Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Ways I Have Been Mashing the Nostalgia Joy Buzzer Lately
This week I celebrated my 300th episode (well, sorta). I took the opportunity to reflect on the origins of the show, its evolution, why I can’t quit it, and whatever the hell else I said. I talked for like 36 minutes and remember basically none of it, as I do when I make these solo episodes. They’re a trip!
The previous week I had the privilege of interviewing my dear friend Ashley Garrison, co-owner of The Hop Ice Cream in Asheville, NC. We spent only one year of our lives living in the same city, yet I think of her and one of my other best friends (more on him in a minute) from my time in Texas a great deal more than our time together would seem to dictate.
It’s funny. In the last 6+ years since starting my own business, which neatly coincides with raising my two young children, I haven’t spent much time looking backward. I simply haven’t had the time. Parenting is all-consuming, and if you don’t have your eyes down the road from a business perspective, you’re going to wither on the vine and die.
This summer has been different. I’ve been tap-tap-tapping the nostalgia button like one of those rats in a lab where they get it addicted to crack in those weird videos they used to show you in high school health class. I think post-lockdown we’ve all been forced to reckon with who we are, who we were, and who we would ultimately like to become. In other words, occasionally banging away at the past is a necessary part of personal growth and evolution.
And this summer has proven to be a conveyor belt of nostalgia fed directly into my eager maw. Here are five of the most welcome time machines I’ve gladly hopped into recently. Noteworthy about this list: Everything on here has happened within the last 28 days. And yes, I’m deeply worried about having a massive comedown in the Fall, so I’m doing my best to prep for it.
JULY 16-18: My 20th (well, 21st…) High School Reunion
December 9, 2019 is the date of the first email I have saved in a folder called “GHS Reunion” which means I spent at least 20 months planning, executing, or just plain thinking about this fucking thing. That’s a long time to think about anything that’s even quasi-work related. And make no mistake, I took planning this thing seriously and treated it like a professional project.
Essentially a high school reunion is an outreach campaign with events at the end of it, and in order for it not to suck requires a high level of effort and expertise. Why? Because do you have any idea how many people told me their various reunions sucked? I’d mention that I was part of the team planning ours, and invariably someone would share some horror story about how shitty theirs was. So for 20 months or so, two collaborators and I worked our asses off to give everyone a good time.
The efforts were well worth it. We received an overwhelming amount of gratitude from the attendees, had unbelievable attendance, stayed within budget, and experienced only a handful of very minor hiccups in the execution. It did my heart good on a professional level, but that was secondary to what ultimately lingers for me a month later.
If I think about this too much, I’ll start crying again, but vignettes from the weekend’s events will pop inside my head. I saw my friend Jennie walk into Old 121 Brewhouse Friday night, ran up to her and we gave each other a huge hug. My friend Hillary appeared before me at the Wynkoop on Saturday night like an angel in a way that made the world stop, and we shared such a brief but beautiful conversation. My friend Lisa immediately reminded me of why she’s one of my favorite people on earth by time traveling to a decade ago and flawlessly inserting compelling insights into an argument my wife and I had about the marketing of the movie Precious. I got to see my Orangetheory Fitness pal Derek in real life who told me I was instrumental in encouraging him to come to the event.
A lot of people asked me that night if I was okay because I carried an expression that I’m told generally looked blank, annoyed, worried, or sad. I was fine, mostly, but I was also outside of myself for the first four hours or so of the main event. My brain couldn’t reconcile the fact that this thing was actually happening after this much planning, this much effort, and this much time living inside my head. I couldn’t handle the reality that after 20 months, this thing manifested and was happening in front of my face. So I couldn’t let go. It still doesn’t feel totally real to me, and I’m not sure when it ever will. All I know is that what I’m left with is a feeling of joy, accomplishment, and most of all, relief.
JULY 23-26: A visit from an old friend and playing Music Video Theatre
Ashley Garrison is one of my two best friends from my time in The Woodlands, TX. The other is Stephen. We so rarely get to see each other that I almost couldn’t believe we were going to be in the same city at the same time for the first time in two years. We drank. We rode scooters around Denver. We ate great food. We told the same old jokes to each other. And we did something we all immediately knew we had to do again.
Kristin, Stephen, Jason and I are all music dweebs. By the way, is it weird that my two best friends were born on the same day? Jason and Stephen both born same day, same year. It’s kooky. Anyway, I tasked everyone with sending me 10 music videos they like using whatever criteria they wanted, but with the knowledge that I’d take their list and put it into one big curated playlist. Then once my kids went to bed, we’d enjoy intoxicants and watch that list.
This may sound stupid to you, and if so, fine. See you at the next one never. But for the rest of you, here’s the list. The list swells and recedes and ebbs and flows. It goes through movements – iconic videos to divas. Divas to Southern California themed videos. SoCal to pure sexuality. Sex to avant garde and beyond. Having it intentionally curated made it way more fun than the absent-minded free association you do on some random Friday night. It was an insane night thrown into sharper relief when I realized all we did was basically create a fantasy football draft, but for music nerds.
Also, it bears mention that at a certain point Stephen, Jason or myself started quoting Wayne’s World 2, and the other two joined in after one line as all 3 finished the scene in perfect unison like some goddamn nerdy church choir. Let’s pick it up halfway through the action…
Yeah. Who else?
Uhhhh… an old man fashioning a kayak out of a log…
It’s always nice to know in an ocean of uncertainty and disconnection that you and your best friends can always find the same pop culture driftwood to float on top of together like you always have.
JULY 27: Leaving my kids at home and visiting Water World solely with another middle-aged dude
On my old website Cru Jones Society, I wrote something like 5,000 words in one article about Water World. I won’t subject you to that level of obsession, nor could I or would I even want to again anyway. Suffice to say, I have a thoroughly outsized level of affection for Water World. The person I have been to Water World with the most is my childhood friend Mike, and he just so happened to be in town visiting family. We talked about getting together, so why wouldn’t we do it at the place we both love the most?
I love absolutely everything about Water World. I love walking around barefoot and shirtless all day. I love both being soaked from head to toe and zooming down a plastic tube at dozens of miles an hour. I love their shitty pizza. I love how a day there involves an absolute fuckton of exercise considering you’re hiking up hills and trudging up flights of stairs all day. But most of all, I love how Water World above all is egalitarian. No one gives a shit how anyone else looks, everyone just wants to speed down some slides, prance around in the water, and make a few thrills for themselves. Super young kids, old people, middle-aged parents, incredibly fat people, skinny people… everyone is there to have a good time. [Jerry Seinfeld voice] Why don’t they just make the whole world out of Water World?
And this year I’m proud to say I rode a ride I’ve never ridden before – Zoomerang. [Otto voice] You know those rafts, that are like… double rafts? You climb in one and shoot down what’s basically a big halfpipe. For whatever reason I had never done that before, so Mike and I got up there and asked if we could do it backwards. Reader, when the lifeguard moved her foot and we went basically 90 degrees straight down, I screamed in legitimate terror. Always nice to know that at 39 you can still surprise yourself like that.
JULY 30 – AUGUST 1: Celebrating my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary in Vail
My dad had a professional conference through one of the trade groups to which he belonged happen every summer in Vail. From the time I was 4 through some time in high school, I would spend a few days in early August riding bikes, playing mini golf, swimming, and checking out the cornball t-shirt shops in Vail Village and Lionshead. Vail will always hold a special place in my heart, even if the town looks damn near unrecognizable to me now and feels filled with lame, rich poseurs.
Kristin and I had offered to throw my parents a big 50th anniversary bash, which they politely declined. Instead, they wanted to treat us to a fabulous weekend of fun in one of their favorite destinations. We dressed up and ate fancy dinners in incredible restaurants. We rode the gondola up the mountain where my girls got to jump on trampolines, scale climbing walls, and ride down the zip line. It’s nigh impossible to express the gratitude for this insane amount of privilege, but I do my best to make sure they know how lucky we feel.
The highlight for me, and the only request to the agenda I made, was to visit Bart & Yeti’s in Lionshead. When I was a kid tagging along on those business outings, it’s the place I looked forward to most. They had a great grilled cheese sandwich, and the menu featured drawings and a little backstory on the two dogs that gave this restaurant its name. What else could a kid want? I’ve written about this place before, and I continue to feel insanely blessed that it still exists.
Vail may be overrun with overpriced condos and absurd boutiques that sell ugly shit to dumb rich people, but Bart & Yeti’s to me represents the soul of good-hearted, sunbaked ski bums from a time that almost certainly had plenty of its own problems, but that represents an idyllic piece of my childhood.
AUGUST 7: Playing Beer Pong and Flip Cup with 15 other beautiful weirdos
The tournament of the summer! For the third time in four years (thanks COVID!), we convened eight teams of two to do battle in a double elimination tournament, the winner of which earns real championship belts. The requirement is that you provide me a team name, coordinate outfits, and give me some entrance music. Why? Because I’m going to announce you to the table like Greg Hamilton from WWE.
This was the greatest field we’ve ever assembled for a variety of reasons. First of all, we all had a lot of pent up COVID energy we need to exorcise and what better way to do it? Second, unlike two years ago the weather held. Finally, and most importantly, everyone CAME CORRECT with their gimmicks. Tiger King, Risky Business, Cobra Kai, The Sandlot, Saturday Night Live, glam metal geeks, workout goobers, and the cops from that Beastie Boys “Sabotage” video were all represented in this year’s field, and everyone performed their acts WITH GUSTO. It was like a college party, but with no dickheads.
And that was the biggest compliment of the evening. In my email to everyone in advance of the event where I revealed the team names and shared the rules, I wrote the following:
I’d also like to add how much I enjoy the level of trust you all have in us. We say to you, “Hey, come up with a costume, a team name and entrance music to play in a drinking game tournament with people you may or may not know” and all of you are like, “OK!” I don’t think any of you have even asked me who else is coming, which means we all just really like to drink or you have remarkable faith in our ability to create vibe. Hopefully both! Either way, that’s so fucking cool.
I am insanely lucky to live the life I do. When I reflect on the past like in executing my reunion, getting together with childhood friends and feeling like no time has passed at all, and revisiting cherished places from my youth, I have intense gratitude for where I’ve been.
When I get to include my own children and new friends in adventures, I’m thrilled that we’re happy, healthy, and together.
And when I think about how I get to continue to carve a path into the future knowing I’m lucky enough to have the benefit of a fulfilling past and satisfying present at my back, I’m filled with optimism and excitement.
If you’re reading this, I look forward to whatever way that future together plays out. Thanks for being a part of it.