Thirty Years Ago… 1988


1988.  The year I graduated high school!  In this look back at thirty years ago, I cover my life and the world we lived in.  You may see some familiar faces.  For the younger crowd looking at this, I have no doubt you will crack up at the society we called our own!  But my generation owned the 1980s!

I was still living in South Salem, NY and went to John Jay Senior High School.

1988 began with a massive hangover!  I barely remember the clock striking midnight.  I do remember having a bit too much and my brother’s girlfriend and sister helping me out.  I slept in the next day and caught up on some homework the next day.

I spent most of that January hanging out with an on and off again sort of girlfriend.  I couldn’t call her my girlfriend.  Looking back, I don’t know what she was.  I didn’t have a steady girlfriend in 1988 but I dated a lot. The rest of the year was filled with various flings.  I was okay with that but I spent most of the year pining for the wax on wax off sort of girlfriend.  I haven’t talked to her in years, but hey, that’s life!

That March was the annual Variety Show my high school put on.  I was the Stage Manager for it that year.  It was the last time I spent a great deal of time in my high school auditorium.  It was exciting and frightening at the same time knowing I would be graduating in a few months.

The night before Easter in 1988 I almost died.  When I got home after a party, there were some leftover meatballs in the fridge.  I was famished so I began to eat some of them.  I accidentally swallowed a whole meatball and it got stuck in my throat.  Luckily I was able to hit my back enough and eventually it shot out of my mouth like a cannonball into the kitchen sink.

That Spring I had mono.  I spent most of April watching old movies on the VCR.  Occasionally, my friend Joe would come over and hang out.  He would drive me to the comic store so I could get my fix.  One day he showed me David Letterman’s house in New Canaan, CT!  Other times we would just hang out.  He was very frustrated with my brother’s old guitar and how out of tune it was!

One day that May, I was hanging out at the “reservoir” not too far from my house when I met a bunch of teens from the town next to us.  Which led to my Senior Prom date!

I did all the things Seniors tend to do for the rest of the year: Senior Cut Day, Senior Prom, Graduation, and the parties after.  By the time graduation finally came, I was a confused teenage mess.  I knew I was taking some time off before college but I had no clue what I wanted to do.  All the comforts of high school would be gone.  I knew I wouldn’t see most of the people I went to school with again.

What I did not have my senior year was my driver’s license.  I did get that in the fall after I graduated.  Within weeks of obtaining my license, I rear-ended an old lady named Rose Krapowitz.  You can’t make this stuff up folks!  Totally my fault.

I decided to take a year off after high school.  That summer I worked at Woodway Beach Club in Stamford, CT.  It was part of a country club based in Darien, CT.  I was a bus boy.  It was a fun summer for the most part filled with many late nights.  If I wasn’t working late, I was partying late with the staff after.  I even got to learn some Spanish with the kitchen staff that summer!

That fall I did some bartending at Woodway in Darien but I soon found myself working at Age of Video, a mom-and-pop video rental store.  I was there about a month or so but the owners also bought a TCBY franchise so I helped set that up.  But I didn’t like the hours so I got a job at Shoe Town that December.

When I worked at Woodway, I worked with two of my brothers.  One night, while my parents were away on vacation, we had a huge party at my house.  One of my best friends wound up throwing up in my bedroom.  At one point, someone left a door open and soon enough my kitchen was filled with moths.  It was all good, because after one of my brother’s friends accidentally ate one that fell in the potato chip dip, many of us began to eat them.  But when the guy ate a beetle, that ended that adventure into weirdness.  The party got a little too big and we had to tell folks to leave.  One of them called the police.  The police wound up going to my neighbor’s house instead.  Which worried him because he was cultivating some marijuana he was growing in his kitchen.  While he didn’t get caught, he was not too happy with me when I saw him a few days later.  After the cops made their visit, we left the party and went pool-hopping in New Canaan, CT.  At that time, our house was on the market.  The morning after the party, we got a call from the realtor that they would be at the house in an hour for a showing.  One of my brothers had gone to work.  My other brother and I moved like the Flash on crack (which was also introduced in 1988) to get the place clean.  We were literally driving down the driveway to bring the keg back to the Vista Market when the realtor pulled into the driveway.  Phew!  The only evidence of the party was a crack on a glass shelf in the basement refrigerator where we had cases of beer from the night before.  We blamed it on a cousin months later at a family get-together when my father found it!  No pictures survived that party and we are all grateful for that!

Between Woodway and Age of Video, I took a week off and spent some time with my grandfather up in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.  This town is right before Cape Cod on Buzzard’s Bay.  One day I rode a bike into town and was hanging out at the docks.  An elderly man was fishing and dropped his keys in the water.  He couldn’t swim so I borrowed someone’s snorkeling gear and went looking for them.  It took about half an hour of searching, but there they were resting on a rock in the dock.  Years later, this inspired me to write an editorial in my college newspaper which I will share on here some time.  I also faced another one of my childhood fears during that visit.  My grandparents lived in a small beach resort community.  There were two sections the locals named the two beach areas, the Old Beach and the New Beach.  Most people spent time at the New Beach.  If you went walking past the Old Beach, there was an abandoned fishing shack.  It used to scare the crap out of me as a kid.  I wouldn’t go near the damn place.  But on that visit, I said screw it.  It was exactly what it was.

My grandfather had an old slot machine that took nickels.  I spent years trying to hit the jackpot on that thing.  He always kept a huge cup full of nickels by it for his grandchildren to play.  I finally hit the jackpot one day during that visit!

I spent New Years Eve going into 1989 in bed.  I had been out VERY late the night before at a party and wound up at a nightclub where I ran into the on and off sort of girlfriend.  I got home from that adventure around 4:30 in the morning and had to be at work at 9am the next day.  So 1988 pretty much started and ended on the same bookend.

1988 was the first time I spent a significant amount of time in the state of Delaware.  I was staying with a cousin for a week in Pennsylvania.  We went to Newark one afternoon.  I found an awesome record store near University of Delaware and bought a ton of stuff I couldn’t find anywhere else.  Aside from driving through the state on I-95 or 495, I wouldn’t be back to The First State until 2004 when I moved here.

I got to hang out with a band called Gene Loves Jezebel at a club called Kryptons after they played a concert.  My friend had to get home but I wanted to stay and hang out.  I told my parents I was staying at my friend’s house.  A friend of mine who was a waitress at Kryptons dropped me off at a shopping center in Vista, NY.  I had to be there in about four hours for work so it all worked out!  Except it was about 10 degrees that night with a bitter wind.  Not one of my better ideas.  I recall being sick after that!

In June of 1988, I saw Depeche Mode and OMD at Jones Beach with some friends.  That was an awesome concert!  After the show, a bunch of us just hung out on the beach.  I didn’t hang out with a lot of people from my high school back then.  So it was good to do that!

That same month, I got to a Reggae Fest somewhere in New York.  Couldn’t tell you where it was or who played except for a band called Red Stripe.  I think.  The day is somewhat hazy.

In the news, the Iran-Iraq War finally ended which led to Iraq doing some very nasty things to the Kurds in their country.  The U.S. and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  That was also the same year the Soviet Union left Afghanistan which they occupied since 1979.  Meanwhile, over in Poland, Solidarity workers continued to protest which helped pave the way for major changes in 1989!

In November, Americans elected then Vice President George H.W. Bush for President.  Michael Dukakis was the Democrat nomination.  Bush’s campaign promise of “No New Taxes” didn’t last very long!

In technology, it was the year the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable was laid.  It was also the first time a major computer virus broke out affecting those who had the Internet.  Which was pretty much no one except the military and other government agencies.  I remember taking a computer class that year in high school where the teacher told us about this huge computer database companies were working on that would eventually replace libraries for information.  It would change everything, he said.  I wasn’t sure what to believe at the time.  And now, 30 years later, I am typing this for the internet to see!

For sports, the Winter Olympics were held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada while the Summer Olympics were in Seoul, South Korea.

The Washington Redskins beat the crud out of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 22 with a score of 42-10!

The Dodgers beat the Mets the Oakland Athletics in the World Series that year.

The movies of 1988 were not the best.  Although the Die Hard series began with Bruce Willis.  The biggest movies were “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, “Big”, “Beetlejuice”, “Rain Man”, “A Fish Called Wanda” and “The Naked Gun”.

TV didn’t have too much “must-see” in 1988.  The only shows I religiously watched were “Cheers” and a new show called “The Wonder Years”.

Guns and Roses hit the top of the charts that summer.  Many alternative bands who released material in 1987 got some major airplay that year including New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, When In Rome, and more.  Def Leppard was awesome but we still had Tiffany and Debbie Gibson on the radio.

For myself though, and some of their fans would hate me for this, my favorite album of 1988 was OU812 by Van Halen.  It was the second album with Sammy Hagar as the lead singer.

The night I saw the sort of kind of girlfriend at the nightclub, I heard a song there that took me four months to find.  It was the first single from a singer named Sarah McLachlan.

No look back at a year in my youth would be complete without a look at the comic book world!  1988 saw a lot of new #1s hitting the shelves.

But nothing took the comic book world by storm like Sandman #1, written by a young British writer named Neil Gaiman.

And the most controversial comics of the year?  They were both Batman comics.  In The Killing Joke, the Joker shot Batgirl resulting in paralysis.

But the biggest shock was when Robin died in Batman #428!  It wasn’t the original Robin, Dick Grayson.  It was his replacement, Jason Todd.  In a bizarre stunt, DC Comics had readers call in to vote if Robin should live or die.  The fans spoke, and after the Joker beat the Boy Wonder to an inch of his life with a crowbar, he left him in a warehouse with his mother and a bomb went off.  It was all good though because Jason Todd came back as The Red Hood in 2005.

The average income in 1988 was $24,500.00.  It cost 91 cents a gallon to fill up your car which you could buy at an average price of $10,400.00.  If you chose to drive to a movie, you could expect to pay $3.50 to see it.  If you wanted to stay at home on your computer, it cost $850 for an Amiga or $1,249 for an IBM personal computer.  If you wanted a mouse for that computer, prices ranged from $80-$90 for a Logitech mouse.

1988 was definitely a big year in my life!  I recently had a chat with my son where he told me “you don’t know what it’s like for kids these days.”  I am pretty sure I had that same talk with my parents back in 1988.  Sure, we didn’t have Common Core and social media to contend with back then.  But we had big hair, crazy music, and the same basic problems kids today have.  We may not have been the coolest generation on the planet, but dammit, we had friendship bracelets!

Growing up in New York, we even had this guy in the news all the time…


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