Halloween and Generation X

I was a kid during the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

In those days before the Internet, or much in the way of video games, Halloween was still a big deal.

I wrote 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN to capture the spirit of what Halloween was like for Generation X. 

12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN is a coming-of-age story set in 1980. Three young friends—three 12-year-olds—go out for “one last Halloween” before they enter adolescence and become too old for the ritual.

But there’s a problem, you see: one of them has incurred a 12-hour supernatural curse, and so Halloween 1980 will be unlike any other!

**Get 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN on Amazon!**

Early 1980s video game meme

This meme showed up in my Facebook feed, posted by another child of the 1980s. 

This is, more or less, what a home gaming system looked like for the average suburban kid, circa 1980-1982.  As the meme suggests, we considered this to be cutting-edge and high tech, which it was, given that this was 40 years ago.

Around that time (I was in junior high) I had an Atari 2600, hooked up to the television in the living room.

The only difference in my setup was that the TV was slightly larger. My Atari was connected to a wood-paneled Zenith. (It was the family TV. My parents consented to putting the Atari there because my dad also enjoyed the games from time to time.)

I had a handful of games, mostly with military or science-fiction themes: Asteroids, Space Invaders, Missile Command, and a few others. 

July skies

Yesterday was the first day of July, and the first day of the second half of the year.

For those of you who are into annual planning, July 1st is a time for taking stock: of what you’ve accomplished in the year thus far, and how you plan to continue—or correct your course.

July 1st also means the beginning of the dog days of summer. That’s definitely true here in southern Ohio, a region of the country that gets the worst of all possible weather. Yesterday I went running in the 92-degree heat. I was definitely feeling every one of my fifty-three years. There is simply no escaping the heat this time of year, not even inside, in the air conditioning.

Note, in the above photo, the lawn dried to the condition of a straw doormat. Also note the overcast morning sky, threatening rain. 

We’ve had no significant rainfall for over a week. A thunderstorm would be great now, to break this midsummer heat wave.

Cincinnati June heat wave

This is what Cincinnati’s heat index readings look like over the next few days. The extreme heat (with highs in the mid-90s) is not supposed to break until the upcoming weekend.

I am generally pretty tolerant where weather is concerned. The weather doesn’t bother me much, for the most part. Still, if I wanted to live in an equatorial climate, I would move to Guyana or Vietnam. This is Ohio, for goodness sake.

Heat at this level also puts a strain on mechanical equipment, including the power grid. There is nothing like a power outage when the mercury is over 95. 

Fawn on the lawn

You just never know what you’ll see out here in the badlands of Clermont County, Ohio.

Ducks, foxes, turtles, falcons, and raccoons regularly turn up in my yard.

And, of course, deer. This little fawn has been occupying the front lawn in the mornings of late.

I’ve never tried to approach the fawn; but she seems quite comfortable in the close proximity of humans.

New Japan-related series coming

Those of you who know my full history know that I spent about twenty years working in and around the Japanese automotive industry. 

I am definitely a Japanophile. The history, culture, and language of Japan have long fascinated me. Japan has never been my permanent place of residence, but I’ve traveled there more times than I can count. 

I learned the Japanese language in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I spent some time working as a translator/interpreter. My Japanese is a little rusty nowadays, compared to what it was in 1995 or 2000, when I was doing simultaneous interpretations at business meetings. But I can still manage an adult-level text  or a news broadcast in Japanese. 

I’m working on a new fiction series,  set in Japan in the early 1990s. It will feature young Gen X protagonists. (Generation X was young in the early 1990s.)

Like all my books, this series will be available on Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback. But I may experiment with some other forms of distribution as well. (I’ve been wanting to try audio-first releases, possibly serialized here on Edward Trimnell Books, for example.)

More information to follow!

 

The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, 1977

Yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, one of Cincinnati’s historic tragedies. On May 28, 1977, 165 people perished in a fire in Southgate, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Most of the dead were youngish adults in their twenties and thirties. Many were parents of children my age.

This tragedy strikes somewhat close to home for me, even though it was a long time ago, and even though I didn’t actually lose anyone. 

My parents, as chance would have it, were supposed to be there that night. My mom wanted to see John Davidson perform. 

This is not as noteworthy a coincidence as it might seem. In the late 1970s, entertainment options were not what they are now. An appearance by a star like John Davidson, at a local venue, was quite the event.

In the end, my parents decided not to go. They did not have premonitions of doom. There were no omens. Something mundane simply came up, preventing them from going. Two of my parents’ acquaintances did go, though, and they died in the fire. 

Tragedy directly struck a girl in my third grade class. Both of her parents, just thirty-two years old, died in the fire. The girl was in our class the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday. On the following Tuesday, she was not there. 

She was subsequently raised by relatives. None of us ever saw her again. I have, though, seen her appear in local television interviews as an adult. She was interviewed about a decade ago, on one of the annual observances of the grim May 28 anniversary. 

There were lawsuits over the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, of course. The litigation went on for years. It remains a blight on the history of this area, and will likely remain so, until the last survivors and the last children of the dead are gone.

There have been various explanations for the fire, too, from faulty wiring to arson. The latter supposedly involved the Sicilian mafia, which used to have a significant presence in Cincinnati. This theory remains unproven.

Most of the people who now commemorate the tragedy each year are adults in their fifties and sixties who lost parents that night. Also, some of the actual survivors, who are now in their seventies and eighties.

I had a happy childhood and wonderful parents. If my parents had gone to the Beverly Hills Supper Club as planned, my early years might have been very different. My life would be different today, for that matter.

Each year at this time, I count my blessings, and remember how fragile we are. All of us. 

Most dangerous combat roles in World War II

Being in the infantry in World War II was certainly dangerous enough. But that wasn’t necessarily the most dangerous combat role, as detailed in the article hyperlinked below:

“These 5 World War II jobs were more dangerous than being an infantryman”

My grandfather was a gunner on various US Navy vessels that escorted Merchant Marine ships through the North Atlantic. (Number 3 on the above list.)

He once told me that when a ship capsized or was torpedoed, there was seldom any hope of rescuing survivors. Such was the nature of the North Atlantic.

‘Return of the Jedi’: 39 years ago

The last installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, and the last really good film of the franchise, Return of the Jedi hit theaters 39 years ago today.

A lot has already been written about the original Star Wars trilogy, and how and why these three movies were better than the more recent ones. So I won’t add my two cents, because you’ve already either heard or read it.

One side note, however:

The Princess Leia gold bikini scene was supposed to have been an enduring fantasy for adolescent and teenage boys at the time. This even became a topic for an episode of Friends in 1996.

I was 15 in 1983, and I made note of the scene. Carrie Fisher certainly looked fetching in the gold bikini. But for me, at least, that aspect of the movie was secondary. 

Return of the Jedi was just an entertaining, swashbuckling science fiction film like they seldom make anymore: pure escapism, and lots of fun. With or without the gold bikini.

Appliances: they don’t make them like they used to

As the above meme suggests, home appliances aren’t as durable as they used to be. Not only refrigerators, but especially refrigerators.

I recently replaced a General Electric refrigerator that was only a few years old. The compressor (manufactured in a sweatshop in China, no doubt), had died.

On the other hand, the refrigerators of my youth seemed to go on forever. Throughout most of my childhood and early adult years, my grandparents owned a refrigerator that was older than I was. And not just by a few years. They had purchased it when JFK was in the White House. It was 1987 or 1988, and their refrigerator had rolled off the assembly line in 1961. 

Of course, those old refrigerators didn’t have any computer chips. But who really needs a computer chip in a refrigerator, I ask you.

Why I’m not a “car guy”

I will freely admit that I have never been much of a “car guy”. To me a car has always been little more than an appliance. Not all that much different from a washing machine or a refrigerator. I spend a lot more time oohing and aahing over the latest Apple technology than I do over the latest offerings from any of the automakers. 

Most men much under 55 are similar, I’ve found. (The exceptions are pickup truck guys, but they’re a different breed, entirely.)

This is definitely a generational thing. Almost all of the car guys I know are over the age of 60, which means that they started driving in the 1970s or earlier. 

I started driving in 1984. It was around this time that cars all started looking more or less the same, and not very exciting at all. 

For example, check out the “K Car”, a popular car of the 1980s. The K Car was basically a shoebox on wheels. Yet so many cars built during the 1980s followed this pattern.

Vehicles of the 1990s, 2000s, and beyond became even more uniform in shape and appearance. Can anyone really tell the difference between a Kia Sorento and a Toyota Highlander without looking at the grill emblem? I certainly can’t—and I drive the latter car. 

Now look at these cars that Chevrolet put out in 1972: the Camaro SS, the Malibu convertible, etc. And (of course) the venerable El Camino. 

Now these were cars worth getting excited about. 

No—I wasn’t driving in 1972. (I was four years old.) But many of these cars were on the road well through my early adolescent years. Trouble was, they already represented the last of the fading classic car era. 

Why are cars so similar today? We can blame Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, as well as changes in the marketplace. 

The era of the classic car is now over. And with it, I would argue, the era of the “car guy”.

1980s Cold War films, and the 2022 ‘Top Gun’ sequel: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

Given that 1980s nostalgia is a frequent topic here, some of you have asked me how I feel about the upcoming sequel to Top Gun, which has been titled, Top Gun: Maverick.

I should probably first say a bit about my experience of the first one. Top Gun was released to theaters in May of 1986, now 36 years ago. I was just getting out of high school then. 

I have always had a liking for action movies, so of course I saw it. I enjoyed Top Gun, but (let’s be honest here), I also found it somewhat lightweight and forgettable. 

Top Gun was conceived, written, and produced at the height of the Reagan era, when triumphalist Cold War films were all the rage. This was also the era of Rambo, Red Dawn, and a Rocky film that sent Rocky Balboa to Moscow to face down a Soviet boxer. 

Don’t get me wrong, here: I would have voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 had I been old enough. So if you’re looking for any whining about healthy patriotism or a strong defense policy, you’ve come to the wrong place. 

But that same schtick gets boring, film after film. Top Gun, for me, was never much more than a predictable date movie.  Another war movie of 1986, Platoon, struck me as far more thoughtful and serious…much as I came to disagree with Oliver Stone on other matters in later years. 

The first Top Gun seemed to have had the biggest impact on younger GenXers who were in grade school or junior high when it came out. One of my former work colleagues, who is eight years my junior, was ten years old in the summer of 1986. He has told me that Top Gun became a virtual obsession for him that year.

What about the sequel? Based on the trailers, I actually think that it might turn out to be better than the first one. I miss the 1980s, in many ways; but the 80s were not, on the whole, a great decade in film.

It has also been noted that Top Gun: Maverick includes at least one female fighter pilot role, that of Phoenix, played by Monica Barbaro. 

Speaking again of my high school years: at least two women from my class served in the US Armed Forces after graduation. I did not. So women fighter pilots in the Top Gun sequel are okay with me.

On the whole, I’m looking forward to seeing the new Top Gun movie, which will hit theaters on May 24. Should be a fun time. 

I can’t wait to see ‘The Black Phone’

The Black Phone stars Ethan Hawke, whom you’ve seen in many other films over the years. Based on the trailer and what I’ve read online, this seems to be a supernatural serial killer film set in 1978.

I was 10 years old in 1978. That was an age before cell phones and helicopter parenting. An era of suburban kids disappearing for hours at a time on their bikes. Much of the time, nobody knew exactly where you were. Your parents certainly couldn’t track your whereabouts on an “app”.

This wasn’t parental negligence. It was just the way things were then.

The 1970s was also the heyday of the serial killer. Growing up in that era, we were taught to be on the constant lookout for “stranger danger”. Especially male strangers driving vans. 

This movie seems to tap into a lot of generational fears for people of a certain age (my age).

If the movie is as good as the trailer, I expect it to be a big hit with horror fans over the age of 40…or anyone interested in the fears of that increasingly receding time, the late 1970s.

The Black Phone will hit the movie theaters in June. Count me in!

College textbook memories: 1986 “Introduction to Poetry” text

I’m a packrat by nature. You should therefore not be surprised to learn that although I graduated from college in 1990, I still have many of my college textbooks. 

I purchased the above text in 1986 for an English class (obviously).

The above textbook cost $25 when I bought it. If that sounds cheap to you, I’ll point out that this would be $65.58 in 2022 dollars. So perhaps college textbooks have always been overpriced. Also, minimum wage was $3.35 per hour in 1986, and $4 to $5 was considered a “typical” hourly wage for a student-level job.

I haven’t written or read much poetry since I took that class. 

Why? While I’m more than willing to tilt at windmills, even I have my limits. The market for poetry in the English-speaking has never been great…at least in modern times. The editor of the above text, X.J. Alexander, points this out in an essay near the end of the book. He describes a “poetry glut”. And keep in mind: the above textbook was published a decade before the Internet or Windows 95, back when people who wanted to write had to actually use typewriters or pens. Now we can write entire books on our cellphones.

Like most overly introspective teenagers through the ages, I wrote my share of bad poetry between the ages of 15 and 17, or 1983 and 1985. Teenage crushes, feelings of being misunderstood, and generalized adolescent angst all tend to produce bad poetry, like May weather produces dandelions.

No—you will never see any of those old poems of mine here. All of those old pages disappeared in the chaos of a move in 1988. This was no great loss, neither to me, nor to the American literary canon. 

Another nice thing about the pre-Internet era: the potentially embarrassing things we wrote, said, or did tended to disappear with the passage of time. As they should.