The 10 Best Songs of 1988

So I’m gonna do this. From here on out, every Wednesday, I’m going to post my 10 best songs from a year in the 1980s and I’m going in reverse order. Y’all dug my 1989 review and I’m glad. Let me stress that this blog will still be autism focused btw. I’m going to write up my ER trip soon. But these are neat and cool so let me fire them here.

I noted 1989 was a great year. 1988 might be better. 1989 is where you can see things getting weird for 1990, and yes my plan is to do the 1990s after this, but in 1988 everything was still high and tight. All the trends were in place but they were just better. I even have a few songs on this list from genres I wasn’t high on last list. Lots to cover. Let’s go. Oh and this time, I am reinstating the one song per artist rule. There aren’t any examples as impossible to leave off like last time.

I’ll be blunt. I don’t get much hair metal. When I do get to the 90s, it’ll be clear why. I think the survivors became great rock bands but I’m not a hair metal guy. However, I have exceptions. And if you do a really great power ballad, then you make my list. They don’t come better than this, y’all.

10 Cheap Trick- The Flame. If all power ballads were The Flame, I would love them. The problem is they’re all transparent ploys for their female audience. This though? This is amazing. This drips sincerity. The song sounds truly heartfelt even if it’s just as manufactured. And talk about power. So many power ballads are soft. Not this. It’s a loud, screaming cry. The best of the best.

The 80s have an image of being tacky. True. The thing was by 1988 that was largely muted. The 80s got tasteful. INXS was huge this year with material that still feels sexy and classy and not on my list I fear. But that was the thing. The songs that were big have aged great. Nothing is too humiliating. Except this.

9 The Escape Club- Wild, Wild West. This song is impossibly tacky and everything wrong with culture in the 80s. It has gunshot sound effects and it talks about heading to the 90s as if that was an exciting thing. It’s very guilty pleasure. But you know what? It’s a good guilty pleasure. This is an unspeakably silly song and I kind of have to love it. Part of it is that it’s so catchy. You hear it and you won’t forget it. But I think it’s also just such a symbol of a culture looking to a neon future blindly. We need songs like this.

For the longest time, there was a song where I knew the tune but not the words. I could hum it but I didn’t know it. Then I learned it. Same for a 70s soul song. Knew the tune, not the words. The soul song was Ace’s How Long and if you read my last entry, you know what’s coming.

8 Paul Carrack- Don’t Shed a Tear. For someone who only had one hit under his own name, I assure you Paul Carrack is probably thrilled with his career. That said, his one hit is the kind of song we need. It’s a breakup song where the singer is perfectly fine moving on. It’s pure strength. It’s not angry or vicious though. The relationship was bad and it’s a good thing it ended but there’s no threats. He’s just happy to move on. And so will we.

One of the hardest cuts I had to make last list was How Can I Fall? by Breathe. That is an absolute beast of a song and really it belonged on the list. It’s about a man ready to leave a woman and he knows it’s a bad idea. It’s mature and it’s great. But it didn’t fit. Well. I’m not making that mistake again.

7 Breathe- Hands to Heaven. This is of the same cloth. These guys only had these two songs to make a dent in the states and really they’re so similar to Fine Young Cannibals in that way. The song is about having one night to be with someone before you have to go. Why? Maybe he’s in the army. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s a one night stand. The point is it’s a limited situation. We’ve all been there. And it’s never sounded this good. This thing could’ve been recorded on silk. Sophisti-pop at its best.

I’m going to spoil it for future lists. Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll will not make my best of list in 1982. That’s partially because there’s a lot of really great songs in 1982 and that’s partially because that isn’t one. It’s not a song I like. It feels manufactured and forced. Jett sounds bored on it honestly. And I know what she sounds like when she’s not.

6 Joan Jett and the Blackhearts- I Hate Myself For Loving You. There is not one bad part of this song. From its beat to Jett just going for it on the vocals, you can tell she means the hate part. This is a song about loving someone awful and shredding yourself for it. There were a lot of great women in rock in the 80s and Jett was the real deal. This song still feels raw and anthemic.

So, I should note that I do listen to the songs before I put them here. And that costs songs spots often I fear. Last list, I listened to what I thought was a lock and slashed it because it wasn’t what I remembered. But things can go differently. One song I thought had had all its power drained by overplay shocked me and earned a spot.

5 Robert Palmer- Simply Irresistible. This song has become such a stock song for movies and ads it’s easy to forget it utterly beats you over the head with its power. The percussion on this song is a beast. Palmer’s vocals are full force powerful. The video’s imagery has permanently made this a relic of what was sexy in the 80s but the song is a bit more timeless than credited. It helps that Palmer clearly loved the same soul songs I love and gives a bit of that energy to what truly is an 80s powerhouse. This one holds up.

There’s no way my lists won’t ultimately be steeped in the women of the 80s. I’m soft this year but next year, I expect more to pop up. I love Mall Pop. I love women in rock. And I respect the queens of the 80s. And I definitely respect The Go-Gos. They were broken up by 1988 but front woman Belinda Carlisle had two hits this year. Heaven is a Place on Earth is one of the hardest cuts on this list. But I’ll argue her other song is that good.

4 Belinda Carlisle- I Get Weak. Weak is a funny word for the title because this is the opposite of that. This is a song that makes being deeply in love with someone seem profoundly strong and seductive. Carlisle had one of those great voices it seemed you could only have in the 80s, throaty and smoky. The song is steeped in that crystalline synth vibe that the decade thrived on. The song also has exactly the right perfect pacing. It goes slowly, building to full force with the titular declaration. Nothing weak at all.

I’m drawn very strongly to the retro vibe of a lot of 80s music. I love 60s music. I could easily do a column on every year of that decade and just never go low on music to list. So a cover of a 1962 song by the guitarist of the ultimate 60s band? Easy.

3 George Harrison- Got My Mind Set On You. There’s not much to say here. This is just an impossibly tight song. It doesn’t hurt that Harrison, of course on guitar and killing, was joined by ELO’s Jeff Lynne on bass and keyboards as well as producing. This is a jam session song of the best kind. The song has that classic energy through and through.

The number one song of 1989 was a bad Chicago song and that bugs me. The 80s were a great decade. We could’ve done better. And I think in 1988 we did.

2 George Michael- Faith. I used tight for the last song. This is tighter. This song is all restraint. The lyrics are spit in a way that makes delivery seem like it came from a straight jacket. The guitar riffs are quick blasts until a good rolling solo. And the thing is that’s the point. The song is about a man debating losing control in love. He’s been hurt. This should sound like this. All music should sound this good.

My number one song comes from a fascinating artist. A guy who had three massive hits in the US. He fought the industry hard, even rejecting the dance pop he was known for to move into the soul he loved. In 1993, tired of the industry, he retired and actually stayed away for 7 years. He did this at 27, to be clear. He only returned in the 2000s and has kept a low profile in the US but has actually had quite a bit of success in the UK largely sticking to what he wants to do. I say all of this to say that while I absolutely love the memes and jokes associated with this song, I respect Rick Astley.

1 Rick Astley- Never Gonna Give You Up. I have a theory this song is a meme precisely because people love this song. How can you not? This is the best example of what you’d see out of the industry machine. It’s just as finely crafted a pop song as it gets. Astley didn’t write the song but his vocals are the thing that makes it next level. He sounds great and the whole thing is infused with joy and life. This was a big hit then. It’s a phenomenon now. It’s timeless and that’s wonderful. He truly never will give us up.

Next time: Todd in the Shadows bemoaned 1987 as a terrible year in a great video. I’m going to see if that’s true.

Music for Occupational Therapy: The best songs of 1989

Note: this is a co-venture with my friend Angie Aguayo. We both chose a year vital to us in music and wrote it up. See her take on 2007, a genius year, here.

When I think of music I think of 1989. That was the year I first noticed the things my mom was listening to. It was the year my taste was formed. It was when everything I would be into for the rest of my life was set. There isn’t one song on this list I rediscovered and most of these songs are classics.

But what do you make of the year as a whole? When I examined the top 100 singles I was struck by what an eclectic year it is. The last blasts of 80s synth pop dropped. We got some all time classic rock. The outer edges of R&B rose up. And there’s a lot of godawful droning adult contemporary.

Just to give you perspective, here are songs not on my list: Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Right Here Waiting, The Promise, Listen To Your Heart, Once Bitten Twice Shy, Welcome to the Jungle! On Our Own I had to cut from this list in the last cull! think about how good the music is when the songs I listed aren’t in the top 10 for me. 1989 ruled. And here’s 10 reasons why.

Let’s look at a group it’s all too easy to mock. The 1980s ended musically with their exposure if you ask me. But here’s the thing? Does it matter that they were frauds when you hear the music? Nah. It only matters that proper credit be given.

10 Milli Vanilli- Baby, Don’t Forget My Number. Charles Shaw, Brad Howell, and John Davis are the men who actually performed on the album and I want to credit them here because they were three brilliant session men who gave us some incredible pop hits. This is my favorite but Girl You Know It’s True and Blame it on the Rain are so good. This gets the edge because the beat is sublime. Just a great song.

As I said, On Our Own by Bobby Brown was the absolute last song cut. And I cut it because I listened to the song I cut for it this morning taking my daughter and my nieces to day care. I have nostalgia for Brown. But look there’s no way I can be forgiven for putting that song over a true classic.

9 Young MC- Bust a Move. In the birth pains of rap, you saw a lot of junk litter the charts. When I write about 1990, and I intend to, I’ll look at how bad the joke rap was. But this? Impossibly tight. Impossibly smooth. It’s also a bit of a joke but it’s a great joke. How do you act in an awkward situation? Bust a move! Have fun! That’s the eternal power of Bust a Move. It’s a celebration of just having a good time told through some of the bounciest rhymes. This is definitely too low.

Confession: I think Madonna wasted more talent than the average artist dreams of having. An underrated vocalist of the classic vamp mode and a genius at finding collaborators to use her right, I feel like 1990-1997 marks a genius burning their talent first to shock then chasing awards she wouldn’t ever get. While I get that she shocked for a reason, what did she say? Nothing. Except once.

8 Madonna- Like a Prayer. Look, pointing out spiritual and sexual ecstasy are the same is an old observation. But this still shocked a lot of people, especially in the wake of The Last Temptation of Christ. And like that film, everyone involved still had epic success because they made a masterpiece that outlived the controversy. This song is a straight up powerhouse on every level from her never better vocals to the choral work. But it’s the blunt force of the euphemisms that makes the song work. There’s no getting around how shocking the song still feels and taking on the church will never stop being stunning.

I want to talk about an unsung legend. Paul Carrack had one hit under his own name, the perfect Don’t Shed a Tear, but as a traveling vocalist, he’s an icon. Squeeze’s Tempted? That’s him. How Long by Ace? Yup. He’s played so many instruments with so many iconic artists. One of the coolest guys you’ll ever read about. He notches an entry on one of his for hire jobs.

7 Mike + the Mechanics- The Living Years. Paul Carrack was the voice of the decade, know him or not. What I love about this song is how it looks at guilt over failing to have a relationship with your father. It’s sonically pristine but so steeped in grief. You hope you are never thought of life this and you hope you do all you can as a son.

European dance music has always been a big deal going back to waltzes. Every decade has a version. The 80s felt harder edged and slicker while the 1990s felt bouncier and more female led. Think Real McCoy and Ace of Base. But all trends have overlap. As proof, I point to here.

6 Roxette- The Look. Confining Roxette to one decade is actually a huge error. They had hits as late as 2000 in America with the utterly sublime Wish I Could Fly. But they never came close to the genius of this pop masterpiece. Which is funny because the verses are utter nonsense and only existed as something to sing. But they work. They sound amazing. This song is silly, delightful, perfect.

The grand enigma when you look back at 1989 is what happened to Fine Young Cannibals. The group had everything going for them with two monster hit songs and a movie star level frontman in Roland Gift whose distinctive vocals were instantly recognizable. And after 1989? They only recorded a couple more songs and nothing more. Had the continued on, they might have been more. But their story ends sharply in 1989. But damn what a story.

5 Fine Young Cannibals- Good Thing. A song about a man confused by a woman who left him, it purposely evokes 60s soul. And that’s what makes it magical. The whole song is just this bouncy throwback filled with a great jangly piano and absurdly great vocals by Gift. It feels bold like the 80s but also like you could hear it next to those classics. Just a perfect, perfect song.

I want to stress there is some junk on this list. The biggest song this year was Look Away by Chicago. Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings was huge too. Inspiring pap and droning adult contemporary were in many ways the sound of the late 80s. So to have a song so profoundly amazing as the next song at only 93 is absurd. But here we are.

4 Michael Jackson- Smooth Criminal. This would be higher on my list but it’s been covered by everyone. That doesn’t stop it from being perfect. From the moment it begins, this is an atomic force of energy. Michael Jackson’s image looms large but you forget he could crush the delivery and he absolutely murders here. And talk about a perfect beat. This was produced by Quincy Jones at his utter best. I love that the song and video consciously evoke film noir because this is the hyper slick 80s version we need. It’s Smooth Criminal. What else do I say?

One weird thing I’ve done is consciously avoid rock. Of course I have. It was almost all hair metal and I’m sorry but hair metal is atrocious start to finish. Either it was sickeningly sincere or grossly leering. And I hate both. Nothing wrong with being horned up. But make it sound appealing.

3 Love and Rockets- So Alive. In my opinion, synth music was never better in the 80s than it was in the late 80s. And it was never as perfected as it was here. The members of this band started in Bauhaus and you can tell. This whole thing is a dark, sexy journey. It’s a seduction and all of it works. It feels like something you hear whispered by a bonfire in the woods illicitly drinking. I know a lot of the music of the 80s feels aged badly but this feels like it could be any time. It just happened to be in the 80s.

Like it or not, your parents taste is in you. All of us have it. And look, this was a year when I was 5. Of course all the music I heard was filtered through my mom. My mom loved Like a Prayer for example. I know that whole album, which is fantastic. My mom also loves Rod Stewart. So here we go.

2 Rod Stewart- My Heart Can’t Tell You No. Rod Stewart is one of the greatest interpreters in pop music history. He isn’t a songwriter. He’s an actor. And he sells every word. This is a song on the same tier as Me and Mrs. Jones, a song about how incredibly awful infidelity is filtered through the third person’s perspective. He hates it. He hates himself. He can’t hate her. This is such a dark song but with some utterly fantastic production and Stewart never sounding better, it’s amazing. You can’t not listen to it.

So. For my number one, I’m breaking a rule I keep. And I probably won’t keep it on future lists either. But I try to. One song per artist. I want variance. But my hand is forced here. One group had two songs so great the list looked wrong without them. They were THE sound of 1989. And never again.

1 Fine Young Cannibals- She Drives Me Crazy. I don’t think this is remotely a controversial choice for the best song of 1989. How can it be? There isn’t one thing bad about it. If Good Thing is all throwback, this is 1989 to the second. It’s full force synth with an aggressive sound. But the lyrics don’t get lost. This is like Good Thing a song about a woman who frustrates a man though in this case she strings him along in an abusive relationship. But you get why he stays. Gift just sells the joy he feels even as he’s in hell. The song is a dark joke really but it’s the most satisfying dark joke ever. We only got two iconic singles from this band but 1989 and pop music wouldn’t be the same without them.

So that’s 1989. What will I do from here? For one thing for my book, I’m doing top 10s of 1999-2016. This is a test run at that which is why it’s here. I’m planning to look at 1988, 1990, and possibly 1987 and 1991 as well since Todd in the Shadows covered their worst lists. But for now? This was you looking at what I heard on the way to Iccupational Therapy.

A Moment of Peace in Mountain Pine, July 2001: A Preview of My New Book

This is a bit of me testing some waters. In the winter I intend to release my second book, In Transit: Travels Through An Autistic Adulthood. The book consists of stories of trips I’ve taken between the ages of 15-37. Right now I’m in the editing phase and finding the last little stories I want to plug in. I’m also doing a giant Planet of the Apes review series and next week I deal with the 2001 movie, which opened the weekend I depict here. So I’m going to use this as an experiment. Y’all are getting a taste of the book through an unused chapter and I’m setting the mood.

Memory is a lie.

I know this because the first time I wrote about this vacation, I framed it as a time when I was grumpy. My mom saw it and was confused. To her, I was extremely pleasant on the trip. Which is true? I’m pretty sure she is. I know this because I battled very severe depression between the fall of 2000 and spring of 2002. Depression paints a dark coat of paint.

But it’s a coat that fades. Eventually the memory we get remains. And often the times the ones we have are happier than the first draft. Maybe they’re lies. Maybe they’re not. Do I care in the end? This is a beautiful story and that’s all that counts.

For our summer vacation in 2001, my family went to a small cabin in Mountain Pine, AR, just outside of Hot Springs. It was a neat place, super wooden. I think I’ve found the place but it doesn’t quite line up. I’m looking back two decades and remodeling happens. Yeah, think a nice wooden apartment and this was the lodge.

Why Hot Springs? It was a small retreat. Nothing amazing but just far enough away. It was a chance to get my family away for the weekend and not go see my grandparents. Aside from us going to my mom’s parents house to get the two cots we needed that is. It wasn’t the epic trip to Gulf Shores the next year is my point. But small is good.

How do I feel about Hot Springs? Let me pause to discuss that. I love Hot Springs deeply but for the longest time, my trips have more been about my memory of the town than what’s there now. The flea markets aren’t what they were nor are the bookstores. The town can’t lose its natural beauty but Hot Springs exists as a perpetual state of decay. If my fixation on memory and aging has a physical form, it’s the county seat of Garland County. But that’s not the case in 2001. Sure it was a bit off my memories of it in say 1992 but it was still nice. Most importantly, my grandparents still lived there and my grandmother still lived.

My mom, my brother, sister, and I arrived before my dad. We unpacked. We had a lot of time. So what did we do? We went to Mid America Science Museum. I talk about memory and it’s fascinating to filter this through my memory. We went a lot as kids. I’ve gone a couple of times with my wife and daughter. In those instances, it was a shining beacon of an institution. 2001? Still good but suffering from competition from the Museum of Discovery. It had a roller coaster simulator, which was a very neat experience.

After we tolled around the science museum, truly a place for all ages, we retreated to our lodge. It was on the water, Lake Ouachita I think. Peaceful and quiet it was. I should note the weather was absolute dreck. There was a heavy overhang of clouds and it rained most of the trip. But the lodge was so calm and inviting.

Who was I in 2001? To a great degree I was out of my larval form. My hair was growing long and I sported more than a film of a beard. I’ve admitted I suffered from depression in this era. I was frustrated a lot. I that had less to do with being autistic and more to do with being 17. I wasn’t struggling with who I was. I was struggling with the fact that who I was didn’t seem to count for much.

One thing I was wrestling with was the script I was writing fell apart epically. Earlier that year, I’d written a half formed script about a guy in love with his best friend. It fell apart and would sit unfinished basically forever until in 2015 I figured out a way in. The reason it collapsed was vintage men’s rights activist tropes were all I had to write about. My main character was a nice guy who thought he deserved a woman. It died because I, in my deep depression, still couldn’t find a way to justify an ending other than my main character getting kicked in the head.

But I had a new project I was writing. See, I had spent the summer working hard on a project worth writing about. I was writing a novella about grief. And I actually spent months researching it. I read every book about grief there is. To this day, I still believe in the value of the Kubler-Ross process. I lived and breathed grief.

I wrote the story by hand largely so I could write wherever I was. That’s what I did that evening as my family watched tv and dined. I wrote, off in my own world. In my ears was 105.9, KLAZ. The station never came in great but I loved it. It played songs I didn’t hear elsewhere. I know relatively obscure in American German pop music for that reason. Bizarrely the night DJ, a guy named Bobby Bones, would go on to national fame. Go figure.

So here I am, writing a book about surviving a loss, by hand in a wooden lodge by a lake while listening to Nelly Furtado and Ronan Keating. That’s as peaceful an image as I can imagine. I wasn’t drinking then but the image demands a can of Woodchuck at my side. That’s all it needs.

Of course there’s reality. Reality was my dad popped a tire as he arrived. The next day we had to go to Walmart to get it replaced. I have a distinct memory of standing in the book section looking at the books. The Star Trek book event that year was Gateways, better than most of their events but dull anyway. I preferred the DS9 revival that summer and the great Section 31 quartet. I remember that detail, browsing those.

Then it was off to Magic Springs. I can be a cynic and say it’s a small park that’s not what it should be. Forget that! The place is great and if it’s small, it’s all choice. Bizarrely I don’t remember riding all that many rides. I mostly remember walking. And that’s great because I absolutely had a blast. It wasn’t agonizingly hot. I was in a good mood. Did we go to the water park? Definitely.

But my memory is consumed by one facet. I only had one goal: to ride a roller coaster. The Arkansas Twister is a rather well regarded wooden roller coaster. I wanted to get on it. And I did. Maybe a minute of fun but an experience I haven’t forgotten. To this day it remains the only roller coaster I’ve ridden.

Then of course it started raining. Nobody was happy having to leave. I think there was one good argument. But why wouldn’t there be? It was a shame the core of the trip was cut short. And for the record, the rain didn’t stop until later that afternoon.

We went back and we sat in the lodge. My parents took a nap. I think my siblings watched tv. I know I listened to the radio. I got lost in the music that weekend, maybe the only art from 2000/2001 I thought was all that good at that point. I know I soaked in the energy of the room. That wood creates a soothing feeling you can’t escape.

This was not a standard experience for me, to be content to be still. In the pages to come, you’ll see a man unable to stop moving. When I had the power to do so, I stayed active to the second I blacked out. When I didn’t, and sadly the next story in the book is this exact problem, I was a nightmare. But this and one other time, I allowed myself to be quiet.

I still remember a shocking amount of details about the night that followed, which is weird because all that happened was my dad and I ran to the gas station and my brother and sister swam in the lake. But I remember the orange of the sky. I remember the SNL rerun. I remember writing. I remember the ideas I kicked around.

The next day things ended as of course they do. You pack up and leave. We went to downtown Hot Springs for lunch. We stopped in an antique store and the Aquarium, the biggest tourist trap ever. On our way out of town, my dad ran me by Books-A-Million where I grabbed the monthly Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel, part 1 of a serial. We returned the cots. Then the trip was over.

Like I said, I have few idylls in my memory. Being autistic and manic, I’m not granted those. But I cherish this one moment. And yes, maybe I was moody at times. But I’m older, much older, and I’m smart enough to know how it should have gone, and I’m grateful.

10 Things I Wish I Had When I Was Young

OK, it’s extremely easy to focus on what’s gone. Nostalgia is an easy emotion since it can be echoed in so many things. If you’re sad, you’re nostalgic because thinking about the past makes you feel better. But why don’t we do the opposite? We miss video stores but we’re never excited by the iTunes store. So I’m going to do the opposite of my last intro. Time to look at 10 things I wish I had when I was young. For the purposes of this, I’m choosing 18 as my youth. (2002 to be clear) I’m doing so to look at what I actually had then vs now. It’s a logical benchmark. So let’s go

1 Tablets. I didn’t have a smartphone and I’m always a few models back even now. Computers though? I had them and I would have had my jaw on the floor. Wifi and high speed internet can count here too since they were all bubbling and would eventually arise. But the tablet would be king. I love my miracle rectangle that has every comic I could want, movies, books, and even an array of pinball tables.

2 Comixology. I chose 18 for a benchmark and it really matters here that I did. I got into comics at 18 and getting in then wasn’t difficult exactly but it meant a lot more searching than I liked. Imagine having everything I could hope for at my finger tips. Now would I have started on Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, and ASM? Yes of course, those three books are amazing. But I wouldn’t have struggled to find other books. And sales would’ve sent me down blind alleys faster.

3 Bike friendly cities. Big one here. My life would have been much easier with city planning built for bikes. I grew up in Conway which was somewhat friendly to bikes. It is much more so now. Bike lanes and roundabouts are a joy for cyclists. I would have been much safer.

4 Mint chocolate year round. Here’s one nobody thinks about but I do. Mint chocolate isn’t a 11/1-12/31 flavor anymore. Growing up you got it those months and in ice cream and that was it. But the flavor is popular enough I munched mint M&Ms this week as I was suffering from heat sickness. It helped.

5 Mountain Dew LiveWire. I can bemoan Pitch Black’s loss all I want but I need to shout out the underrated surviving Dew. LiveWire is so delicious and tart and perfect. I debated putting this on the list since it arrived not long after Pepsi Holiday Spice but the 18 line is important. I would have inhaled this next to Code Red. I still drink 2-3 bottles a month and will today.

6 Safety features in cars. Do we even realize how good cars are now? I have been in several fender benders. I can’t in my new car. It’ll beep if I’m too close. I have rear view cameras. This car is accident proof. These features are life saving.

7 The death of CDs and the rise of digital music. Look, we all have warmth for our books of CDs. But were they really better? No. Not at all. They were just common. I vastly prefer the itunes store.

8 Streaming services for art house films. I’m going to go against the grain here. I think streaming services, often treated as the bane of the cinephile, would have changed my life for the better as a burgeoning film fan. I often had to wait months to join the conversation on serious films and I was tapped in hard at 18. Imagine having Marriage Story immediately. To growing film fans, Netflix hiring great artists isn’t the death of cinema but a couch trip to art.

9 Everything online. We were starting to see this in 2002 but it being the norm? Not as much. However we conduct so many things on our computers and phones we don’t think about it. Many of us work online. We do all of our business here. We bank. We pay bills. We go to class. Amazing. And there’s one very important element about online I need to end on.

10 The autistic community online. I don’t think people know how bad things were in 2002 for autistic people. The community that existed was for parents not for us. I have angry thoughts on Wrong Planet. I hate what the community was. But over time we built a network and it is life saving. I am grateful for my community.

So now that I’ve looked at the pros and cons for nostalgia, what can I conclude? Easy. None of the things I listed on either side are why we feel nostalgia or why we shouldn’t. We don’t miss the things. We miss the feeling.

Take the video store. Do we miss the thrill of searching for a movie or do we miss how it felt to be young and free. I talk a lot about the video store in my grandparents’ hometown as something I miss but you know what I really miss? Them.

Nostalgia about things is how we’ve been trained to talk about the feeling because there’s a taboo about admitting we hate what being an adult is. You realize you were lied to about what you could do. You are ground by the system. You’re dying in debt. The things I like about being an adult honestly are my family and the few freedoms I have now. I like my job too but I liked school too.

We talk about things because they don’t expose the real emotion here. We talk about things too because so much of our existence is as a consumer. We are told to think in that toxic mode. But really? We miss being a kid and riding around on our bike. We miss the potential of life.

I close on a thought. Yesterday, I took a drive with this in mind. My goal was to recapture being 15, drinking a soda, buying a Marvel novel and candy. And I did all of that. Iron Man: Virus sits beside me. There’s some yummy root beer float candy in the kitchen. I even drank the not the same Pitch Black. (It’s berry not grape.) And it was nice. But did it fix things? No. Because the past is indeed passed. It’s sad. It’s true.

10 Things I Miss From My Past

Let’s do an experiment.

Today, we’re dipping into nostalgia. Today we’re talking about things that no longer exist. Maybe they’re kinds of books. Maybe they’re food items. Maybe they’re games. I’m looking at 15 things I miss today, things that in some cases could come back (I have Pepsi Blue literally at my side) but likely won’t.

For mood music, a little Foo Fighters. Next Year.

1 Cajun McChicken. I start on a silly, worthless dollar sandwich only available regionally. But this was the best thing this chain ever sold. It was spicy with incredible texture. I think of it as the perfect meal for a cold winter bike ride. It survives after a fashion as the Hot and Spicy McChicken but the breading is wrong. Also the cajun spices were just better.

2 Marvel Boulevard Prose Novels. Getting an obvious one. Now plenty of you will note that there are still prose novels based on Marvel Comics. Two of my followers on Twitter are even writing them. But there was a unique combination of factors that made me love these books as a new fan and love them as an old. For 7-8 bucks you got a good story with chapter illustrations and covers to display. You got a full experience in a pocket book size and the expensive trade size books don’t have that now. While I’m at it…

3 Marvel Essential/DC Showcase Collections. I’m not dwelling too long on comic media but these must come up. For 15-20 dollars, a new fan could quickly inhale classic comics albeit in black and white. And a lot of these gave space for books that might not get cheap reprints in color. DC gave us a full run of early Batgirl stories and the complete Dan Jurgens Booster Gold while Marvel gave us the complete Howard the Duck by Steve Gerber and classic X-Men stories in epic form. I actually liked the black and white. Coloring has been tricky due to different paper stocks. These looked amazing.

4 Mountain Dew Pitch Black. I’m tempted to put Ruby Red Squirt here but it’s possible to find though not in my region. This is available in fountain form but the taste is wrong. So it gets my vote. The perfect grape soda and one of the only things I’ve ever won, getting a 12 pack when Pepsi reintroduced it. I love this perfect, tart Dew. Not the best Dew–Code Red has never gone away–but good.

5 The Shooting Script series. A lot of the items so far have some variant of availability and these are no exception. Every Oscar season with no exception you can find every major script online as a promotional tool. I’ll slam my foot down here though. These books were a cut above as a serious tool for film lovers. Reading a script on your tablet or phone will never be the same. The books also ranged from the exact draft used to intriguingly dramatically altered versions such as with The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. These books were also often annotated and filled with discussion. The PDFs will never be the same.

6 Hershey TasteTations. Caramel, Chocolate, Butterscotch, Peppermint and Chocolate Mint in December. Hershey had the greatest hard candy ever. They had a smooth, creamy mouthfeel and the best flavor. Their mints were especially good as they were cold and didn’t turn porous like standard peppermints. They were perfect.

7 Computer City. There are so many dead retail chains I could do an entry on ones I miss. But if we’re honest, Hastings has a descendant in Vintage Stock and Borders wasn’t any good. But I can grieve for Computer City. There was a magic to early computer stores. You could find the weirdest, neatest stuff in these places. It felt like you were in on a secret. You might find anything on a CD rom like a Star Wars encyclopedia or a pinball game. They had neat lighting too.

8 The Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels. I’m trying not to list too much tie-in media because any piece of media can easily come back. But I made an exception for the Boulevard Marvel books for their packaging and I’m making an exception here. These books were better than the show save for very limited exceptions. If you think I am kidding try rewatching it. The secret was they were an excuse to once a month have a really good horror novelist riff on the world. So you got really excellent horror stories using the formula. They had texture and life. Again, never say never but I’m saying never anyway. If they do revive it’ll never be the same.

9 Pepsi Holiday Spice. Yup we’re getting to a holy grail for soda lovers and it’s one for me too. The soda that drank like December. Just a great, amazing spiced cola. The magic wasn’t that this tasted like a holiday drink. It was honestly that it tasted like Pepsi should taste, a distinct different flavor instead of being fine but not Coke. This is a great brew and it’s shocking we haven’t seen it back.

10 The Andrews McMeel comic strip collections. I go out with another one people can argue never technically left but I’m arguing is dead. This company still very occasionally puts out books for the kids market, mostly Big Nate which I can’t exactly whine about given not only my massive collection but a tribute on this site. They’ve mostly abandoned adults save for very occasional collections. Their classic 128 page square books, the ones you can instantly spot, are dead. I get why. Their focus is on gocomics and newspaper strips are a dying art. But these books were a gift. An afternoon of guaranteed fun and relaxation. I miss these fun sets where I could sample strips.

That’s my list. Will I eventually make one of things I wish I had as a kid? Yes. Next week probably. But for now I miss these.

Here and Now

I didn’t want to write this entry. I really didn’t. There was nothing appealing about talking about what I needed to address in this entry and I can easily not talk about my depression and anxiety. It’s not anyone’s business.

But this blog exists for a reason. Other people are facing what I am and maybe things reached a crisis point this week for a lot of us. Maybe I can do a tiny bit of good.

I’ve had severe chronic depression. That’s not a secret. I’ve had violent anxiety. Maybe the worst since Trump took office. I’ve been working hard to deal with my stress but it’s there.

Part of it is what I talked about last week. I slipped past the point of no return this year on my past. A lot of what I love is gone and for the first time I’m confronting that I won’t fix that.

I’ve also been busy. That’s just part of life. I’ve had a lot to do and it’s been taking a toll. I’m tired and I haven’t had time to fully heal from it.

I have dental problems. That’s really scary to me. Two of my teeth are broken. I don’t like that. I can’t afford to get them fixed.

But there’s a big issue underlying my stress. I’m having severe PTSD watching the news. Because I thought for a second I would see consequences for bad behavior and instead things are only worse. I’m heartbroken and scared nonstop.

Right now we’re going through record heat and all anyone can do is talk about how it’s the end. And that’s causing violent anxiety for me of course. It doesn’t help my AC isn’t great. I’m feeling the worst of everything.

And I’m just sick of living without hope. The last 18 months have tried very hard to kill me honestly. Having my family has been the only thing I have keeping me from giving up. But I’m stressed and I’m angry and I’m sad all the time.

I blew up this week at the new Purge movie but it struck me it had such an impossibly nihilistic premise. I don’t understand why that’s the option I had at the theater but it was and that offends me. I wanted something better.

So I’m here in the morning on day 3 of a 3.5 day weekend. I’ve tried to heal. I read the Tarantino book and it was great. I drank A grade cider and it was great. I’m hoping to watch the new Power Rangers movie this week. I’ve got a commission after all. I’m seeing a friend later. I’m trying.

But I’m being honest with you. Right now I’m deep in the tunnel. I don’t know if I know how to get out. It’s a hard time to be autistic.