Baby Boomer Chronicles (BBC): 1983
I want to welcome you all back to the Chronicles. Well, here we are, 1983 begins, my roaring twenties were still roaring, and I was still under 30, so all was right with the world. I hail from the generation that once said “don’t trust anyone over 30’.
I find myself in a rather isolated outpost in Montana within the Crow Indian Tribe Reservation, near Custer Battlefield. I took the job as a purchasing agent for a federal agency as a civilian employee, my first, the previous summer. Living in the Los Angeles area for the previous 5 years, I considered myself a displaced Angelino. I took all my worldly possessions from the LA area with a stopover in Denver, eventually finding myself here. I had to take the job with great reservation. But reality set in, the economy was still in a general slump. I was a big boy now, I had to eat and the bills were not going to just pay themselves. So, off I went to “Big Sky” Country. I still had all of these clothes from the disco era; I was quite the ‘disco duck’ in my time. Those silk, open collar shirts and the ‘God awful” red and green polyester pants, I don’t know what could have possessed me to bring them along. That stuff was out of style even by then. But, I thought that in Montana, no one would notice. I figured that I was this cool guy from LA and that I would have them all in awe.
Winter hits and I was, as usual, unprepared. I lived in an un-insulated metal trailer home that I rented from a member of the Crow Tribe. Beause of the chinook winds, the locals refered to the area as the 'banana belt" of the state, but never saw many bananas. But, I did see a lot of icicles though. I was beginning to realize that the accommodations had some serious flaws. One of those being, when one opened the cabinets beneath the sink and looked to the left, you would find a great deal of that big sky staring back at you. I finally got the landlord to put up some of that Pink Panther stuff in specific areas. Yes, I was use to the snow as I have lived in Denver for so many years. But, this area was a magnitude or two greater; these people went walking around in flannel shirts and jeans when it was minus 20 outside on a routine basis. I thought for sure that I would freeze to death while I was sleeping, one day. I had my little 1975 Pinto, ‘puddle jumper’ as the locals called it, hitched to an umbilical cord at night to keep it from freezing to a point where it was inoperable This propane stuff was for the birds. I come home from lunch one day and opened the door to my humble abode to find items suspended in mid air, like time itself had frozen. There was a block of ice in the kitchen sink where there was dishwater just that morning. It was warmer in the refrigerator. Then I realized that I let the propane run out again. I quickly developed an obsession about that propane gage and my possible fate if I were ever negligent about this again. Even Bambi and all of the farm animals not far from my place probably had better accommodations.
The people were very kind and friendly. I was the sole buffalo soldier among the Anglos and Native Americans that lived there. You could throw a rock from end to end, this place was so small, not more than 250 people. By January, 1983, my novelty had worn off. In the beginning, so many of the locals invited me over for supper, I almost stopped buying groceries. Then men went fishing on the weekends, told tall tales and went through cases of beer. They invited me to join them even though I did not know how to fish. They asked me if I knew anything about the art of fly-tying. I did not know that tying any old fly to a hook was an art! They promised me that I could borrow someone’s 22 rifle and go snipe hunting with them in the summer, but that never came to pass. I was enamored with how good freshly caught fish could taste. The guys would give me much of their catch to the point that I had to struggle to get it all in the freezer. These were such good and decent people. So, this was the American heartland, I was certainly beginning to like it, as in LA people were so plastic and remote. They went out of their way, being ingratiating at times, to make me feel at home. To this day, I am still grateful. I was an unfamiliar quantity to them as they were to me. I became their resident expert on all things African-American. People use to ask me why Michael Jackson wore that silly sequined glove on his hand, as if I were his personal valet or something. At the suppers, I was asked about what I thought about the “Bill Cosby Show” a hit in the 1980’s. They told me that they watched it regularly. I never had to heart to tell them that I never sat through the program, it wasn’t my style.
I Want My MTV!
Meanwhile, back at the job, I was getting those purchase orders out, to supply the needs of an entire hydroelectric facility and all the supporting staff. I had the state of the art IBM Selectric Typewriter, this was ‘BC’, you know, before computers. It seems like I had a lot on my plate and did not pay much attention to current events. But, the death of Karen Carpenter in February was most disheartening, as I always thought that she had one of those ‘one of a kind’ voices. The Korean Air Lines Flight that many said was shot down over Soviet air space that fall certainly made the news and was one story that was hard to ignore. We were introduced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album, full of hit singles. I actually went to the movies once to go see “The Right Stuff”, a truly landmark film. I highly recommend it, if you have not seen it. I had to live with three snowy television channels and a precarious cable tv hookup. But that cable line was more than entertainment, it was a lifeline to the outside world. I still had this foreboding sense of isolation. I was the first to say ‘I WANT MY MTV! I curled up with a little Jack Daniels to take the chill off, lamenting about times gone past and the love-hate relationship that I had with LA and its residents. The love side came to the forefront whenever I heard this song, see if you can remember……
I Love LA by Randy Newman (1983)
This recollection of 1983 would not be complete without acknowledging a great in the music industry. Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” topped the charts. It was probably his last hurrah, as he will later be killed in a tragic shooting incident in the very next year. Even though the vinyl had been worn out over this song, I offer in tribute “Sexual Healing”
Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye (1983)
Now this distinctive 1980’s pop sound was beginning to take root. Here is the list of the top 100 pop songs for 1983, which were your favorites?
So there’s my recap, anything that you might want to share that was part of your 1983?