Friday, August 15, 2008

My Summer of 1989

I've not started one of these before, but here goes.
What were you doing in the summer of 1989?
The rules are pretty straight forward:
- link back to whomever 'tagged' you
- answer the question ;-)
- identify 3 to 5 people who need to answer the question as well. I tag Laryssa, Chris Detje and Janine Mains.
Here goes.
How many of you have heard the song by Kid Rock 'All Summer Long'? Lyrics and video. If you haven't, the song starts with the line 'It was 1989, my thoughts were short my hair was long'. Every time I hear this song, I remember some more from one of the most defining summers of my youth (and arguably my life.)
First, I was ending my Junior Year at UMASS Amherst. I'd could see (I thought at least) what my future was going to be and I thought had a good grasp on what was coming next.
The summer started with a major world event: the massacre at Tiananmen Square. In the last weeks of May, between studying for finals and all the other year end work, I honestly thought we were going to see change in China. As you all know, that was the farthest from what actually happened. I remember sitting in my apartment with my roommates debating what the protests meant (the massacre didn't happen until we were done.)
I was also moving even farther away from home. I accepted a summer job as a programmer in Houston TX. I was going to drive down, find a place to live and work all summer there. Yes, I went somewhere without much of a plan, knowing I had a credit card and my car to sleep in if necessary.

First though, I had to wait for my brother Pat to graduate from high school. The morning after his graduation, I packed up the car and left Danbury on my way to Houston. The trip was largely uneventful, except for a time in Mississippi when I was the only one on the road and there was a lot of debris. I found out when I stopped for dinner that a tornado had hit a few hours before I came through. Welcome to the South.
Before I left though, I had to talk with Deb. At this point we'd been going out over 4 years and were talking about what the future held. In one of the more stupid things I've ever done in my life, I broke up with her before I left. My thinking was it wasn't fair to both of us to be apart for 3 months, with little or no chance of seeing each other. Being at school was different, since it was a 2 hour drive and we saw each other every couple of weeks. So, no girlfriend, no place to stay and a job with people I didn't know (sort of) I left CT. I was 20 years old.
I eventually found an apartment, after having to pay the full rent up front (first introduction to credit checks, renting to under 21 years old etc.). I wasn't near where I was working, (which was good, the plant was in a horrible part of town) so I had to drive almost an hour each way. While I was used to commuting from Danbury to White Plains, this was completely different. Oh yeah, I didn't have AC in the car either. Ever been to Houston in the summer? God was that a nightmare.
The job was good. I was learning a lot and even met the company that moved me to Georgia a year later. I was developing software for their factory control system and I kept breaking their system. (This was the first time that I realized I was really good at this. In school being able to regurgitate what was in the books always frustrated me, but here I didn't have a book, I had a set of rough requirements and software that was supposed to work one way.) Except I kept assuming it would do something and break it. Finally after a month of this, the company (Maxwell House Coffee) put me on a plane and sent me to Atlanta to work with the engineers of Bradley Ward Systems (BWI then) on their hardware so as we broke things we didn't take the production systems off line.
I absolutely loved Atlanta. I worked closely with three guys I had only spoken with on the phone, showed them what I was doing and what was failing. We figured it out and at the end of the week I brought back several reels of tape with updated software. Now I KNEW I was going to love doing this for a living.
Turns out I had a cousin a couple of times removed living in Houston. And she was all southern girl. We went out several times to go dancing. Except I was used to pop/rock dancing and she was a southern country girl. I still remember the first time we went into a bar, I handed my ID to the bouncer, he looked at it and said 'Yankee'. My cousin stepped in and said I was with her and he still said 'have fun Yankee'. A few minutes later I'm introduced to a friend of her's and all I said was 'Hi' and the woman said 'you ain't' from around here are you?'. Yeah, this was going to be a fun summer.
So I learned how to line dance, actually understand the lyrics of a country western song and have a good time in a country bar. No, I did not buy a cowboy hat or boots. Thought about it though.
Living alone that summer was strange. Being in a factory, I worked 7 am to 3:30 PM. So I was home by 5 PM. Cooking wasn't a big deal, I did that at college, but the heat was so oppressive that it was hard to find anything much to do outside. Plus I was having second thoughts about what Deb and my relationship was going to be so I was doing a lot of thinking.
Not to say I stayed in my apartment the whole time. I went drag racing a couple of times in the 80 Capri. best time was a 15.50 or so ( I think I got into the 15's that last time.) I also went to several bars and entertainment establishments. Including my first strip club. Every hear of where Anna Nicole Smith met her husband? I was at the same place a few times.
I also went to see a movie by myself for the first time. The original Batman was out that summer as were some others I wanted to see. So I went by myself. Strange at first, but it is still something I do every once and a while when I want to see something Deb doesn't or the kids are too young for.
In July, a little over a month after I went to Houston, Deb flew down to spend a few days with me. We had a good talk about future and things and decided to talk again when I got back. It was a lot of fun just the two of us in a town we hadn't been in before.
A few weeks later Laryssa and her mom came to visit me. They were on a driving tour of the U.S.A. and stopped in Houston for a night. Ris and I went to a real pop/rock dance club and this thing put what we'd been to at school to shame. Also introduced me to big city 'dressing up' for the ladies. Damn they definitely didn't look like college girls ;-)
August is even worse in Houston than June and July. They had a severe thunderstorm while I was there. I of course didn't know what was going on, since I was in a separate part of the building than most everyone else and never heard the notice to go home. I left when it stopped and there was over a foot of water on most of the roads. I remember seeing stalled buses and cars everywhere.
Finally, in late August Pat flew down to drive home with me. I showed him around the next morning and loaded up to go to New Orleans. Yup, an 18 year old and a 20 year old in New Orleans. First stop was to get a beer. Of course Pat wasn't 18 yet (N.O. was 18 in those days.), but they let him in any ways. Except it was a 2 drink minimum club and we ended up paying $7 for a small glass of beer. Even in those days we both could drink a little beer so we knew $7 beers were going to kill us, so we bailed. (Yes, think about what places have minimum drink requirements in New Orleans. I can say I took Pat to his first strip club, but not really since they had pasties on.)
So, we found a bar with Hurricanes and proceeded to have a really good evening. We got to bed late, I don't remember how late but we wanted to get up and leave N.O. by 8 am. That didn't happen. We were on the road by 9 or 10 if I remember correctly. The ride was pretty uneventful until we were in North Carolina. Pat was driving the Capri when a guy in a Ferrari Tessarossa went past us like we were sitting still. Pat was like 'Dude did you see that!', then slammed on the brakes because a guy in front of us panic when the Ferrari went by. I swear we missed him by 6 inches.
As it became closer to dinner time, we started looking for a place to stay, but every place was full. (Yes, we winged it on the way home too)That was really odd, since it was a Saturday evening, we should have found something. Then we find out there is a NASCAR event somewhere in Virginia and everything on the highway as far north as Delaware is booked. Being stupid young men, we decide to drive straight through. We finally arrived home in Danbury around 9 am. So we'd been awake for 24+ hours at this point.
Mom is all over me, giving me hugs and kisses, then reminds me I haven't been to church yet. So I get dressed and go to 10:30 mass. I still don't know how I stayed awake, or how I wasn't reeking (remember, no AC in the car). When I got out of Church Deb was waiting for me in the parking lot. She'd called my mom to see where we were and mom told her I was at church!
I only had a week or so before going back to school so I spent most of it with Deb and getting all my stuff together.
The summer of 1989 ended with Pete Rose admitting he bet on baseball, another one of those moments when I realized everything isn't as good as it seemed.
I went back to school for my Senior year and what I think was the most fun I had at school, because I learned to hack. Up to that point everything was pretty structured, but my graduate-level compiler class is where I learned what being a real programmer was all about.

1 comment:

Jen said...

That was a great song too! Let's see. Summer of 89. I had just just finished my sophomore year of high school. I had my drivers license and was the starting pitcher for our varsity softball pitcher. It was a great time. I had to do was work about 20 hours a week at the local grocery store and play ball!

Ahhh those were the days!