We Did Not, In Fact, Build This City on Rock and Roll

Aging, death and the lies of 1980s bubblegum music.

Ted Anthony
13 min readJun 30, 2020


“Welcome to your life. There’s no turning back.”
Tears for Fears, 1985

For Chris Wenzler (1967–2020).


Me, right now: standing in the front bathroom of the split-level house passed to me by my parents a decade ago. I glance in the mirror where, each weekday morning between 1982 and 1986, I swabbed my still-sharp jawline with a Stridex Medicated Pad, deployed mousse and Polo aftershave and ventured out to survive another day at Hampton High School.

Gazing back at me on this day in June of 2020 is a man with eyes crinkling at the corners and — no way around it — the beginning of jowls. My reflection wears the face of a worried man. But the worries are different.

No longer do I lie awake fretting about whether Laura A. or Donna V. or Steph M. will notice me or whether I’ll make JV or whether my chin will clear up before the dance. This angst is more insidious. It traverses the terrain of checking-account balances and car-repair invoices and window replacements and ticking clocks and roads not taken. It worries of viruses and anger and polarization and injustice. Though still preposterously privileged beyond its eyes’ ability to see, the face in this mirror now has friends dead of cancer and drug overdoses and heart attacks and suicide. This face wonders where the other face went. There’s a war outside still ragin’, you say it ain’t ours anymore to win.

I glare at the man in the mirror. I find him repellent in his age and his compromises. So I spit a few silent insults in his direction. It being a mirror, they bounce back and whack me in the face.

That bowl cut: The author at 16, 1984.

Who the hell are you? You could not possibly be me. I am a Breakfast Club boy. I wear Op shorts and Union Bay pants. I have a standing appointment to Wang Chung tonight. How did I slouch into you? I followed the rules. I listened to all the lyrics of the songs that played on the radio. They were my received wisdom. They were supposed



Ted Anthony

Exploring and understanding storytelling and how it shapes our lives. My tools: Words, images, thoughts, memories, connections, history ... and, maybe, wisdom.