CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT – Robert Duran
Joining the Celebration Spotlight to talk about all things retro is Robert Duran, the founder of National Retro Day on February 27th. He founded the day in 2018 to put a mark on the calendar for everyone who loves to Celebrate Every Day. It also happens to be Robert’s birthday so it’s a perfect way to look back and celebrate the fantastic and bizarre styles of days gone by.
National Retro Day
Michele: National Retro Day was founded in 2018. Tell me a little bit about what made you want to establish the day?
Robert: It was just an idea. I am surprised there was no National Retro Day. There’s a National Hug Your Boss Day, National Margarita Day, National everything. It was just an idea. I was in my garage and I was playing…it wasn’t Super Mario, it was Nintendo. And I was playing it on an old projector. I was playing it on a big projector, those old ones nobody wants. And I had two tallboys, and yeah, two beers. I’m there playing. It’s pitch black dark and I have this big old-school screen. I’m playing Mario and I said, “Man, these were the days. I miss this.” And then from there, I said, “Huh. I wonder if there is a holiday for this.” I went online and just started searching and I couldn’t find it.
Michele: Now there is one thanks to you. It’s a day now where everyone can go digging into their closets to find the things that don’t fit anymore. Like right now, you’re channeling Karate Kid with a little bit of Cobra Kai going on. You’re all set for the 27th. Obviously, you’re a collector and you look back to the day. How do you define retro? What does it mean to you?
Robert: For me, it’s definitely when growing up as a kid is retro. There are certain songs that bring me back to that time. Those times when you’re a kid and you have zero to no worries so when I listen to a Led Zeppelin 80’s song it definitely takes me back. In the 90s I really enjoy Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. They’re the guys in the 90s.
Michele: And the 90s for the definition of retro, that’s where retro is right now. The early 90s, ’91, ’92. We can go back a little bit further but then people start saying, “No, no, no. That’s not retro anymore. That’s classic.” Would it surprise you that Boys ‘N the Hood was really popular in the 90s?
Robert: Those were what? Thirty years ago?
Michele: Yeah. My Cousin Vinny. Big hair. We’re still in the big hair era.
Robert: I just saw that one probably about 6 months ago. Hilarious. With Joe Pesci.
Michele: And Marissa Tomei. And that’s classic retro if you look at the cars and the language. What do you do on National Retro Day?
How to Celebrate
Robert: On National Retro Day…When I really thought about why I missed those days is that there weren’t smartphones. There wasn’t the internet. What do I like to do for Retro Day? Things that don’t evolve. For those who don’t know, National Retro Day is also my birthday. So it’s also a birthday holiday but it’s also a celebration of retro. We normally go to parties. Family, friends. Different themes. Different times. We’ve done the 80s, the 90s. We did a disco last year, everything disco, vinyl, and stuff. We all dressed up. This year we’re going a little bit more low-key. We’re just going to do a 2000s party at CiCis Pizza. We’re pretty excited.
Michele: Is that in Austin?
Robert: There’s a lot of them in Texas. They’re originally from Texas and they did grow, so in the 2000s they were booming. It’s an all-you-can-eat pizza.
Michele: What’s the theme this year? Just the 2000s?
Robert: In 2000, I was around 16-17 and for us, we don’t have a lot of money so where can we go for the best bang for the buck to invite the family and it doesn’t break the bank. So, a lot of the birthday parties were at buffets. Golden Corral was another one. This year, I’m turning 37. We are going to dress up in the early 2000s, have some 2000s music, get the ugliest birthday cake that we can find. And just some balloons and that’s it.
Michele: Are you going as anyone in particular?
Robert: No. Not this one. Normally I dress up in the era. So, disco…I want to say I looked like John Travolta. Others may disagree. But no, just something in the 2000s. I’m going to go online and see what cool ideas I can find. I don’t know. I might be a Back Street Boys.
Michele: They are very retro right now.
Robert: It was team Back Street Boys or team NSYNC. They had a feud…the girls…Backstreet Boys. No. NSYNC. Then, 98 Degrees came out and that was a whole different thing.
Michele: You’re going to play all 2000s music. Are you going to have any movies playing?
Robert: We might have an after-party which we will probably go to the local Pinballz. I love the Pinballz here in Austin. They are three really really good ones. That might be the after-party.
Michele: That’s retro, talking about arcades and pinball machines. Are there any places where you live in the Austin area that really screams that retro era to explore and enjoy?
Robert: Absolutely. One of the places I’ve been going to for a long time, and we held our very first retro party there is Pinballz. I always go to the original one. It has that feel. It’s rugged. They sell food. It’s BYOB and they have a wide variety of arcade games. And an extensive collection of pinballs. Which is pretty cool.
Michele: Is there one, in particular, you like to play?
Robert: Man. I’m really bad at pinballs. Like, really bad. Shout out to everyone…I see some guys and I’m like, man, how do you do that? They’re like a dollar or two dollars to play and I’m like… I lose the balls like this. <Snaps his fingers.> But in the arcade, the game that I always play would be Tron. I’m really bad at Tron. It’s like my arch-nemesis. I’m serious. There’s this really cool, I think it’s called House of Dead II. And rather than use the gun, they use the keyboard. So this is an early 2000 Sega Dreamcast game. Instead of shooting the monsters, you have to type it in really fast. That’s probably one of my favorites.
Michele: Very old school.
Robert: I want to say the game came out in 2003 (don’t quote me on it.)
**National Day Calendar note: Sega released Dreamcast in Japan in 1998 and the system was released in North America in 1999. House of Dead II was released in 1998.
Michele: When you think about when video games started coming out, we didn’t have a mouse to control things. We had to use the arrow buttons on our keyboard most of the time. Or we had a joystick. That’s what came with Atari back in the 80s.
Robert: One of my earliest memories of computer games was on DOS. I remember asking my aunt, “Hey you have a game called Psycho. I really want to play. And she had to put in all these DOS commands. Then I’d play Psycho on this old DOS computer.
Michele: My brothers and I, we would get the computer magazines, and my brothers would spend hours filling in the code just so they could play games. That’s probably more than retro but that’s what I remember about video games early on.
Robert: That was the only way. Here in Texas, there’s a grocery store called HEB. Right before we would pay [for groceries] they had all the magazines. Does it have the codes for the new Mortal Combat? And I’d be like, “Mom, please!” And that’s how we learned.
Michele: I believe it. On National Retro Day, do you talk about the things you don’t use today, or do you reminisce?
Robert: Not necessarily in the parties. They’re off the internet. If anything they’re taking lots of pictures and uploading them and I don’t mind that. But I’ve been to parties where everyone is sitting down on their phone. Everyone just has fun.
Celebrate Every Day
Michele: You came to National Day Calendar to help launch National Retro Day. One of our missions is to Celebrate Every Day. What does Celebrate Every Day mean to you?
Robert: I was looking at a picture recently of my mother. There were some from the early 2000s and the 90s. And I said, “Wow. How time evolves. We’re aging. We’re getting older.” So Celebrating Every Day…we should get to our destination in life. Where we should really accomplish what we’re here for and there’s a purpose for each and every one of us. Celebrating Every Day would be: Enjoy now. Because you only get this moment once. So, celebrate it. You’re going to get to your destination but enjoy it. It might be the last “bye” to someone. Because life happens. You’re getting older. Your health can depreciate. Something can happen. So celebrating every day is enjoying now. And then guess what. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years you can land on National Retro Day and say, “Man. That was awesome. I lived. I celebrated.”
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