flashback, part 26 of n

For some reason, January always makes me think of snow. Or at least very cold. All the way back to 1982, when we had snow for four days and got out of school. (It was clear by Friday…which was a scheduled inclement weather day, so no school for a week. Yay Alabama!) It was cold and dreary and rained as often as not.

Twenty years ago, January meant an interim term class on magazine writing – based around The New Yorker. I would wake up around 7:30 to 10,000 Maniacs on the CD player (Hope Chest, if I remember right), pour some coffee into the 4-cup coffemaker I’d gotten for Christmas, tie on the 3/4-height Nike cross-trainers (also for Christmas), and hike up three flights of stairs in the second-oldest building on campus. As it turns out, working in the style of The New Yorker was remarkable preparation for blogging – I had to do a feature piece, a movie review, a couple of Talk of the Town items, a little bit of everything. I was intrigued by the ads, of all things – I didn’t know what a single-malt scotch was until I saw the Macallan ad. I wound up subscribing to the magazine – a subscription I carried for 20 years before giving it up in favor of…a Kindle-based subscription.

Needless to say, an interim class on campus adds up to a lot of free time. January of ’91 is the first time I bought a bartending book, thinking I should learn to drink properly if I was to imbibe alcohol. (It didn’t take, largely because when you’re an undergrad you don’t have the money or legal purchasing power to drink well. One more reason to change the alcohol policy in America.) It was also when Desert Shield finally turned into Desert Storm, and the draft-nervous males over 18 started pouring everything into a glass (I think the “Air Raid” was Dr Pepper, Bacardi, Canadian Mist, some sort of creme de menthe stuff and berry-tinged mineral water). After all, Iraq was still sporting the fourth largest army in the world, undefined chemical weapons capabilities, short-range ballistic missiles, and we honestly had no idea what a post-Cold War shooting war would look like.

If I’m honest, it’s about that time I should have been working on dumping my first college girlfriend, rather than staying with her another two and a half years. Hell, she didn’t even like basketball, and I wasn’t yet in the pep band, so getting to games was a bit tricky. On the bright side, we were still on the punch system for meal plans, and the soda fountain in the cafeteria was free to just walk up to and fill your glass. I switched to a 32 oz carry model almost instantly.

Later Januarys would be more interesting – 1992 was spent mostly in post-Communist Central Europe, 1995 in a light dusting of snow in Nashville while watching college hockey, 1998 on Appalachian interstates with snow up the hills and a new AT&T phone in one hand, 2001 on a snow-covered lawn with my new crush object, 2007 at the pinnacle of my Apple career hanging out in the company booth at MacWorld, or 2009 kicking off a new job and returning to train commuting. But looking back, 1991 was something of a cusp. The fork in the road appeared, and I didn’t take it.

Lesson learned.

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