If you are reading this, my computer survived Y2K.
With that out of the way, let us now cast our eyes back on what just ended. Not the end of the last millennium. Not the end of the 20th Century. Not even the end of 1999. I’m talking about that decade called the 90’s. It was the decade where I was forced to grow up. Somewhat. It was the decade where I tried to come into my own. The 90’s was the decade of me. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a retrospective look at how I grew throughout the 90’s.
1990 – The decade begins with me pondering what exactly is the big deal. I had just finished watching about a dozen “80’s in review” TV specials. I begin actively pondering exactly how far into the 90’s we will have to be before we can look back and say “that was the 80’s.” I was halfway through the seventh grade, and top in my class. I was humiliated in the annual Evening Of The Arts when I was cast as a Munchkin. I discovered this brand new cartoon called The Simpsons. Seventh grade ended and I took home the Merit Award (best all-around student). My all time favorite TV show, The Flash, was canceled. I finally saw UHF starring “Weird Al” Yankovic thanks to a free month of SuperChannel. DuckTales: The Movie was released to theaters and I swore that someday I would see it. The film Dick Tracy was released, beginning my life-long obsession with wanting to own a fedora. While camping in Jasper National Park, I have a dream. I dream a story that I immediately write down a plot summary to, knowing someday it will be the film I am remembered for. The eighth grade began with me being elected class rep to the Students’ Union. I soon resign in disgust because the President, Vice President, other reps, etc., refuse to tell me when the meetings are. Cory Krescey becomes class rep in the by-election. In the annual Christmas play, I won the coveted lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge. I played to rave reviews. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: Back To The Future Part III.
1991 – Halfway through the eighth grade, and things are going swell. My crush on Jolene Riou is in full swing. I quit my paper route to devote more time to my studies. In the annual Evening of the Arts, I am cast as a punk rocker, and steal the scene I’m in. I place seventh in the classroom speech competition. Eighth grade ends, and I take home the trophy for top marks in the class. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is released to theaters, and my fling with the Ninja Turtles begins to fade. I attend my first Star Trek convention to see Patrick Stewart. The ninth grade begins, the final grade of youth and innocence. I decide to take shop instead of Home Ec, a foolish decision in retrospect as all the babes were in Home Ec. Jolene Riou begins dating some guy named David, much to my heartache. I finally drag myself to my first dance, only to be ignored by everyone who told me I just had to go. I see Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and begin to love the films of James Cameron. My home room teacher teases me when she sees Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country before I do. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: The Rocketeer.
1992 – The latter half of the ninth grade was not a good one. It opened with an essay contest to win tickets to see The Phantom Of The Opera. After I submitted my entry, Mr. Twerdoclib dragged me into his home room class, where he made stand before the Grade 8 class. There, he proceeded to berate my work, humiliate me, and ultimately tell me I lost. When the assignment in English class was to write a short story, I wrote a Star Trek one, and Mr. Twerdoclib wrote in the margin “Oh, Mark, I hope that someday you name a ship after me in one of your silly little space stories.” I place second in the class speech competition. At the Evening Of the Arts, I am given the task of doing a solo monologue, telling the story of the Three Little Pigs from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf. Again, I get rave reviews and am urged to pursue an acting career. During Jolene Riou’s solo singing performance, I sneak into the auditorium to watch her from the back row. She could sing like an angel. The Grade 9 farewell trip. I show my first rebellious instincts when I storm off the archery course because I don’t want to shoot bows and arrows in a blizzard. I play a game of Truth or Dare with fellow classmates (including Jolene). “Weird Al” Yankovic released Off The Deep End. At a Star Trek convention, I buy my first collectible action figure: Commander Riker. On the final day of Grade 9, that bitch Colleen Ozee walked away with every frickin’ award. She beat me for the highest-marks trophy by 0.5%. Also on that final day, Jolene asked if she could read a short story I had been writing for the past week. She became the first person who ever wanted to willingly read my work, and thus cemented her place in my heart as my one true love. We went to separate high schools and I never saw her again. My brother tells me horror stories of how I’ll get beat up everyday at high school. High school begins without incident, and for the first time in my life I enjoy a competition-free environment (My average: 85%. The next highest: 52%). Batman: The Animated Series premieres, but I don’t get it, so I ask my Oma to tape it for me. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: Batman Returns.
1993 – The first incident with Mr. Jernick. I was struggling in Phys Ed, and Mr. Jernick was my teacher. While leaving final exams, Mr. Jernick waves me over and says “Mark, I hate to tell you this, but you failed Phys Ed. I highly recommend that you repeat it next semester.” My world was crushed. I was about to burst into tears when Jernick said “Just kidding.” I made an enemy that day. Word gets out that I’m a geek, and the jokes begin behind my back. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premieres, and I get a new crush in the form of Lieutenant Dax. Having excelled in Computer Programming 10 in the first semester, I beg my teachers to let me take C.P. 20 in the second semester. I get to. I become the subject of school gossip when I score 104% on the Science 10 midterm. The TV show Quantum Leap ends, and it ends in such an ambiguous way that I obsess over it for weeks. My brother graduates from High School. Another summer of fun. Grade 11 begins without incident. “Weird Al” Yankovic released Alapalooza. Power Rangers premiered, beginning my lust for women in pink spandex. The X-Files premiered. With CMT being beamed into my home, my flirtation with country music begins. When it appeared that I won no awards for my academic excellence in Grade 10, my brother went to the school administration and demanded that they double check their numbers. They learn that I deserved honors with distinction, and I receive the plaque in a few weeks. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: Jurassic Park.
1994 – I see a report on Entertainment Tonight in which George Lucas says that special effects technology has now reached a point where he can make more Star Wars movies. My love for Star Wars is rekindled. In Social 20, I win high marks for my report on Antarctica. The highlight: a mock-umentary I made, in which I extol the virtues of Antarctica while showing the Hoth scenes from The Empire Strikes Back. My (few) friends and I begin gathering in the science lab at lunchtime to watch The Flintstones. I place second in the school speech competition. My English teacher says those fateful words: “I like your writing, Mark. You have a unique perspective.” I get a job as a stock boy at the corner store, only to lose it come Christmas. My brother moves out to begin his career as an electrician. I get his room. Star Trek: The Next Generation ends its seven year run on TV. I decide that we have reached a point where we can look back and say “That was the 80’s.” Grade 11 ends, and I get another plaque. No errors this year. Grade 12 begins with the announcement that my high school would start offering a drama program. But, I cannot take it as I had already committed to Physics. My teacher talks me out of taking C.P. 30, as I’d be the only one in the class. My sister gets me hooked on Friends. In English, we read 1984 by George Orwell, and I have a new favorite book. I am appointed to the position of treasurer of the Students’ Union, and I take it on with gusto. I have the second incident with Mr. Jernick. I was in a classroom, paying attention to the lesson, when Jernick storms in, jabs his finger into my chest, and tells me that I’m a dead man if I make mistakes in the books again. I burst into tears. I go home, tell my parents, and within weeks a letter of reprimand in placed on Jernick’s record, an investigation is launched into his career, and he spends the rest of the school year apologizing to me. The cartoon Gargoyles premieres. I bought my final Ninja Turtle comic. I get a CD player for Christmas, and my first CDs are: The Tractors (self-titled), “Weird Al” Yankovic Greatest Hits Vol. 2, and The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. I see Star Trek Generations, only to be disappointed by how Kirk dies. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: The Flintstones.
1995 – My English teacher said “I’ll buy everyone who scores more than 80% on the English diploma a steak dinner.” When I scored 90%, I savored every bite. My English teacher and I made dinner conversation about the just-premiered Star Trek: Voyager. At a grad committee meeting, a proposal is set forth to have me thrown out of the graduation ceremonies because I wanted to opt out of fund raising to devote more time to my studies. I react by doing twice as much fund-raising as everyone else. I have my only brush with the drama department when I become the stage manager for their end-of-semester play. I place first in the school speech competition, and it is a sweet victory. Shawn Regamy used his pretty-boy good looks to be selected Valedictorian. At my high school, Valedictorian is not the person with the highest graduating average, but selected by his/her peers. I am chosen to say grace at the graduation banquet. The joke begins circulating that I will be saying grace in Klingon. At rehearsal, I retaliate by getting up there, and saying grace in my best mock-Klingon. While everyone has a “what the hell was that” look on their face, I turn to the originator of the joke and ask if I can do a real one. He tells me to chill. My Grandma dies in a car accident. She’s buried in the dress she bought to wear to my graduation. I graduate from high school. My Grandpa tells me that I can be whatever I want, as long as I stay out of politics. I get my summer job as manager of the local min-golf course. I began the job with vigor, but when my employers started jerking me around and telling me that there was no money to even do the most minor of repairs, I got pissed. When September rolled around, I was glad to leave. I get my Tilley hat for my birthday. At the fall awards ceremonies, it was my turn to walk away with everything. From September to December, I spent all my time on the couch wondering what to do next. I got up every morning at 8 to watch X-Men, and watched Sailor Moon every afternoon at 1. Space: Above and Beyond premieres. I buy my first Star Wars action figure. My parents eventually say that I should either go to college or get a job. My application to Augustana is in the mail the next day. Movie I chose to see on my birthday: I turned 18, so rather than go see a movie, I watched my mother get drunk in celebration.
1996 – The year begins with a bang as I begin my first semester at Augustana University College. I begin doing my radio show, Chaos In A Box, and quickly become the toast of the campus. I discover the Internet, and learn that it can be used to gather movie news. “Weird Al” Yankovic releases Bad Hair Day. I fall in love with Jennifer Ripley, a girl in my speech class. I never tell her though. I finally rent DuckTales: The Movie and watch it late one night in the floor lounge. Space: Above and Beyond is canceled. I end my first semester with an 8.4 average. Another summer spent unemployed and leaching off my parents, the only benefit being I get to watch every episode of Batman: The Animated Series, save for one. I didn’t shave all summer, and in September, I stood before the mirror with my razor in hand and said “Know what? I think I’ll keep the goatee.” I return to college, and get a better time slot for my show. I want to take a drama class, but it conflicts with Physics. I finally discover kindred spirits, people like me, and begin to learn that I am not alone in the universe. I submit my first column to The Dagligtale, Augustana’s student paper, and much to my shock, it is published. Star Trek: First Contact hits theaters. My brother goes to work in Saskatchewan and his life is forever changed. Gargoyles becomes Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles. Superman: The Animated Series premieres. Beast Wars: Transformers premieres, rekindling my interest in cartoons of the 80’s. I go see the romantic comedy One Fine Day on the hunch that I’ll see the trailer for Star Wars: Special Edition. My hunch is right. I finally get my own copy of UHF on video. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: Independence Day.
1997 – The Star Wars: Special Edition Trilogy comes out, and I finally see Star Wars on a big screen. I start to obsess over seeing Batman & Robin that summer. I do my first-ever 2-hour special on my radio show. I buy the Independence Day: Widescreen Edition and am forever hooked on widescreen editions. My second column is published, and I begin thinking I should do it full time. After an 11 year quest, I finally get my Holy Grail of albums: Transformers: The Movie soundtrack. Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles is canceled. My first full year of university ends with a 7.7 average. I get a summer job working night shifts on a gravel crusher. I make good money. I move in with one of mother’s co-workers, who lives closer to the gravel pit. While waiting to go to work one day, I finally see that one episode of Batman: The Animated Series that always eluded me. I meet Garret, and begin to learn that not all pot smokers are the drugged-out criminals that they show on TV. My niece is born. I buy my Sandra Bullock poster. I buy my computer. On the Internet, I read reports from the set of Star Wars: Episode I. I learn to hate working nights on a gravel crusher. Summer ends, and I blow my final paycheck on the Star Wars: Special Edition trilogy and Transformers: The Movie on video. School begins anew, and I learn to quit caring about my marks. I spend a day at the A-Channel for my column. I start the website. Listener-ship for my radio show begins to drop off. I officially lose interest in country music. I begin doing my column, Chaos In Print, regularly in the school paper. The Weird Al Show premieres. I go see The Little Mermaid, and learn that it’s OK for an adult male to watch animated films. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: I couldn’t see one, as I had to work that day.
1998 – Listener-ship for my show hits an all-time low. It gets me down. Kenten and I begin talking about doing a TV show. It enters the planning stages. It never gets off the ground, though. I apply to run the radio station in the 98/99 school year. I’m turned down. The attitude of the Augustana Students’ Union is that it’s better to get the CD room organized than get listeners. I run a gag “Scarecrow for president” campaign. A real presidential candidate runs the numbers, and discovers I’m getting 60% of the vote. I begin to wonder if I could do it for real. I start watching this new cartoon called South Park. School ends, and I spend another lazy, unemployed summer at home. I go to Jasper National Park for the first time in 4 years, and finally hike to the top of the Whistlers. The Weird Al Show is canceled. My nephew is born. School begins anew, and I decide to run for V.P. External. I ran a valiant campaign, but ultimately learn that I can’t do it for real. The words of my Grandpa echo in my head. A friend of mine shows me an episode of Ranma ½, and I get hooked on anime. For the first time ever, I drop a class. For my final year in school, I take my most relaxed approach ever. Star Trek Insurrection hits theaters, and I go to the local theater with 50 friends from college to see it. With a new time slot, listener-ship climbs slowly for my show. Things are going good. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: Mulan.
1999 – The year starts well enough. I drop another class. I finally officially become a double major (physics & math). My old friend Cory Krescey comes to Augustana, and runs for VP External. In his campaign, he mentions how he was class rep in grade 8. When I learn that Brad Goertz is running unopposed for Students’ Union president, I decide to inform the campus about him, so they don’t blindly check yes. I found the vote no campaign, and immediately become the most hated man on campus. I give up the campaign. Again, the words of my Grandpa echo in my head. Batman Beyond premieres. I get a job interview with a gravel company, but decide that that’s not where I want to be. I do my final radio show. For my final column, I interview myself. I stand in line for 3 hours for Star Wars: Episode I tickets. I’m third. I graduate from college with dual degrees. I stand in line for 7 hours to get good seats for Star Wars: Episode I. I’m second into the theater. It’s the last time I see some of my friends. I move home, and start living in my parents’ basement. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine concludes its run. Beast Wars becomes Beast Machines. “Weird Al” Yankovic releases Running With Scissors. My sister graduates from high school. She backpacks across Europe for the summer. I begin doing the weekly column on my website. I spend a week-long vacation in the mountains with my two cousins, ages 7 and 5. I become grateful that I am a 22 year old virgin, as I’m not ready to have kids. My sister comes home from Europe and gets a job within a week. I see The Iron Giant. I consciously decide to quit watching Power Rangers, because it has become too juvenile. I decide it’s time to shave off the goatee. I’m invited back to Augustana to host a Weird Al-a-thon. The Indiana Jones films are re-released to video, rekindling my want for a fedora. The movie I chose to see on my birthday: Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (again).
And that was the 1990’s. For me, anyway. How will I always remember it? It will be the decade where I became sexually aware, yet didn’t get any. It will be the decade where I tried to make a difference. It will be the decade where I learned that when I’m in love, I should act on it. It will be the decade where I learned. It will be the decade where I refused to grow up by collecting action figures and continuing to watch cartoons. It will be the decade where my fragile self-esteem was a never ending roller coaster. It will forever be remembered as the decade where I became me.
The 90’s. What a blast.