It's 1977! I'm only a few months old! In January, Apple Computer was incorporated, Gary Gilmore was executed, my favorite Stephen King novel was released (The Shining), one of David Bowie's best albums was released (Low), one of my favorite writers passed away (Anais Nin), the Spider-Man newspaper strip by Stan Lee and John Romita started (Romita drew the definitive Spidey, IMHO), Miami experienced snow for the only time in its history, and the Midwest experienced the Great Lakes Blizzard of 1977.
And, according to my baby book, I took my first plane trip.
Woodridge was a very new suburban area. It's built up so much in the years since that I don't even like to go there anymore. It doesn't feel like home--and anyway, my Mom and sister don't even live there anymore, or even in Illinois. Back then, there were still dirt roads and a lot of forest in places (including right by this house, down a hill and past a creek; I used to play in them as a kid, until 95% of it got knocked down to build more houses). The I-355 tollway goes through there now, but it wasn't there then. Back then, it was forest.
I remember telling my then-girlfriend's parents, back in 1994, just after they moved here from Indiana, that I remembered when the 355 was first built; it opened on Christmas Eve in 1989. I remember we rode from one end to the other, me and my Mom and sister Jayne, on Christmas Day. They couldn't believe it was less than 5 years old. I immediately disliked them in large part because they were just dismissive of that. And it turns out they were assholes, anyway, so no big loss.
Out of curiosity, I looked up my grandparents' home on Zillow, and it was built in 1975. So it was pretty damn new. I know my grandparents were the first people that ever lived in it. And it was a neat house, with a finished basement (wood paneling and track lighting, but it was also the room with the TV).
That painting back there was something I always loved. I don't know how long my grandparents had that, but that painting always comforted me. It felt like home to me.
Here it is:
It’s a reproduction that was sold at Sears for a long time (20 years, or so, I think). I've looked it up in the past to get more information about it, and I see a lot of people asking if it has any value. Over the years, as I saw it more and more, it really comforted me and made me think of warmth and home. When we moved into their house, after my grandparents moved to Guam, they left it here and bought themselves another one.
I like having it so much that when I moved in 2001, I brought it with me, and it's still in my living room.
I am kind of a homebody (even besides the agoraphobia and mood disorder), so I do tend to keep things that have a sentimental attachment. For example...
The day before, January 15, was the first appearance of my favorite-ever Saturday Night Live cast member, Bill Murray. He ended up being a major influence on how I appreciated comedy. He's from Chicago (Evanston, really), and is so much like the other Chicagoans I grew up knowing, so Murray's always reminded me a lot of my Dad, who is similarly obnoxious. (And so am I, I inherited that.)
On January 20, President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated, saying in his speech "We have already found a high degree of personal liberty, and we are now struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our natural beauty preserved; the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced."
January 22, Daryl Hall & John Oates released their first number one single, "Rich Girl." One of a number of Hall & Oates songs that, first off, are just really great pop music, but also make me feel instantly nostalgic, even though I wouldn't have been able to remember ever hearing it when it came out. I was six months old! My long-suffering wife does not like Hall & Oates, but she's just wrong.
The next day, Roots began airing. Obviously I wasn’t watching it then. The miniseries was a massive ratings hit; the finale is still the third highest-rated broadcast of all time. I briefly mentioned in a previous post in this series that the book had a profound affect on me when I first read it in high school. The miniseries also blew me away, and has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a powerful drama about human resilience and human cruelty. I like that most about it: it’s very human. It showcases the best and the worst of what we can be. It’s often about fighting for dignity in an environment where dignity is impossible. But it’s also about moments of love, warmth, caring, family, and courage.
Side note: did anyone watch the excellent remake that aired back in May? It was devastating. It had no desire to comfort white viewers the way the original did. So much brutality and pain, but so much humanity and emotion. It had a profound impact on me, too; the suffering and cruelty on display is hard to watch, but still so horribly relevant.
Damn, let's lighten things up a little. On January 29, one of my favorite Muppet Show segments aired: the Beatles' "I'm Looking Through You," performed by a trio of ghosts. It was on the episode hosted by Vincent Price, which is one of my top five episodes.
Also, here's a commercial about getting stroked in the morning.
I have no idea how long we stayed in Woodridge before going back to Des Moines. I do know, because of my baby book, that I got my first tooth on February 11.
Also in February, one of my favorite movies (Dario Argento's Suspiria), one of my favorite songs ("Strawberry Letter 23" by the Brothers Johnson), the release of JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion, the unfortunate death of one of the great animators of all time (John Hubley), and this athletic picture of me:
Anyway, March 1977. A few more fave movies (Ralph Bakhi's Wizards, Disney's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh), a few more fave songs (Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," Iggy Pop's original version of "China Girl," Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams"--my Dad played the Rumours album a lot for pretty much a solid decade), and Rocky won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. On March 10, the rings of Uranus were discovered, pretty much accidentally.
On March 12, I stood up alone. On March 15, Three's Company premiered. Coincidence? Indeed!
April saw the start of one of my favorite comic books (American Splendor), another favorite movie (Annie Hall), and another favorite song, "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Obviously, I was too little to appreciate punk. I sure did when I got a bit older, but by that time it was pretty mainstream and MTV had happened. In April, optical fibers were first used in telephone lines. This was also the month that the Dover Demon appeared in Massachusetts. That was the kind of cryptozoological stuff I ate up as a kid.
I also ate up McDonald's breakfasts...
When I was a kid and McDonald's was considered an occasional treat, I remember thinking that breakfast seemed especially... sophisticated. I know that sounds silly, but it seemed like a thing adults did. I remember when my Dad and Jayne and I would get up around 6am on a Saturday (which seemed REALLY early to be out when I was a lad) and we'd go over to the pond and go fishing together. After we were done, we got to go to McDonald's and get hotcakes. It was really special, even if it was just fishing and McDonald's. It was one of a number of things that felt more special because Dad was home, like going to the bank on Saturday mornings (they had coffee and donut holes and people were wearing suits!) or playing Dad's Beach Boys 8-track while he cooked pancakes.
I like this picture. I love my Mom. I know she's sorry about a lot of things. I am, too. I'm a lot like her. She didn't mean to teach me to be the way I am now, but that combined with a lot of childhood bullying really did a number on me. I don't really hold a grudge against her, especially since she's validated how I feel now, because I think she just didn't know better and was probably surprised by how she acted sometimes. It's complicated. We live in different states, and I think the distance helps. Time helps, too.