Sunday, May 29, 2011

This week's column

Warning: Read at your own risk, a reality of aging may follow
I was living my life, oblivious to a reality I didn’t want to face. I went through daily life happily in the dark about a milestone that was happening without my knowledge.

This was until this season’s “Dancing with the Stars” and my friend Madge posted a fact I would have rather not known as her Facebook status.

In November, Ralph Macchio turns 50. What? It can’t be.

Then the reality set in. It was undeniable. The people in the posters lining my walls in the 1980s are now getting old.

I tried really hard to deny it and then I did the unthinkable. I went to the cursed Google, the source for the world’s useless knowledge. Google confirmed not only will Macchio be 50 but next month Michael J. Fox turns 50.

“Gasp,” I thought. “It can’t be.”

The posters of these two young men at the time, papered my walls. Forget Bieber and Pattinson of today, Macchio and Fox were two of the heartthrobs of my day.

I was first introduced to Macchio in “The Outsiders.” Ah, the classic tale of the greasers and soces with the heart stabbing ending with the death of my favorite star. Then, oh yes, then he was “The Karate Kid.” Twice we got to see Daniel-san beat the odds and use the famous karate crane move. I have to confess I tried the move several times and in my clumsiness the attempts resulted in many bruises.

Like many of the teens today watching some modern heartthrob, I would watch anything Macchio was in including “Teachers” and “Crossroads.” Years later he appeared in “My Cousin Vinny” and then he kind of dropped out of sight until DWTS.

Through DWTS we saw him complain every week of knee problems and back aches associated with his age.

Then there was Fox. While I watched him on “Family Ties” he showed up on my wall after he appeared as Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” series. I wasted a lot of time watching many of his movies that followed as well. Yes, even “Teen Wolf,” which I think I at one time owned on VHS.

The same friend who keeps letting me know which stars are hitting the half century mark sent me a link that read “40 things that will make you feel old.” Yes they made me feel old. It included statements like what the kids on shows 20 years ago look like now and how old the guys in all the boy bands are now. Not funny Madge, not funny at all.

So yes, as I celebrated a birthday last week, and no it wasn’t one of the big ones, I thought about how things, including myself, are growing old.

In the words of the great Bilbo Baggins, “I’m old … I know I don’t look it, but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart.”

Another friend posted on Facebook that “Top Gun” was released 25 years ago. Where did the time go? And someone tell me why music from the 1980s is now playing on oldies stations.

What blows my mind most is it will be time for a 20 year high school reunion next year. Really? Seriously? I feel a bit faint.

There’s one solace to this aging story. When I was discussing all the heartthrobs turning 50 a coworker asked, “What about Kirk Cameron?” Don’t worry, Mike, from “Growing Pains,” is not quite as bad. He’s only 40.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This Week's Column

Redbox killed the video store
Driving on Dixie the other day, I realized another part of my childhood disappeared.
I heard about this kind of thing from my parents. They would lament about the disappearance of record stores and turntables. The “good old days,” you might say.
My lament is the death of the video rental store. Redbox and Netflix might be to blame for this.
As I was driving, I saw an empty and stripped Blockbuster store. Vacant shelves were all that remained in the darkened store. It was the last hold out in Elizabethtown. Hollywood Video and Movie Warehouse both already disappeared.
It made me kind of sad. Without a drive outside of Elizabethtown, I can’t just walk into a video store and rent a movie. Now I have to wait for it to come to a Redbox or arrive via mail.
Gone are the days of just walking in a store and picking up a movie. You might say Internet rental is the answer. It is if you don’t have to wait ten hours for it to download. Not everyone has one of those devices to rent them straight from the TV either.
But I guess it’s just the generation I grew up in. I remember the beginnings of video stores. I go all the way back to the Betamax and VHS.
Before this time, if you wanted to watch a movie again, you either had to wait for it to re-release in the theaters or be shown on television. Instant access to films was unheard of. This might blow some of the young folk’s minds.
I can remember a time when my family didn’t have a VCR. We would go to my cousins’ house to watch movies on their BetaMax machine.My family’s first VCR came around Christmas sometime in the 1980s. It loaded from the top and seemed almost robotic. We thought it was very cool. It had a remote, too. It was attached by a wire to the VCR.
I can even remember the first movies we rented: “The Right Stuff,” an old John Wayne collection and “The Ice Pirates.” Don’t waste your time watching that last one, it’s a running joke in my family. If someone says a movie is bad, we will ask, “Is it as bad as ‘The Ice Pirates’?”
The trip to the video store was different, too. You would take an empty box off the shelf and take it to the counter where they would rummage through drawers and shelves to find the video. They usually handed it to you in an ugly plain case, the cover boxes with the film artwork on the outside were only for the shelves.
I think I still have some of the VHS tapes of films bought at some of these stores. I remember getting excited to pre-order “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “E.T.”
But now it’s just another thing of the past. BetaMax and VHS have given way to DVDs just as DVDs will soon give way to Blu-ray and soon online access will get rid of that, too.
When things like this happen, when records turned into 8-tracks and cassettes in my parent’s generation and when Redbox killed the video store in mine, you feel a bit of nostalgia for the past.
Even though, in most cases, the new things bring improvement of the old, the old still lingers in your memory, creating a fondness for the things of the past.
I will miss the video store, especially because I don’t have cable and my internet downloads films slowly. I will miss buying the previously viewed movies at a cheaper cost. I will miss walking through the store and browsing all the movies, carefully choosing which one I want. If I’m suddenly in the mood to see an old classic I don’t own in my collection, I can no longer head to the video store and rent it.I wonder what will go by the wayside next.
I guess it’s time to upgrade my technology before I’m completely out of entertainment options.