Tag Archives: 80s

Time Travel via Root Beer

I have an admission to make: I’m a bottled root beer snob. Some may know all about fine wines, whiskey, or spirits, but not this author. Nope, instead I can go on at length on the flavor differences between St. Arnold’s and Sioux City, Texas Root Beer and Boylans, and on and on…

So why do I bring this up? Well, recently, I rediscovered a brand of root beer that is pure nostalgia. Root beer in general is the fast lane for remembering my childhood, it’s true, but this one is linked to a particularly happy memory, and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s a rarity for me to get personal on this blog, but today I’ll make an exception.

Story time! Let’s the set the Way-Back Machine, Mr. Peabody, to (you guessed it) the ‘80s!

Mixing metaphors again, eh?

Yep, I’m unashamedly mixing genres and fandoms here.

Before my father went into business for himself, he worked at a place called “Hudico,” which was owned and operated by a stern, semi-legendary man named Jim Hudson. It was there that my father learned the basics of how to be a machinist. The building was little more than a hole in the wall in a rural town in Texas. During the summers it was explosively hot inside there. I’m not sure if Jim didn’t believe in air conditioning, or just didn’t want to pay for such a creature comfort. Maybe a bit of both.

I remember very clearly that my mother would take me up to Hudico to see my father on his breaks, as we lived close by. During those moments when my father, just 25-years-old at the time, was not furiously running a lathe, a press, or a mill, we would sit together in the corner near the old beat-up Coke machine (one of the few amenities Jim did allow). The metal monstrosity must’ve come from the ‘30s or earlier. It was the kind where you put your money in and pulled the bottle out lengthwise. Jim never stocked it with any order, so you put your money in and pulled out whatever was next.

You kids get off my lawn!

Pretty much like this, but with post-apocalyptic rust patches and paint scratches.

On more than one occasion, as I sat with my father, the next mystery bottle in queue was a Triple XXX Root Beer. In those quiet moments we would split a drink, and in the Texas heat the ice-cold drink was crisp and vibrant. Often, when we reached the bottom third of the bottle, he would hand it off to me and say those words I had been waiting for: “You can have the rest of it.”

There are times he still says this to me, even as a grown man. It’s one of those catch-phrases that develops between people over time, the kind that instantly takes you back to the moment when it was first coined.

Doing the math, I would have been about four at the time, or just barely five, during those summer breaks with Dad. I sensed even back then that his labors in Jim’s machine shop were to help provide for the family. When I say that his work was paid for in his blood, sweat, and tears, I’m not being figurative, as anyone who’s actually worked in a machine shop before can tell you. But even in the midst of all of that, the harsh conditions, the back-breaking labor, the long hours, he would still take the time to sit down with me for a few minutes, and share a drink.

Time marched on. My father broke away from Hudico and started his own machine shop. After that, Triple XXX root beer fell off the map. I never saw it in stores, or anywhere outside of that one machine, but my memories of it still remained.

Fast forward to the present day.

Recently, I found a specialty candy store that carries all manner of obscure, imported, and even bizarre specialty colas. They have a whole refrigerator dedicated to nothing but bottled root beers of all kinds. On a whim, I scanned the shelves, looking for it.

And there it was, the old-fashioned red and yellow logo, staring me right in the face. I was perhaps more giddy at the find than a grown man probably should be. Understand, though, that this was the holy grail of root beers for me, the express train to one of my happier childhood memories.

Triple XXX Root Beer

And I come to you now…at the turn of the tide.

When I cracked one open, the taste was as distinctive and delicious as I remembered. It wasn’t a DeLorean or a Tardis, but it was certainly the equivalent of a liquid time machine. I was there once again at Hudico, amongst the grime, the grease, and the open sense of optimism for the future.

So, for Christmas this year, I’ll be giving my father a few of these bad boys. (And if you’re reading this, Dad, just try to act surprised, okay?) More than that, I’ll share them with my sons. Perhaps when they’re adults, they can look back on those memories with the same fondness that I have for the ones I carry.

And on those days when we share one, it will do my heart good to hand it to them and finally say, “You can have the rest of it.”

What I Miss About The ’80s

Okay, let me just lay it on the line here — my favorite decade is and was the ’80s. Pink legwarmers and parachute pants may be a bit dated now, but there’s a kind of zeitgeist about that time that really resonates with me. There are so many things we had in the ’80s that seem sadly extinct today, or at least not nearly as rad as back then.

Like what, you ask? Well, as it happens, I’ve put together a short list of things I miss most about those days.  Funny how that works, eh?

1.) Street Toughs


You know, back when MTV actually showed music videos.

Bonnie Tyler asks, “Where have all the good men gone, and where all the gods? Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?”  That’s an excellent question, Bonnie. I sense a distinct lack of street toughs these days, too. It seemed like in the ’80s that the bandana-clad denizens of the streets were the coolest, most loyal people you could ever hope to meet.  Sure, you might have to demonstrate your street cred or ‘heart’ to them with an impromptu dance-off, or blistering guitar solo, but once you were in good with them, you had nothing to fear.  Luckiest were those street toughs who managed to impress the even rarer street goddess, who had short black hair, wore fingerless gloves, and either a suit jacket with padded shoulders and the sleeves rolled up or lots of really bright eye shadow (maybe both).

2.) Uber-Quotable Movies

Ghostbusters movie poster

Oh yeah, that’s who I’m gonna call.

The ’80s were replete with dialogue that was either so incredibly memorable or so over-the-top ridiculous that it left an impression long after seeing it in the theatre or watching it on VHS. These are the movies that work their way into your everyday lexicon, the ones you find yourself reciting without even realizing it. While movies before and after this time still have plenty of pithy one-liners, the ’80s seems (to me, at least) to have the greatest concentration of movies with start-to-finish quotability. Here are my favorite examples:

Big Trouble in Little China, Ghostbusters, Top Gun, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Princess Bride, E.T: The Extra Terrestrial., Airplane!, Back to the Future, Aliens, Terminator, Empire Strikes Back, Labyrinth, The Lost Boys, Say Anything, ¡Three Amigos!, Clue, Spaceballs, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Goonies, Dirty Dancing, Adventures in Babysitting, Legend, The Breakfast Club, Bladerunner…and on…and on…

3.) Toy/Cartoon Tie-Ins


Heeeey, wait a second…

In this author’s humble opinion, this was the single greatest decade for toys, especially those that had a strategically timed 30-minute commercial playing either before school or just after it. Voltron, Thundercats, Silverhawks, M.A.S.K., Masters of the Universe, Visionaries, G.I. Joe and, of course, my favorite…The Transformers.  These were the cartoons that were the stuff of modern morality plays, teaching us to do what was right, be true to ourselves, and stay in school.  They certainly weren’t a ploy to get us to buy more toys, no siree! I mean, if some of the most beloved characters from my childhood were just part of a massive marketing machine to move colored pieces of plastic off the shelves of the local Kmart, that would just be…sad.

4.) Mall Arcades


That’s more like it.

Arcades in the mall these days are total weak sauce. They might have a DDR knock-off, a multi-player racing game, and perhaps that rip-off toy grabber thingie — a far cry from the legendary arcades of yore. As a kid, the local Red Baron Arcade (Later Aladdin’s Castle and Tilt) was the place to go. The air was filled with a cacophony of overlapping, now-familiar video game sounds from Pac-Man, Tron, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Sinistar, Dragon’s Lair and the like. The colorful cabinets and 8-bit graphics were mesmerizing to my young mind. It all came together to create an atmosphere of fun the likes of which I have not seen since. To this day, building an ’80s-style arcade is one of my dreams.  Should I ever gain the means to do so, it will be Flynn’s Arcade all over again. Oh yeah…

5.) British New Wave


Nagle artwork meets Duran Duran…it doesn’t get more ’80s than that.

This was the time of the ‘Second British Invasion.’ Where The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Moody Blues had crossed the pond in the ’60s, the ’80s were undeniably the time of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Petshop Boys, Tears For Fears, Dead or Alive, Howard Jones, A Flock of Seagulls, The Human League, and so many more. If you could mix a pop beat with some synth keyboard effects, and then have a male singer with an English accent sing over the top of it, you were golden.  Even though it can be hard to differentiate Level 42 from the Thompson Twins at times, there was just something about those bands that seemed to capture the fresh, optimistic spirit of the ’80s. There were a few hold-out bands who took this sound into the early ’90s (Cause and Effect comes to mind), but the fire of this genre largely died out with the decade itself.

Man, I miss the ’80s more than I realized. *Sniff, sniff.*

I really could use a hug right now…or maybe I just need to go play The Legend of Zelda again.

My Origin Story

So, how did it all start for me? What’s my origin story? Sadly it does not involve radioactive spiders or being launched from Krypton as it exploded. At least, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

The following is a look at how I became a storyteller. Note that I use the word ‘storyteller’ instead of ‘author.’ As you’ll see, I was telling stories before I ever started writing them down. Parts of this are shamelessly cannibalized from the ‘About’ section of my website and this blog.

So, I grew up in a pretty small town rural Texas. I often describe it as being a lot like The Dukes of Hazzard, though with far fewer car chases. I was an only child. Though I had plenty of cousins who were like brothers and sisters (and still are to this day), I was often in need of ways to entertain myself. Television of the ’80s played a big part of my childhood. Sure, many of the shows like The A-Team and Knight Rider really don’t hold up all that well when you watch them now (even if they have very hummable theme songs), but they were fertile soil for my young imagination. It also sowed the seeds of my eventual fanboy-dom.


Try to be in a bad mood while humming it.
Go on, try it.

Both of my parents were big fans of Star Trek. Some of my earliest memories of watching TV include scenes of Kirk, Spock, and Scotty arrayed in their bright ’60s uniforms. I think the Enterprise (1701) started me on my life-long love of ships. I was pretty young when I started creating stories in my head. Sure, most kids make up stories at that age, but I found that I built up a repertoire of stories that I could recite consistently and on command. And, well, I never really stopped after that.

Many of those early forays included cartoon characters from the ’80s teaming up to go on adventures together. (The tale of Optimus Prime and Rick Hunter teaming up to defeat the mechanized legions of Mumm-Ra springs to mind.)


Mumm-Ra must be stopped…no matter the cost.

I also found my love of reading at an early age, which was the gateway drug into writing stories. In 2nd Grade, I wrote a story in the form of a Twilight Zone episode entitled “Identity Crisis.” When I read it to the class I did my best impression of Rod Serling speaking the intro, complete with the intense eyebrows.


Not bad for a total n00b.

Even back then, I knew that the fantastical side of fiction was what really called to me. It wasn’t that I found real life boring. No, it was largely the creative canvas that fiction afforded me. If I wanted the colors of the rainbow arranged in a different order than they appeared in the sky, no problem. Say I wanted the Pacific War fought with dragons launched from giant turtles instead of aircraft carriers. Done. Not even the sky was the limit. I could take reality and reshape it as I saw fit.

Since that time, the thrill I get from creating worlds and writing fiction has never left me.

Sure, I could go into my years at school, which led to college, and my eventual writing career, but all of that is mundane, the kind of stuff they skip in the comics or at the beginning of a movie.

Without a doubt, those early influences put my life on its current trajectory. While I didn’t uncover a powerful alien artifact or find that I’m a latent telepath, I did discover a deep and abiding love of stories, characters, and far away horizons.

That love is a big part of who I am today.

True story.