Friday, August 2, 2013

Tom Shillue's "Dancing Alone"



I’m pretty bad at cleaning. Not because I refuse to do it or I don’t do a good job but because I’m so easily distracted. Even something as simple as picking up the clothes strewn about my side of the bedroom (I would apologize to my wife, but you should see her side), something that shouldn’t take a normal person more than a couple of minutes, may turn into a 3-hour project for me. I never know what I may stumble upon and find a sudden urge to explore. Whether it’s an old Entertainment Weekly I never got around to reading or a crossword book with unfinished puzzles or the sudden urge to make a pourover and on the way to the kitchen spying the iPad where I just know there’s a SongPop or Running with Friends challenge waiting to be accepted. It seems impossible for me to go from point A to point B without first stopping at points A.1-A.36. 

Even at my most distracted, though, I was never as productive as Tom Shillue. When he stumbles upon an old treasure - in this case, his old After 6 jacket - it spawns “Dancing Alone,” another installment in his “12 in 12” series. Memories of high school come flooding back to him and - with the help once again of his teenage diary - he shares with us some nuggets from his youth, this time centered around the high school prom. 

Shillue boasts about how many times he attended a prom, he and his beloved jacket always at the ready to assist someone who otherwise may have found themselves without a date. As long as they paid for the ticket, Shillue was there looking like a million bucks and ready to dance the night away, his The Lines cassette tucked carefully away in case the DJ needed help getting things going on the dance floor.

Once again Shillue shines as he takes us back in time, his sense of nostalgia contagious as he occasionally drifts away from the main storyline to re-visit a backpacking trip through Ireland, is forced to deal with a friend going through a nervous breakdown (and his teenage remedy of driving with the windows down), and recalls the ad slogan for a pair of hair clippers that stuck with him all these years later for no reason at all.

As we learned on previous projects, Shillue’s diary he kept as a teenager (at the time something that seemed so serious, genuine, and important) is an endless fountain of humor. I get a kick of how many times he refers to someone as a “goon.” He’s a melodramatic pulp detective from the 40s stuck in the body of an adolescent in the 80s and it never fails to bring smiles.

I’ve come to really look forward to my monthly visits with Shillue and this time around is no different. “Dancing Alone” successfully captures what it was like to grow up in the John Hughes era, where everything seemed monumentally important because it was happening to you and every decision and encounter was seen as a life changer. It brings back memories of my own (especially those “after 12”) and fits nicely within this year-long series. I’m glad Shillue has chosen to re-live his past experiences and share them with the world. No longer is he dancing alone.


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