Solid Gold 90’s

I’ll paint a picture, it will remind me
Don’t call me daughter
I fade away
A picture
It will remiiiiiiind me

It was 4 in the afternoon; the only light was coming from the huge boxed TV set, super vintage, wood paneled. “Daughter” was on MTV, back when it meant music television because that’s what it played – music videos. I’d lip sync along with the lyrics and love how they packaged that CD, all the while really really really really REALLY wanting that one guy to call.

I just saw an article called “Tragic Kingdom Saved My Life” over on Jezebel, and it reminded me to write one of many posts that are building up in my head, reminding me of my true nature – early 90’s Pittsburgh.

Technically, Aliquippa, but nobody knows where that is, so I claim Pittsburgh. Spent enough time there. Didn’t go to Pitt or Penn State or Duquesne or CMU, but most of my friends either went there or PTI or CCBC or nowhere at all.

My ride was the family Buick LeSabre, until it was my own maroon-colored 1996 Grand Am. Its name was Riven, like the game. I wanted to get that in Olde English font across the top and am glad that never happened, but it would’ve been SO cool at the time. Window tint and fresh speakers. My music was standard alt-rock and grunge when it wasn’t Rap or R&B. WAMO is now apparently a Catholic church talk radio station but it was the station to listen to when you weren’t taping stuff off of B94 and hoping that the DJ wouldn’t talk over the beginning or end of songs.

I’d get out the Cassette Tape Singles – Shaggy, or Bone Thugs N Harmony, and I’d put it into my Walkman (!!) and go biking on trails we made nicknames for, or over to a friend’s house. They call him Mr. Boombastic, apparently, and his CD nearly got worn out from all my playing. Sometimes it would be Crystal Waters, sometimes it would be Skee-Lo or B.I.G. or Foxy or Diddy; sometimes it would be Spin Doctors. We’d go to the corner store for sunflower seeds and penny candy (Swedish fish or chocolate-peanut-butter Knuts, because things never change), and I remember saying “Someday this will play in my car as it’s drivin down wherever, bumpin bass with the windows down and the wind in my hair.” Eventually I got to drive my grandparents’ car, then my mom’s, and the music went into the tape deck, then the CD player. We’d just cruise around, and there was always bass, even when there shouldn’t have been.

I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff from that genre lately. Pearl Jam, Barenaked Ladies, 7th House, The Clarks, No Doubt, Live, The Clarks, Skee-Lo, Alanis, Snow, Everclear, Dirty Otto, all of it. Okay, maybe not Dirty Otto. You guys know about Dirty Otto? I went over to Humphrey’s one time – that’s right, they had awesome chicken salads – and they were playing live. Afterwards, the lead singer bought a round of drinks for everyone in the house. This place was a Bar And Grill (no ‘e’ at the end of that Grill) at its Beaver Valley Finest, and therefore the bar was right in the middle of the restaurant. When I say a round for everyone in the house, I mean everybody standing in the vicinity of the bar. That included me, at the age with no answer when the bartender asked, “Whaddya wanna drink”. He didn’t much care to answer my blank stare and comment of “Dunno, yinz got some ……strawberry dack-ree?” but served me up something that probably was made out of ice and food coloring. The lead singer was kind of cute, in that drunk-in-the-garage-rocker kind of way, and gave me a halfhearted grin when I told him the show was cool. Trying to play off my age, clearly under the legal limit to even be speaking let alone standing in the same area, so he said “Isn’t it about your bedtime?” in that holier-than-thou voice. Sorry I complimented you, buddy – I should’ve told you what I really thought, that your band sounded like a nondescript whatever that should’ve stayed home.

Oh music. I remember how you made me feel, music of the 90’s, each song’s different strains setting up different themes in my head, doing weird and good and bad and fun things to the various cells up there. College was walking down the street, playing Matchbox 20, wishing my boyfriend wasn’t 3000 miles away. Or it was driving to an earlier boyfriend’s house to hang out for the evening; we’d go to the movies and then Perkins every Friday, like clockwork. “It’s sittin by the overcoat, the second shelf the note she wrote…” Driving down route 60 in the dark for the first time, going to the mall, the ice rink. I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky, I believe I can hang out at that ice rink every weekend for two years. Fell in love about ten times a week with that guy who drove the Zamboni, but he was what we call An Asshole. I always had a thing for hockey players though. That explains the random driving trips, getting lost with a friend, just so we could hang out with a cute boy. I fell hard for quite a few of them though, some fell hard for me as well, but most just seemed to go away. There were a lot of nights spent in my room just feeling sorry for myself, as teen angst tends to make you do. You just make another knotted yarn thing for your hair and move on.

Train and standing in line hearing Drops of Jupiter yet again. Dave Matthews and The Freshman on a mixtape in my car. Blues Traveler. Counting Crows, Live. Blur. Tonic. Disturbed. Seal. Prodigy. Silverchair. Eve 6. Reel Big Fish. Nada Surf. Marvelous 3. Liz Phair. Dishwalla. Meredith Brooks. Joy Drop. Marilyn Manson. When Marilyn Manson first came out and everyone thought he was Satan Incarnate. When we found out his name was Brian. White Town. Green Day – and I had the Dookie t-shirt, but have no idea where it is. Presidents of the USA. Dead Milkmen. Savage Garden. Backstreet Boys. Hanson. Jars of Clay. GooGoo Dolls. 2Pac. Snoop Doggy Dogg. Tiffany. Paula Abdul. Ice Cube. Cranberries. Superdrag. REM. Nirvana. Foo Fighters. Oasis. Aerosmith. The City of Angels soundtrack. Mobb Deep. Dr. Dre. Eminem. When Eminem was a HUGE controversial deal. Korn. Prodigy. DMX. Limp Bizkit and their horrible, horrible music. SR-71. The Ataris. MXPX. Goldfinger. Punk rock and skateboarding and rollerblading. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Soul Asylum. Soundgarden and the melting Barbie in the video. Weezer. Radiohead and the really long video. The Smashing Pumpkins. Metallica. Slayer. Pantera. The t-shirts to go along with them. Alice In Chains. Rage Against The Machine. Tool. Garbage. My friend saying that the orange CD was only good for strippers. That friend dying. My OTHER friend dying. Trying to go to school full time and work full time and not go crazy and then leaving.

Pittsburgh living was Marlboros and heartbreak, guitars and drums, climbing trees and walking alone at the side of the river. Standing under bridges and wondering why the humidity was 500% and walking around inside the mall because there was just nothing else to do. Biking around, falling in and out of love, thinking that there was a world out there but not really knowing if that was true. I knew if you drove far enough, you’d get to Cedar Point. Los Angeles was just a song lyric and New Orleans was where the ChatHouse.com friend lived. Someone called me once from the UK and it was like something from a movie. We finally went to New Orleans, in 1997, my church’s youth group (fourteen people in a Pace Arrow), and it was the biggest adventure of my life at that time. A soda was three dollars and you couldn’t get an ice bucket at the hotel; I saw the Victorian houses on the water and romanticized everything. It changed my life. Anne Rice was right – there was life beyond the tri-state area.

The guy from ChatHouse.com is still a friend, by the way. After more than a decade I can say he’s a wonderful human being, despite never having met him in person. No idea where the pen pal from Germany is, but I hope she’s doing well. The days of X-fest and Starlight Amphitheater and listening to Art sing about those houses up on the hill… they blended and ran into something that made me lose track of time, I have been to the hills he sang at the foot of, and live on a hill a little south of the ones he sang about. The palm trees make me constantly nostalgic for a place that I live in.

Oh music, music from days gone by and loves lost, left unchanged. I could go on about you for hours. You make me want to share with my friends, want to go back in time and share my Now with them. We’d have a pretty good time, I think.

PS: He never called.

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