Looking back into the history of my youth has been an interesting exercise this week. On a whim, I decided to look closely at the New York Times from this week in May 30 years ago.
Sensing the zeitgeist brought me back to where I was at 12 years old. In the spring of 1984, I was crushed not to make my Little League All-Star team. I will not go into too much detail, but imagine all your best friends were invited to a one-month party, and you weren't. You could watch it from afar, but never get past the fence line.
It was an early and abrupt welcome to adolescent loneliness.
But I digress.
At that time, little did I know that I was just months away from my first kiss... months away from junior high school and the stratification of academic levels -- something that would transform almost all of my childhood friendships.
In looking back and reading the Times, I also remember those nightly news graphics that kept score of who had the most nukes, the U.S. or the Soviet Union. Don't deny it; you felt better when our number was higher.
The newspapers back then were peppered with Cold War copy. It fascinated me then, and captivates me now.
The first item that I noticed in the May 23, 1984, edition was a Reuters piece on how Soviet youth felt about America. The Soviet news agency Pravda had published a piece on how so many Russians were wearing American-made jeans and how American pop music had infiltrated the country.
The response from readers was polarizing. Many older Russians were disgusted by it, while the young wanted more.
My favorite line from a response to the Pravda piece was this: "When you can make jeans better than Levi's, that will be the time to start talking about national pride."
I found that comment so ironic in the backdrop of what is happening now. In the mid-1980s, there was a grassroots desire for American culture. Maybe it was not a definite harbinger to what was to come in terms of the fall of the Soviet Union, but it certainly gave a heads up to the global merging of the retail culture.
We flash forward to today where Vladimir Putin is shopping a renewed sense of Russian nationalism.
It makes me wonder exactly how the youth of Russia feel about what's happening. Do they want to go back to a more insular, insulated time? Or is the proverbial cat too far out of the globalized bag?
I know that during my time in Russia covering the Olympics, I did not sense too many Russians wanting to practice English with me. There was a general guardedness. At first, I thought I was neurotic about it. However, it was too consistent to dismiss.
Having said that, by the end of the Games, when any terrorist threat seemed as likely as a Y2K glitch on January 2, 2000, the folks I dealt with did seem to loosen up and smile a bit.
So ultimately, I left the country confused and not exactly knowing how Russia felt about me -- about us -- sort of similar to how it seemed in May of 1984.