If I ever stumble over a genie somewhere and get 10 wishes, one of them is going to be this: I want to travel back to the ’80s for a week. For a day — even just an hour. How long could it possibly take to adequately re-live the cheesy, neon hair-fest that was the ’80s?

I don’t know about you, my friends, but in the ’80s, I was wearing parachute pants everywhere I went. I had a bright green pair for the clubs, a black and white pair for the gym, and a crazy multi-colored number that looked like it had been vomited from the throat of a kaleidoscope.

Can’t touch this.

Balloon pants and spiked hair, that was me. I had a denim coat I wore with the collar up, a WBLM belt, and high-top sneakers I wore with the tongue poking out. When I went to the beach, I strapped on a lime-green fanny pack. Sometimes I kept a bandanna flapping from my back pocket; sometimes I kept one of those feather clips fastened onto my shirt. I forget what they were for. I wore sunglasses that I guess were Ray-Bans, but which I only knew as “Max Headroom” shades.

My girlfriends had enormous hair, and they wore hoop earrings and acid-washed jeans. The really special ones wore baseball shirts with my name spelled out in iron-on letters.

Weak. So weak, and yet at the time, we were the coolest cats on Earth, with our fingerless gloves, our spiked everything and our strange language. We invented “Awesome,” you know. We totally did.

And the music. Oh, dear God, the music! Like everything else in the ’80s, it was gawdy and excessive and cheap. We loved it, even though we would have died before admitting it.

If you were a boy, you expressed deep hatred for groups like Journey, REO Speedwagon and any band with “Boys” in its name. Pure trash, you’d fume, the musical equivalent of Meister Brau beer. Ptth! You spit on Journey and REO Speedwagon!

But, oh man. If you happened to be in the car alone, and “Faithfully” came on the radio, you’d crank up that stereo knob as far as it could go and sing in the glorious falsetto you’d kept a secret all your life. When you got to the “Ohhhh, oh, ohhhh oh,” part, you’d sway back and forth with such emphasis that you’d actually be driving from one side of the road to the other, taking out mailboxes as you went.

It happened to a guy I know.

Same with REO Speedwagon. “Take it on the Run,” baby. Are you kidding me? If you were driving during that particular tune, you had to pull over to the side of the road so you could safely play air guitar during that crankin’ solo near the end. It was your nasty little secret, but I’ve got news for you. We were all doing it. Everybody loved Journey, even if it was only OK to admit it after you’d grown up, got married, started a career, lost your hair and stopped giving a damn what your friends think.

The height of our ’80s technology was the Walkman. Imagine it! You could go anywhere in the world and listen to any music your heart desired. If, you know. It happened to be on the mix tape your girlfriend made for you before she dumped you for some break dancer in parachute pants.

We had Rubik’s Cube, cable TV boxes and VCRs the size of today’s economy cars. We had Alf, Smurfs, Polaroid cameras and Simon, a thrilling memory game that could entertain an entire family for up to 45 minutes.

It was a rad time, Poindexter. There were no major wars, the economy was great, and the PC police hadn’t been spawned yet. The world was catching its breath after Vietnam and disco, and before grunge rock and the Middle East.

It was a cool time to come of age, and a period that is extremely difficult to describe to someone who wasn’t there. How can you possibly explain the joy of Betamax to some kid who has a smartphone, an iPad and movies-on-demand delivered to a school-issued laptop computer?

Ah, you rotten kids with your gizmos.

I’ll likely never get back to the ’80s (the flux capacitor is busted) and even if I did, I’d probably hate it now.

Fortunately, when one gets to waxing nostalgic about that tawdry time, it’s easy to find someone of a like mind. Know how you do it? Simple. Start singing, “Just a small town girl …”

And see what happens.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Strangers waiting up and down the boulevard can email him at [email protected]


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