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In the summer of 1995

I was, as my dad puts it, “wound up like an 8-day clock.”

I felt like a can of cheap beer at a party, all shook up and ready to explode sparkling fizz all over the place. The Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun” echoed in my head as I bounced around like a superball, all pent up, but sensing a release ahead. Highschool and the worst of adolescence was behind me and I was ready to go full-steam ahead.

[youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bOD2Yp0fI4]

I had a cool old car that I thought I could use as an “in” for meeting boys.
I was trying to imitate some of the pinup girl poses in Hot VWs.
I’d gotten it in 1993, and by the ’94-95 school year, I had it running. It hadn’t helped me pull yet that year, but I held on to the hope that some boy would eventually be suitably impressed by a girl who could pull off a first, second, and third gear scratch with a 53hp car.

I had installed a Sony tape deck in place of the old 6-volt A.M. Telefunken radio and had copied a bunch of my parents’ 1960s and 70s rock albums onto audio cassette. Edgar Winter, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Big Brother & The Holding Company were in heavy rotation. The car was so noisy and lacking in sound-deadening and my speakers were so cheap that you couldn’t hear a single hiss, pop, or dead spot in the recordings over the muted flatulence of the mighty 1600cc single-port.

In a way that only a music-obsessed teenager can, I drew parallels between the old Rolling Stones album “Sticky Fingers” and the (then) new Black Crowes album “Three Snakes and A Charm.” I made a tape (one of those extended-play audio cassettes) with the whole “Sticky Fingers” album on one side and “Three Snakes” on the other, and would listen to the two albums back to back regularly. I still believe that the Crowes were consciously mirroring “Sticky Fingers” in that release.

Earlier on in the ’94-95 school year, I’d developed a raucous enthusiasm for The Meat Puppets. I’d been turned on to them by my friend Eli who had probably been exposed to them via Nirvana, as most of the kids in our age & geographical range had been. He had introduced me to a lot of other music, most notably The Dead Kennedys whose songs still carried relevance some 12-14 years after their initial release dates (hell, are STILL relevant some 20-odd years later). The Meat Puppets for some reason struck a particular chord with me. Maybe it was because Curt Kirkwood’s voice was so rough that I could howl, holler, and squall along comfortably in the privacy of my car.

In fact, Lake Of Fire was playing on the Sony the day that my sister and I were literally blown off the road on the way to school.
[youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd4cRXmWt3o]
There was black ice on the road, a strong crosswind, and I drove a car that could be push-started by a single anorexic teenager. It was a bad combination of factors, but I manged to keep it together. Sure, we got blown into the ditch, but I kept the car heading in a decent line, and so we hit the ditch at a long angle, as opposed to head on, which could have endo-ed us, or straight sideways, which probably would have rolled it over on its side. I drove out the mishap, only to get the car stuck in Delsing’s pasture!

I guess my senior year of highschool kicked off with Green Day’s big commercial hit, Basket Case.
[youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hitMpM-P-Bs]
I guess it made a pretty big damn hit with a lot of us kids who were just simmering in adolescent awkwardness, lack of sexual success, and, well, paranoia. After three years of steady unpleasantness, I frequently second-guessed myself to the point of really understanding the notion of “giving myself the creeps.” I loved it because it sounded all upbeat, but it was all about being a dysfunctional misfit. If that isn’t the sum and total of adolescence, I would like to know what is. Some people look out over a bunch of goofy teenagers and think “those kids are having the best time of their life,” but each and every one of those kids is to a greater or lesser extent, completely freaking out inside.

Most of the rest of the year, I was stewing in my parents’ old record collection and the punk-ish stuff I’d picked up from Eli, though my good buddy Justin got me hooked on Primus and I did spend a fair amount of time “Sailing The Seas of Cheese.” By graduation, though, I think we all just got really freakin’ silly. I recall the Deadeye Dick song, “New Age Girl” getting a lot of play, both on the radio and on my friends’ car stereos.

After graduation, I spent a pretty idyllic summer basically just screwing off. I had a part-time job cleaning motel rooms which left me with long afternoons free to ride my bike out to the Dam and aimlessly cruise around, seeing if any of my buddies were also out there screwing off. Friday or Saturday nights often saw me in Hemingford, cruising the ‘Butte with whomever else happened to be at loose ends and knocking around. Or else in Levi’s basement, listening to him and his band jam. Sundays were dedicated to stock-car racing. Dad was running winning #48 in the mini-stock class and I was still way into my pit-crew role. I’d also volunteered my way into a sort of very informal internship with the local paper to cover the stock car races (in fact, it was popular enough that the Scottsbluff & Alliance papers picked it up, too, so I was sort of syndicated!) I saved my dad the cost of my pit-pass by talking the stock-car club into granting me a press pass into the pits! I’d do short interviews with winning racers, or with anybody who’d had a particularly impressive wreck that week. My dream at that point in time, was to become a journalist working for Rod & Custom or some similar glossy hot-rod and racing mag.

I was college-bound, but deeply dubious about it. Earlier on in my highschool career, I’d hit a lot of roadblocks; undiagnosed and untreated depression led me to debilitating doubt about my future. When people would ask me what I was planning to do post-highschool, I’d just make up some bullshit and tell them I’d be selling encyclopedias or polishing septic tanks…anything to kill the conversation and get off the hot-seat. Our highschool guidance counselor sat my whole class down one day and told us that 89% of us would flunk out of college (god knows where he got the figures…probably out of his butt…or why he felt the need to tell us something like that even if it were true). Not being one of the star students of my class, I assumed that would be ME, so why even try to get into college in the first place? Anyway, I wasn’t really feeling my future in the spring of ’95. I kind of wanted to go the the University of Nebraska at Omaha, but I didn’t think I could afford it. I applied to one school; Chadron State College. On a whim and basically as a joke, I applied into their Honors Program. Based on ACT scores, grades, activities, and an entrance essay, the Honors Program gave accepted students a boost by bypassing some of the “requireds.” It also entitled you to stay in the egghead dorm, Brooks Hall (at the time, the only dorm with Internet access!), and granted participants a half-tuition waiver scholarship. Elimination of some of the required courses and the scholarship were the big draw for me. I planned to stay in the Freshman Girls’ dorm, Edna Work Hall, as my friend Kerri had done. It seemed like a more friendly transition into college than to be thrown in with a whole cadre of Smart Kids! Anyway, on a smartassed whim, I applied, and nobody could have been more surprised than I was that I got accepted.

As summer rolled on, I learned about my room and roommate assignment, and wrote a few letters back and forth with Hope Mills, a total stranger from Colorado. I was getting terribly excited and terribly nervous. Holy shit! This was IT. College. Dorms. A roommate.

Mom and I made a major Target spree. It was the first time in my memory that I didn’t drag my feet and moan about back-to-school shopping. I’d bought an indian-batik bedspread from a head-shop, so I co-ordinated the rest of my dormroom accessories around its turquoise, coral, lime-green, and black print. I had a coral colored trash-can, lime green and turquoise sheets, and a little black mini-fridge. Hope had written to let me know that she’d bring a microwave, so we’d be quite comfortably set up. I also had a couple of the then-trendy fractal/tie-dye computer-generated posters, and Hope had a Magic Eye, as well as some less-trendy and frankly more tasteful artwork. I also had my signature Endangered Species poster.

Anyway, once I was there and settled in, I started to figure out what was what, who was who, and a little bit of what to do with myself. I quickly discovered that my assigned roommate and I had little in common. Sure she was a nice enough girl, but we came from different planets; she was religious and into country and western. I was not and not. She liked to drink and flirt; at that point in my life, I was a celibate stoner. I did find, in the girls across the hall, two kindred spirits.

Jeanne and Jenni were my across-the-way neigbors and a total blast. Jenni was a small-town Iowa girl, a former cheerleader, homecoming court member, and general all-American girl. Jeanne was a Californian neo-hippie with hair longer than mine (and mine was to waist length back then) and a no-holds-barred sexy wardrobe. I was the nerdy third, but somehow we all clicked. We’d hole up in their room watching Beavis & Butthead and guzzling Mountain Dew and pixie-stix, then we’d run up and down the halls of the dorm with our shirts pulled up over the backs of our heads, loudly declaring ourselves to be “The Great Cornholio”

Jeanne, in the grand tradition of Freshman co-eds everywhere, was maintaining a tumultuous (and doomed) long-distance-relationship with her highschool boyfriend. While they were still dating, she considered TLC’s Waterfalls to be “their song” and would occasionally leave him tender voicemail messages with that song blasting in the background to remind him to be faithful.
[youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-n-jZJhpT4]
When they inevitably fell apart, Room 211 wasa total Alanisfest and we all ought to know what that’s like! Also, before the Big Breakup, she had repeatedly averred that Alanis’s Head Over Feet described her feelings for him to a T. When you’re 18, it’s almost easier to let the pop and rock stars do your talking for you. You can earnestly and unironically live in cliches; hell, it’s practically expected!

On the whole, the lot of us mostly just hung out and goofed off in our spare time. We watched a lot of MTV for our favorite songs and videos. 1995 was on the cusp of the Death Of Video on MTV. The Real World had begun to take root, and there were other stupid “reality” shows beginning…Road Rules, Jenny McCarthy’s dating show, and some other crap. I was there for the videos, an of course for Beavis & Butthead (an idiotic comedy duo who STILL tickle my funny bone, even though I am ostensibly a mature adult).

Anyway, besides getting my first dose of my sublimely ridiculous college education, I got my first dose of MTV. My folks lived way out in the country, so in the 80s and 90s, wehn MTV was the principal arbiter of youth culture in the US, I was clueless, out in the cold, and living under a rock. With typical scared Freshman, overachiever exuberance, I threw myself into college life and activities. Before I knew it, I was volunteering on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Head Start, which was being run by my 8th grade teacher. I was spending afternoons in the darkroom for the campus newspaper. I was spending evenings in the bowels of the theater department, hemming ladies-in-waiting skirts, or tacking plastic bugs on to Cobweb’s costume. I was maintaining an ultimately unsuccessful romance, going to parties, and though it beggared every ounce of my own belief, getting on the Dean’s list. In the whirl of all this relentless overachieving, I was wearing myself down to a nub. I lost a pretty shocking amount of weight, and when I went home for Christmas Break, I slept for two solid days. But I must say that on the whole, I was enjoying myself in a wholehearted, two-fisted fashion that I have never experienced before or since. It was, it its hectic way, a pretty magical time for me.

And now, back to the music that rocked me that fateful, fantastic year. Whenever I hear any one of these songs, I am instantly transported back to one dorm room or another, and get just a little charge of that fizzy feeling that dominated my psyche back in the mid-to-late 1990s, when I was throwing myself into College and all of the awesomeness and awfulness that implies.

Shaggy – Mr Boombastic (no embedding, but click the link to enjoy!)
Jenni & Jeanne and I used to practice trying to “dance sexy” to this song. I am sure it was hysterical, and I am eternally grateful that we didn’t have Flip-Cams and YouTube back then!

Oasis – Wonderwall
This song was so ridiculous ubiquitous, but somehow…I dunno. I never really got sick of it. I don’t care how naff it is to like Oasis; I still do! I think it’s probably because I can’t help but relate them to a particularly exciting, enjoyable period of my life. And because they wrote really, really catchy songs.

Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet With Butterfly Wings (no embedding, so click the link to enjoy the video)
This is another one that was all over MTV, constantly, for quite a while, and I never stopped liking it. Frankly, I just always dug Smashing Pumpkins. They’re the first band I ever saw live, too, in 1997, on the Mellon Collie tour. The venue was the Rapid City Civic Center, a site with the worst possible acoustics in the history of history. You couldn’t hear a goddamn thing but squall and static; you couldn’t tell one song from the next, but you know, I was so freakin’ stoked to be there that I just pretended that I knew what was going on and had myself a mighty fine time.

Coolio – Gangster’s Paradise
It scored a Weird Al parody, and if that isn’t a harbinger of success, then I don’t know what is.

Nine Inch Nails – Head Like A Hole (no embedding, so click the link to see the video)
I had some friends who claimed to like to get it on to this song. I didn’t really question that too closely. I can hardly think of a less erotic song, but whatever floats your horny boat, I guess. Apparently, Closer is also a gothic gettin-it-on song.

POTUS – Peaches
[youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvcohzJvviQ]
This was one of those really, really irritating songs that we all not only put up with, but ultimately embraced, though why, nobody ever could say for sure.

Deep Blue Something – Breakfast At Tiffany’s (no embedding, but click the link to enjoy!)
Another song that was supremely annoying – a total earworm. A song about a doomed relationship being extended by blind hope and tenuous connections. At least if you’re a bit of a cynic. They’re on the verge of a breakup, and they decide that a shared “both kinda liked it” attitude toward Audrey Hepburn’s iconic movie was grounds enough to give the relationship another shot. What. Ever. But it was one of those songs that for better or worse will always remind me of a phase of my Freshman year of college. And the failing relationship I cycled through with all of the appropriate melodrama.

Skee-Lo – I Wish (I was a little bit taller)(no embedding, but click the link to enjoy!)
The last gasp of the genre of kid-friendly, radio-friendly rap ushered in earlier in the decade by “The Fresh Prince” Will Smith and Young MC, this was a fun song about being a bit of a loser but still having a good time.

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
[youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiSkyEyBczU]
And shifting gears almost violently, we segue into one of the absolute creepiest videos that I can ever think of. Soundgarden is one of the big sounds of the 1990s, though, and this song was one of those songs I was hearing all the time, at the time. And I loved it, and I loved the forboding, threatening, Stepford Gone Devil video. Something about it made me think Coupland, nihilism, and drugs. I don’t think this video could have been made “with a straight face” in any other point in time. It is perfect for when and what it was.

As disparate as all this stuff was, I took it in wholesale, with the typical freshman attitude of “hey, it’s here, it’s cool…obviously somebody thinks it’s important or good.” I think I was generally in a mood to enjoy whatever came my way, uncritically and enthusiastically. (Okay, so I did think “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” was a pretty stupid song, but I was about to break up with my boyfriend at the time that it was popular and just didn’t have a lot of patience for a song about extending the misery of a mismatched relationship over such a nebulous connection.) (gosh, was that a long parenthetical thought or what?) Anyway, all this was is a little trip down memory lane, of very mainstream circa 1995 hits and the significance they had for me during a particularly exciting-to-me time in my life.

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