25 Years of SUBSTANCE

            August 16, 1987. It’s
summertime and you can’t remember when you didn’t smell like a McDonalds fry.
Working breakfast to lunch behind the grill at the good ole McDonalds on Tunnel
Road in Asheville can do that to you. That fifty-minute commute from the
mountain top cabin to this job where you make eggs for McMuffins and patties
for Big Macs sure doesn’t seem worth it, but it’s a job and it’s something.
It’s one of the only things going for you at this point in life.
year, sophomore year, seems like a decade ago. Ben Lippen High School seems
like some feverish dream, one you woke up from after you got expelled sneaking
in the girl’s dorm with a buddy. You weren’t the only one expelled—there were
several others—but now you feel like the only one in the entire state of North
Carolina who ever got in trouble.
summer was spent working in the kitchen at the school and bonding with guys and dating girls.
It was like a summer vacation. This is like a summer hell. Occasionally, you
can look out from behind the grill and past the counter to the hotel across the
road where kids and families wade around in the pool. That pool looks like the
life you could have had before getting the boot from your old school and ending
up at Madison High where you stick out like a sickly sore thumb.
have four friends that you can think of. There are the three girls who came up
to you the first day of school, the only friendly faces at Madison it seems. You
fell for one until she had to move away. Then you fell for her closest friend.
You can’t help it. You’re a guy, right? But it’s created some interesting
other friend you have is a guy named Scott who knows all about music you’ve
never heard of. In the past year, you’ve been introduced to The Smiths, The
Cure, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, and New Order. Depeche Mode is already one of
your favorites, but at Scott’s place, you’ve been able to watch MTV and see
videos like the black-and-white version for “Strange Love” (which to a teenage
boy looks absolutely mesmerizing).
have no idea that in less than a year, all of this will be a distant memory.
You have no idea that you’ll soon be telling this place and these people
goodbye as you head up to the Windy City of Chicago. You don’t know anything
except your life is going nowhere and you find solace in the music. The sweet
sounds of something different, something that sounds a little more appealing
than Bon Jovi or AC DC.
years later, you find yourself on a Friday night thinking about those days. The
Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was
played often that summer. On this particular day way back then, a rather
influential New Order album was released: Substance. You know some of the songs from John Hughes films but
this album and band prove to be one of the primary soundtracks to your youth.
don’t feel that old. The music still
means something to you. Those albums still are special. Coincidentally, one of your closest
friends is a guy named Scott. It’s not the same Scott, but you still sometimes
head down to his place in Chicago and sit on his rooftop to listen to music. To that same music. Twenty-five years later, you still love doing simple things like that.
some strange way, you’ve managed to take some of those times long ago and put
them into a story. A series, actually. But this isn’t an advertisement for them
wasn’t going to be an ad, but you have almost as much money in your bank
account as that kid twenty-five years ago.
years passing, and you still tend to exaggerate a bit. The melancholy & dramatic bones in
you can’t help themselves.
summer of 1987. So much changed in the coming year.
much has changed, yet the music remains the same.
to Substance turning 25 today. 

1 Comment

  1. Awesome! I'm impressed you still have your cassette! Mine died long time ago. I bought Substance when it came out thanks to my brother's college roommate. He introduced me to New Order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and so on. Cool to find someone wlse who loves that music though. That's why I love your books!

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