At the suggestion of my psychiatrist, I've decided to post today about the most awkward years of my life, namely my junior high years. Different school systems categorize "junior high" (or "middle school") in different ways, but for me, junior high was 7th and 8th grade, which fell upon the magical years of 1991-1993. I was 12, 13, and 14 years old.
I grew up in the rural/industrial town of Eureka (population usually between 25-30,000), in the heart of Humboldt County (save your pot jokes, I've heard them). Eureka is an odd place due to its relative isolation from any cultural centers (it's about 5 hours north of SF and 7 south of Portland), populated with an equal mix of rednecks, meth addicts, and really creative artists. Due to its abundance of Redwood forests and stony bud, Humboldt is known mainly for its chief exports, weed and wood. I've chosen to write about my junior high years today due to the fact that they were the most strange and embarassing years of my life.
I attended Zane Junior High School, home of the Falcons, an institution far enough from any urban centers that we had lots of room to run around, but close enough to the ocean that being shat upon by seagulls was a constant concern. Social circles were abundant and scattered, inspired by the biggest musical trends of the time, grunge and gangster rap. I enjoyed both types of music, but ended up following a more "hip-hop" oriented crowd. Unlike the guys at Metal Inquisition, who apparently left the womb listening to Death Metal, my musical diet in 1991 consisted of LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out, Public Enemy, Metallica's Black Album (I was 12, fuckers!), Nirvana's Nevermind, and a cassingle of Third Bass' "Pop Goes The Weasel". Though my long hair, dandruff, and bad breath should have placed me firmly in some sort of "metalhead" group, there really wasn't one to be found at the time (except for Brent Wilfong, who despite being a really cool guy actually did the Hessian community a disservice by rocking a Kix shirt most of the time).
So yeah, I hung out with mostly "hip-hop" dudes. I listened to really shitty music and didn't feel like I "fit in" anywhere. Over the course of the next couple years, I got more into the "grunge" thing, which led me to punk rock. Which in turn led me to hardcore and grindcore, which in turn led me to Death Metal, which in turn led me to Thrash and then 70's hard rock. So I experienced a progression that was pretty much the opposite of what most dudes my age or older experienced. But I digress...
Junior high was NOT a good time for me. I felt really awkward around girls and hung out with some real losers (ahem, Devin Huckaby, ahem). I hated Zane and couldn't wait to graduate and move on to the Big Leagues, aka Eureka High School (home of The Loggers... Seriously). But my therapist says I should try to focus on the GOOD things about those years. So here it goes. The Top 5 (and ONLY 5) things I miss about Zane Junior High School, circa 1991-93. Enjoy.
5) "HAMMER PANTS"
Dude. Hammer Pants were the sweetest. Not only did they give you plenty of movement for skating, running track, or busting a sweet Running Man at the monthly sock hop (Zane actually had these), but they were super-stylish and showed that you were down with The Hammer (bear in mind that this was before that terrible "Addams Family" song). I would totally rock Hammer Pants to work every day if I could find some.
But Hammer Pants could also be a double-edged sword. I remember my buddy Brandon showing up to school in some really ugly yellow Hammer Pants one day. They were pretty beat up and looked like old pajamas. Brandon was my best friend, so I politely hinted that maybe it was time to put his jammies to rest. I wanted him to look cool, because we were best friends and I didn't want people to think I was a dirtbag.
Well guess what? Brandon ditched the pantalones, got HELLA cool, and was even elected KING at the fucking Graduation Dance!
Later, he joined the military and got stationed out in the American desert somewhere, guarding missile silos. I ran into him in Eureka a couple Christmases ago, and he told me that his job in the Service was "to be one of those guards that James Bond kills really easily in the movies". Dang.
If you're out there, bro: You left a red jacket at my parents' house. I still have it if you need it back.
4) REEBOK PUMPS
The importance of the Reebok "Pump" in the history of footwear-related innovations cannot be over-estimated. Refer to the commercial below for a taste of The Pump's social and technological relevance:
Dude. DOMINIQUE FUCKING WILKINS FROM THE ATLANTA HAWKS wears Reebok Pumps! I need those! (Again, bear in my mind that my favorite film at the time was White Men Can't Jump and I actually had a Dominique Wilkins poster in my room.)
Pumps were matched in demand only by Nike Airs, Nike Flights, or Air Jordans. But it was pretty fucking rad to sneak up on one of your buddies and "deflate" their shoe. Hence, Pumps were the coolest.
In retrospect, it was kinda silly that all the bros were stoked on shoes called "Pumps". That's what they call ladies' shoes, too, apparently.
3) OAKLEY SHADES
Brian Bosworth had an endorsement deal with Oakley. 'Nuff said.
2) PUFFY STARTER JACKETS
For some reason, Starter brand jackets were status symbols at Zane, especially the big, puffy, hooded ones (above). Having a Starter jacket somehow signified that you were a BADASS, and the newer the team represented thereupon, the better (the Charlotte Hornets and the San Jose Sharks were especially popular at the time). Something about a big, soft, cuddly jacket was equated with menace and street smarts in our hormone-addled minds, and I still remember the joy I felt the day Moms caved in and bought me mine. It was a black Chicago White Sox jacket, priced somewhere between $80 and $100.
I didn't even like the White Sox. I chose this particular jacket for a very specific reason.
With a black Sharpie, you could make the "Sox" logo say "Sex" (see below). This was the ultimate triumph of wit and cunning in the mind of a 13-year-old kid.
Although I never modified my White Sox Starter jacket in this manner (my Mom would have fucking killed me!), it was nice to know that I at least had the option.
1) GENERRA HYPERCOLOR T-SHIRTS
Above: I had the one in the middle. For reals.
Much the same as Reebok Pumps redefining the way society thought about footwear, Generra blew the T-shirt industry wide open with the introduction of their Hypercolor line, comprised of shirts that actually CHANGED COLOR when exposed to heat. Just get a look at those kids over there on the left. They're fucking STOKED (although I do take issue with the 'Touch Me' motto and the placement of the handprint). And they should be. Their parents bought them Hypercolor shirts. Their parents LOVE them.
It didn't matter that they stopped working after you washed them 2 or 3 times, Generra shirts were the shit. They announced to the world, "Hey! I'm a mature young adult, able to make smart fashion choices on my own", or "Hey! I have a paper route that gives me the financial freedom to purchase my own clothing", or simply "Hey! I have sweaty armpits".
Whatever the case, Hypercolor T-shirts were my fondest memory in a dark time of my life. And for that, I thank them.
View the commercial below for a better understanding of why Hypercolor shirts were in such high demand:
Readers may have noticed that all of my fondest memories about junior high school involved clothing. This is no mistake. Junior high sucked THAT BAD.
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