Remembering the 80’s and 90’s, Proust, Tennis, and Okkervil River

“You can never go back, you can only remember.”

“Show me my best memory is probably super crappy.”

–from Okkervil River’s new album, The Silver Gymnasium

A few things recently have given me the nostalgia bug. I started reading Proust, I got back into playing tennis (something I took seriously in the 90’s), and I got hooked on Okkervil River’s new album, “The Silver Gymnasium.”

The album takes place in the mid 80’s in the singer’s old home town in New Hampshire, and it’s full of brilliant wistful lines and sharp observations that really remind me of my own childhood. To promote the album, Will Sheff, the frontman, reconnected with an old friend and performed new songs at open mic nights around their old town, and filmed songs and reminiscences in their old high school (which I think he attended in the 90’s). His stories brought me back to all the afternoons playing guitar at the tennis shack before practice and matches, and losing focus while playing tennis because I was singing Radiohead songs while wandering around the court. OK Computer had just come out and were were all thrilled when we could play Paranoid Android. Radiohead is not good tennis playing music, by the way. I played a tennis match a couple weeks ago that really cemented the remembrance . The leaves started blowing around, and I had an instant flashback to fall tennis in high school. I really got Proust at that moment.

To get my game back to where it used to be, I’ve been watching tennis from the 80’s and 90’s. Such a different game then before the crazy power/spin racquets people use today. I am a serve and volley player, and I don’t like that people don’t play like that any more. There was always that great stylistic battle between serve and volley and baseline players. Who can serve and volley today with the ridiculous racquets, slower ball, and ground-stroke happy players. Tennis was more artistic before. Edberg, Sampras, Rafter played incredible, concise tennis. These 5 hour matches today are rambling, almost like 18th century novels. There seems to be so much waste.

Watching older and older matches (long haired Agassi, Michael Chang at the French Open) brought back another memory of the 80’s: watching Reading Rainbow and Square One on PBS, then seeing the news come on afterwards. They always gave updates on the Dow going down. I was afraid of the Dow. Still am.

Thanks for reading.

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