by Nicholas Jackson
Friday afternoon in my cubicle on eBay I buy a t-shirt from Rush’s “Hold Your Fire” tour. $55.69 + s/h on my credit card, embarrassing, obvious, I know, working a job I don’t want for money I waste. In White Noise there’s this part where the main guy goes to the mall and starts shopping and a wave of covetous mania washes over him and he blacks out. I forget what happens next.
Rush released “Hold Your Fire” in 1987. Their twelfth studio album received a lukewarm critical and commercial response; still, the aging prog-rockers went on an eight-month international tour, starting in Newfoundland, crisscrossing the USA, flying to Europe, and finishing in Stuttgart, Germany at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle Arena.
George H.W. Bush received Reagan’s endorsement, became the Republican nominee for President. Each Rush concert opened with “The Big Money” and closed with “Tom Sawyer” (neither from their current album). During his acceptance speech, Bush called America “the leader, a unique nation with a special role in the world.”
One weekend when I was fourteen I borrowed a t-shirt from my dad. It was soft and faded with red orbs printed on the front, tour dates printed on the back.
Having grown up at my grandma’s house without examples of rock ‘n’ roll-cool (our church didn’t even feature acoustic guitar), my sense of style was a hodgepodge of ignorant rebellion. Flared skinny jeans, a bad Jonathan Brandis haircut. The Rush t-shirt was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
A genuine artifact of a bygone era. My friends asked about it, and over time an origin story developed. They thought it was cool, too, I think. Or they might’ve just been weirded out by how often I wore it.
And what’s with the format of eBay listings? It’s like some future spam genre of poetry, bold intermittently capitalized keywords: RaRe ACDC RoCk HIPSTER 80s.
The scary thing isn’t that they seem like they were written by robots. (I mean, eBay merchants might employ SEO-keyword-generating bots, sure.) The scary thing is that the posts seem like they were intended for robots. (Are there good-deal-scouring eBay robots, too?)
In 1987 there were 250,715 American troops in Germany. I try to imagine the corresponding annual amount of toothbrushes and toilet paper, for the 250,715 and their dependents.
The shirt followed me to college, but–like most things that follow you from high school to college–it seemed a lot less cool there.
Around the age of 22, I lost track of it. (I do have theories on its current whereabouts, but I’m too embarrassed to bring it up with the persons of interest).
My mom and dad were nineteen years old in 1987, stationed on Hahn Air Force Base, and I was born in the small hospital there.
They attended the final show of the “Hold Your Fire” tour, I guess. I mean, I’ve never asked them about it. Or their time in Germany. Or their brief marriage.
On the day I was born, two troops died, Scott Schulz (age 20) and Paul Bacci (age 24). Peacetime casualties. The Defense Casualty Analysis System (DACA) provides these creepy reports. Both of theirs are very similar:
Religion: Roman Catholic Church
Service: Air Force
Casualty Location: Germany
Casualty Category: Accident
Incident Type: Non-Hostile Death
Remains: Body Remains Recovered
Causality Closure: Buried Unknown Disposition
I wonder why there were 2.5 million US troops in Germany during the ’80s if it was peacetime? And if Scott Schulz and Paul Bacci died in the same “accident,” and what does that even mean? Were they stationed on Hahn, too? Is it possible, as I was being born, they were expiring in the same shitty little hospital? I’m not superstitious, but, come on, how could that not have cursed me in some way or another?
Friday afternoon in my cubicle on eBay, I’m noticing the other “Hold Your Fire” shirts for sale all have slightly different tags, and, fuck, the one I got doesn’t even have the tour dates on the back. No wonder the others are all like $200 more.
And of course, a cool vintage t-shirt can’t impede America’s ever-increasing militarism. And of course, a cool vintage t-shirt probably can’t reverse a cursed birth.
But then again, I can’t be 100% sure because the t-shirt I ordered is a knockoff.
Nicholas Jackson lives in Southern California and produces i might go to the beach, a weekly archive of long distance phone calls and field recordings.