Friday, September 25, 2009

The Debut of the 1994 Time Machine

The original plan this fall at Defiantly Dutch was to celebrate all things 1994-95, not just that year’s Flying Dutchmen football team. So of course here I am debuting that feature a full six days before October dawns! Hooray chronic attention deficit disorder!

Anyway, I arrived on campus in late August 1994 determined to make up for some lost time. Going away to college a year earlier was a particularly big deal for someone who attended community college for two years and, at almost 20 years old, still hadn’t spent a whole lot of time outside of a hometown in Connecticut that was about as far removed from the hustle and bustle of Long Island as humanly possible.

I was just beginning to overcome my natural shyness (I know, I know, nobody else believes it either) and was in the process of really getting comfortable at Hofstra in the fall of ’93 when my sister was involved in a serious car accident in October. She was OK, thankfully, but even after she got out of the hospital and went back to school (where she made the honor roll while I had to drop a math class to maintain a 2.5), I found the pull of home harder and harder to resist. I went home almost every weekend the rest of the fall semester and every other weekend or so in the spring.

But by the summer of 1994 I knew I was ready to dive in. I was comfortable at the newspaper, had established a familiarity with the campus as well as the sports I was covering and was prepared to immerse myself in Hofstra. I had great friends and I figured this might be the year I finally met Her.

Those were high expectations to meet, but the 1994-95 school year—and the fall of 1994 in particular—was everything I thought it’d be and a whole lot more. The success of the athletic department and the football team in particular provided plenty of inspiration and fuel for an aspiring sportswriter. I came to understand that the friends I’d made at Hofstra were as loyal and ever-lasting as the ones I had at home.

Popular culture seemed to understand the magnitude of the moment, as well, and provided incredible sights and sounds that served as an unforgettable soundtrack. I am a firm believer that college provides that Time for everyone, that perfect era in which everything is intertwined and related. But as good as your Time might be, you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you the fall of 1994 was the best time ever to be a music fan, a moviegoer and a fan of “The Simpsons.”

Don’t believe me? Within a three-day span 15 years ago this week, R.E.M. released Monster and the movie The Shawshank Redemption hit theatres. And it only got better from there.

Who knows what kind of tricks my memory is playing on me, but I’d swear on a stack of 1994 media guides that the video for R.E.M.’s “What’s The Frequency Kenneth” had its world premiere the day classes began. I remember watching the video in my dorm room and thinking that the soaring opening licks and the odd yet inescapable buoyancy of the song summed up the immediacy of the moment and the grand potential of the year to come. Or maybe it was the perpetually dour R.E.M.—fresh off one of the most depressing records ever, Automatic for the People—rocking out that proved anything was possible, I don’t know.

(I know, I know: The last thing R.E.M. ever wanted to do was inspire some hair metal-listening kid from an idyllic home in the suburbs, but that’s what Michael Stipe & Co. did there.)

The song would also become a defining one for our group of friends. One late night at The Chronicle, as we cranked the song, the news editor blurted out “Leavitt”—the last name of his top writer—instead of “Kenneth.” It made syllabic sense and, at 3 am, the type of hilarious sense that is unexplainable outside of a newsroom.

Leavitt was also the last name of the girl on whom I was beginning to develop a mad crush. A couple weeks later, we had our first date, and a couple weeks after that, I made her a mix tape (look it up, you damn iPod-listening kids) that I dubbed “What’s The Frequency Leavitt?” You may have guessed by now she is in fact Her.

The farther back 1994-95 is in the rear-view mirror, the more fond the memories become, because adulthood is a constant reminder of how often seemingly perfect moments and opportunities turn out to be something far less than that. Hopefully, these occasional forays into the pop culture world of 15 years ago will remind you of your Time as well, even if it wasn’t the fall of 1994.

And you also get my humble apologies if this bores you to tears, but I can assure you, even if this sucks in a really large way, it’s still better than 1994 eyesore Natural Born Killers.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

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