First world problems.
1985 was the unhappiest year of my childhood but that really isn’t saying much. I never had it rough, by any means. I finished eighth grade living in a historic house in one of the nicest neighborhoods in San Diego, Mission Hills. Most of my friends had more gifts and gadgets than I did but I never complained. I had it really good. I never felt spoiled, though. My parents would match us for whatever money my sister and I saved. So while many kids in my ‘hood got anything they wanted, I put aside part of my allowance every week to get my first bike and my Atari 2600 and, years later, they helped pay for half of my first car.
Still, I was pretty surprised to find out that summer that we couldn’t afford to live in the poshest part of the city any more. We were hardly moving to the wrong side of the tracks, though. University City is only a few minutes from La Jolla, the wealthiest part of town. It was a fairly new community then (I was in the high school’s ninth graduating class) but, even today, I get people who’ve lived here their whole lives and haven’t heard of it until I mention UTC, the nearby mall. It was a nice section of suburbia but, to save money, we got a fixer-upper and lived in rubble for nine months. Did I mention that it had a pool? Poor me.
The hard part was friends. I had none. My old friends weren’t old enough to drive yet and I entered Standley Junior High in ninth grade. Back then, middle schools were seventh, eighth and ninth grade, so everyone had already made their friends. No one wanted to let the new kid into their circle so I wanted my parents to drive me to my old neighborhood every weekend. I don’t have a lot of school memories from that year, not that there was anything terrible aside from the time I heard some kids laughing at me at lunch and discovered one of them had spit on my back.
In between stealing glances of girls blossoming into womanhood, I found one subject I was good at: typing. The last time I was tested, 20 years ago, I did 71wpm. I should’ve been a piano player, I guess. If we had extra time in class, we could do games that involved typing and hitting the space bar a certain number of times so that you ended up with a picture of some object like a train or a dog. Of course, I started doing my own typewriter art…
The best stuff I recall from that first year was all music related, of course. I made a “Very New Wave” compilation from Ted Clark’s Psych Furs, REM, Simple Minds and New Order albums. A skinhead named Matt Page made me a copy of the Sex Pistols’ Greatest Rock & Roll Swindle and introduced me to punk. Scott Brown taped me the Colourfield’s Virgins & Philistines and Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain. Now we were getting somewhere. I still listened to 91X constantly but was finally learning that there was music even better than what the radio played….