Good times. The best times. The-last-scene-from-Dazed-and-Confused-as-they’re-driving-in-the-car-with-the-windows-down-while-the-sun-comes-up times. For me - 1993. Or maybe 1994.
I graduated from high school in 1995; that I know for sure. The sweet ache of the teenage years before that are unattached bright clusters in my head. They glob together and spread when I dig out an old mixtape and turn the car stereo a little too loud on the long commute home, adult responsibilities whipping out the open window along with the words.
Every writer ever has typed this sentence and it does not feel good to belong to the club that pecks out - when did I get this old? Question mark. Blink. Pause. What the fuck time is it?
I had to do some project in Grade 10 where for some reason we counted cars on the side of the road. A week before that my best friend and I cut off all our hair and sat up all night holding hands and softly screaming while 2 packages of Blondissima sizzled the pigment out of our remaining hair. We didn’t last. We had to rinse it off before it ate through our brains. We both had orange tang coloured heads and everybody looked at us and every driver of those cars swung their head around, and back then, if you asked, I would say, “whatever,” but we all know inside I was preening like a fucking punk rock peacock.
God, name a few bands from back then and it will make me cry. Minor Threat. Rancid. Sonic Youth. Bratmobile. Screaming Trees. Bikini Kill? I downshifted gears in my first Honda civic while letting the wails of Kathleen Hanna reverb through my whole body. And even though I had no tits and no ass and the complexion of a sheet used to keep dust off furniture in a haunted house, I felt like I could seduce the pants off a skateboard park of dudes. Skateboard. Boys with skateboards. That still gives me a boner.
On weekends, always, we took the 351 bus to downtown Vancouver. It was a solid 60 minute ride, shuddering down highways and long familiar blocks, the suburbs giving way to cement and the boys and the music and the boys in the record shops. Seymour Street back then was an easy way to drop all your teenage money you “borrowed” from your Mom’s disorganized purse. The orange and organized A & B Sound, the many levels of Sam the Record Man, the heavenly haven of Track Records and one more shop just past there that sold the posters I carefully pinned up, and the t-shirts I wore until threadbare, but I can’t remember the name of it and if you ever want to make yourself super melancholy on a Friday night try and google a part of your childhood. Nobody out there remembers either.
Track Records was where the cute boys worked. The boys that had bowl haircuts and played in bands that performed at the Hastings Community Centre. It smelled like a big old musty boys’ bedroom, unfancy, dim with shit scattered everywhere. Track Records was where we would subtly dump a pile of our ‘zine like it was no big deal and then sit at home in our rooms, staring at the ceiling, counting the seconds until the mail came to see if we had received any. Mail. Paper. That wait was a slow torture. There is no wait like that wait today. That’s weird, right?
Music was just transitioning to cd’s. I fucking hated them and decided to take some weird stance of CASSETTES FOREVER. They were sold in long hard plastic casing and the ones I wanted were always like $26 a piece. We’d flick through familiar titles every Saturday afternoon. Stop and stare at covers of Jane’s Addiction and The Pixies, unable to imagine what that music would even sound like.
We bought singles. We bought t-shirts. We got off the bus to get in line for shows at the New York Theatre on Commercial Drive and nearly died trying to crawl into our own skin because those lines of kids, just the same as us, were so impossibly cool that their eyeballs on us were like judge-y lasers. We just shrunk into our customized hoodies (mine read Team Poop, I swear to God), oversized men’s pants and sneakers and waited to get in to see the bands. There were like six of them that rotated and I can’t remember any of their names but they were over-run with young boys with angry faces and bleached hair who could play instruments while kicking, spitting and laughing. We would sit huddled against a wall, not moving a fucking inch and let it spill all over us.
It was an especially golden time to be young and unemployed and teen-girl horny in Vancouver. The boys threw themselves around on stage and we watched nonchalantly on the inside and then daydreamed porno fantasies behind the fogged windows of the bus home. Clutching a duct-taped walkman blasting sweetly into our ears, we were listening to the sounds of the right then. The right now. Every other thing was absolutely nothing. I remember everything but I remember nothing. It is a sweetly glazed time capsule of a Vancouver that was.
My favourite local band, we all had one, was Sparkmarker. I fucking loved Seaweed and Superconductor too, with an appropriate combo of lust and fascination, but Sparkmaker was the one for me. I would see Kim Kinakin at other shows and get an ice bucket in my guts, like the President was seated next to me and I suddenly had to diarrhea everywhere.
Last week I saw on Facebook (why am I on there, a Mom in her 30s – the answer – to legitimately spy on people - there it is.) that Sparkmarker is playing a show in September. The night of my kid’s second birthday. They have lost a member. We're all old. They will play the music of my 15th and 16th year and I don’t have anybody to go with. Sure, I could ask my husband to go and he would and he would hold my hand while I try not to cry.
My best friend from high school - now I only talk to her maybe once a year. Time and all that good stuff just make tight gaps bigger over the years. I actually emailed her the show announcement as a HOLY SHIT REMEMBER THIS?! moment. Who is going? Would I be standing in a sea of people in their mid-30s riding out a night of wave after wave of memories, so thick we couldn’t even breathe? Kids now adults, t-shirts filled out, grey thatches instead of blonde, legally drinking beer, nodding our heads to familiar sounds with both our heads and hearts cracked wide open.
It’s been a long time. I love that girl I see in old pictures sitting on top of a wood panelled station wagon, in a thrifted t-shirt and cut off men’s dress pants, tall socks and red Etnies. Every single day I woke up and was excited about what I was going to wear, what music would get me through the shitty hallways of my school and what show we were going to that weekend.
There were things I didn’t know that I was going to find out. I had no idea what I was going to do after high school. I could drive a stick shift, I could get away with wearing no bra, I could pay $1.50 and let BC Transit slam me downtown where the people who were making something out of nothing gathered to share that good shit. How could anyone argue that wasn’t the best time of their life?