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Blog: I AM Here To Talk About The Past

(originally written 9/23/10)

(disclaimer: though the first paragraph gives the implication, this is NOT a baseball blog. Don’t turn away.)

As evidenced by nearly every writing I’ve done in the last few years, I got a huge kick of ex-MLB star Mark McGwire’s total breakdown on Capitol Hill a few years ago. You remember the one? He and other stars were brought before Congress to speak effusively on steroid use in their sport…only it didn’t turn out that way. Sammy Sosa feigned a language barrier. Rafael Palmeiro, with conviction, told a big fat fib. But both of their embarrassing displays paled in comparison to Big Mac’s---when asked pointedly if he’d used steroids as a player, all that passed through Mac’s quivering lips: “I’m not here to talk about the past.” Again. And again. At one point it became so ridiculous that even those in attendance laughed at him.

It was such an obvious show of cowardice, and it stuck with me. Since 2005 I’ve been using the line in everyday conversation and try to find a way to include it in all my writings. Even when McGwire finally came clean about his steroid use in early 2010, I never once considered retiring the phrase. Hey—if radio hosts still use it, why shouldn’t I?

The ironic thing about it is: I LOVE the past.
And I love talking about the past.
Guess you call it “nostalgia”.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that right now, meaning the moment I’m typing this, will be a distant memory someday. I’m also captivated by how our subconscious can take innocent, otherwise meaningless acts/events/sounds/sights and store them, so that one day your mind is taken back to a certain time or place upon re-enacting such acts/events/sounds/sights.

This very apartment I’m in is a classic example.

Last year when I temporarily moved to Vallejo to help my family out, I would come down on weekends to spend time with my then-gf at her new place, and play baseball. I usually showed up here around 9pm, just as nightfall had completely taken effect. Now, WHENEVER I arrive here after dark, I get déjà vu flashbacks to 2009—my mind takes me back to days gone by just on scent and sound. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s a real feeling that I’ve stepped back in time!

As far as nostalgia—there are some things that I enjoy simply because they occurred during my youth. I don’t know why. I guess they remind me of a simpler, happier time. Why else would I, in 2010, be willing to sit through an A’s/Blue Jays game from 1991? I already know what happened. I know the fate of every player from that game. I know who went to the playoffs. Yet I watch anyway, because in an abstract sort of way, I’m traveling through time and reliving my precious youth that was STOLEN from me when they gave me that stupid high school diploma and told me there was no 13th grade.
I’m sad, in a way, when I see Jays lefty Ken Dayley, because I know something that he at the time did not. I know the man in the video expects to pitch for years to come but in fact, those 1991 games would be his last as he irreparably damaged his pitching arm. It’s almost poignant. I think I might be nuts, but then I think I’m just…weird.

Music. Now, I really LOVE music in and of itself. But some music I love more than others simply because it reminds me of a certain era of my life, a certain person (or persons), a certain trip. Take the song “It’s My Life”, for example. The ORIGINAL 1983 version by Talk Talk, not the No Doubt remake from the 2000s. I’d never heard this song until 2001, when I was attending college and Star 101.3 was a fledgling, all 80’s-station. One listen and I was in love. TO THIS VERY DAY whenever I hear those animal cries in the song’s open, I’m immediately catapulted back in time nine years, and friends I haven’t seen since those days are suddenly riding alongside me. (Gerardo, Eddie, Kelly, Buddy, Genevee, Brendan, Mike and Mike---I MISS you guys. We had some fun. :) )

As the above paragraph alludes to, I totally dig 1980’s music—but not always because of the actual songs. I have been known to like a song JUST BECAUSE it was made in the 1980’s; I’m totally sentimental about the decade I originated from. (Well, technically I was conceived in the 1970’s, but who cares.) Case in point: Howard Jones’ “Things Can Only Get Better”. I’d never heard this song until 1992, when I was in 6th grade, and didn’t much care for it. But when I found out it actually came out in the late 1980’s, suddenly its’ quality quadrupled.

Conversely, there was a “Cavemen” Geico commercial a couple of years ago which featured a song called “Hurt You” that totally sounds like a 1980’s song. (YouTube it, and you’ll agree.) I downloaded it and jammed gleefully until learning it was actually made in 1999 by a band that intentionally reproduced ‘80’s sounds in their work. Unbelievably, I never wanted to hear it again. I felt like I’d slept with a married woman! I know that makes no sense.

I love reading about how things USED to be in my prior locales. I remember in 8th grade having an elderly substitute teacher. Typically whenever we had subs, class ran WILD. Typically whenever our regular teacher Mr. Coats was there, class ran WILD. But this sub had me (and all of our class) enthralled with stories of how Vallejo USED to look before the Raley’s Shopping Center and such sprouted up. To this day I can never remember being in a quieter room.

Just last month my uncle Ricardo recovered a photo among my late uncle Bubba’s things. The photo depicted the intersection at which our house stood circa 1971 or so. I stared at that picture for an hour for the simple fact that I’d never ever seen that intersection without traffic lights, which were installed in 1978 I’m told. It just blew me away that something I’d come to know as being like THIS was once like THAT. (If anything similar has happened to you, please share so I don’t feel like a weirdo. If not, make it up so I don’t feel like a weirdo.)

Sometimes I love the past a bit too much, and get caught up in a personal time warp. As in I forget that I’m in the present. I’ll see that Courteney Cox has a new show coming up and think to myself “Man, she’s back to work quick. Friends JUST went off!” even though it went off six full years ago. Every so often I’ll see a group of 19-year-old females and have to actually remind myself that the time to check them out has LONG passed---it is no longer the late 1990’s.

So, in conclusion: if the song “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money comes on and I sort of go catatonic, I’ve flashed back to 10th grade 1995. In my mind, I’m really there. “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce? Friday night softball in 2009. “Splash Waterfalls” by Ludacris? Camping Weekend ’04. “Vertigo” by U2? The BAD ASS Baseball league in 2005. Don’t be afraid…I’m in a happy place.
And I’m ready to talk about the past. :)

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