First things first, I’d like to thank Oregonmike98….his mention of my blog was the kick in the ass that I needed to come back to it again. I had plans of posting stuff in the past three months but a lot of things ended up in the way…most of them I covered in my last post, earlier this afternoon. From what I can understand of blogs and diaries in general is that you can’t take long breaks from it..you have to report on the here and now…day by day. I’ve taken this lesson to heart and I’m going to try and post something here most every day…the good with the bad. I can post things that are completely truthful like….right about now, I’d do just about anything for an American Spirit Blue pack of cigarettes and a 20 oz. of Mountain Dew. These two things are self-evident with me….it’s my fuel…it’s what drives the tank. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone “Keith Richards 1977” and stayed up for days on end either studying for my classes or playing poker or a bit of both and it was down to my stupidity and my intake of cigs and pop.
As with all things that are great and/or beneficial…they always have to have a dark side to them. They always have to ultimately destroy you….how many great poets and artists have indulged and spoken about the great things that LSD can offer an artistic mind? Pretty much any household “drug” has that polarizing nature to it…it enhances and it destroys. Granted, I was a bit late in coming to the nicotine dance (I was 31 when I started smoking) but I still liked what I experienced.
Anyways, this is a long intro to what’s next on my itinerary…..1981 and 1982……
1981 was a very strange year on paper…..Baseball ended up having a huge strike which affected the regular season, we got a new President who used to be an actor way back when….some would argue that Presidents are still actors to this day. A little cable channel experiment which showcased music “videos” also was born during this year. I was cognizant of two of these events, I was a HUGE baseball fan when I was a kid…my goal in life was to play for the Detroit Tigers as a second baseman and to also have the number 30 which was taken from my favorite baseball player on earth, Willie Randolph. I know, I know….Randolph played for the Yankees, what the fuck is wrong with you? People have to realize that the 1981 New York Yankees were light years away from the Evil Empire that they became in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Yankees of 1981 had some legitimate bad-asses….Reggie Jackson, Oscar Gamble, Greg Nettles, Dave Winfield, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, and Lou Piniella.
If there was a favorite team that I liked to watch the Tigers play against, it was always the Yankees. Especially at Yankee Stadium…..up to that point, I had already watched the cult classic movie “The Warriors”, so I was interested (at the ripe age of 6) in what Gotham City had to offer. I always wanted to visit Yankee Stadium, not to root for the Yankees but to show up in Tiger gear….now that the stadium is long demolished, I’ll never get to experience that thrill….I’m just glad that I saw a Tigers game at Tigers Stadium (a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Baltimore Orioles in 1988).
Anyways, I just loved the way that Randolph carried himself on the field. He was so graceful when he would pivot for that double play or running to snag that ground ball in the hole between first and second base. He was a good hitter too….he was my favorite non-Tiger ballplayer. 1981 was the last high-water mark for the Yankees as they lost the the Dodgers 4 games to 2 in the World Series….no, there wouldn’t be Reggie cracking three home runs on three pitches this time around…it was over. In fact, Reggie would be gone after 1981, signing with the California Angels the next season. This started the famous manager turnstile that Steinbrenner ran in the early 1980’s….Bob Lemon, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin (repeatedly), etc
But, funnily enough….I don’t remember baseball going on strike in 1981, nor do I remember the NFL going on strike the next year….I do remember Reagan, I have vivid memories of him being shot…him raising his arm to answer the reporters’ question….the pop that sounded like firecrackers…and a swarm of people all going down and everybody screaming. I remember NBC and Saturday Night Live taking this to its’ logical conclusion a few weeks later. Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat being shot as he was answering a question….don’t know who wrote that skit that day (Al Franken?) but it was brilliant and funny.
I can remember UA Cable having a channel with nothing on it, actually they had quite a few channels with nothing on it as Cable was still in its’ infancy in the early 1980’s. One channel in particular had a message on it…something to the effect of “stay tuned for MTV…Music Television…coming soon”…..I didn’t know what the fuck that all meant. Then, one day that year…MTV took off, literally…with images of a space shuttle launching and these videos came on with music tied to them….some were performance videos, some were taken from live concerts and some were just bad acting plays with the musicians lip synching to the music. The music video was not invented by MTV of course….music videos existed way back in the late 1960’s as performance pieces by bands of the day. MTV was the first channel to devote itself exclusively to this concept and it worked. I can remember Martha Quinn having a call-in segment relating to a trivia question about an artist that was being featured that day….god, Martha Quinn was such a beauty….I had a crush on her big time….I always thought that she was one of the high school girls dancing in the J. Geils Band video for the song “Centerfold”….I can remember that rumor being so prominent that Quinn squashed that rumor on-air during a segment in between videos.
The original format of MTV just plain worked….show music videos mostly, have one or two segments (i.e. the aforementioned trivia segment) they also came out with a call-in show based on two music videos (a precursor to MTV’s most wanted by about 15 years) and callers calling in to vote, it was kinda like a boxing match. MTV would also have a live concert on Saturday nights…sometimes live, sometimes archived…but it was a full concert. I can remember watching Genesis play from London (this was an archive show as the concert itself was recorded in 1980) on MTV on a saturday night. They’ve added certain things (Headbangers’ Ball, Yo MTV Raps, Beavis and Butthead, etc) which I thought were great….some others (Road Rules, The Real World, any show added later than 1997) were absolutely dismal.
When MTV decided to spin MTV2 as their “all music” channel, it was cool…I just wished that channel was available to more cable or satellite systems….it also brought the world Jancee Dunn…another female VJ crush….vrooom!
It was also in 1981 when I started going to school in Grand Rapids Public Schools….I did so in part of 1980 as I switched from St. Alphonsus to Coit Elementary School….went to Kindergarten to finish out 1980. In 1981, it was first grade and Mrs. Geglio…very cool class and very cool teacher. My Mom wasn’t impressed though and freaked out because I was still quite small and bony at this stage and she made me repeat the first grade the very next year. It didn’t affect me right away until later on when I realized that all of the friends that I had made in my early days were all one grade ahead of me. And this is also part of the reason that I was 19 going on 20 in my last year of high school (1995). Music-wise, 1981 and 1982 really introduced a lot of different things….For one, it introduced the New Romantic branch of New Wave that was riding the charts in England at the time. Bands like Spandau Ballet, Haircut 100, and Culture Club were all starting to get small footholds in the States due to exposure on MTV. When I heard Spandau Ballet being played a year later (in 1983…”true”) at North Kent Mall inside Jean Nicole while my Mom was shopping for clothes, I knew something was up.
I’ll pick this time out now to talk about North Kent Mall…..North Kent Mall was located on Plainfield Avenue just south of 5 Mile Road. You had Jupiter Rd. which turned west off of Plainfield and took you down about an eighth of a mile with Witmark (a mail-order store) on your left and a small movie theater and K-Mart on your right….the road ended just beyond K-Mart. K-mart was the south anchor of the mall with Montgomery Ward being the north anchor. Sometime in the early 2000’s, it was demolished with a Lowe’s Hardware store in its’ place now.
I can remember a couple of times when I was a kid, me and my brother and our friends taking the bus ($0.50 fare!) all the way out to North Kent Mall and fucking around there all day. Aladdin’s Castle was what beckoned most of us kids to the mall in the first place. You had Orange Julius also in the food court, Janie’s Cookie Company…..Circus World, which was a kick-ass toy store across from Jean Nicole……The Onion Crock, local Grand Rapidians who are my age or older remember this place with much regard…..they closed their restaurants years and years ago…but their soups live on as they’re available at local grocers’ like D&W and Family Fare. There’s always rumors that the family who ran the Onion Crock are going to open up a restaurant again….but in my mind, nothing could touch their location in North Kent Mall in the 1980’s….it was dark, mysterious, classy, etc…..that was one of my favorite places to go in the mall, I’d order their soup and sandwich meal….half a sandwich of turkey, lettuce and mayo with a cup of hunter’s hodgepodge soup…..that was beyond great to an adolescent in those years.
Musicland was also there and later on, Sam Goody…..I can remember me and my bro purchasing albums in 1985 or thereabouts…..he bought Run DMC – King Of Rock on cassette….I bought Genesis – Abacab also on cassette….he went on to buy another album on vinyl…can’t remember right now what it was…might have been LL Cool J’s first album.
I have fond memories of eating mashed potatoes and turkey with gravy on it from the K-Mart Cafeteria which was adjacent to the Mall entrance. They had this beautiful metal statue on that end (the south end-near the K-Mart entrance) of a man holding up a bird (I think?) perched on the back of his hand. To this day, I can look up and see the windows that dotted the top portion of the mall…almost like little skylights.
Fulton Street is almost a line of demarcation…besides it being the line between north and south….it was also an unofficial line from where kids would hang out….anybody who seemed to live north of Fulton went to North Kent Mall while kids who lived south of Fulton would hang out at either Woodland or Eastbrook….considering the close proximity of those two malls, they probably hung out at both.
I miss North Kent Mall to this day and I wanted to bring my kids (if and when I have any) to that mall and showed them all of the cool things that I did when I was their age. The day they tore it down, I drove up there with a heavy heart and snapped a bunch of pictures of the debris…I have them in storage someplace, but I’ll scan them sometime and put them up here……for now, I have some great old-school pictures of North Kent Mall from this wonderful website: http://gr-retro.blogspot.com/2011/03/north-kent-mall.html
next time, we’ll cover 1983-1984 and some other current happenings…