Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past


A Cardboard Cutout of Debbie Harry

Blondie poster (partial) found on    Star

Blondie poster (partial) found on Star

Bookmark and Share
A Cardboard Cutout of Debbie Harry

I think about the World Trade Center and I remember the comments posted to YouTube by an anonymous user who couldn’t bear to hear Blondie after 9/11.

Fortunately it’s not all disasters. There’s always Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Forest Whitaker and Sean Penn. A turn of the metaphorical dial and the massive football star Charles Jefferson and the terminally-stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli are both grown up Oscar winners for The Last King of Scotland (2006) and Milk (2008). I want to get back to the present, or to another present, but I’m momentarily hung up on Milk, the man, not the movie, and I skip to an alternate take on that historical/filmic reality, the earlier documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk (1984).

Only I’m still half-back there with Mike Damone in Fast Times, chatting up a cardboard cutout of my first love, Debbie Harry, as my alternate virtual realities blur together. I think about seeing her and what looked like a Siberian Husky in Hell’s Kitchen last winter.

I watch “Union City Blue” again, and think of her dancing in an orange jumpsuit and sporting the kind of shades that are now sadly commonplace on Bedford Ave. I think about the old docks, the new condos, and a landscape that’s lost and never to be found again regardless of what the economy does next.

Then I think about the World Trade Center again. I remember the comments posted to YouTube by an anonymous user who couldn’t bear to hear Blondie after 9/11. The post said something poetic about the brightness of our time, our band, and our city being shattered.

I remember the urban legend about Debbie escaping from the serial killer, Ted Bundy once in Alphabet City.  Back when New York was going to hell, or so I’m told. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, though, everyone seems to look back longingly. I think about the anonymous YouTube user’s quote again, and I feel like I arrived in the city much too late.

I can’t get the quote right, and when I go back to look for it a few days later, the video’s been removed because of copyright. Another one’s sprung up in its place, but the original post, and the collective reflection that’s mixed in with snide comments from bored adolescents who never had their own Debbie, is gone.

Related Articles
16 Oct 2014
From the first selfie to the importance of jazz musicians, Steven Johnson puts a few surprises into How We Got To Now.
18 Oct 2010
Pop thought guru Steven Johnson taps into neurobiology and pop culture -- with a few stops in-between -- to explore what fuels those "Eureka!" moments in his new book, Where Good Ideas Come From.
18 Jan 2009
All the evidence shows that Priestly possessed a great mind, capable of making innovative connections and leaps that led to profound changes in humankind's understanding of the world.
5 Apr 2007
"My editor said, 'Yeah, it's like Emergence if the slime molds started killing people in chapter four.' And that became my mantra as I was writing it: 'Just think Emergence with killer slime molds and you're golden.'" PopMatters talks to Ghost Map author, Steven Johnson.
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.