Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I'll start this from the end and then work my way all around, Tarantino style. I wasn't exactly sure of the date, so I had to look it up to keep this as accurate as possible.
In the summer of 1995, I was celebrating the fact that by fall, I would be a senior in high school. This meant, of course, barring an extraordinary act of idiocy, that nine months after that, I would be a high school graduate and able to pursue.....whatever the hell I decided I wanted to persue.
That summer I had a large group of townie friends that I hung out with most nights. Every night was mostly the same routine. If I wasn't working at the local grocery store, I would walk downtown (with my headphones....) and see who was hanging out at the corner bench on Third and Main. Saying, "on the corner of Third and Main" makes it seem cooler than it actually was, though. Truth be told, it was the only place that had any life to it. There was a coffee shop behind it, the movie theater down the street, and a Store 24 a block away. Yeah....crazy times, I know.
I'd meet up with anyone who was down there, and we'd figure out what shit we were going to get into for the night. Lots of walking, wandering, visiting people with their own apartments....all the dumb shit we could do. If I had the car for the night, we'd drive around instead of using our feet, which gave us more distance to cover. There were occassional parties that we ended up at, which soon resulted, on those nights, in me dipping out early, due to complete lack of social skills and fully developed panic-inducing paranoia.
Whatever. We did dumb shit. We were kids. To correct: not dumb shit that I should be ashamed of. I was still scared of the world and the small town power-trip ladened police officers that just loved to attempt to instill fear in high-school boys. This dumb shit was more of the boring variety.
It was either this, or I went down to the local schoolyard and played pick-up until it was so dark we couldn't see the ball or the rim. Sometimes, just to squeeze an extra hour, anyone of us with a car would take turns putting on our headlights and directing them towards the court. Out of anything I did with my free time that summer, I think this was the thing I enjoyed the most. Once in a while I get the urge to try and do this out here in Seatlle. Even though I'm only thirty-two, I still have that feeling I'd be ran around in circles, and the first kid to call me "old man" would probably cause me to drop my head and walk off the court, Charlie-Brown style.
With all of these things involved, I filled up my days and nights pretty damn good. I found ways of making my summer a personal success. Every Friday night, however, my outside world would come to a screeching halt. No matter what I was doing, at 11;15 I headed home. I'd stop by a corner store on the way for a Mountain Dew or Barq's two liter, and some sort of snack....these were the non-vegan days, so most times it was a cornucopia of Little Debbie peanut butter chocolate wafer thingies and Doritos or Fritos......basically, I bought myself stuff that, once consumed, should have been my calorie intake count for the next three days. Yeah. Fat kid.
I'd get to the house by 11;30 or so and plant my ass down, straight in front of the television. I'd have a brand new VHS tape unwrapped and already labeled and would put it in the VCR to prep. At 11;55 I would press that little red "record" button.....and at midnight, I turned to channel 23, and I went to my church. The holy wonder of YO! MTV Raps.
Over the years, there would be, of course, a few times that there was no way for me to be home. I'd have the occassional date, which happened so rarely that it actually was an occassion. There were friends' birthday parties (also to be considered a rare occassion, based on my limited amount of acquaintences) or instances as simple as a long day of school followed by a long night of work....sometimes the sandman slapped the shit out of my by 11. You really can't fight the sandman.....that is, until I discovered coffee.
My saving grace in these situations is that, in one of my isolated moments of conquering electronics, I was able to figure out how to set the timer on the VCR. This meant that if I were to miss that weeks YO! sermon, I could watch it the next morning. I'll never figure out TiVo or DVR, so the timer on the VCR is my crowning achievement, which is fine by me. I had to do this once or twice, that summer of 1995. Attempts to come out of my social shell made me sometimes force myself to sacrifice my Friday night ritual.
The night (that is taking me forever to get to.....sorry) in question was August 17th, 1995. I had a date......yes, the rare occassion had happened. It was the dinner-and-a-movie type of date. I was pretty sure I'd be back by 11;30, but, just to be safe, I set up that timer. I picked her up early and we headed off. I don't remember the dinner, but I'm pretty sure it was chinese food from somewhere. It was always chinese food from somewhere. It was easy date food. That is, until the grease hits the bottom of your stomach and ten minutes later, you're about to pull a looseyes (DAS-EFX reference, anybody?........anybody?).
I do, however, remember finishing the date watching Species, a perfect date film if she showed up in a gold bra and called me her Han Solo. This was not the case, so Species helped make my first date become my last. Thanks, Species. The one redeeming part of the night was that I dropped her off at 11:45, which still left me time to get home and only miss a couple of minutes of YO!. We said our goodbyes and awkward glances, questioning whether a kiss goodnight was needed (it wasn't), and then I drove off, trying desperately to get home in time. Remember earlier when I said small town cops are power hungry? Well, they're also bored, and nothing cures boredom for them like catching someone going six miles an hour over the speed limit and then pulling them over.
Blues on and full swagger headed towards the car, I already had my mouth zipped and my license and insurance ready. It should have taken no more than five minutes to either write me a ticket or send me off with a warning, but this bored and sad little prick grilled me for twenty minutes, flashing his light in the back seat, asking where I was coming from, where I was going, where I lived, where I thought I'd be in fifty year, etc. He gave me his speech on how fast I was going, how unsafe it was, all of the usual. I just sat and nodded, trying to wrap this up as soon as I could. He walked back to his car and proceeded to let me sit there for another twenty minutes, and there is no doubt in my mind he had a shit-eating grin on his face the whole time. When he came back to the window, he handed me my license and insurance information, gave me a yellow slip and said something along the lines of, "Hope you're late for curfew...", got back in his car and strolled off. I looked at the ticket, realized it was just a warning, and hauled ass home the opposite way of the cop.
I made it home at about 12:45, made a dart for the bathroom to piss and then went straight to the livingroom. I had to be somewhat quiet, as my parents were already in bed, and waking them up would just distract my focus.
I turned on the television and immediately recognized Erick Sermon doing a freestyle in the YO! studio. As the camera moved around, I spotted Redman, KRS-ONE, MC Serch.....everyone seemed to be there. The green-eyed bandit passed the mic to Chubb Rock, who then passed the mic to Serch. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that maybe I was going to see all of these artists freestyle in one show, and that I missed almost all of it. As I was thinking this, Dre and Ed Lover jumped in front of the camera for a commercial and said, "Seven years of history...." and my over-reacting jaw drooooped. This was, obviously, the final YO!. I kind of just sat there looking at the screen, muttering, "...No way...." to myself, over and over. Commercials ended, YO! came back on, and I sat and watched Redman, Method Man, Craig Mack, et al do their thing. At the very end of the episode, holding his kid, Ed Lover said "seventh anniversary", and then those dreadful three words..."and last show."
And just like that, it was gone. I immediately went to press "stop" on the VCR to rewind Except, on this particular night, "record" wasn't on. Out of any Friday in history, I screwed up the timer on that night. I had nothing. I had the memory of the last fifteen minutes of freestyles and no knowledge of what the other forty five minutes that led up to that entailed. The fifteen minutes I saw were enough, but at the same time, they weren't. I was crushed. This wasn't a favorite sitcom or film, that was a weekly dose of an artform, hosted by two colorful characters. Every week, another of my favorites would be the guest, and I was able to have alone time, quietly watching YO! by myself and loving every minute of it. I'd hang out with my friends in the screen, Ed and Dre, for an hour and then hang with Fab 5 Freddy for another hour. Now, it was gone. I literally had no idea. I don't remember them telling their vewers the previous week. And now, the goddamn timer wasn't set correctly and I ruined my documentation of the last show.
So, needless to say, I was pissed. I went to bed pretty much fed up, considering my night consisted of a bad date, a bad cop, and a bad move on leaving the house when my ass should have been in front of the TV at midnight.
Do you want a slight happy ending? Here it is: I woke up the next morning and ate breakfast in the living room. I got up early back then, so I was flipping through the channels, food in mouth and, lo and behold, saw Ed Lover's face on channel 23. It was only a few minutes past the hour when in a split second, I was already out of my seat, running for the VHS tape and shouting, "No one touch the TV for two hours!!!". They were repeating the last episode at like eight in the morning. Who cares? I was up. I had the VCR on "record". I watched the whole final episode. I. Fucking. Win.
I watched that tape an average of once a week for about three years, noticing the decline of the tape itself....it started to slow down, it started to shake. Finally, I put the tape in, pressed "play", and heard the snape. Tape=dead. I should have given it a proper burial, but it just went in the trash.
It wasn't until a few months ago, when I thought to look it up on Youtube, that I was able to see part of that episode again. I typed it in the search, and up came those last minutes of freestyles that, even today, are hands down a major part of hip-hop history. I watched the last half of that session over and over. It's amazing to look at the crowd that was there. If you mattered to hip-hop at all in 1995, you were in that crowd. Simply, purely unforgettable. It had been a good ten to twelve years since I had been able to watch this. Now, thanks to the evil internet, I can watch this any time I want.Do you here me, bad date? Do you hear me, shitty cop? Do you hear me, lousy VHS tape? I've found the whole episode again, and I can watch it any time I want. I. Fucking. Win.
Posted by rjm at 10:14 AM