I remember falling. Sinking deeper into a field of green, my body floating further and further in silence. The only things within my field of vision on my way down where my arms waving in front of me and sunlight breaking through the waves until an arm appeared in front of me, grabbing onto me and then nothing.
When asked what my first memory was, I always reply with “Drowning”. I was three years old, and I fell into my godfather’s pool in Phoenix at a party until someone noticed that I was missing and fished me out.
Years later in the early 90’s, I would sneak out of bed in my family’s apartment in Yokota Air Force Base, nestled in the heart of Tokyo, after my parents had fallen asleep to watch MTV. The first music video that I remember watching is Duran Duran’s “Come Undone”.
The video features toys beings smashed by a hammer, a man who we later discover is a crossdresser, and a woman frantically trying to free herself from chains as she’s drowning. The image has always haunted me. That early reintroduction to American television might’ve have warped other children’s psyches, but for me it instead inspired a love affair with television and pop culture in general. I think that might’ve been the moment when I realized that other people have either experienced the same things that I had, or something similar to it, and television was the medium which these moments could be shared with other people.
I spent the remainder of my childhood and adolescent years moving from country to country, and within the U.S. from state to state. My father was career military, and until the summer of my thirteenth year we had never stayed in any place longer than three years at a time. Usually it was a few months here, maybe a year there. I’ve had the opportunity to constantly reinvent myself in every city that I’ve lived in, to make friends and to navigate the unknown waters of my peers. I became an autodidact. Already a voracious reader, I was reading at an adult level in elementary school, I became obsessive. I had to know everything that was current in comics, music, television and film. In retrospect, my avid consumption of pop culture could be linked to an innate desire to understand social cues by observation, and that having a shared common interest could lead to interpersonal interests.
In hindsight, because in order to move forward, one must occasionally look backwards (I’m paraphrasing Kierkegaard here, bear with me), I think that’s one of the reasons why I still have a fondness for awards shows, as most of my television habits have fallen either evolved or fallen by the wayside as technology’s evolved. As television viewing habits have grown more fragmented in terms of content via new channels and platforms, this is still for all intents and purposes a shared and communal experience, and probably the closest thing that have we as a 21st century audience have to this side of Roosevelt’s fireside chats. It’s that sense of community I think that I crave the most and informs a lot of my interactions both within and without pop culture. Growing up as a “third culture kid” with no real roots, or a hometown I wanted to meet others like me. Unfortunately, leading an existence without any real sense of permanence until highschool makes the actual ability to connect with someone almost impossible. Thank god for social networks, and for twitter. Not only is communication immediate, it’s ephemeral. Individual thoughts and emotions appear as drops in a universal bucket that are constantly refreshed and carried away by the tide unless you’re keen to deep-dive for them…
It’s been twenty-some years since the first time I went under. I hope I never surface.