I spent it sick as a dog with influenza. In an ad-hoc hotel room at MSU’s Butterfield Hall; the school’s version of a skid-row flophouse. Alone. Surrounded by empty Papa John’s pizza boxes, overdue VHS tapes from Campus Video, and probably a bucket next to the bed.
No girlfriend, no dates, no friends.
How had I ended up in such a lowly state? I was spread thin, working three jobs toward my future in either print or broadcasting, and stubbornly refusing to return home now that I had had a taste of self-determining freedom for the first time in my then-19 years on the planet. I felt like some sort of half-*bleep* astronaut, to quote the movie Jaws.
The plan was simple.
Spend the holidays at my TV internship covering MSU sports and Meridian Township government and at my nightclub DJ job working every shift I could get, and then go to my grandparents’ house in Detroit for Christmas Day. Come back before New Year’s. Rinse/repeat.
And then I fell deathly ill.
To say my temporary room at this foreign dorm, which I “rented” for two weeks, became a cesspool of disease would be accurate. Dirty clothes, unmade bed I barely left, empty bottles of Michelob Dry, empty mugs of hot Vernors and lemon, spills, crusty eyelids. I have zero recollection of even opening the drapes that looked like someone on acid painted them by hand. I did not see daylight.
I entertained myself, such as it was, by watching mostly MTV and grousing that Billy Joel’s new song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” was quite possibly the worst thing I’d ever heard. And at the same time trying in vain to convince myself the new Rolling Stones album “Steel Wheels” was actually good. It wasn’t.
I also trudged to the aforementioned Campus Video and probably rented an endless onslaught of late ’80s movies along the lines of “Road House”, “Die Hard” and “To Live and Die in L.A.”. All of which were returned late. As an aside, “To Live and Die in L.A.” is largely forgotten but it is not to be missed.
So after two long weeks the calendar turned to 1990. I left behind my self-quarantine (and its accompanying mess) and emerged squinting into the crisp East Lansing air, eager to get back to my normal digs at Shaw Hall, my roommate and my friends.
Little did I know something called Grunge would emerge in little over a year, music and culture in lockstep. Navel-gazing depression rock with girls dressing like Patchouli-scented lumberjacks and guys looking like strung-out grimy girls. It was like the musical version of my stay in that horrific room, laid up by the flu, spending the holiday by myself.
Maybe Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” wasn’t so bad after all.