It’s November 15, 1980.
I am nine years old.
I listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown for the week on my radio while I play in my bedroom. It’s yellow and green, my bedroom, with flowered, embossed wallpaper and a yellow shag carpet. My uncle had just given me the hottest toy of the year, my very own Rubik’s Cube, and I’m twisting and turning it in an attempt to make at least one side a solid color.
Song number 30 is the theme from the television show, “The Dukes of Hazard.” Waylon Jennings sings of those good-old boys as I put aside the cube in frustration and turn to my Fashion Plates. I am a kick-ass designer.
The song “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb is song number 29. For some reason, I mentally return to walking through the interior of Tampa Airport then around my grandparents’ Florida community, “Hawaiian Isles,” located in Ruskin off Cockroach Bay Road. We were there in May, when Mount St. Helen’s volcano erupted. I feel the warmth of the Florida sun and smile at the fiddler crabs who wave to me with their enormous claws in unison from the little sandy beach along the Tampa Bay.
The long-distance dedication is from Steve in Boonville, Indiana to Pam, because “this was the only way he could say how he felt.” The evocative notes of “Could This Be Magic” by Barry Manilow follow Kasem’s narration of Steve’s letter. I think of the advertisement I noticed in the latest issue of “US News and World Report” for General Foods International Coffee and fantasize about drinking the classiest of coffees with my future love next to me, undoubtedly just like Steve and Pam must be doing at that exact moment. I bet they chose Mocha Mint over Café Vienna. After all, isn’t that what being an adult is all about, sipping International Coffees and going on cruises aboard the Love Boat with Captain Steubing at the helm and Isaac the bartender serving up Mai Tais with a smile?
I need to leave the countdown for a while because I eagerly want to help my mother clean the bathroom. She bought a can of Scrubbing Bubbles at the Grand Union earlier that week and I cannot contain my excitement. I look over her shoulder with anticipation as she aims the can then covers the blue porcelain tub with the magical white foam. I expect to see the bubbles racing each other around the perimeter like they do on the commercial, but the bubbles just sit there and drip. Some of them evaporate before she even has the chance to wipe them up with her sponge. Maybe the tub was too big, maybe they need a smaller racetrack. “Try the sink!” I urge, and she does likewise after she’s rinsed out the tub. I am left disappointed yet again as none of the bubbles have giant eyes or a brushy bottom, and they most certainly do not race each other.
I skulk back to my room, pack up my Fashion Plates, and set up to play teacher as Kasem announces song number sixteen, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. I dance around my room, recreating the little routine my friend and I made up to the song while roller skating a few days prior. We choreographed the routine in the street facing my house and perfectly hit each move, popping out our hips then skating left-then-right-then-roll with our arms punching out as we mimic the Aerobics craze sweeping the nation but on skates.
Crack that Whip!
Now Whip it, Into shape, Shape it up, Get straight, Go forward, Move ahead, Try to detect it, It’s not too late, To whip it, Whip it good! Song number fifteen makes me think of my most-recent sleepover at my roller-skating friend’s house. Her older sister is so cool, I want to be like her when I grow up. It’s in her rec room that we watch many episodes of “The Smurfs” and would witness the second-biggest televised wedding ever when Luke would marry Laura a year later.
John Lennon’s voice croons it’s just like starting over at song number ten of the week’s countdown. My dad recently bought John Lennon’s much anticipated new album, “Double Fantasy,” but he is only allowed to play it when my mother doesn’t have her favorite albums by Anne Murray or Rita Coolidge spinning on the record player in our olive-green family room.
“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is song number four. My mind turns to those poor kids in Atlanta I heard about on the news, and I shudder while wiping away the tears from my eyes. Some of those kids are my age. I cannot understand evil or why anyone would want to take someone’s life away, let alone the lives of a bunch of children, and as a result, both my naivete and belief in goodness are forever bruised. I don’t yet realize why my young brain connects that song to those children.
Kenny Rogers. His hit, “Lady,” is song number one. I close my eyes and daydream about dancing to the song at my future wedding when I marry Boba Fett.
The countdown is over. I grab my diary and write about some of the songs. Later today after lunch, I’ll lace up my skates and roll along the newly paved street from my house to my friend’s house where will we make up yet another routine before getting ice cream without a care in the world.
It’s November 14, 2020.
I am forty-nine years old.
I listen to a replay of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown from November 15, 1980, on my local radio station. Forty years have passed since it originally aired. I sit in the living room and write while the songs replay in succession. It’s brown and temporary, the living room, with paneling and ringed oval area rugs in all shades of browns and rusts. My uncle passed away almost two years ago, and it’s his living room I sit in. I’m twisting and turning and still try to come to grips with his passing.
Song number 30 is the theme from “The Dukes of Hazard.” Waylon Jennings sings of those good-old boys, now taboo and culturally inappropriate, as I put aside my grief and, instead, respond to a text message from my brother. I know nothing about fashion.
The song “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb is song number 29. I picture with extreme clarity the baggage claim area of Tampa Airport and my walking route around my grandparents’ Florida community, “Hawaiian Isles,” in Ruskin off Cockroach Bay Road. I check Google Earth and it is still there. The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s is nothing compared to the events of 2020, but the fiddler crabs still wave to me in unison.
The long-distance dedication is from Steve in Boonville, Indiana to Pam, because “this was the only way he could say how he felt.” The evocative notes of “Could This Be Magic” by Barry Manilow follow Kasem’s narration of Steve’s letter. I wonder if Steve and Pam lived happily ever after, then I wrinkle my face at the recollection of the utter grossness of every single flavor of General Foods International Coffees I finally tried when I was in college, especially Mocha Mint. Being an adult is, in reality, all about avoiding cruises and the company of others in this COVID-19 world we are currently living, with both Captain Steubing and Isaac the bartender relegated to collecting unemployment.
I leave the countdown for a while because I am eager to spray the inside of my birdbath with FlexSeal. It’s a handyman in a can, and according to Phil Swift, it can fix anything. I spray the inside of the birdbath with the miracle-fix, eventually coating the crack with five layers while allowing for the proper drying time between applications. I expect the leak to magically be fixed, but the water ultimately still drips through it. I am left disappointed yet again as FlexSeal is most certainly not a handyman in a can.
I skulk back to my living room and unpack what I need for planning this week’s lessons, as I am a teacher, when Kasem announces song number sixteen, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. I dance around my living room and recreate the little routine my friend and I had made up. I remember it step-by-step complete with the hip-pops and the skating left-then-right-then-roll with my arms punching out like the Aerobics people we now laugh at when we see them posted in our Facebook feeds.
Crack that Whip!
Now whip it, Into shape, Shape it up, Get straight, Go forward, Move ahead. Try to detect it! It’s not too late, To whip it, Whip it good! Song number fifteen makes me think of sleeping over at my roller-skating friend’s house, where we watched “The Smurfs” and the wedding of Luke and Laura. Our friendship has spanned trends, years, decades, and countdown after countdown. It was through this friend I met my husband, and that old house of hers is still standing. In fact, I walked past it on Halloween while trick-or-treating with my nephews and niece last month. I hope the pandemic won’t force my friend to cancel her and her family’s annual Christmas Eve get-together, where I get to see her cool sister, and her cool sons, each year.
John Lennon’s voice croons it’s just like starting over at song number ten of the week’s countdown. When this countdown originally aired in 1980, nobody had the foresight that the song’s lyrics would prove hauntingly poignant with Lennon’s life less than a month away from being tragically cut short. Forty years later, and I can still picture exactly where I was standing when the special report first broke on December 8, 1980.
“Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen is song number four. My mind turns to those poor kids in Atlanta I heard about on the news, and I shudder while wiping away the tears from my eyes. Some of those kids were my age at the time. I still cannot understand evil or comprehend why anyone would want to take someone’s life away, let alone the lives of a bunch of children, and as a result, both my naivete and belief in goodness were forever bruised. I understand now why my brain connected that song with those children, who I still think of every time I’ve heard it since.
Kenny Rogers. He just passed away in March 2020 from natural causes at 81 years old right as the pandemic shut down our everyday life. His hit, “Lady,” is song number one. I cringe at hearing it and am incredibly thankful that my husband and I did NOT dance to this song at our wedding. What an awfully cheesy yet quintessential melodic auditory representation of the early 1980s. And speaking of Boba Fett, he didn’t turn out to be my husband after all, but….HE LIVES, DAMMIT!!!! Thank you, Jon Favreau!
The countdown is over. I grab my laptop and write about some of the songs as I reminisce about the simplicities of being a nine-year-old. Later today, after lunch, I’ll don my outdoor clothes and wield an electric blower as I form piles of fallen leaves and pine needles in my yard before doing laundry and paying the bills.
Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.
“Having a Great Fall” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on November 8, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact email@example.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.