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Daytalking (left, from Completely in the Dark), Nightwalking (courtesy of ShinyRobot), and Stargazing (again, CITD).

The Last Day We Were Young

“Everyone asks if I’m leaving, no sir, I get around but I don’t get closer/Is it because I’m 23 not 24?” Game Theory, “24”

Funny how things grab you, seemingly out of nowhere.

Let me back up a bit. Things have been crazy busy — I’m liking that. Making strides toward what later this year will either be a debut weekly course offering or 4-day intensive workshop I’ll be teaching. I’ll need to see what makes the most sense on a minimum viable product basis.

On top of that I’m halfway through a video memoir workshop that ends in a produced video. It’s scaring the bejeebers out of me. But it’s fun just the same.

What I’m not enjoying is doing more reading than writing on Medium. Let’s fold that into what grabbed me on Friday.

I haven’t felt depressed. And I haven’t even been Nightwalking.

Nightwalking is more like stumbling through the dark, bobbing and weaving, feeling around for something to hold on to, blindly searching for someone — anyone — who can help you through the foggy path you’re on. A lot of people just aren’t up for coming to the rescue on that, but kudos to the ones who do. It’s a lesson I need to keep learning for myself, to help others up when they need it.

It was late afternoon Friday, that odd break moment where you remember a song lyric (“Coffee or beer/These are a year’s component thread”) — and whammo! I’ve disappeared down a rabbit hole.

Unused outtake from original Real Nighttime cover shoot (L-R Dave Gill, Nancy Becker, Fred Juhos, Scott Miller) 1983. Retrieved from http://photo-robert.tumblr.com/post/57444706946/unused-outtake-from-original-real-nighttime-cover

So, I got curious, which is a component of Stargazing. “Whatever happened to Game Theory?” I wondered.

You see, I probably first heard their song “24” back when I was … 24.

(Imagine that.)

I remember where I was: at the University of Iowa. I heard the song on KUNI, out of Cedar Falls, I think.

I felt “old” for returning to college at 24, so much so I made sure I bunked on a graduate floor of the Mayflower dormitory. My roommate was finishing his post-grad program as teaching assistant in the Statistics department. We were both incredible music nerds: he, R.E.M. and newer bands I’d never heard of; me, tired old prog rock and some newer Peter Gabriel he’d never heard. Those were the days of Paisley Underground, U2, Wire, Black Flag, Camper Van Beethoven, The Jam, Aztec Camera, XTC, Squeeze … and Game Theory, right there on that progressive college radio station out of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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Ad for The Crow’s Nest in the Daily Iowan, 1983.

The thought I had Friday was: “Hey! I was 24 when I first heard ‘24’! Okay, what was that damn song about again?”

So I downloaded Game Theory’s Real Nighttime album and listened to “24.” I’ve been in this “Old Kid” loop for decades now. It shows through in the song, and the blog posts I wrote a couple years ago about 1984­–85 in Iowa City. Scott Miller, lead vocalist of Game Theory, sings “I hate admitting when you’re right, and I want you in plain sight/Isn’t odd? We think a lot alike tonight.” That immediately reminded me of Yolanda, an undergraduate from Brooklyn who’d come to UI to get into the Writers’ Workshop. We talked literature and walked along the Iowa River. Again, I was feeling too old. We argued, we kissed. She frustrated me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything.

And I was being “in the sweetest way misled,” since I had no idea what the endgame of my Iowa adventure would be. The funny thing is, like the singer, I too could “inspire myself just fine.

Yolanda ended up dating some other guy on campus.

I joined my music-loving roommate for beers at The Crow’s Nest, where I discovered a new heartthrob, Sue, who worked the bar there.

The Crow’s Nest, late 1980s. Sue was long gone.

Everything IS in terms of next time. Or sometimes never. Sue graduated and we never connected. Unrequited, but also unforgotten. That was in the spring of 1985. By that summer I’d moved north again to Minneapolis and landed a fulltime job, even without the sheepskin.

In 2003, I did the “Old Kid” thing again by taking a post-graduate certificate program in publishing at the University of Denver. I was 43. Most of my fellow classmates were in their early 20s, since they’d just gotten their undergraduate degrees. I felt so alone that I recall collapsing in tears in the bathroom of my temporary dorm quarters.

Now I’m in my late 50s.

Time waits for no one.

No time for tears. Or regrets.

I’m the Old Kid again. This time I’m teaching and learning. From 23 to 24, 24 to 25, 43 to 44, 58 to … I can’t wait.

Game Theory, “Last Day That We’re Young” (1987)

And in a way, I don’t mind.

Writer, editor, and media maker. Blogs at Completely in the Dark (www.completelydark.com) and lives in Minneapolis, MN. I notice things.

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