The summer of 1987 was a particularly good one; it was also necessarily the end of my childhood. I spent my days working at Thrifty Drug in my home town of Stockton, California; it was a brutally hot summer. I remember tarmac sticky with heat, but also soothing morning cool that almost made having to show up at work at 5 AM to unload the truck bearable, even if I was stuck wearing tan polyester slacks and a cheesy Thrifty polo shirt.
When I'd get paid, I'd take my money and head up the 5 about an hour to Sacramento, home of the original Tower Records; I knew where all of their locations were and was fortunate in that their buyers did their very best to import all kinds of wonderful records that other shops just didn't have.
Predictably, summer ended. I was just 17 when I started at UC Berkeley; I went back to school a week early so that I could attend (don't laugh) band camp. However, much to my chagrin, the Cal Band had a strict "no beards" policy, so I quit band the after marching around in the hot Davis sun for two days. Those few days waiting for the semester to start in my cool, indifferent room in Cheney Hall were the last few quiet days I had for what seemed like years.
School started; I was excited to be almost on my own for the first time in my life. I was also excited to (hopefully) finally find a fellow Bear; I figured that sooner or later it was bound to happen. It was the Bay Area, there were thirty thousand students, and surely it wouldn't be too hard to find a similarly inclined furry fellow, would it?
Turns out it was, alas. I joined the Gay Men's Undergraduate Support Group the first week of the semester, somehow finding it in me to show up at a dingy basement room in the university hospital that smelled of Betadine. Instead of meeting a bunch of friendly guys that I could hang out with or maybe even snog, I instead met a bunch of effeminate, gay gays whose primary interests appeared to be going to the End Up, wearing tasteful sweaters, and generally being horrified at anything they didn't like, including but not limited to big, furry bearish fellers such as myself. I don't think I've ever met a group of folks more openly hostile to me than those folks were; I lasted a few meetings, but ugh: how depressing.
And I do mean depressing. That first semester at Cal was an unmitigated bummer. (The only bright spot was meeting a fellow Bear named Steve, but I'd just turned 18, didn't realize he was hitting on my exactly, and at any rate was kind of panicked about the situation, so we didn't wind up actually doing anything. I just ran into him last May for the first time since 1987 and we recognized each other, though, which was awesome.) Given my emotional state - mopey and generally blue - and given the noise of the dorm, I had a lot of trouble sleeping. Thinking it would help, I did scratch together the cash to buy a CD (at the time, they were novel and expensive) of a recording of summer rain that I hoped would help me sleep:
Summer Rain (at amazon.com)
It did, mostly, but what helped more was meeting cbertsch; it was an unbelievable relief to finally meet someone who didn't have a problem with not just my sexuality but also my personal preference for, you know, bears. Odd, really, that the only validation I got back in the '80s was from straight folk: it wasn't until later on in college that I met other students, all of them graduate students, who were cool with the bears - and then of course I eventually met bix02138 and then Mark, but that's another story for another time.
To this day, I still listen to that Summer Rain CD: I have a $5 MP3 player with just enough room for the mp3 version. Add a AAA battery and cheap earphones (and preferably an Ambien as well), and I've got everything I need to sleep through tedious intercontinental flights. I definitely got my money's worth on that one.