I’d like to say I remember it well, when, really, I don’t remember anything at all. I close my eyes now and try to picture men in collared cardigans and women in pantsuits, but those images don’t come to me. They’re lost, things not retained. There’s a lot like that. I don’t remember disco and I don’t remember the Bee Gees. I don’t remember Grease playing at the drive-in or The Deer Hunter winning the Oscar. I don’t remember how York Peppermint Patties tasted. To be honest, I don’t even remember what I looked like.
Because, see, I was a baby back then. A newborn. And from the pictures I’ve seen, I must say, I grew into a damn cute little kid. A bright star in the late ’70s night. I mean, look at how precious I am in this picture down below, with my backwards hat and my pajamas that matched the sheet that covered my…box.
Heck, I’d kidnap me!
But let’s back up. Back in 1978, in that year I was born, man, the world went through some growing pains. While I was stuck in that cardboard box, there was a lot going on. President Jimmy Carter watched as America sunk deeper into recession. Politician Harvey Milk was murdered by a guy who really liked Hostess products. I guess that’s how 1978 rolled – it was a time of strange descent, a winding down of the seventies into a sort of awkward darkness. The Son of Sam was arrested after terrorizing New York City. Jim Jones instructed 900 nice, though gullible, folks to drink some lethal Kool Aid. The Unabomber sent out his first unabomb. And I, for my part, soiled my diaper unapologetically.
Times seemed tough. But 1978 wasn’t all bad. While those dark things were happening, there certainly was a great amount of light, a yin to that yang, a Farah Fawcett to that Unabomber. The Yankees won the World Series and the Cowboys won the Superbowl. Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream parlor. People sat at home and watched Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days and Little House on the Prairie. And if all that wasn’t enough to make life worth living, the game Hungry Hungry Hippos was invented too.
This, my friends, was the world I was born into. A world of mass cult suicide and famished hippopotami that liked to eat marbles. A world filled with confusion, turtlenecks, and John Travolta. It sure as heck wasn’t a perfect world, but at least it had puppet mittens.
37 long years later, here I am. Yeah, that’s me, in the picture off to the left here. I’m not sure why I’m making that odd facial expression, although I believe it does a fairly good job of capturing how it feels to be 37.
Now comes the part where I catch you up. Where I tell you what I’ve been up to these last 37 years, ever since I was that adorable toddler in a cardboard box. Well, there’s a lot to sum up in this tiny space. I graduated high school in 1996 and got my college degree in 2001. In 2004, I got married, got a teaching license, and became a special ed teacher. However, despite the amount of patience I built up working in the special ed classroom, I could not handle the special-ness of marriage. I divorced in 2010 and decided to leave the USA. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself living in South Korea. Then, two years later, I moved to China. It is under that heavy dome of musty pollution that I currently reside.
And this girl here, the one to the right, that’s Feng Deng. She’s my loving girlfriend. Man, I know what you’re thinking – how the heck did I land a girl like this? She’s way out of my league…I know, I know. This, my friends, is one of the great mysteries of my life, and I have no good answer. But like all mysteries, the afterlife or the whereabouts of MH370, nothing good comes from trying to solve it. Exercises like that are just plain depressing. Because maybe there isn’t anything after we’re gone, and maybe that plane was crashed on purpose, and maybe Feng Deng just sort of has bad taste.
Parking Space 37 is about all of this. It’s about the things in our rearview mirrors and the things waiting for us in the distance. It’s one year in the life of a 37-year-old man trying to figure it all out. This blog, you see, has an expiration date. It begins on June 1, 2015 (the day I turn 37) and it will end on May 31, 2016. I can’t say for sure what will happen in that time. I could find happiness (good), or I could die (bad), or I could turn out to be really boring (really bad).
This is the place where I am stuck, the space where my life has parked itself. The world of this blog. Death, sex, technology, dreams, culture and pop culture, the meaning of existence…these are the things that are parked here with me. In my semi-old mind, the weird no-man’s land between bittersweet reflection and youthful hope, these are the themes that run through my thoughts.
As I write this, I find myself sitting in my apartment in China staring into my laptop. Some people say the world will come to an end one day. I think back to 1978 and wonder if mine already has.
And if that’s really a bad thing.
(written May 27, 2015)