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Well, I Could've Been An Actor, But I Wound Up Here 1983

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

Come with me now as we return to 1983 on 186th Street in Renton. My best friend and I were 10 years old. Since the weather is starting to turn here finally, the air smells this certain Benson Hill way and makes me flash back to moments of childhood. A scent that has been dissipating since the Pilgrim Smiths landed on the shores of Benson Hill.

In 1983, Benson Hill was the boonies. Fred Meyer was trees and 515 did not exist. After 8PM on any given day, the streets were owned by the high schoolers.

We had a streetlight on 186th, the last telephone pole before it made a T with 116th. The older cool kids would be out under that streetlight. As 10 year olds they thought we were “cute”. We probably were but we wanted to be “cool”. We’d sit on the side of the road, just at the furthest reaches of the light nearly in shadow. There were no gunshots, no dumb loud cars whether stereo or lack of exhaust. There was new-ish Panasonic boom box tuned to either KZOK 102.5 or KISW 99.9. The high schoolers were rockers.

I’m sure I had a crush on more than one of the girls (but didn't know why) and the guys all seemed cool. 501s and Journey or Pink Floyd t-shirts, the kind that has a 3/4 sleeve.

The older kids were frisbee badasses. You name the trick, they could do it. My favorite was skipping it off the pavement. In theory this is an easy trick but it really took some juice to skip it and have it continue up to the person to catch it. It did help that the Wham-O™ frisbee weighd a ton compared to today’s frisbees.

"Red Skies At Night" by the Fixx plays, so new and so weird but also so cool. This was probably the year I was, as David Lee Roth put it, "Vaccinated with a phonograph needle one summer break," and I'm pretty sure it was 1983 where I got stuck.

A commercial plays, advertising Seafair coming up. KISW doesn’t want you to forget that “Miss Rawwwwwwwwk” would be in the festivities. I always wanted U99, Miss Rock, to win a race and I was too young to realize that winning hydroplanes were powered by beer and _not_ rock ’n’ roll. All hail the Miss Budweiser. I am sure it didn’t win every year but I can’t recall a time it didn’t.

As we all start turning in to our cozy homes, it is quiet. Frogs, crickets… but no man made noise. I miss those times. I’m not sure that safety = silence but there is a comfort in it. Like the Henley classic says, “those days are gone forever, I should just let ‘em go but…..”

But I can’t. If there is a heaven, the one I’d like to go to was the safety of not knowing. Boeing could do no wrong, Dave Niehaus was enough to make the Mariners exciting and all the kids at school stood for the Pledge of Allegiance regardless of political bent. Whether true or not, Renton felt like one.

Renton police looked so plain. They drove with their windows down in their cruisers. Even as I got older and got my first way-too-fast-for-a-17-year-old Camaro complete with CB radio, we could talk to a Renton officer who hung out on channel 21. We didn’t fear them, even if we did speed a bit on the back roads. Yes, we were not worldly yet, we didn’t realize that some places in our country police were to be feared. I’m not sure if the windows down and available on the airwaves helped with this… but it didn’t hurt.

I overheard a funny comment once. Someone mentions that a person was getting out of prison after a 3 year stint. The other person replied, “that went fast.” It is funny and sad at the same time. I’m pretty sure it didn’t go fast for the person in jail - and it is kind like childhood on Benson Hill. It seemed to last forever but looking back, it went fast.

Life is short but it’s the longest thing we have.

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