Journal entry: December 31, 1982 (age 13) – ’80s Teens
As I sat glued to the boombox in the corner of his basement, John Giroux’s third annual New Year’s Eve party raged on around me. Well, maybe it wasn’t “raging” – that’ll probably happen when we’re in high school. Giroux is my friend and eighth-grade classmate at St. Patrick’s Middle School. Pretty much our whole class showed up to this year’s party, which was totally awesome. St. Pat’s has a pretty strict dress code, so outside of school, it’s nice to see the girls in their civvies. I don’t know much about Sergio Valente or Gloria Vanderbilt, but I think they deserve to share a Nobel Prize for their contributions to biology.
The center of attention at the party was Giroux’s new Atari 2600 game system. I arrived a little early, saying I was there to “help set up.” I was really there to be the first guest to play Pitfall!, an adventure game in which you gather treasure while running and jumping across screens filled with quicksand, fire, rolling logs, alligators, snakes, and scorpions. Then I dabbled in some Asteroids and Centipede while scarfing down half a serving bowl of Cheez Doodles. Atari’s Pac-Man is OK, but it doesn’t look anything like it does in the arcade. I was playing it when the song “Pac-Man Fever” came on the radio. That was kinda freaky, but no freakier than the fact that there’s a hit song about Pac-Man to begin with. I can hardly wait for the extended dance version. (Maybe I could record a follow-up. “Move along, move along – it’s the Donkey Kong song!)
Some of us guys are sleeping over. I’m staying up as long as I can, because anyone who falls asleep early gets his hand dipped into a bowl of warm water, which is supposed to result in a fragrant dampening of his sleeping bag. Paul Gentilini was the first one asleep last year, but he woke up as soon as they put his fingers in the bowl. Nevertheless, I’m determined to avoid being a successful subject of any experiment during the wee hours. It’s also worth staying up for the possibility of catching an R-rated movie on HBO, not to mention the inevitable food fights and crank calls. It’s a miracle Mr. and Mrs. Giroux even let us in the house anymore.
As usual, I spent a good chunk of the party listening to the year-end countdown on Casey Kasem’s radio show, American Top 40. And, as usual, I profoundly disagreed with the ranking of songs. I found it hard to believe “Let It Whip” by the Dazz Band didn’t make the Top 10. Does Billboard ignore the number of plays a song gets at roller rinks? Rick Springfield’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers” was only number 20, a full three slots below Bertie Higgins’ “Key Largo?” You’ve gotta be kidding me. But the worst travesty was that my favorite band, America, didn’t even make the chart with their big comeback hit, “You Can Do Magic.” It apparently didn’t sell nearly as well as the Number One song of the year, “Physical,” by Olivia Newton-John. Aerobics and Walkmans are killing our culture.
In 1983, I hope I’ll have a date for New Year’s Eve, other than Casey Kasem. Talk about reaching for the stars…