And We Danced (And Slid And Splashed, Too)

Do you remember The Hooters?

If you grew up a kid of the 80s, like me, you definitely do. They were one of those bands that came out around 1985-86 along with other bands like The Outfield, Cutting Crew and Mr. Mister, had a hit or two, were on MTV a lot for a year or so, stuck around in the periphery of your musical knowledge for a bit, and then, for all practical purposes, disappeared. In baseball parlance, they made it up to The Show for a cup of coffee and then went back to the minors.

water-park-slide-water-park-equipment-ws-008Anyway, The Hooters were known for songs like “All You Zombies”, “Day By Day”, and the two main guys’ association with Cyndi Lauper. They wrote her song “Time After Time”, which became a No. 1 hit a year before The Hooters own album appeared on the charts.

However, for me, the song that says “The Hooters” is “And We Danced”. It’s not a good song by any stretch, but it’s damn catchy. It has a great hook right out of the gate and ridiculous lyrics where the singer goes on about meeting his “be-bop baby on a hard day’s night”. In the second verse, he meets his crush, again, “at the union hall” where “she could dance all night/and shake the paint off the wall”. It’s so earnest and cheesy that I have no doubt if Bruce Springsteen had written those lines, Rolling Stone would slot “And We Danced” at about No. 62 on its list of greatest songs of all time.

There is something that makes “And We Danced” stand out for me. It’s the Sound of the Summer of ’85. The summer before my senior year of high school. It’s the sound that came out of the loudspeakers at one of the local water parks my friends and I would frequent during that summer of ’85 when we were finally seniors and set to rule Gov. John R. Rogers High School, Puyallup, Wash.

Yes, “And We Danced” was the Sound of the Summer of ’85. And it became the Sound of the Summer of 2016 when I recently heard “And We Danced” for what had to have been the first time in at least two decades as I kneeled down in the sun outside the Waterworld park in Concord, Calif. and slathered SPF 55 sunscreen over every possible visible centimeter of my seven-year-old daughter’s skin.

The reason I was coating my kid with a cement-mixer’s worth of sun blocker was because she had been invited to the waterpark for a classmate’s birthday party. The fact that as I did this we were also hearing a three-decade’s-old song and about to engage in an activity that I was certain I hadn’t partaken in at least the same amount of time wasn’t lost on me. I felt like I was back in the 80s, with my daughter that has never known a world where Netflix on the iPad didn’t exist. I knew that once we went inside the waterpark’s entrance, we were in for something that was both of today and also probably hadn’t changed one whit since Ronald Reagan’s second term in the White House.

And man, I wasn’t disappointed.

I will say this, Waterworld was a lot cleaner than I thought it would be. Walking around, I didn’t see any trash or crap blowing around. People actually kept their areas clean. This was a bit surprising, because it looked like most of the crowd had been living there for days, or at least since the park’s 10:30 a.m. opening time.

We got there at 1 p.m. and–since I’m on an 80s-era nostalgia trip here–stumbled around like we had just taken our first steps through the Berlin Wall and into West Berlin until we finally found a few spaces near one of the walkways where we parents, and the seven kids in the party, could drop our stuff. But just because we found a place, that didn’t mean we had any place to sit. Before I knew it, two other dads and myself were skulking into one of the food courts and trying be as inconspicuous and three dads hauling away a chair on each arm could. We were pretty obvious, but no one tried to stop us.

With chairs in place, the main issue became how to keep this gang of amped-up first-graders from drowning themselves in any of the park’s fun-time water attractions. Thirty years ago, as an insane, obnoxious high-schooler, I didn’t care about injuries or potential death to myself as I flew down what seemed like a football-field long water tube and into a pool of indeterminate depth and safety. Now?

Well, the only thing more insane than an obnoxious high-school senior at a water park is an insane seven-year-old at a water park. Every kid screamed with delight and/or fear as they saw the tubes, slides, pools and other water entertainment. Luckily for us, we happened to park ourselves almost directly across from the easiest ride in the park, the Kaanapali River. Just kids on rented “inner tubes” (definitely NOT the semi-truck ones we used in high school to float down the Green River) taking a nice, easy lap in three-foot-high water.

That’s what it was until we got into the water.

Immediately, it was like being in a cross between an Olympic water polo match and an Olympic kayaking competition. Kids were splashing with abandon. Kids were shrieking with that crazed sound only seven-year-olds seem to know how to make. And parents like me were slipping discs with every unexpected six-inch drop off and stubbing our toes every time the floor level evened back up as we waded our way through the easy flow that had turned into the Colorado at its violent-rapids peak.

And since everything involving kids always feels like it takes longer than it really does, it seemed like half and hour passed before we reached the exit point. While the kids were only getting started, me and a few other parents looked like we had been through the spin cycle. The kids, of course, wanted to run off to another potential drowning pool while I could tell that I and some of the dads, and probably all of the moms, wanted to drown ourselves, too. Only in one of the giant tall boy cans of beer that we saw in the hands of many other heroic parents that day.

Which brings me to how different the water park of 2016 is from that of 1985.

Back in the 80s, there was no way any water park would have sold beer. Part of that might have been for liability reasons–Even in the 80s, we would willingly sue each other for the most-insignificant of infractions or insults–But more than 30 years ago, the drinking age in many states was just 19, and a few may have been down to 18. And teenagers asking college-agers and winos to buy booze for them was practically a national sport. All any water park needed was a gang of drunken high-school seniors to break their necks by sliding off the side of Hell’s Hurricane.

What you probably could get away with back the water park if the 80s was smoking. It will shock our kids now to know that it wasn’t that long ago that many high schools had smoking sections–For the students–and you could fire up a Marlboro in almost any public place and not have anyone cast a You-Are-Worse-Than-Hitler furtive glance. The water park provided a perfect place for Reagan-era high schoolers to smoke out in public without fear of their parents either catching them, or bumming a butt from them, either.

These days? Even the most-tattooed harlot or biker wouldn’t dare try to sneak a cigarette at the water park for fear of not only being banned from the joint, but probably getting 30 days in county, or picking up trash along highway shoulders as punishment. But, for about $10, you can get your hands on a giant can of Corona or Bud Light and day drink the day away to your liver’s desire. Just as long as you throw you can in the proper recycling container.

But, since this was a kid’s birthday party, and one that required me to be at least a little responsible out of fear of my daughter drowning, I laid off the beers and went with water and soda. It was probably for the best, as if I had been drunk, I really wouldn’t have believed I saw all the artwork that adorned so many bodies that should have opted for the salad bar instead of the pizza buffet.

Back in the day, tattoos were mostly the stuff of legend, and also of bike gang members and guys who had fought in World War II. And certainly when I was in high school, the average suburban mom having a tramp stamp on the small of her back was about as far away a possibility as Bruce Jenner becoming a woman. And we all know how Bruce looks today.

Somehow the attitude toward the tattoo changed. Even I have a Japanese kanji character on one of my legs (“Katsu”, meaning “The roar of someone who knows what it means to be alive.” You may cringe at will.), and the logo for my Beloved Hometown Seattle Mariners that is on my upper left arm attests to my affinity for hopeless causes.
Yet now, where even a CEO may be inked up with some drivel like “Only The Strong Survive” across his shoulders, the tattoos on display at the waterpark will boggle the eyes and make you really question the choices of what people do with their disposable income.

Backs were adorned with angel wings large enough to make you think the wearer might actually fly away. Prayer hands arose out of calves, rib cages and triceps. There were enough flowers to impress the most-English of English gardeners. Skulls consumed shoulders. Parents walking with their kids in hand had images of those same kids inked in upon their thighs. So many girls had squiggly, twirly lines and knots on their stomachs and backs that they many have been advertising barbed wire. And butterflies. So, so many butterflies. On bellies. On ankles. On the napes of necks. Everywhere. One would think the Monarchs had returned to hold their annual mating ritual upon all the bodies of every woman in the Bay Area.

Many of the men had ink eruptions depicting their favorite teams, motorcycles, girlfriends and, in some cases sure to upset the Border Patrol, whatever Mexican state they identify with. (Michoacan! Sinaloa!). Women used the tops of their breasts and chests to show off animal paw prints, flowers, hearts and, in some instances that really should raise the eyebrows of the social services department, their own kids’ names. It was like a carnival of graffiti crawling out from their bikinis.

The assemblage of humanity aside, the party itself was pretty fun. I did a solo shot down the tube of something called the Hurricane and managed not to break my neck in the process. The six-man life raft that was the Big Kahuna was a riot, and the seven-year-olds screamed with delight, not fear, with every splash-filled slide and turn. The Breaker Beach wave pool was pretty fun, even as it was as crowded as Waikiki during summer vacation. Another difference between the water park of today and that of the 1980s: Today’s make certain to provide plenty of life jackets for the kids.

Eventually, the day, all of the parents, and some of the kids wore down and we all decided it was time to go home. But as any parent who has ever tried to get their kid to do anything knows, what would have been a five-minute walk over to the exit, out into the parking lot and over to my truck took us 20 minutes by the time Maddo got dressed and finished playing with her friends. And I still had a stop at the ice cream shop ahead of us before our 20-mile drive home.

We ended up nearly closing the water park down. And as we left, it was to the tune of another song of more than 30 years ago playing over the loudspeakers: Van Halen’s “Running With The Devil”. Music perfectly suited for a 21st century trip back to the 80s

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