Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nineties Teen Culture

“If there's not a rebellious youth culture, there's no culture at all. It's absolutely essential. It is the future. This is what we're supposed to do as a species, is advance ideas.” John Lydon
Best known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon grew up in a poor working-class London neighborhood.  He gave band mate John Simon Ritchie the nickname Sid Vicious after his parents’ pet hamster.  His own stemmed from rotten teeth.  “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen” are punk classics.  Sid’s heroin addiction led to the breakup of the Sex Pistols.  At the end of their abbreviated final concert in San Francisco in January 1978, Lydon shouted, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”  He subsequently formed Public Image Ltd (PIL), a band I saw at the Riviera in Chicago in 1991 with Dave Joseph, Tom Horvath, and John Migoski, who lost a shoe when a security guard pulled him on stage before he got crushed.  Lydon still fronts PIL, which reformed in 2009.

For Steve McShane’s class Allison Boudreau wrote about her cousin Lisa meeting Mike Dirnt of Green Day and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins:
    “What a decade, the 90s rocked!” was the first words Lisa uttered when I asked if I could interview her.  Lisa was born in 1980 and an only child. Growing up, I admired her pierced tongue and crazy colored hair.  She was super cool.  Raised in unincorporated Valparaiso, she said, felt like living in the middle of nowhere.  She attended Morgan Township from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  There were 48 in her graduating class of 1998.  She felt as if she did not fit in. She dyed her hair burgundy in tenth grade, saying: “This was a pretty big deal because I was the first person in my entire school to dye their hair an un-normal color. I started to feel much more comfortable with who I wanted to be and not care what people might think.”
      Lisa described her handful of friends as uninterested in athletics or school activities.  They drove around to such hangouts as Inman’s bowling alley/arcade and Night Owl coffee shop. It was a time before cell phones.  Lisa recalled: “If you wanted to call your crush, you had to dial the house phone. If a parent answered, you’d have to ask if you could talk to him. So awkward. I usually wouldn’t go to parties due to so many drugs being done. Living in the country with limited things to do, there were a lot of drugs. Some of my best friends did drugs, but I was just never interested.  There was no peer pressure. For them, living in the middle of nowhere, they were bored and unmotivated. Music and writing and the internet gave me my own escape.”
Lisa (left) and friends
        Regarding fads and fashions, Lisa mentioned flannels and Doc Martin boots, JNCO jeans with huge wide legs, t-shirts with clever sayings, colorful plastic jewelry, short pixie hair, chokers, and eyeliner. Then, as the 90s progressed, the punk-grunge, “raver/skater” style took over. Lisa and her friends had pagers.  She recalled: “If you got paged, you better find a pay phone quick!  Sometimes, you’d get the number with 911 at the end of it. This meant CALL ME NOW!”  Close friends gave themselves code numbers, like 77, to identify themselves to friends.  Lisa was pretty tech savvy in her day with her pager and 100 hours of America Online time.  Most of her friends didn’t have access to the Internet.  They’d ask her to print out song lyrics or celebrity pictures.  When you entered a chat room, people would ask A/S/L, which meant Age/Sex/Location. Lisa even constructed her own web page, but few people knew about it.  The idea of social media didn’t exist yet.
     Lisa idolized Green Day, whom she first saw on Dave Letterman in 1994. “I was painting my nails in my bedroom and happened to have the TV on. I thought Billie Joe Armstrong was perfection. I got Dookie and all their old CDs.  I read every article I came across that mentioned them. 1995 came and they were performing in Chicago. I had never been to a concert, and my Mom said 15 was too young to go with just friends. That concert ended up being taped for MTV and aired repeatedly. It was bittersweet. I should’ve been there.  Jump to 1997 and several hundred more pictures of Billie Joe and Green Day on my bedroom wall.  They were playing the Riviera in Chicago!  This time I could go. None of us had our license, so my dad drove us in his van.  It was the best night ever. After the concert, we went by the back door where about 20 people were waiting. The security guards made us stay behind the ropes, but the door was right there. Eventually, Billie’s wife came out carrying their toddler son, followed by drummer TrĂ© Cool. Finally, the door opened and it was Billie Joe.  When he got near me, I held out my camera, and he paused long enough for me to snap a photo.  After Billie got on the bus, the security guard told us bass guitar player Mike Dirnt went out another door and that’s it. We left but then spotted a guy outside that I could tell was Dirnt.  I ran down the street and shouted, ‘Mike!’  He saw me coming and started laughing.  I started laughing and just kept running towards him. He gave me a hug as I ran into him. It was freezing outside, and he told me even his underwear was freezing. We took a pic, and I said thanks and told him bye. Meeting Billie Joe was the best thing ever for me, but getting to meet Mike with no one else around was a close second.”
above, Billie Joe Armstrong; below, Mike Dirnt; photos by Lisa
       Lisa attended Columbia College in Chicago to study sound engineering. She visited record stores, watched concerts and videos online, and attended concerts. When two of her friends were home from Purdue on break, Lisa took them around Chicago. Lisa recalled: “We got lost on the way to Ed Debevics, ended up on a side street, and passed a parked black Mercedes.  The guy inside looked like Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins.  When I mentioned that to my friends, they convinced me to walk back and see.  The guy put his hand up and waved.  I said, kind of awkwardly, ‘Are you Billy Corgan?’ He said yeah and asked if we had any change for the parking meter.  I found some quarters and handed them to him. A guy he was with paid me back in dollars. He said they were headed to lunch at Houston’s and asked if we wanted to join them. Um, yes! Billy talked to the host, and we were seated right away at a corner table, away from people.  Lunch was so laid back, I almost forgot the guy was famous. We had a pretty normal conversation. He paid for our lunches and Evian water that came in big glass bottles. I saw his credit card, and it said ‘William Patrick Corgan.’ When we got up from the table to leave, people started swarming up to him, wanting to shake his hand or get an autograph. We walked back to his car and took some pictures with my disposable camera. We thanked him and said our goodbyes. Once we were a block or so away, we proceeded to scream like schoolgirls because there was no way anyone was going to believe what just happened.”
above, meeting Billy Corgan; below, Lisa in 1998
Like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Billy Corgan is a huge Cubs fan and has sung “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch numerous times at Wrigley.  Smashing Pumpkins is best known for the 1995 album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” featuring the single “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”

Justine Brasseur interviewed 1996 Portage graduate Jenise Johns Smith.   During her freshman year Jenise came down with a severe illness and missed school for an entire month.  Due to the lack of support and understanding from her teachers, Jenise decided to transfer to Portage Adult Education.  Her diploma is identical to what Portage High School students received.  There was no yearbook, however, no clubs, no sports teams, and most classmates were older.  Janise would hang out at pool halls in Hobart and Miller or in the Portage Kmart parking lot. Kids would bring their hopped-up cars.  From time to time police would order everyone to leave. As soon as the cops left, they’d come back!  When B and B  dance club opened, she recalled: “That was the place to be at that time. Teens came from all over. We went there every weekend, and it never got old. I even worked there in the coat check.  There were some awesome dancers and dance battles all night."  
Justine (left) and Stacy
"One time at B and B, this huge guy got into a fight with a little punk k until the owner, who happened to be a Porter County police officer, broke it up by picking up the kid.  One of my best friends decided after a spat that she didn't want to be engaged anymore and threw the engagement ring at him in the dance hall, which was huge and dark. Several of us were crawling around searching for it. When the girl left, I didn’t know whether to go after her or keep looking for it. At the end of the night, we’d go to Shoneys for breakfast and to someone’s house (mine, more often than not) and stay the night. When B and B closed, everyone was devastated.”  There was a dance club at Camelot Bowl, but, in her words, “there were lots of fights there, and it was a much smaller area for dancing, so I didn't really go there too much.  If I did, I usually hung out right outside of the dance place, in the arcade, because it was really crazy inside.”

Tessa Cheek interviewed Alexas Holbrook attended Hobart H.S. between 1996 and 1999. 
Alexas recalled: “We hung out in Smoker’s Alley, where all the ‘bad’ kids went to go smoke and hang out and do things parents hated: smoke weed, have sex, and get drunk. The big thing about me was that I stole. At the mall a friend and I would steal things from Spencer’s, Hot Topic, and stores like that. I never got caught, thank God.” Alexus only had two boyfriends all through high school. Her first got sent to military school for misbehaving so much and later died of a drug overdose.
School held little interest for Alexas.  She recalled: “I was tardy a lot until one day my dad got fed up and escorted me to my class. He walked me into the school, up the stairs, to my locker, and then to my classroom. He plopped me in my seat and made sure I stayed in the classroom.  For gym class the school provided girls old-fashioned brown swimsuits. They only came in three sizes - S, M, and L -  and didn’t fit very well. You could tell what size they were by a colored thread on the side. They were pleated around the chest area so the girls that had boobs semi-fit into the swimsuit. The boys, as usual, had no problem finding a swimsuit. It was so unfair!”
Alexas recalled Senior Privilege Week: “There was Slave Day where seniors picked a freshman to be their slave. So, if the senior told his slave to break out in song and dance, he would have to do it. We dressed boys up in weird clothing and put makeup on them. One time there was a conga line of freshmen in the middle of the hallway.”  Alexas recalled frequent school bomb threats.  In one case everyone got sent home.  Three of her classmates committed suicide, including one she was close to. She told me, “School was strange for the rest of the year. It was like a part of our group was lost. He was the joker and always had a smile on his face. It was a huge shock to hear that he shot himself.”
three looks of Alexas
“I had a new hair color every week,” Alexas claimed. “My outfits usually consisted of really baggy flared pants and a band tee shirt. I did wear choker necklaces at one point.  My wallet was connected to my pants by a long skater chain. I also had an army jacket that I wore religiously. I probably went to over 100 concerts. We’d save up our money and drive to Chicago every month to see a new band. People would sneak alcohol in. Getting drunk was something I did a lot.  One time we drank so much that one girl threw up out the window and then went downstairs and stole another bottle from the fridge. Someone brought a guitar and everyone broke out singing 'American Pie.' I will remember that night forever.”

Alexas said: “My parents and I never had the best of relationships because they were so strict. They had rules for everything. Eventually I just started going around my parent’s backs and making up where I was and who I was with. My best friend’s parents were really relaxed and basically let her do whatever she wanted, so I would tell my mom that I was spending the night at her house. One night we got caught sneaking out around midnight when her mom heard us open the back door. She told my mom and I was grounded for about 3 months. I hated my parents for doing this to me and my friend’s mom for telling on us.”

Marely Arena wrote about 1995 Hammond Gavit grad Maria Acevez’s high school days.
  Maria recalled: Sports, studies, and music pretty much sum up my high school years. My freshman year I didn’t do many activities; my mom was a little over-protective but I was also very shy.  My sophomore year I ran track and cross country.  One day a coach saw me run in gym class and told me I should try it out.  My legs were long, which gave me an advantage.  I never did it for the awards but because I truly loved it. Running was a huge escape; I felt like I was free.” Maria also played basketball and joined the band’s flag core. Gavit’s main rival was Hammond High.  Gavit at the time was mostly Mexican and white and Hammond majority Black.  Maria recalled: “They were the hardest, sweatiest, dirtiest basketball games I played and loved every second of it.  Somehow we always started some type of hype speech before a game and gave it all we had. We lost some and won some, and those were the best games I ever played.”
    Maria was also involved with many organizations in high school, Key Club was her favorite. “I signed up because we could leave early every Wednesday, to volunteer at a soup kitchen at St. John.  Before that experience I lived in a bubble, not aware of what being poor was.  We served hot meals.  Seeing a whole family in need, my heart broke. I couldn’t understand how blind I had been.”   Weeks later, shopping with her mom, Maria spotted the same woman in the aisle with her two little boys, making decisions on which cereal to buy. Maria said, “My heart raced.  I ran to my mom and told her we had to buy that lady cereal. After I explained, my mom understood and we bought the lady cereal and other groceries. The lady was so happy she almost cried. I started noticing people with food stamps. When I asked my mom why we didn’t get them, she told me others need help more than us.”
     Gavit allowed students to leave school for lunch. The place to go was “The Wheel.” For a dollar, you could get pretty good soup. Maria said, “The waitresses hated us because we would rarely tip.  We could not afford to. Those with real money would to Arby’s and get a sandwich.”  Weed was huge at school, and nobody really bothered anyone about it.  Maria recalled: “If you had a car, everyone was your friend because they didn’t want to walk.  I got really good at stealing at a little store.  Now that I think back, how stupid was that.  My friend had a really big truck, and on chilly days when it was normal to wear a bulky sweater, we’d drive up to the store, buy one thing, and come out with gum, M and M’s, Snickers bars and Kit-Kats. I’d sit in the back seat, wiggle my arms, and all the candy would just fall out.”

The 1990s were one of my favorite decades.  I was still playing softball and tennis and bowled a 615 series, now beyond my grasp, barring a miracle. Making teaching at IUN a special pleasure during that decade were A+ students Bob Petyko, Sara McColly, Dawn Smith, Sam Barnett, Brook Conaway, Tracy Hirsch, Mike Olszanski, Andy Wielgus, James Lining, and Walter “Pappy” White, a Vietnam vet who served, a generation later, in the Gulf War.
 Andrew Wielgus, a River Forest principal
In the Post-Tribune Jeff Manes profiled 95-year-old Ruth “Babe” Poparad (above), who grew up on a dairy farm in Porter and still volunteers as a school crossing guard.  She told Manes:
              I remember when Cloverleaf Dairy out of Gary would pick up the eight-gallon cans of milk here.  My dad had 24 head of cattle and one bull. I was the only one of five girls who learned how to milk. My mother used to sew special gloves with one finger and a thumb so we could husk corn.
Dad helped build The Spa with horses pulling slip scrappers, but he wasn't allowed to go there once the job was complete because he wore bib overalls. The Spa was a ritzy place that would employ colored folks from Michigan City who would wear black bowties, white shirts and aprons.  During the Depression, we suffered with six kids. I remember eating lard and sugar sandwiches. I consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt a great president. He got us through hard times.
My father also worked for the state, but he was killed in 1936 while mowing along Highway 20. I was 13. He asked my mom that morning: ‘Edith, what if I don't come home today?’ She told him: ‘I'll live with the kid who treats me the best.’ You see, a man who was working two jobs fell asleep at the wheel and hit my father, breaking his neck. He was driving a physician's supply truck.  The state didn't pay my mother anything.

IUN’s Anne Koehler posted: “I know this great lady, had many a beer and good talks with her. German ethnicity.

Jeff Manes

I passed Manes on his way to speak with IUN botanist Spencer Cortwright. I told him how passionate Cortwright is about area flowering plants and that the interview should be a doozy, like Sunday’s feature on Alan Yngve.  At bridge Tuesday, someone told Yngve that he’s now a celebrity.  He liked what Manes wrote but feared his bridge remarks were inane.  Quite the contrary, I told him, they were enlightening and understandable to non-bridge players, like Manes.  On the last hand of the evening my partner Dottie Hart put me in 4 Spades, and Alan doubled.  I had three certain losers and needed to set up either an extra Club or Heart.  By leading out all but one of my six Spades I forced Alan’s partner Helen Boothe to choose between protecting either her winning Club or Heart.  When she discarded Hearts, my nine proved to be good, and we garnered top board.

With a couple slow players, there was more time to socialize than normal.  Sally Will said her Irish grandfather lost a finger linking railroad cars together.  During the Great War, the army rejected him because it was his trigger finger, so he went to Canada and was inducted.  Helen Boothe grew up not knowing her father. DNA analysis revealed that her daughter had a cousin with the same grandfather.
Bridge players in Barbara Walczak newsletter (Halloween 2007)
Joe Chin, Sue Mahn, Barbara Stroud, Andree Walczak, Trudi McKamey
below, Doris Eley (hip hopper), Barbara Walczak, Ruth Bowser (scrub woman)
Duplicate bridge facilitator Alan Yngve brought me about 200 copies of Barbara Walczak’s newsletter from 2006-2010 to copy because she has not saved electronically. When I return them, she will lend me more recent ones on travel drives.  Not only do the newsletters contain scores and tournament results, there are photos, including from holiday parties and members’ vacations.  Steve McShane agrees that a Barbara Walczak Archives manuscript collection is a good idea and that I should interview her (and later others) on videotape.

After rehashing in my mind the evening’s events and telling Toni about the most interesting hands, I gave Gaard Logan a call (living in Oakland, CA, I knew she’d still be up). I told her about getting to know two really cool ladies ten years my senior at bridge and about 85-year-old bowling teammate Frank Shufran, whose 170 average is, like mine, down about 25 pins from when he was at his peak. Frank is an avid golfer and quilter and takes such long walks that he frequently has to carry his dog part of the way.  Gaard still goes on long hikes and reports that she is still limber.  I told her I use a cane to help get up and down the stairs leading to my man-cave but am working on getting my knee back to where I can again enjoy walks.

Former student Terry Helton sent me “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” and William Doyle’s “PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy.”  I told him to expect Steel Shavings, volume 46, in about a month.
I watched the final episode of “Masters of Sex” and then the very first pilot, set in 1956, where pathetic wife Libby Masters (Caitlin FitzGerald, bottom left) called her husband Daddy and longed only to become pregnant.  By 1969 she is a liberated woman who goes to Woodstock and takes off with her kids in a VW van plastered with counter-culture decals to start law school in Berkely, California.  Caitlin actually had a bit part in Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” (2009).

I picked up a passport renewal form for Toni at the post office, a sign that she still wants to visit Ireland. At Quick Cut I learned that Anna’s Italian father moved to Chicago and eventually found work on the assembly line of Salerno Cookie factory.  Salerno’s butter cookies were delicious.  After stops at the library and food store, I listened to the 21 Pilots CD “Blurryface” Miranda gave me for Christmas. From Columbus, Ohio, the duo of Josh Dunn and Tyler Joseph combine elements of hip hop, electropop and rock.  The chorus of “Lane Boy” goes:
They say, "stay in your lane, boy, lane, boy"
But we go where we want to
They think this thing is a highway, highway
But will they be alive tomorrow?
I’m still a Lane Boy as I approach my seventy-fifth birthday.
Josh Dunn and Tyler Joseph of 21 Pilots