You Can’t Go Home Again

My friend Justin just put up a post over at his blog discussing childhood television, full of nostalgia and sentimentality over the things you can’t find on TV anymore.  Well, his post got me to thinking about the other side of that coin.  What about all those shows and cartoons that we used to love so much that just don’t hold up?  You know the old saying, ‘you can never go home again,’ I feel as if it can apply here.

I’ve gone back to watch some of my favorite cartoons from my wasted youth, and while some are still treasures, others are just atrocious.  Think back.  What were your favorite shows?  I was lucky enough to have a TV addict father, so we had cable.  I got to watch Fraggle Rock and the Disney Channel when I was a lil’ nipper.  I watched all the old Nickelodeon shows like Rugrats, Doug (which got ruined by ABC before I even had a chance to wax nostalgic over it) and Aaah! Real Monsters.

I, like Justin, am still a cartoon junkie.  Sure, my tastes have broadened a bit.  I prefer more adult fare, like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Samurai 7, Venture Bros, The Boondocks, etc… But I’ve tried to go back and watch some of my old favorites.  Sure, things like Rugrats and Aaah! Real Monsters have still got it, despite being a little puerile at times.  But have you tried to go back and watch He-Man or Thundercats?  If you haven’t, then just stop.  You can’t go home again.  You can’t go traipsing through your childhood memories and expect to feel the same about them.  I tried to rewatch Thundercats and couldn’t even make it through the first episode.  It was just that bad.

So what does that say about me?  Sure, we all like to give ourselves over to sentimental nostalgia.  It is one thing to remember something fondly, and another to go back and attempt to recapture those feelings you had a kid.  Loyal readers, don’t go back to that place.  Somethings are best left to memory.  I loved Thundercats so much as a kid, some of my first memories involve running around the backyard screaming “Thundercats HO!” at the top of my lungs in only my Thundercat Hanes.

I keep hearing rumours that they are going to remake Thundercats, the way they’ve remade Transformers, He-Man and GI Joe.  My one plaintive cry won’t be heard, but please don’t do that.  Stop ruining our childhood.  Come up with something new.  I’m sure a large portion of why these things get remade is due to people of our generation trying to relive childhood memories.  Why can’t we just make new ones?  Why can’t we make something of such an awesome caliber for our children?  Something that doesn’t involve a homophobic sponge making fart jokes under the sea.

As a closing note, I want to mention one series that does hold up.  Sure the animation is a little weak compared to today’s standards, but the writing and the voice-acting were top notch.  It pulled from a myriad of mythological characters, as well as a handful of Shakespeare and some cyberpunk-lite.  Add to that a handful of voice actors from Star Trek: TNG and the funding of Disney, and what did we get?  We got Gargoyles.  I have the entire series on my hard drive right now.  Now to track down Darkwing Duck…

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In One Ear (and Out the Other…)

I have a confession to make.  I used to write poetry.  I know!  Craziness, you say.  And besides, what is so wrong about poetry anyways?  Well, nothing.  Except most of my poetry was incredibly self-involved and angry, and no you can’t read it.  Most of my poetry is stored far away in a safe place where nobody shall look.  And so it shall stay.

But I used to read poetry on a stage.  At this place called the Heartland Cafe in Chicago.  They have this open mic that’s been running for over twenty years, second oldest open mic in the city.  I started hanging out there when I first moved into the City out of high school.  And though many things in my life have changed, the In One Ear open mic stayed a constant.  Now almost ten years later, I can still visit when I go back to Chicago and the place feels like home.  Walk in on any given Wednesday and I’ll recognize half the faces in the room.  The host, Pete Wolf, has been a stalwart friend for that entire time.  The place is like a family.

I cut my teeth on that stage, figuring out my identity both as an adult and as a writer.  I’ve had friends and enemies, drama and heartache, but mostly the memories are good.  Pete Wolf and the writers, musicians, poets and eccentrics that frequent the In One Ear will embrace anyone like a lost sibling.  The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the staff at the cafe are friendly and the Heartland has been a corner stone of the Rogers Park community for over 30 years.

Only now they are suffering the fate of many restaurants during the recession.  Food cost has grown exponentially, as well as the other weighty costs involved in running a restaurant, a bar, a theater and a performance space.  On top of that are the raised interest rates at the bank thanks to the bailouts, and the Heartland Cafe is in a pretty pickle.  It pains me to think I could lose a place like that and be halfway across the country.  Like not being able to visit a loved one that is severely ill.  But there is still a chance, with a little help from the Heartland’s extended family.

The Heartland Cafe is having a benefit October 11 and 12, to ask the community for support.  If you’re in Chicago, you should go.  If you can’t make it to the benefit, then at least stop by and have a drink or get some food.  See the In One Ear open mic on Wednesday nights at around 9:30pm.  If you aren’t in Chicago and you want to help, whether you miss the place or you just like the idea of it, you can donate.

Save the Heartland Cafe, save the In One Ear.