Back To The Future and Back Again

Liz and Ferarri at 16 1981-2

1980 — Liz likes to time-travel in a  Ferarri 308 GTSi

      It’s Back to The Future Day today!!  And I am totally stoked!

For me, and many of my friends, we remember the genius of the sweet and laugh-out-loud funny 1985 movie classic “Back to the Future” starring Christopher Lloyd as the quirky, creative, hyper-active  mad-scientist inventor Doc Brown and of course Michael J. Fox as the adorably frustrated Marty McFly.  We remember, like it was yesterday how McFly and mad Doc Brown had to go backwards and forwards in time in their time-traveling DeLorean to save McFly’s parents George and Louise and orchestrate their meeting and eventual marriage, otherwise Marty would never have been born.

Oh how I love that movie!  We all intuitively knew back then, we were a generation sitting on the eve of one of the biggest technology booms in history! It was fun to imagine:

Just what will the world actually be like on October 21, 2015?

Lengthy BTF header

     Ah yes, 1985.  These were the  days before I forked over my quarterly savings for an over-priced brand-name  low-fat, extra-frothy latte.  They were the days of my first job at an electronics company where I was mesmerized by a friend who had started her own word-processing business on the side.  She had just purchased an Apple MacIntosh.  I still remember her plastic-encased off-white computer.  She showed me how you can insert graphic images and do all kinds of crazy things like change fonts and the structure of a document.  No more simplified block-style letters for her.  No, she was a mover and shaker and on her way to financial independence.  I had the opportunity to join her.  I declined.  No doubt, that was a Dipsy Doodle ding-dong move.  She probably moved on to Cupertino and changed her very life I’m sure.

1985 Apple

       Making multiple trips to see that great movie, little did my child-bride twenty-year old self know that someday I would no longer be struggling to thread camera film in total darkness onto a spiral wheel in order to see a picture come to life!  Only a couple years before the movie came out, I first learned about stop-baths and f-stops.  Every camera was a manual camera then.  Whatever picture you took, well it was going to be a surprise when you finally brought it to life in the magical red room of film photography.   While I was fumbling around with film canisters and  laughing with way-ward boys in the darkrooms of high school, young Michael J. Fox was most likely finding his way too on the lots of Hollywood as he perfected his skateboarding and his characterization of McFly.

          Yes, as my love of photography was blossoming, I remember how fun it was to bring twenty four, maybe even thirty-six half-way decent prints to life on a contact sheet.  Then you pick the best ones and print a handful.  In black and white.  Because that’s as far as I got in high school.  Who knew back then that thirty years later, we would all feel like master photographers as we post 24/7 not just twenty-four or  thirty-six, but unlimited amounts of  digital selfies?  Zillions and zillions of daily photographs of our vacations, meals, kids, kittens, and various other adventures are now sent (often unfiltered and uncensored by common sense) to all of our contacts,not  contact paper, to our magical, collective social diary known as Facebook. 

       Of course the secret to the time traveling DeLorean  in the movie,  was the pièce de résistance; the flux capacitor!  I worked at an electronics company in 1985.  We had large contracts with large defense contractors–names like Northrop-Gruman, Sandia Labs, and Lockheed Martin. I figured I must be important simply by job name-association.   At twenty I was learning the process of how to make memory boards that inserted into motherboards.  You add a fan, a power supply, and a floppy 5 1/4″ disk drive, and write some hexidecimal code and VOILA!  Magic!  You now have a computer.  And though I was only two decades past wearing diapers, I thought I was one rad chick.   Never mind the fact I wasn’t an engineer and didn’t even earn $10 an hour.  I was there man!  At the beginning of this magical world that was opening up and would forever change our future.

Flux capacitor

        I remember one particular endearing geeky programmer.  He was losing his hair though he was not yet thirty and had the palest skin I’d ever seen.  I don’t think he ever spent a single hour in the sunshine.  He always had a powdered doughnut and a coke in his hand.  He was so patient with me!  Trying to teach me how to speak binary.  Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time.  It didn’t matter.  I just kinda relished in all the geek-speak and tried to absorb what little bit I could.  I could feel it, just like  the Tom Petty song:  The Future is Wide Open! The sky really was the limit!

      I couldn’t have possibly imagined then the incredible journey of marriage, three kids, multiple jobs, pets, friends, locations, and vocations I’d experience over the next thirty years.   See back then, we lived in one time zone:  The Present

      Back then, before the future, I didn’t shoot a text to my friends.  I actually picked up a clunky plastic phone and dialed them.  Ok, I admit it.  I was rich kid.  My phone actually had push buttons.  But still, my mom could hear what I was talking about because I couldn’t even leave the kitchen in the 1980s.  Yes, we pitiful ‘80s kids had those spirally leashes that kept us attached to the wall within eaves-dropping range of our parents.  We couldn’t have known then that silly phone cord would eventually serve as inspiration to GE as they would find a way to  quintuple the price of an ordinary light bulb simply by making it take a bunch of hairpin turns.  Perhaps GE executives took Edward Hammer’s CFC lightbulb to the next level because they too were fans of Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

      So here we are.  Thirty years later.  The Chicago Cubs are doing pretty darn good!  Or at least they were until this past weekend.  Don’t know if their odds are actually 100 to 1 yet, but they’ve been living with those odds for a while anyway.  One can hope.  So I hope and pray, cross my fingers, and show kindness to goats whenever I see them, to lift the Cubs Curse, I pray that at least this remaining unfulfilled promise of Back to the Future may actually still happen.

       And here I sit too, at the half century mark.  I know longer feel young enough to actually call myself young.  After all, thirty-somethings now seem like kids to me.  But I don’t feel old enough to justify those damn annoying AARP cards that keep appearing in our mailbox.   I write this as I ponder the next thirty years:

  • Will the Cubs have a World Series win by then?
  • Will people still use Facebook or will we start relating again “old school” with actual face time?
  • What new technologies will be invented that can actually improve, not further clutter our lives?

And most importantly, who will I be?  What will I become?  If I could punch the date on a time-travel DeLorean thirty years forward, what will I see?   So as we get on our daily hoverboard of choice,  and continuously romance our phones, I pray I can live like McFly did.   I”ll get plugged in–plutonium amp like and become part of my experiences.  I won’t always pic and post it, I’ll actually live it.  

When seeing the future as a someday past, it makes me ponder what do I have to do now, to keep my family intact?  Most importantly with all this technology, how do I prioritize my time to live with purpose and have a meaningful life?  How do I live and love now in case one day, I too, get to go back to the future and see it all from a past perspective?     May we all choose wisely and not miss those moments of destiny where our past and futures collide.

Happy Back to The Future Day!!