22. Both are happily married and we’re all old now.

The face that popped up out of nowhere this morning was the one who I gather hated my guts in the old days. It was an argument over a woman, of course, but he wasn’t involved.

This other woman had her eye on me and didn’t appreciate rejection when I happened to be dating someone else at the time. She and he knew each other long ways around from somewhere else, and she poured out all her woes to him. He’s the kind of guy who took it all and was deeply offended on her behalf, but didn’t come after me.

Unlike the rest of you, I’m sure, I did some crazy, stupid shit  in my late teens. To this day I have no idea how I didn’t manage to get myself killed in those days, other than most of the time I gave off the same sort of pheromones that you get from a rabid badger.

Looking back at myself, I was kinda scary. It was a defensive mechanism against shit that I’d been through as a kid and teen. Took me decades to understand that, because I never encountered the literature explaining the reason behind some of your behavior when you’ve been emotionally abused. Getting better, but holy hell I was a psychopath on a short chain in those days. (Lots of good beer if you want to hear any of those stories.)

But I have inflected now, thirty years ago. I can see endpoint in front of me. I will pack my shit up and vanish from the face of the earth. Didn’t entirely succeed, but let me put it to you this way:

  • Folks I was friends with in college I have spoken with in the last ten years: 0
  • Folks I was friends with in High School I have spoken with in the last ten years: 0
  • Folks I was friends with in Junior High I have spoken with in the last ten years: 0
  • People I knew before 1990 I have spoken with in the last ten years (excluding family): maybe a dozen, including my best friend in 4th grade who I lost track of for 35 years.

I got to reinvent myself when I finally landed in Seattle. Kids these days (ha!) won’t understand that it is possible to disconnect your phone and leave no forwarding address, and just ride off into the sunset. Big Data companies will manage to track your ass across hell and high water, but this was before technology changed the world.

It also helps that I moved 17 times from Aug 1990 to when Donna and I bought the house in 2001. Three of those involved time zones. Most of them involved zip codes. Averaged moving ever 9 months over that stretch.

Also helps that I have friends who have been there for me over the last twenty years when I needed them. I’ve tried to do the same for them. And become so many different people that I can barely remember them, other than it is possible to mark a city or job that links with a particular year (moving a lot does that) and extrapolate outwards from there.

I can tell you frequently what year a movie came out if I saw it in the theater, because I knew where I lived that year. That year. Yeah…

So it’s been thirty years ago today that Sgt Pepper taught those punks to play. I’m 50 now, and more or less at the halfway point, because I plan to live to be 100, pumping out crazy novels and ideas until the moment I keel over, with my great-great-great-grandkids having stack of books to publish after I’m gone. (Got a grandson who is a freshman at Colorado School of Mines this year, so you can do the math on death + 70 for copyright.)

So it’s 2020. That has been my single look back at the mirror that was my past. 1990 was an ending across so many aspects of my life that I can draw a hard line in the dirt and call it good. 1998 would be another one, because that’s when I met Donna. 2008 when I lost her to breast cancer. 2013 when I won the lottery a second time and found another wonderful woman. 2015 when I published Auberon and discovered what the second half of my life would be like.

Hopefully you and yours are having a happy new year. It’s good to take a moment to reflect, but don’t wallow.

The whole future lies before you waiting.