“Aspen added you as a friend on Facebook. We need to confirm that you know Aspen in order for you to be friends on Facebook.” What?! I’ve only been gone a month, and I arrive back in Aspen, suddenly a stranger. I felt like I really knew Aspen, after 12 years; apparently, it’s time to get reacquainted. I confirmed that I did, indeed, know Aspen, though it was only yesterday that I was so far away from all I knew.
Yesterday is relative, I’ve learned.
I spent my birthday on the international dateline in Fiji. My head was literally sandwiched between “today”, 39, on my right, “yesterday”, when I was still 38, on my left. Naturally, I clung to yesterday.
But loitering on the 180th meridian will never change the fact that I was 17 in 1987, maybe 18 in Fiji - and that all my formative years fell within the 80's. No cusp about it. Every teen age was speckled with fringe bangs, accented with neon and draped in plastic belts that never seemed to need a belt loop.
Back home, a year older in all time zones at this point, I head to town to spend some time with my new Facebook friend, and indulge in movie night at the Wheeler Opera House, one of my favorite Aspen pastimes. I also reacquainted myself with American Culture and my junior year in high school. Adventureland is the latest look at the good, the bad and the always unfashionable 1987. I was in high school, the characters were in the college home stretch or biding time till grad school; but still, 1987 is 1987.
To save money for grad school, our protagonist takes a summer job as a Carnie. His stint writing for the esteemed college quarterly, and raising his neighbor’s lawn for 7 years, with a glowing letter of reference from said neighbor, didn’t qualify him for much in the real summer job world. But Adventureland throws him a bone and a Games Games Games t-shirt - even though he really hopes to be running the rides, where the token 80’s babe Lisa P. wears bright turquoise eye shadow and a Rides Rides Rides shirt, while dancing to incessant refrains of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus on the disco stage.
Our somewhat sullen heroine wears a black Husker t-shirt, and drives a Pacer, while Connell the maintenance man just happens to be kind of hot and in a band. There are 2 for 1 drinks at Razzamatazz, “A Sophisticated Meeting Place”, and Josie’s on a Vacation Far Away, is always just a song away. Right after Rock Me Amadeus.
The corn dogs, the acid-washed jeans pulled up really high with those t-shirts tucked in just so…and though they’re not in high school, it’s still cooler to party when the parents are out of town. The seasoned co-worker gives the new guy the skinny: you get a bathroom break every 2 hours, and ‘you might want to save up a couple just in case you have to go number 2.’
My first in-between job was after high school, waitressing at the local country club. I didn’t golf, and I’m not much of tennis-whites kind of gal, but I enjoyed balancing those giant ass oval trays and heckling the good-natured members over their Arnie Palmers at noon and Old-Fashioneds and mixed nuts for the grand finale.
At Adventureland, there’s one big rule: NOONE wins the Giant Ass Panda. There just aren’t enough of them, and they can’t order more. The games are rigged to prevent the Panda from ever leaving his post. The hats on the knock-em-off-their-head mannequins are glued on, and through some miracle of physics, the rings never ever land on the bottles.
But one fateful afternoon, our hero surrenders a Giant Ass Panda at knifepoint, to a surly fair-goer in muscle shirt, acid washeds and monster truck mullet.
Be it nostalgia for the Sacramento County Fair of my youth, or the fact that they keep referring to bubble gum-popping babe as Lisa P. (strangely, we never meet any other Lisa so we’re never really sure why we need her last initial) or all the lapse in trendy judgment but all the feelings of finding your way into your future on a firework-filled summer night in 1987; “Hey USA, Happy B-Day!” – Adventureland definitely captures a poignant part of my yesterday.
I actually got two birthdays this year, due to the whole dateline incident, and I celebrated accordingly. For a moment there I thought that made me 78, so I hugged the dateline just a little harder…to hold on to 77.
Adventureland is playing at the Wheeler May 29 and 30, and surely at a drive-in near you in the near future. Be sure to bring some Bud Light cans or Bartles and Jaymes 4-packs for historically-accurate movie-going.