Friday, April 10, 2020

Steve Rushin's Sting-Ray Afternoons

Steve Rushin's Sting-Ray Afternoons was pure nostalgic fun for me. By "me" I mean a white man who grew up as a middle-class kid in the 1970s. I don't know if it'll work for anyone else (though I bet it would) but I immediately recommended it to my older brother, with whom I exchange regular emails about childhood memories and old commercials. It was the perfect escape from our current nightmare.

Rushin is a talented and funny writer, which means I laughed a lot and never felt he was getting sappy. And the basic topic of family could get sappy quickly. At core it's about his relationship with his parents and his siblings, mostly the brothers closes to his age. But his friends are in there too, and his memories of playing street baseball with a friend matched mine of Wiffle Ball, with clearly delineated rules about fair, foul, ghost runners (a term I had forgotten!), and home runs.

The memoir is immersed in popular culture, with commercials and products I hadn't thought of in years (the "C and H pure cane sugar" jingle was one such example). Many others were local to his hometown of Bloomington, Minnesota, which in turn made me think of my own local places that have long since disappeared ("Picnic N' Chicken, it's the pick of the chick," which actually sounds pretty disgusting). I think of all the places around here that my own kids will think of in the same way.

But there's also music. I actually had a quick exchange with Rushin on Twitter after I did a double take at his observation that the spoken word part of The Moody Blues "Nights in White Satin" freaked me out as a little kid. I know a million 70s songs by heart almost by osmosis. Cartoons too, and tons of them on Saturday mornings. The book gave me a pleasantly nostalgic glimpse back at those times.


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