I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the summer of 1990. That was a rough summer with a serious streak of depression. And yet thinking about it takes me to a happy place.
I’ve had to do a lot of digging into my past as part of my therapy and recovery from OCD. Sometimes I see it as a waste of time, since you can’t change the past. But it is important to get closure on the things that haunt you so you can move on. I can’t explain why. I only know from experience that it’s true.
That said, let’s dive back to this summer 20 years ago.
I was getting ready for my second year at North Shore Community College. I was hell-bent on becoming a writer by this point, but it hadn’t yet taken the form of journalism. Instead, I wrote a lot of song lyrics and poems. If you saw them, you would laugh. My favorite was something I penned as my friend Aaron was throwing up all over my basement hideaway because I insisted he get drunk with me. We split a bottle of vodka and he had eaten McDonald’s beforehand. The puke looked like brown confetti.
I sat on the floor as he passed out on my bed, and I wrote about the fear that I had just killed my friend. Twenty years later, we’re both still alive and kicking.
Back then I was binge eating and drinking with plenty of pot mixed in. To control my weight in the face of such behavior, I would run circles in the living room of the basement apartment for one to two hours at a time.
I remember being pretty down on myself because I couldn’t find a girlfriend. For some stupid reason, I thought I needed one.
I spent that summer working in my father’s warehouse and hated every minute of it. I’d put the headphones on and listen to my metal to pass the time, and the summer became all about getting through the days until the college semester started back up.
I tried to escape in movies a lot. Aaron, his then-girlfriend Sharon (a good friend to this day) and I went to the Showcase Cinemas in Revere a lot. One Sunday, we saw a movie called “Flatliners,” about some medical students who engage in an experiment of near-death to get a peek at the afterlife (or something like that). It was a dark movie, and for whatever reason, it sent me into a deep, deep depression.
That same week, Iraq invaded Kuwait and my depression deepened. I had a real fear of current events back then, and everyone was talking about Saddam as the next Hitler and people were mentioning the WW III segment in the Nostradamus book of predictions. This was it, the start of World War III, I thought.
Ironically, it was Sean Marley — a friend who would take his own life six years later — who snapped me out of it. He was on a real anti-government kick by that point, and he convinced me — rightly or wrongly — that the way to cope was to rebel against everything the government stood for. So that’s what I did. One day, in Sean’s car, I torched a dollar bill with my cigarette lighter after someone mentioned it’s illegal to destroy money. I was a real rebel at that point, in my own stupid mind.
I began to read a lot about the 1960s counter-culture movement in the face of the Vietnam War and that gave me inspiration. I started listening to The Doors a lot.
One movie that made me feel better that summer was “Pump Up The Volume” with Christian Slater. To this day, I think that movie has one of the best soundtracks of all time. Hence my choice of today’s mood music. That Soundgarden song was part of the soundtrack. The movie added fuel to the rebellious fire I was stoking.
A lot of life has happened since that summer. Some of it has been good and some of it bad.
But that summer of my 20th birthday was a turning point for me. I can’t describe it perfectly, but that summer was the first time I really, truly started to examine who I was, what I believed and what I wanted to be. It took nearly another 20 years to figure it out, and I guess I’m still figuring it out.
But that uneven summer was a start.