I was at a deli getting something to eat and all of a sudden i heard Paula Cole’s “I don’t want to wait” playing in the radio. I swear to you, it sent me shivers, good ones; and it sent me straight back to my high school years, it sent me back to my feelings of awkwardness and discoveries, it sent me back, with some shame, to “Dawson’s Creek”. There were entire afternoons spent with my friends at handball or volleyball games, in some others we would gather at someone’s house to talk sex and smoke cigarettes hidden from this someone’s parents; it was super exciting and we were beyond cool in our silly little minds. I hadn’t thought of those days for a long time, i hadn’t reconnected to that feeling in years, and it felt so right and so good to be able to feel all of that without having to live that anxiety that i know filled all our hearts.
I don’t wish i knew then what i know now, everything happened as it should and we had a ball. We laughed and cried with the same intensity and never blinked in front of an adventure, even if it meant suspension from school, because we knew that we had each other to fake our parents signatures and would be able to get away with almost anything. I am pretty sure our parents knew that too, but we were straight A students, so i guess it didn’t matter too much. That feeling was so good, really remarkable, i couldn’t stop thinking of the shows we used to watch, the gossip that used to flow through the halls of school, the principal that we absolutely could NOT stand and the little parties, called “The Best Party for Teenagers”, which we thought was a real grown up thing to do; tens of thousands of kids would go and then come back home at midnight or so, it was a huge deal to all of us and we adored it, i guess no one was really paying ANY attention to the name of the party, really, i am positive we weren’t, because we used to call it “The Best”. Period.
I could not give up that feeling, immediately i snapped back to 2011 and turned to my Pandora Radio to create my very own “Paula Cole Radio”. Oh gosh, “Where have all the cowboys gone” started playing and i could remember a series of other things connected to around that same time. I remembered that was the year Eric Clapton wanted to “Change the World” in the soundtrack of “Phenomenon”, a not so great movie with John Travolta but a damn good song that got him a couple of Grammy’s. Along the same lines, Jewel wanted to know who was going to save your soul in one of her biggest hits and Sheryl Crow i guess made everyone happy and nailed a bunch of awards too with her then current album.
1996 was a great year, Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer got together for the sappy “Up Close & Personal”, one of my all time favorite romantic movies, because it had a great love story intertwined with the career of the small town girl Tally Atwater who dreamed big and made it big as she always dreamt. Stockard Channing had a great role in that movie and the soundtrack threw Celine Dion to super stardom with the hit “Because you loved Me”, we all remember that one, even if we don’t want to. On tv we saw “Beverly Hills 90210” hit their very last season, but by that point no one really cared anymore, it was all about “Friends”, “Ally McBeal”, “That 70’s Show”, “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “Mad About You”, the ever classic “Married with Children” and the unforgettable “3rd Rock from the Sun”. Now, that was a fun year for TV and also the year we got to know many of the kids who are now Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. Oh, let’s not forget that in 1996 the show “Suddenly Susan” was on, and i know that was quite forgettable, but come on guys, the impeccable Kathy Griffin got to enter our homes every week and crack us up; and we can never thank that show enough for pushing Kathy to stardom.
In that year we were still reminiscing over the amazing gangsta-type-movies “Bad Boys” and “Dangerous Minds” and it was the year when the amazing The Fugees took home some awards and the world fell madly in love with Lauryn Hill; “Gangsta’s Paradise” was going strong on the Billboard’s charts, Tupac Shakur had two huge hits out but also took four in the chest in Las Vegas and left this earth to entertain some dudes in heaven; and us, well, we were all left with his great music in our memories. In 1996 we were also reminded of the death of another great one: Kurt Cobain; that was the year when Nirvana’s Unplugged album won a Grammy for best alternative music and at that point that album had sold more than five million copies across the globe. It was definitely a good time for rock n’ roll; Alanis Morisette released her “Jagged Little Pill” to the sound waves and became an instant hit, who could EVER forget her hits “Ironic” or “You Oughta Know” ? I also remember going crazy over Oasis and The Cranberries; not to mention the brand new No Doubt with their colorful videoclip in the height of the Mtv era, followed by Smashing Pumpkin’s “1979”… Oh wow!
I also remember, around that same time, a very nasty and hard to forget hit song that could not stop being played anywhere, it was even in little stuffed animals when you pressed their paw, that nasty song would play, poor children, it was wherever you turned to: Macarena! What were those dance moves? And what were we thinking? We clearly had no filter. Well, obviously, that was also the year in which Shaquille O’Neal was allowed to make a movie, the stupid “Kazaam”, and also the year when Demi Moore released the bombs “The Juror” and “Striptease”, which to this day is still one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Speaking of which, remember how Ellen DeGeneres had her peak right around that time? She came out of the closet and her ratings came tumbling down while her public exposure went off the roof, the world wasn’t ready for her genius but she surely saved my life; but not before joining Bill Pullman in the disastrous “Mr. Wrong”. If Ellen wasn’t such an amazing person and comedian we would not be able to forgive her for that slip! But hey, we all make mistakes, Mr. Pullman, who had just come from a series of big hits, including “Independence Day” in 1994 and “While you were sleeping” in 1995 will tell you, and so will his former co-star Sandra Bullock, who in that year joined america’s heart throb Chris o’Donnell in the also disastrous “In Love and War”; i mean, did any of us really need such a piece of crap? I think not. We also didn’t need “Two if by Sea” Mrs. Bullock, but whatever, i guess you can’t always win right? Right! Because in that year there was enough room left in people’s attention for the brilliant movie “Fargo” which was one of that year’s favorites, alongside “The English Patient”, which I NEVER get tired of watching with a trifecta of great acting: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas, well, Mr. Minghella, you made my year. That was also the awakening of a Hollywood icon: Leonardo DiCaprio had two huge hits, and was laureled by critics and audience in both “Romeo + Juliet” and “Marvin’s Room”, will we ever forget that? I think not.
Us teens had a great year, and so did the teen stars; Neve Campbell had her strongest year with “The Craft” and “Scream” and saw her career explode, for five minutes, but i bet it was great while it lasted, right Neve? Liv Tyler got cast in Tom Hanks’s brilliant “That thing you do!” and stole our hearts yet again. You know who else stole our hearts? Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges in the ever so cute “The Mirror has two faces”, that was quite the productive year for Mrs. Streisand who also had a hit song for this very movie with the also then top charter Bryan Adams. But for me, it was really Ed Burns who got all the attention, his movie “She’s the One” will remain one of the all time classics in my movie library, i mean, that was sheer perfection, from cast to soundtrack, what an impeccable movie! Us teens also had the guilty pleasure of enjoying the iconic Spice Girls, oh boy, and we did! We performed Spice Girls songs in school plays and pretty much wherever we could, boys and girls were all in love with those english chicks, i mean, obsessively in love; no joke! What we weren’t so in love though was Madonna’s “Evita”, oh gosh, what a bore! I mean, nowadays i really appreciate it, especially the outstanding costumes, but i guess it was too much controversy to our silly little brains, “Wannabe” was all we could handle!
Me on the other hand, i loved some brainiac movies, and my friends could absolutely NOT get me: “Basquiat”? what was that? “Sling Blade”? ugh, no! That was a few steps too far, and even movies like “Swingers” and “From Dusk til Dawn” were not for them, so i kept it to myself inside my darkened room in any given boring afternoon. With them i would watch “Twister” or “Daylight”, and don’t get me wrong, o LOVED those too, oh, completely and madly, i mean, i had a crush on Helen Hunt, how could i not?
We also laughed a lot, i mean a whole lot: “The First Wives Club” anyone? Another trifecta, a great punch line: “don’t get mad, get everything!” and that scene with Diane Keaton having a nervous breakdown while they try to find incriminating papers in Brenda’s ex husband’s office was flawless, and so was Hugh Wilson’s direction, oh my God, i can watch that movie over and over and over again and never get tired; in fact, i watched it last night! We also had the remake of “The Nutty Professor”, and that was Eddie Murphy at his very best, i mean, very, very best! Thank you so much for that craziness Mr. Murphy! And even though this next one was only released a year later i will dare to include it in my memoir: “My Best Friend’s Wedding” was being filmed in 1996 and then in the following year made us laugh and cry and caused quite a big scandal with its ending; we will never forget that!
Ninety six was a good year, but it’s surrounding years were really good too, it was a time of discovery and enchantment, songs made us hurt but also filled us with joy, we thought that we would never be able to get over ourselves, we thought life would not reach the year 2000, the 90’s seemed infinite, and we loved every second of it.
So, listening to “Paula Cole Radio” is like traveling in time and going back to a space where everything was possible, time went by very, very slow and we had the biggest hearts in the world, we definitely lived in the moment, in our little universe and i am pretty sure we were completely aware of it, with no regrets, at all, and now that i am able to look back and feel this happy about my teens, i can also relate to my mother and my father when they would blast the stereo listening to Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, Rolling Stones or Supertramp and go on and on telling stories from the years when they would ride their motorcycles carelessly and free and hang out in the neighborhood with their friends all day, having one crazy adventure after the other. I can totally relate, it used to sound so far and weird to me, but at the same time quite fascinating and also somewhat brilliant, to see my mom crying as she listened to Janis and Zeppelin, there must have been something very intense going on right there in those songs, but that’s for her to keep in her heart i guess, those stories were never shared, but i feel touched to have been able to witness moments like that and to have also had the privilege of growing up in such an eclectic environment.
This is what life is all about to me; live in the moment and make sure to store all your special times deep down in memory lane, you will never ever need a picture to go back to those places and feelings, because it all lies within yourself.