In 1976, I kept a daybook, recording various bits of trivia during the year I turned 16. When I found it recently, I hoped it would help me figure out just why that year is the one I’ve never moved completely beyond. Part 1 of the excavation is here.
The majority of the notes in the book are the birthdays of famous people and weird holidays, which must have seemed important to me back then, although I can fathom no reason for them now except chronic geekitude. I occasionally took a break from the trivia to note the scores of games I was interested in, or involved in. I occasionally noted news items, the weather, days off from school for snow, or the word “HOT” in all caps (as on July 10, when it was 104 degrees in Madison). On July 17, I noted the start of the Summer Olympics in Montreal, and Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10s in gymnastics on the 19th and the 21st. On the 20th, I noted the Viking I landing on Mars.
But details of my day-to-day life are maddeningly sketchy. On Thursday February 5, I wrote “Make yourself do it!,” which undoubtedly involved asking somebody for a date. (This I did not do. Suffering in unrequited silence was how I rolled back then.) On Sunday the 8th, we celebrated my paternal grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary with an open house in the church basement. Somewhere I have a photo of myself manning the guest book that afternoon, 70s resplendent in a loud plaid sport coat and bright red polyester pants. On March 1, the day after my 16th birthday, I stayed home from school with a cold.
On Thursday, March 4, I wrote, “lights out 11:30AM.” This was the beginning of the fabled ice storm of 1976, one of the most powerful winter storms ever to bash my part of Wisconsin. The electricity would stay out until Sunday March 7, when I wrote “lights on after 76:19 with none.” A note on the Saturday of that weekend says, “Appointment at WEKZ 8-830AM.” I presume I got there despite the weather—it was the first in the series of Saturday morning hang-outs at the station which I hoped would result in a job. On April 14 I would write, headline fashion, “WEKZ Wants Me During the Summer,” but it turned out that they didn’t. They never officially offered me a job, and when I stopped hanging out at the station for free, they decided I wasn’t interested anymore, which is crazy, because I was obsessed with radio. That’s why Monday, March 15, had been a noteworthy day: “CFL Switches to Easy Listening: Where Can We Go to Rock and Roll?” I was listening that afternoon during one of the most extraordinary radio format changes in history.
Later in March, my closest friend got his driver’s license, and we went “cruising” (our word) that night. On Tuesday April 6, I wrote: “Got class ring & report card (eesh),” which refers to a C+ in plane geometry and a D+ in chemistry. Bad grades didn’t get me grounded, however. That weekend, there was a basketball marathon at our high school—teams signed up to play for an hour at a time, and games ran from noon Friday through midnight Sunday. A bunch of us went to the local drive-in theater on Friday night and then played games at midnight and 5AM. I had never stayed up all night before.
The next week, on April 13th, 1976, I got my driver’s license. Then April rolled on and turned to May: Getting a copy of Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief (April 17), my cousin’s confirmation (April 25), going to see The Exorcist at the drive-in (May 2). I was equipment manager of my high-school baseball team that spring; the season ended on Tuesday May 25, the same day I bought a compilation album called Silver Bullets. On May 29, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I wrote, “Bought ’72 Hornet.” I didn’t actually buy it—my parents did—but it was going to be mine. I have always remembered the car as a ’74. Did I get it wrong there, or have I had it wrong ever since?
In June, more stuff starts showing up that I cannot explain—cryptic combinations of letters, BB, DKI/P, TE/SE, and so on. There was method to what I was doing, but what it was precisely, I can no longer remember. And that’s actually the entire problem with this daybook.
In the next installment: The height of summer comes—and goes, without actually achieving any height.
1. “Bohemian Rhapsody”/Queen (holding at 1)
5. “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”/Four Seasons (down from 4)
6. “Disco Lady”/Johnnie Taylor (up from 10)
9. “Right Back Where We Started From”/Maxine Nightingale (up from 18)
15. “Money Honey”/Bay City Rollers (down from 13)