Nuclear Centers by Eric Miller

Nuclear Centers

Eric Miller on Finding Thick Community in the Receding West

Twenty-two years ago, a boy I know well went off to college. It was the age of argyle knee socks and skinny ties, of spikey mullets and tidy perms—a time, in other words, when college students were trying to figure out how to be hip without being hippies. Sting and Thriller filled the air, Cosby and MTV the screen. And the genial pep of Ronald Reagan, contagious in its way, was already making the poor guy the Democrats sent up into a sacrificial lamb, though the election was still two months away.

All of this was the stuff of mystery to this boy. He had been overseas for several years, and had just returned home that summer. John Travolta, flowers, and transistor radios had given way to Boy George, plaid, and boom-boxes. It was all unsettling, in an exciting sort of way, and he was eager to jump in. And he was scared to jump in.

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Eric Miller is an Associate Professor of History at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania (www.geneva.edu). He is writing a biography of Christopher Lasch.

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