Sunday, April 1, 2012
Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be
The other thing that amazes me is that nothing turned out the way I thought it would.
Who would have imagined that there would be more Rolling Stones still alive than Beatles?
Or that of all the '60s rock'n'rollers, the ones who would go on to the most successful post-music careers would be Sonny (who got elected to Congress) and Cher (who won an Oscar for Best Actress)?
Or that of all the Kennedy brothers, the one who would earn the greatest reputation as a statesman would be Teddy?
Or that John Madden would become more famous as a video game than as a football coach or TV commentator?
Or that a B-movie western actor like Clint Eastwood would become one of the greatest directors of all time, the John Ford of his generation?
Or that George Foreman, once the least popular of boxers, would end up becoming one of the most beloved?
Or that the Cold War would end with a whimper, not a bang?
Or that we would have an African American president?
Jerry Garcia was right: What a long, strange trip it's been.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when we try to predict the future is to assume it will be a straight-line extension of the present.
So when I was a kid in the not-so-fabulous Fifties, it was assumed that when we went to college the boys would be wearing crew cuts and button-down collars, and the girls would be wearing poodle skirts and circle pins, just like our older brothers and sisters.
Didn't quite turn out that way, did it? Instead of wanting to be Mickey Mantle, the boys wanted to be Mario Savio. And, as author Sheila Weller (a friend of mine since high school) observed, "All good girls were cheerfully turning themselves into bad girls as fast as possible."
A lot of nostalgic blather has been written about the Fifties, the so-called "Happy Days," but they weren't happy if you were African American. Or a women. Or gay. Or, for that matter, anyone but a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male of western European origin.
Then there were the twin shadows that cast a pall over everything: McCarthyism and The Bomb. My dad had a guy named Hal Smith sweeping the floor of his warehouse. He was one of the Hollywood Ten blacklisted screenwriters, and sweeping my dad's floor was the only job he could get. And my dad was running a considerable risk himself for hiring him.
And how well – but not fondly – do I recall the duck-and-cover drills and the constant terror of dying in a nuclear holocaust.
As a final insult, the food was terrible! Everything came out of the freezer or a can. And if you've never drunk coffee that's been brewed in a percolator, you don't know what swill is.
So while I miss my lost youth, I don't miss those times. Despite the dysfunction we see all around us these days, take it from one who was there: Those good old days were terrible.