Thursday, December 22, 2022

A very Cold War Christmas

Reagan addresses a relieved world in November, 1985
The best year of my life - before I met my wife (nice save) - was 1985.  Not 1984, though my boys would think otherwise.  They always laugh because almost anything we talk about when discussing events or releases or just general news from our past seemed to happen in 1984.  From Van Halen to Orwell, it was a year fully aware of itself.  But for me, the best year ever was 1985.

That was the year I graduated high school.  The summer after graduation was just what you'd want a summer after high school graduation to be. Someday I might post about some of our adventures.  I just need to research the particulars regarding the statute of limitations.

My first quarter of college was every bit as good and, to be honest, the best time I had in college.  There would be other good years in school, but that first quarter of my first year was what you would want your first experience in college to be.  

I only went to the nearby branch at OSU (we called it The Twig since it consisted of only one building).  But new friends, new girlfriend, still visiting old friends, visiting my best friend on the Columbus campus, and just a flood of memories of good and satisfying events made it the best of times.  There were parties with new acquaintances, being out and about in a new city, and just getting to know people I'd never met in a brand new setting. 

The Twig as it looked when I attended
Even the Christmas break was wonderful.  Old friends came back home and we attended parties, and watched movies, and played cards, went to arcades, attended more parties, and generally hung out together for what in many cases would be the last time.  On one weekend - my first after exams - my best friend and several others literally chugged through almost three straight days of round the clock parties and fun and shopping and games and movies.  By that Monday night, we had slept about four hours in three days.  I was sitting at my best friends house and the TV show Newhart was just coming on.  The next thing I knew I woke up the following afternoon at about 2:00 PM on their sectional.  It was that kind of a time. 

I also remember it was a time that seemed - no doubt coincidently - to be surrounded by pop culture nods to the Cold War and its waning presence.  One was a spoof, one a drama and one a Rocky movie.  Spies Like Us, which I wrote about before, was a John Landis project with SNL alums Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd; a lampoon of Reagan era patriotism and the much maligned Star Wars program.  Rocky IV was ham-fisted on the opposite side, with Rocky practically winning the Cold War against what could only be seen as cardboard cutout Russians.  Finally White Nights, starring Gregory Hines and defecting dancer extraordinaire Baryshnikov, was a drama with dancing.  In it, audiences were reminded that, for all its sins dragged out by Raymond Greenwood, the USA was still a better option than Soviet Russia.  All were late Cold War themed, and all were released within a week of each other around the first of December. 

So charging into the end of the quarter towards that wonderful break, things were still soaring, despite yet another loss to Michigan.  On top of everything, all of that fun and all those Cold War movies were given a boost because of a news story right around Thanksgiving. It was a little meeting in Geneva between Ronald Reagan and the latest Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev.

By then I was paying attention to news, probably more than many of my friends.  I saw the laments of editorials worried that Reagan might botch this historic chance given us by the Soviets.  When he was there, I still recall some media generated outrage over something Reagan did when he grabbed Gorbachev by the shoulder and said something I can't remember.  

But as if to add cake to the year's icing, when Reagan returned from Geneva and addressed Congress, it was a strange moment.  Even Reagan's staunchest critics joined his supporters, and even most of my peers, and heaved a great sigh of relief.  For the first time it looked like we might really, really come through the old Cold War without mushroom clouds and Skynet strikes.  Hard to believe, but that was a light at the end of the tunnel many my age didn't think we would see in our lifetimes - if at all.

Not a bad way to spend an already wonderful first college Christmastime.  A fine year capped off by a fine time entering college.  A first quarter in school that rose to the occasion and was all I could have hoped.  And on top of it all, a meeting with our president that suggested what many were beginning to suspect:  That the Soviets were through, and we were going to come out of it all not only peacefully, but victoriously.  For a couple weeks that December, everything seemed focused there, and if that wasn't a happy holidays, I'm not sure what it would take. 

Official 1985 Cold War video

Bonus update!  The aforementioned best friend emailed me even as I was putting the finishing James Browns on this post.  I hadn't heard from him for some time.  His parents are getting down health wise and that took from his time, as it will.  He'll be getting in touch after the holidays, so that was a nice little bonus.  He lives in Las Vegas, but should be around some after the first of the year.  And yes, he's the best friend I often reference in various posts of nostalgia.  So a nice convergence heading into another Christmastide, you might say. 


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