A Retro Dude in a Digital Age

Got A Whole Lava Love

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade.

If I ever find one of these I'll be egg-static.

This realization dawned on me yesterday. Probably when I was listening to my Woodstock record while my living room was lit up with the glow from my lava lamps. I’ve always been drawn to the styles and trends of the late 1960s and 1970s, and my affinity for peace symbols is merely the tip of the iceberg. Call me retro or my tastes vintage, but dammit, I wish they still made avocado green appliances. Come to think of it, I wish I had a secretary named Bunny whom I could subtly harass while she made me coffee, and I wish I could get excited about the Space Race. I was alive when we first put a man on the moon, but don’t remember much about that day seeing as how I was less than three months old. I wish I could fly on Pan Am. The haze of smoke from the passengers with cigarettes in their mouths would probably make me nauseous, but at least I’d get a nice meal, say a salisbury steak rather than a pathetic little bag of peanuts, served by a stewardess with a short skirt and pillbox hat instead of a “flight attendant” who might very well be male. (I’m looking forward to ABC’s new Pan Am series that debuts next month, too).Β I wish I could go to the movies and watch some disaster flick and laugh at the special effects and then drive home in my Dodge Charger the size of a boat that had a bench seat in front and no seat belts. Hell, I would hang up one of those bead curtains for doors that were so popular in the 70s if I had a decent place to put it, and one of my dream discoveries is a classic egg chair.

The skies would be a whole lot friendlier if we still had Pan Am stewardesses.

Sigh. Dare to dream. But at least I’ve got my lava lamps. And yes, that’s plural.

I’ve been collecting lava and glitter lamps for several years now. I’ve got 11 on display downstairs and turn them on most nights. There are a multitude of colors, sizes and shapes. I love them – they make the townhouse feel warm and cozy once the sun sets, and are a great conversation piece. Most visitors really seem to dig ’em. I do have a “real” lamp but rarely use it – it feels too bright and impersonal.

Every single one of my lava lamps (and there are more than just those eleven – I have some upstairs in the bedroom, and still more tucked away in the closet) were purchased at either garage sales or through Craigslist. You’d be surprised how easy they are to find, and how cheaply people sell them for. I’ve paid as little as fifty cents and never more than $10; usually people ask between $2-$5. Just yesterday I picked up a new one at a yard sale for four bucks. Whenever I see one for sale in the store, I laugh at the idea of paying $20 or more for something you can find so cheap elsewhere…and often still in the original packaging, unused.

Just a few of my lava lamps. Groovy, baby!

And my record collection – that’s something else I’m proud of, and enjoy immensely. In the 80s, I bought a lot of albums. I gradually converted to cassettes, and then CDs, but I couldn’t bear to part with my records so I had my parents store them in an old wooden trunk out in the garage, always vowing someday to return for them. A couple of years ago Crosley started selling these vintage-looking record players housed in wooden consoles with built-in speakers, radios, and CD players. I bought one for myself and, true to my word, rescued my vinyl records from storage oblivion. Granted, it took me twenty years, but I remained true to my word. The albums were in excellent condition, unmarred by the ravages of time. I listen to them often, and am always on the lookout for records at garage sales and thrift stores. In fact, one of my new favorite pastimes is perusing through the bins of used record stores, of which Portland has several. I love that vinyl has seen a resurgence in recent years; there’s nothing like that crackle and hiss of a spinning record as the needle finds the groove – it’s so much warmer and more inviting than the coldly sterile digital noise pumping through our iPod earbuds these days.

Speaking of Warmer

Saturday, the Summer That Wasn’t suddenly – and without fanfare – turned into the Summer That Was. Up until yesterday, it had been unusually cool out here, especially compared with the rest of the country. We hadn’t even hit 90 once; typically by May we’ve reached that milestone. I was beginning to think – and hope – that this year we might never get there, but then Saturday happened and the high temperature reached 96.

Way to overachieve, Portland.

90 is bad enough. But 96? Ugh. I have never been on friendly terms with hot weather. I just don’t like it! Kind of ironic considering I was born in Hawaii and spent a good portion of my childhood there. You’d think I’d be used to a little warm weather. Nope!

I’m not complaining, though. Why should I? I’ve got central A/C delivering icy cold air to my townhouse at the flick of a switch. It’s only a minor inconvenience when you’re out and about, dashing from air-conditioned store to air-conditioned car. Besides, August is already winding down and autumn – my favorite season – is right around the corner. Β I told the kids when I dropped them off the other day that the next time I see them, it will be their last week of summer vacation. A declaration that was, predictably, met with moans and groans.

I don’t care. I’m ready for fall!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

17 thoughts on “A Retro Dude in a Digital Age

    1. We average 9 or 10 days at 90 or above every summer. This year has been strange because of our lack of heat. On the other hand, in 2009, it hit 108. You never know what you’re going to get around here!


  1. “Call me retro or my tastes vintage, but dammit, I wish they still made avocado green appliances.’

    OMG, how funny, Mark! When I was a kid, my mother had the ENTIRE kitchen laced with avocado appliances. I love it! Avocado and mustard yellow appliances always remind me of the Brady Bunch house. Also, SHAG carpet!

    And I am so with you on flying Pan Am – weren’t those the days when flying was special? Now, you don’t even get anything to eat or drink without being first class 😦

    I freakin’ LOVE lava lamps (not that I have any presently). But I did at one time. Also, inflatible furniture. Remember that?

    Yikes….you got 96 degree weather yesterday? Odd, because here it was much cooler than normal. But, summer ain’t over yet. I have a feeling we’ll probably get hit with another heat wave before it’s over – UGH!

    Meeeeeeee too….I am so ready for fall. AND winter!


    1. When I was living in San Jose, we rented a house with orange shag carpeting. OMG, that was some groovy fun!! And actually quite practical. Shag carpeting hides dirt and stains like nothing else. Plus, it’s fun to roll around on.

      Funny that you are cool when we are warm…our weather is always opposite!


  2. Lemme tell ya dude, it was really cool being in college in the 60’s and the tunes and the little orange pills from the nice man in the park that was always smiling and wore rainbow clothes. But there is one SERIOUS drawback. If you lived in the 60’s you are now In YOUR 60’s.


  3. Mark, Mark, Mark….*giggles* I LOVE this post!! I’m so like you as far as the hiss and pop of real vinyl records…nothing better. Too funny about the avocado green appliances…I was just looking at pictures taken at my Dad’s house and viola…there they were….fridge, washer and dryer….woot!!

    The only saving grace about the heat, is that it is almost over as fast as it started. I have absolutely loved this ‘lack of heat’ summer and I hope that next year is as equally as cool as this year. I swear…I’m almost tempted to sleep in my car since that is the only thing that has a/c. Lucky you with your “flick of the switch.” I should stick my tongue out at you but then you wouldn’t really see it now huh?

    Ok…one more thing and then I’m done….

    I’m up to Chapter 10 of NTFK and I am absolutely LOVING it. I had no doubt that you would capture me and draw me in since you’ve been doing that for how many years now? At any rate, I truly am enjoying every word and I get a smile whenever I see your name on my kindle….pretty awesome!!!


    1. That’s okay, Tracy…I can feel you sticking your tongue out at me all the same. Stop it already!!

      And thank you SO MUCH for that wonderful comment. Can I quote you on that? (Seriously, can I?).


  4. Lava lamps make great nightlights for kids’ rooms! I bought one for my son and now my daughter has it.
    When I was a teenager, I really, really, really wanted one of those egg chairs with speakers built in.


  5. LOVE the lava lamps! I have an irrational fear of lava lamps as like the worst fire hazard ever. I have never owned one because I imagine there’s like a 90% chance that they’ll catch my house on fire. Not sure if there was some kind of public awareness campaign, but it certainly got me! πŸ™‚


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