Archive for October, 2008

A Halloween Tale

Halloween is the first significant holiday since Eightiesology launched and I thought it would be interesting to put the holiday into the context of the decade. Christmas was a more memorable holiday for me during the ’80s while Halloween tended to be a, ahem, haunting memory. It’s ironic then that when the ’90s rolled around, Halloween started to take its place as my favorite holiday while Christmas moved to the backburner.

Why? Christmas was a holiday for receiving the types of gifts that inform this website, whether it was a G.I. Joe action figure or a Transformer, perhaps a cassette or CD, or even a new bike to patrol the local neighborhood. It was also a break from school that everyone strived for. Halloween was nice because of the candy and the costumes but it also etched two childhood “tramas” into my brain forever.

One of the first Halloweens I remember I dressed up as Superman. Now mind you, this is probably 1980 or thereabouts so a Superman costume was all tights. And I got teased incessantly for it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve done my own personal psychological analysis and determined that this has to be why I came to detest Superman in the years since. Sure, I have philosophical reasons: I don’t like true blue superheroes, I like ’em rough around the edges and dark. Like Batman. But I think when you get down to the core of it, when I think about Superman, I still think of that little kid getting teased for wearing tights. And I’m going to admit, I’m kinda there teasing the kid, too.

A few years later, I was Rocky for Halloween. Simple and creative costume. Boxing gloves and shorts, and some costume makeup to add faux blood. As usual, the children of Wood-Ridge marched in the Ragamuffin parade, leaving C.E. Doyle on one end of town and parading across town to and down the Boulevard. I would just be one amongst a sea of costumed children. Except for the fact that the high school marching band leading the way happened to be adept at playing the theme from Rocky. Thus, I was asked to LEAD the parade. Look, I know I was a cute kid, inasmuch as most kids at this age are cute. (My awkward years began in the late ’80s when I sprouted upward and got hairier.) But I was not ready for the spotlight. I work best amongst smaller groups and typically not in front of entire towns.

I don’t have many recollections of other Halloweens in the ’80s. There were masks and simple costumes. I was probably a soldier at least one of those times, given my penchant for playing Army with the neighbors. I remember one year Mike and I got a late start on trick or treating, trekked down Hillcrest and at the very end of the street stopped to inventory our minimal swag for the night. A woman emerged from her house and offered us the rest of the candy. Suddenly a slim night became a bonanza of Peanut Butter Cups and Kit-Kats.

The early ’90s brought a new spin to Halloween when I started venturing out with groups of friends that included a female quota. I can remember the feeling of going house to house, hunting the elusive larger-sized chocolate bar, cracking jokes with youthful exuberance. And having a girl laugh with me and flirt. (In my head, there are trumpets blaring and a shot of a volcano erupting.) I had a great time with my classmates in school and had already become a bit of a wiseass earlier than one could suggest. (Much credit to both my father and ALF.) But this started bringing me around to a new level. This felt accessible. I inevitably squandered every opportunity I was ever presented with flirtation back then but I’m secure in my current station in life to recall those hormone-addled days with whimsy and glee. Who knew back then that the simple act of Trick-or-treating was layering new memories onto an old holiday?

Of most importance, the holiday makes me remember my hometown and my neighborhood. This was a territorial holiday, one that immersed you into the culture and landscape of the place we lived. I can see Hillcrest Avenue at night, lined with pumpkins, orange leaves and toilet paper, patrolled by ghosts, ghouls, hoboes, aliens, army men and superheroes. I’m walking with all of my friends, having a good time and goofing around. When we got older, eggs and shaving cream became weapons of choice for some but I didn’t begrudge them for it. It only sent young girls behind me as some sort of protector to guard them from any onslaught. I can see all the houses decorated and even the ones that skipped Halloween; and I can still remember which ones gave us good candy and which ones had to be combed over for razor blades. I can still smell the dead leaves on the dirty ground, the hint of wood-burning stoves and the autumn air wafting through a nice little town on All Hallow’s Eve.

Happy Halloween!


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In my exploration of the media that forms the foundation of Eightiesology, I’ve come to realize that each medium has carried much of its enthusiasm into the current era. A band can still incite intense emotion during a concert and their music still soundtracks essential memories-in-progress. Television shows have very clearly never been as well-crafted as they are now. I just saw the Giants win a Super Bowl and it was as proud and exciting a moment as any sporting event I witnessed in my youth.

Movies on the other hand have evolved into a different sort of beast. I’m no less a film geek than I ever was, in fact my sensibilities have expanded to respect the higher quality movies of both the present and the past. But the core cinema of Eightiesology were the event pictures, those that have come to weave their way into the tapestry of both that particular decade as well as film history. And for a child of the ‘80s, they entered our eyes and filled our brains with wonderment and stupefaction, creating an obsessive need to relive the adventures of a time-traveling high schooler, a scruffy-looking nerf herder, a millionaire in a bat suit or an adventuring archaeologist. The images of these films branded not only our minds but also our imagination and spirit, forming the foundation of future memories we would simply never escape.

Indiana Jones, American Idol

Indiana Jones, American Idol

This year we saw three films that referenced this age of cinema: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and the latest Indiana Jones film. Do we know if these films will impact the youth like Star Wars, Back to the Future and Batman once did? Unfortunately the answer to this is going to take some time to acquire. But more importantly, can we as adults pick up that old viewfinder and see these newer movies with the same astonishment we had as kids or has the magic of cinema dissipated along with our natural hair color and unbridled optimism? To find that answer, perhaps the best route is through Indiana Jones himself who returned this summer in a franchise born in the ‘80s.

What has become an iconic sequence in film history.

What has become an iconic sequence in film history.

The archaeologist’s first venture, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is a virtually flawless movie, to a child or an adult. It’s also an iconic masterpiece, developed and at its height of popularity in the ‘80s, but timeless in its appeal. As a kid, you wanted to reenact that type of adventure in your backyard. But then you got to grow up with the Indiana Jones films and that’s when something odd happened…they never quite went away. Adolescence and puberty were never going to stop you from still enjoying these films on a Saturday afternoon. A lot of this had to do with the movies’ skewing more to adults than other top ‘80s films had. But it also helped that the franchise never seemed to go into hibernation.


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Sunday Evening Serenade

The Eightiesologist ventured into the city with his wife to celebrate a friend’s birthday and was able to utilize our camera’s video feature to capture some of the karaoke fun. It’s not pretty but part of the beauty of the ’80s and the total lack of shame we can now have in retrospect is our ability to belt out a good tune and totally feel the spirit move you. Forgive the semi-drunken camera work. And enjoy “Everything She Wants” by someone who was not in Wham!

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I have a confession to make. I actually purchased Milli Vanilli’s Girl You Know It’s True album AFTER it was revealed that the two dreadlocked males we’d come to believe were singing, were actually lip synching frauds. Much of the music on the album had been everpresent in the late ‘80s but as I hit upon my first dose of ‘80s nostalgia in college, I wanted a copy of that album. However much of a fraud the guys in the video were, that doesn’t take away the enjoyment of the music. Sure it’s a bit overwrought, even by ‘80s standards, but if that many people were buying into the popularity, than they were hitting some notes right.

I think the bigger issue is that the real Milli couldn’t even find guys who could dance to put in his videos. While some could laugh at many of our Friday Night Dances, they were mostly delivered by people with groove (or, in Paula Abdul’s case, outright skill). I’m not quite sure the flying chest bump became something anyone ever embraced, at least outside of the NBA. Or the side-by-side, shoulder-enhanced-blazer-wearing shimmy, for that matter. (Axl Rose had better rhythm than these guys.) That all said, girl…you know it’s true.

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The third in a virtual glossary of terms either specific to the 1980s or to our staff’s own upbringing in said decade. This time around we focus on a term that isn’t specific to the culture of the Eightiesologist’s upbringing.


  • 1. Circular figures or objects
  • 2. The game of basketball, the act of shooting baskets, or simply loitering around a basketball court with only minor intent to play the sport and major intent to be social

The simple term of “shooting hoops” or “going to shoot hoops” invokes the basic act of playing the sport of basketball or practicing the art of shooting the basketball into the net, or hoop. However, this came to take on a more significant meaning in my world towards the end of the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

It’s important to note that playing basketball and shooting hoops were not technically the same thing. I played basketball in high school for four years. This entailed attending practices everyday except Sunday, grueling practices that included a wind spring so psychotic that they were called “suicides.” The practices were in preparation for games which took us all over Bergen County and sometimes into dreaded Hudson County. Junior year, as my classmates took over the starting positions on the Varsity team, the Wood-Ridge Blue Devils went into an awful losing spell that lasted until our Senior year. This was basketball for us. Miserable losses and ridiculous practices. The best part of a basketball game was going to Amore afterwards for cheese steak sandwiches and hanging out with our friends.

Shooting hoops was an altogether different experience. Stripped of the stigma of a losing team or of being a benchwarmer, this was a freelance experience, a freeform experience. While I played basketball with my high school classmates, I shot hoops with my friends from town who went to various different Catholic high schools. We all played basketball for our different HS teams but came together on common ground during in-season off-days and pretty much every other time imaginable to shoot hoops at the Assumption. For many of us, it was a walk across the street or a few blocks away. On a school day, it was the first thing you did upon your return home. On the weekend, it was pretty much what we did from late morning until it was too dark to play anymore. Sometimes even that couldn’t stop us as we let our eyes adjust and the nearby street lamps to give us just enough vision to shoot hoops.

What is Hoops? It’s not complicated. The weather had to be disastrous to prevent us from shooting hoops. With that cooperation, we individually made our ways to the Assumption parking lot. Sometimes a phone call or a ringed doorbell induced a scheduled arrival but more times than not, it was simply an instinctual gathering. I had the advantage of being able to see the court and hear a bouncing basketball from my house which gave me an edge to be timely and ever-present.  Lace up your high-tops, put on sweats or shorts, grab a ball and head over.

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