Sunday, March 09, 2008




More VCR Memories...


A month or so ago, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to give me their experiences with VCRs. The original post is HERE.

A couple bloggers didn't get me their contributions until after I published the post. So I thought I'd do a short addendum to that post.

BC's blog Twenty Years and Counting is a wonderfully written essay on life in Chicago in the late 80's. Although we occupied the same spaces, parties, clubs during that time, we really didn't get to know each other until 20 years later because of our blogs. Funny how the time goes.

From B.C:

I dated Doug in the Winter of 1984. I was 18, and he was 21. We saw each other a few times a week, when our busy student schedules would allow, for about a month. I liked him, and he liked me, but physically, we never got past the make-out stage. I didn't press him on sleeping together, but I playfully hinted around to him that I wouldn't refuse his advances, if they were to happen. One night, after 'last call', he said I'd really like it if you would spend the night at my place. I played it cool, and said Sure, but on the inside I was screaming YES!
Walking up the snow covered steps to the large, sleepy, turn of the century house made me feel a little intimidated. But upon entering, he told me it was chopped up into apartments sometime after WWII. I started to imagine men just getting home from their over-seas battles finding factory jobs in town, and spending long nights with their fellow GIs getting drunk, trying to forget the war. He lived with a roommate, and his rundown, homely college apartment belied the slick, chic, European image his clothing and hair portrayed.
Their place was very cramped and tiny, but the mid-century thrift finds, scattered among what looked like furniture left by the soldiers, elevated the vibe to 'artsy' and gave visitors a sense of what the place could really look like had they the money. I still lived with my dad, and a place of my own was only a distant dream.
Before we went to bed, I watched as he meticulously removed his de rigueur 1984 black eye liner with a Q-tip and dollop of Oil of Olay, in his tiny pink bathroom. Before he washed his face, he took off his small collection of necklaces and gave them to me to hold. I began studying them, when he mentioned the pearls were his grandmother's.
The pearls went so perfectly with his asymmetrical straight black hair and deep brown blazer. The were Excalibur-like: only he could pull off pearls and still look manly. I rolled my eyes when he offered me a fresh Q-tip to take off my make up. It'll prevent wrinkles, he warned. I'm not wearing any, I said.
Sleeping with him was worth the wait, and I was happy we finally had a night together. His tattoo held a special fascination for me; it was like an Aztec tile, a small blue dragon, and lay on his back as if archaeologists had just unearthed it from the sand. The next morning, he made us some toast and coffee, brewed in his Euro-style maker, with the v-shaped filters. Coffee never tasted so good.
Now that I have you like this, Brian, I never want to let you go. You feel so good next to me. He said as we lay on his couch. He kicked out his roommate, that frozen Wisconsin winter Sunday morning, and asked if I wanted to watch a movie.
I was impressed: he had a VCR. I had never seen a movie on a VCR. Back then, they were very expensive. My parents thought VCRs were too much of an indulgence, and bought us a video disc player in 1982. Why get a VCR? They would say. You can get the same movies on disc, for half the price!
Doug put in Bladerunner, a movie I wanted to, but hadn't seen. You gotta see this movie. Every square inch is designed to death, and every scene is beyond cool. He said.
To put it mildly, it blew me away. To this day I watch it twice a year. I was so excited when they re-released it in theaters in the early nineties, so I could finally see it on the big screen.
Watching the movie's over the top futurism unfold in the arms of a guy I really liked was heaven. I felt a little closer the movie's world, what with that small chunk of technology grinding away under the TV, seeding out the picture we were watching. That feeling was shattered a little when Ford's character took that ten minute dive into the world of his VCR, looking for clues to capture his prey.
I saw myself as part of the punk gay couple striding across the screen, in Scott's future urban scapes, hoping it would be Doug by my side. I wanted to be displayed like them; gazed upon. I day dreamed about looking as flawless as Sean did in the movie. I day dreamed about being a robot without a childhood.
It was so great we watched it again. Later that day, he took me to his studio, where he painted for school, and unrolled one amazing painting after another. I was so happy Doug had finally invited me into his private rooms, and I was starting to hope we would have more of a future together.
A few months later, I moved here to Chicago to be with him, to create a world of the future together, but to hear the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey likes to say, you'll have to read
Twenty Years and Counting on Blogger.


Aaron's blog Go Away I'm Reading is a daily journal of a local musician. It's insightful commentary on news stories or city life are always fun to read. Be sure to check out his posts where he answers questions by Dear Ellie. Hilarious. Aaron's ubiquitous comments can be seen on mine and many other blogs.

It was early 1984...when I wasn't busy listening to my new Eurythmics album, I accompanied my parents to Sherman's furniture and appliance store in Peoria to look at VCRs. I remember it well: a wood-cased (because it was considered a piece of furniture then) Hitachi that cost in the region of $800 (yes, they were new in those days--and I suppose wood wasn't cheap).We spent an entire week watching Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor in "The Mirror Crack'd" on tape (it had just been on HBO and my mother was quick to pirate things off cable :-)). I didn't learn to work it myself until later that summer.The machine lasted almost nine years...it finally died (or at least, the motor broke) in 1992, right after I came home from college. Rather than pay to have it fixed, we set it out by the curb and just used the one I'd bought during school, until I moved out for good...Now I have TWO VCRs that are sitting in my closet unused. (My current TV set has a built in VCR and DVD player, so I don't need the outside units.)It's hard to watch VHS when you're used to DVD quality and don't have the popping and sizzling you get when tape starts to deteriorate. (Although DVDs sometimes have glitches in them and freeze up too...)

Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

Aaron said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Johnny! I love B.C.'s story--he got to live out my college fantasy! (Although I wasn't out back then, even to myself...)

Mike Lynch said...

I really enjoyed this entry. Some wonderful writing -- that's all I can add -- except my appreciation for your blog, Johnny.