First of all, just let me say this: There is too much goddamn 1980s nostalgia out there. Oh yeah, it was a pretty big decade, ten years long in fact, and a lot of memorable stuff happened. But there were other decades too, you know? So I’m going to make a few posts now and in the future here about the decade that everyone seems to not remember: The 1990s. Aside from a couple things here and there, like Monica Lewinsky or the golden age of gangsta rap, the whole decade seems to have either been forgotten or mixed up with the two surrounding ten-year periods. People always seem to forget that the pastel-colored, pre-grunge period of Vanilla Ice and slap bracelets wasn’t part of the 1980s, that the Internet was a thing that people started to actually have somewhere around 1995, and that the pseudo-goth nu-metal phase everyone went through started a lot closer to 1997 than to 2003.
Believe it or not, also the 1990s.
And really, when people somewhere around my age throw around how they were “a child of the 80s,” they don’t realize what that means: You were a CHILD of the 80s, meaning you probably barely remember anything that actually happened as it actually happened, aside from what DVDs you bought and websites you read when you were 25 or older told you about the time. We were children of the 80s, but we grew up in the 90s. Big difference. You knew and loved G.I. Joe, but you weren’t quoting episodes or keeping track of the variants in Bazooka’s lower leg plastic or whatever until you became a 20-something dork. Your brain comes online somewhere around the age of five or so, yeah, but there’s another good four or five years before it really kicks in and your memories start to have any real substance beyond “oh man, what were those toys where the truck turned into this thing with missiles? Those were awesome.” I think what I’m saying here is that us 20-30 somethings are way too enamored with being part of the 1980s to admit that the 1990s were really what made us into the terrible people that we are. And I may be a terrible person, but I know where I came from, and these are a few of my memories. Let me show you them.
As it stands right now, I’m thirty-one years old, which I’m pretty sure is older than the mountains themselves in internet years, I work in a frozen warehouse, and I have no real meaningful education past high school. I mean, I did go to college, but I essentially flunked out twice in less than two years. Also, I’m a genius. No really, there have been tests and everything, what with the questions and the pencils and making the colored blocks look like the picture and the whole deal. So how can this be, you might ask? How can a dude who can rearrange colored blocks with the speed and precision of a super-scientist end up with a career where the main requirements are “can you lift this thing and carry it over there?” instead of something… geniusy? Well, I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I’ve pinpointed one particular event that probably led me to my current situation.
The year was 1993. Bill Clinton was the president, Shaquille O’Neal was still a rookie, the world still loved O.J. Simpson, Metallica didn’t fully suck yet, Bill Murray was still occasionally funny, and the comic book dork world was still reeling from the recent death of Superman. Meanwhile, I was in the seventh grade, a doofus-assed pudgy kid who was way more into The Ren and Stimpy Show than anyone should have been. Like seriously, I think I had at least three posters and half a dozen t-shirts from that show, and when I manage to see an old episode now, it is more often than not absolutely terrible. I wonder how differently my life would have worked out if I had dedicated all that time and energy to Rocko’s Modern Life instead, which is still awesome. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing for a later date. This is serious business here.
Anyway, I was this shitty little seventh grade kid, and I was a goddamn genius, but no one knew it. I was pretty uninterested in schooling for the most part, and paid absolutely no attention to anything, but through the mutant power my brain has for absolutely crushing anything with multiple-choice answers, I was in all the advanced classes, and was usually a pretty solid B student. Still, I was surrounded on at least three sides by A students at any given time, and being a shy dork who was probably wearing a Ren and Stimpy shirt with brightly-colored plaid shorts, (complete with elastic waist band) someone who didn’t know me probably thought I was more likely to belong in the special ed classes than the accelerated ones. Hell, even though I dress like an adult at least a third of the time now, people still probably think that. But my brain could get me places my appearance couldn’t, so after they gave this big school-wide test to everybody in the seventh and eighth grades, I ended up as one of the finalists in the school spelling bee. And it was there that my scholastic future was destroyed.
Rather than it being the public spectacle you still see every now and then on ESPN2, it was just maybe eight of us sitting in a semicircle in the library, surrounded by teachers. How it worked was simple. They tell you a word, you spell it, if you screwed it up, you were eliminated, and the last kid standing got to go on to state or district or whatever, and whoever won state got to go on to the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. (The ESPN2 thing) Anyway, there I am, the only seventh-grader in a room full of eighth-graders, the only male in a room full of females, and the only shitty, sweaty kid who just got out of P.E. class, dressed like a special ed dork in a room full of people who look like they were about to head to church. Church with the President. Needless to say, to the casual observer, I probably seemed to have about as many chances in hell as a snowball in a bucket of gasoline. But goddammit, I am a genius, and after a few rounds of me being awesome and people misspelling shockingly easy words, I was still right there. And then it happened. They made someone spell the word “dumbbell.”
I don’t know why dumbbell seemed like such a funny word at the time, but for one brief moment in time, just hearing someone say it out loud eclipsed all comedy that had come before it. Dumbbell was the funniest thing I had ever heard, and I immediately burst into uncontrollable laughter. I tried biting my lip, biting my tongue, and all that other nonsense you’re supposed to try to keep from laughing, but nothing worked, and I was absolutely dying, beet-assed red and internally shaking, like I was having some sort really, really funny stroke. Teachers gave me severely dirty looks and kept telling me that if I didn’t stop, they’d kick me out, regardless of my spelling mastery, so somehow, I found the inner strength to shut the hell up, no matter how hilariously-named certain pieces of exercise equipment might have been. And much to the chagrin of all the teachers who now fully hated me and my well dressed and even better behaved opponents, I hung in there and spelled my ass off, until only two of us remained. I was fully feeling my spelling mojo, I had all the momentum, and I couldn’t be stopped, but I should have known. I had already doomed myself with the fucking dumbbell.
As previously mentioned, I was just a complete ball of shit in these people’s eyes. I was fat, sweaty from gym class, and I was probably dressed like a third grader that the other third graders were too grown-up to hang out with. And I had completely screwed up the solemn, serious-business nature of their precious little spelling bee. I can’t remember my opponent’s name, but she was basically the exact opposite of everything I represented. She had good grades, was fairly popular, dressed at least like someone who gave a crap about their appearance, and had her shit well enough together that she had actually run for class president at one point. (I can’t remember if she won or not, because seriously, junior high class president has to be the most meaningless office on Earth.) If I had the cynical mind and deep, hatred of authority that I have now, I should have seen what was coming, but you see, I didn’t have those things yet, because what was about to happen to me was still in the future at this point. Basically, they had decided a good fifteen minutes earlier that I wasn’t going to win, and I was about to be on the receiving end of my own Montreal Screwjob, a good four years before Bret “The Hitman” Hart would get his.
So with the spelling title on the line, the teacher tells me my word. “Giddily.” It could not have been any other word, because she pronounced it with the diction and clarity of James Earl Goddamn Jones on Adderall; make no mistake about it, “giddily” was my word. So, not seeing the knife heading toward my back, I spell it, like I know it’s spelled. “Giddily. G-I-D-D-I-L-Y. Giddily.” And then, it fucking happened. “Sorry, that’s wrong.” And with the same clarity of voice, this whore of a teacher turns to what’s-her-face and says with a fucking smirk the whole time, “If you can spell this word, you win the spelling bee. And the word is gittedly.” And that was the moment, right there.You screwed me out of it all, just because you wanted someone who would put forth a better appearance for you and your stupid little school.
(Because no one has ever done anything humiliating at a spelling bee.)
That was when I lost my faith in the educational system, in adults and authority figures of any kind, and when any love of scholastic endeavor that I might have ever had in the future was completely ripped from my soul by a butcher knife with the word “gittedly” laser-etched into the blade. And I hope you’re happy, teacher-whose-name-I-can’t-recall. If I had won the spelling title like I was probably about to do, who knows what would have happened? I could have spelled my ass off, and maybe I would have won a goddamn ground-slide load of trophies for you and your stupid school to parade around as though they had been a thing that you had something to do with. Maybe it would have occurred to me that there were advantages to not acting like a dumbass, and that every so often I might get some recognition for something good I had done. Maybe I would have actually put forth an effort in any of my future classes, and I would have gone to them because I wanted to, and not just because I had to. Maybe I would have graduated from college. Maybe I would have cured cancer and invented perpetual motion machines and anti-gravity devices. I could have been the greatest human being what ever lived.
PICTURED: Alternate-universe me, c. 2003.
But no, none of that happened. And it’s all because you didn’t want to be represented by someone who laughs at the word “dumbbell.” Sure hope you didn’t get cancer or need anything to move perpetually. Turds.
Just so you know, basically everything from the old website still exists, either in the form of files from my computer or the old Blogger account that no one seems to remember anymore. And since an awful lot of that stuff didn’t suck, this will be my way to start trickling it onto this place, so it doesn’t go away forever. Plus, it’s an easy way to actually post something on a regular basis once in a while. And in the case of this one, unless I get lazy, it’ll set up the next actual new thing I do. Awesome.
Originally appeared at Web Surf Nicaragua September 25, 2010.
More like “Ernest Goes to DEATH Camp,” am I right?
I was a strange child.
But I’ll get to that in a minute, because I have to provide a little background here. There was this dude back in the day. His name was Josef Mengele. And for those who only had a high school history class or don’t watch The History Channel on the regular, that guy sucked. Like seriously. As the chief Nazi mad scientist of the holocaust, this guy was pretty much the worst guy ever. How bad? Well, he’s the inspiration and sole subject matter for the most evil song Slayer ever did, for starters. Think about that, while I say it again: This dude inspired the most evil song Slayer ever wrote. Do you even realize the kind of ground that covers?
And this is a song about real shit that really happened. That dude was basically the most evil dude in a time and place that was pretty much a giant sea of evil dudes. Like a great white shark in a Pacific Ocean of assholes. Terrible.
But I didn’t come here to express the daring and unpopular opinion that Josef Mengele was not a good man; I’m here to share something from my childhood. There was this movie that came out when I was seven that was one of the greatest films ever to be made: Ernest Goes to Camp, starring misunderstood genius Jim Varney as the title character. And in it, there’s this scene, which I couldn’t find a clip of specifically, but someone threw the whole movie on YouTube, and the moment in question is right at the beginning of part two here:
If you don’t feel like watching or are on dial-up internet welfare or something, I’ll explain: Ernest has to get vaccinated, and covers for his fear of needles by talking up what a bad motherfucker he is. When he gets stuck, though, he freaks out and starts screaming out wild confessions, specifically, “I did it! I took the Lindbergh baby! I am Josef Mengele! OOOWWWWWWW!”
But you see, as a small child, I knew this scene was funny, but I had no idea as to what was really going on. I knew nothing of the Lindbergh baby, and I damn sure didn’t know about Nazi war crimes. Shit, I was seven; all I knew was G.I. Joe and the Transformers. (and speaking of war crimes and G.I. Joe, the U.S. basically banned flamethrowers for being hideously evil in like 1978, yet the G.I. Joe team had like three or four different flamethrowin’ dudes all the way up into the 1990s. Makes you wonder if Cobra was right all along.) As far as I knew, Ernest, having just been stuck with a needle, was freaking out and screaming wild, meaningless crap, that might as well have been gibberish to my young ears. And for some reason, the second half of the quote really stuck with me as a hilarious thing, and like most little kids who don’t know any better, I repeated it a lot. Like this one little dude who saw a Ninja Turtles cartoon where someone said something about “big league gear,” and kept repeating “this is ‘biggly’ gear!” all day long, except what I said was said with better pronunciation and was working on a completely different level altogether.
What I’m trying to say here is that in the late 1980s, at the Hill apartments in Cleveland, Mississippi, it was really not all that uncommon to see a bunch of little kids standing around, and have the oldest and largest of the group suddenly yell “I AM JOSEF MENGELE! AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”
Looking back, I have to wonder how many adult minds I completely blew with that.
If they’re going to refer to them as “casual dining” restaurants, they should be prepared for just how casual I can be when I dine. I’m tired of getting dirty looks for farting at the table and licking my plate clean.
It’s one of those dirty little secrets nobody wants to admit, but the policies of the pornography industry at large served as the final deciding factor in the battles of both VHS vs. Betamax and HD-DVD vs. BluRay. So I wonder how the illegal drug industry wasn’t able to give that final push toward acceptance for the Metric system.