Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Philosophy Club

One of the great goals of mankind is to be in the in crowd. The kids at play groups jockey to play with the "in" kids. In the workplace, we all know what the true hierarchy is, and it is not based on job titles. In the nursing home, the oldsters want to sit at the "in" table at lunch. And so it is in high school.

High school is the home of cliques, crowds, in groups, out groups, the nerds, the band kids, the drama kids, the ethnic kids, and so on. There were the clean cut kids who would end up with good educations and nice homes and SUV's. There were the juvenile delinquents who would later spend time in jail and end up working on the docks or sweeping up a bar.

One of the gifts of the sixties is that kids who had no hope of being popular in the existing crowds of yore had a chance of getting into a new crowd, a hip crowd, or in my case, the crowd of hip intellectuals. Being a hip intellectual in high school never would get one elected into the student council or date a cheerleader, but it at least allowed one to be in a group and even have a Jewish girlfriend.

My entree into being part of the hip intellectual crowd was a new club in high school, called the Philosophy club. A freewheeling discussion group, you listened to people talk about the Vietnam war, WBAI, Paul Krazner, Wavy Gravy, Andy Warhol movies, the Fugs, drug laws, rumour about pop stars, all while belonging to an academically sanctioned club. We had a young hip teacher who flirted with the chestier seniors in the class. Later the Philosophy club could lead to involvement with high school underground newspapers.
editor's note: To be continued

Thursday, August 16, 2007

FM Radio

Before the mid sixties, FM radio in the New York metropolitan area consisted of simulcasts of AM stations, a few easy listening stations, a couple of classical stations and a couple of educational stations where people would have erudite conversations about why it is a sin to present Moliere in English. Then an FCC ruling severely limited the amount of simulcasting a station could do to hold onto its FM license. Necessity being the Mothers of Invention, this forced FM radio owners to do original programming for FM, rock music being an obvious choice. There would finally be a new outlet to play groups like Moby Grape.

WOR had a famous AM outlet and its tv station featured Joe Franklin. For FM it went with an album oriented rock format. It was weird because it started without disc jockeys because of a labor dispute. For several months, listeners could basically listen to all types of rock music without interruption. WABC-FM followed, and its night disc jockey Bob Lewis was featured with the folk oriented "Some Trust in Chariots" before the station took the full plunge. Even Dan Ingram did a jazz show on Saturday afternoons for a spell.

1967 was of course the big year in the psychedelic era. Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, the Grateful Dead have all been discussed during this anniversary year. The music even made it to the halls of my junior high school. Mr. Duncan, the 9th grade history teacher, saved the last day of class (also the last day of Junior High School for me) to discuss Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He actually brought in a copy, although there weren't any seeds in the inner cover.

The premise of the class was that is was prententious horse s--t. The Beatles, fearful of losing their audience were going to outrageous lengths to capture an audience that had migrated to Bob Dylan and the Five Stairsteps. And so ended my experience in Junior High School. High school would be better.
My father didn't like Sargent Pepper's either. Actually, he admitted he couldn't figure out what they were trying to do. The movement from logic to post-logic. Ultimately that was Mr. Duncan's problem too. The older generation thought they were supposed to "get it" and there was no "it" to get. It was the same with painting soup cans. Why make a painting of a soup can? I think I need another cup of coffee.
editor's note: I have been using Grammar Girl to help with the grammar of this blog.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gym class

The last period of my first day in Junior High School was gym class. Completely different than what I had known before, this was for boys only and all the gym teachers were male. We were all sat down on the benches and the head of the physical education class took roll call. Then we got the speech. The speech that informed me that my childhood had come to an end. From now on, I was a man.

First we were told we had to take showers after gym or the girls would make remarks about us smelling a bit. All the boys smiled. We had never been talked to this way. We weren't little kids anymore! Then we were told we had to bring in five dollars to buy our gym clothes which came with a neat gym bag. Then our mothers would have to clean our gym clothes once a week. (Good old Mom always laundered my gym clothes and never complained.)

If we didn't bring in our gym clothes, smelling like daffodils, we would have to wear a shirt and shorts that said "unprepared". Many times in my life I haven't been ready for a situation. I wish that all I had to do was wear one of those shirts.

Then he said we had to wear athletic supporters during class. Otherwise known as jocks. No more BVD's during gym class. We had to wear jocks.

Walking home from my first day in Junior High school I knew I was now a man. I had to wear a jock. No longer a sapling, a child, a kid. I was a man. A grownup.

I informed my mother of the new change in my life. She looked somewhat skeptically at her grown up son. He was so young just a few hours ago. I could wear my older brother's athletic supporter to gym class. He won't need his now that he is in college. If he needed it he would have taken it with him.

editors note: There are lots of interesting retrospectives going on this summer with the Sixties as the theme. If you will be near New York the Whitney show on psychedelic art may be of interest to you.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Food in the sixties

In America, food underwent incredible changes in the 60's. In the fifties, most people ate in local diners on those rare occasions when they didn't eat their mother or their wives cookery. For special occasions they went to nicer restaurants with traditional American fare. The only chain most people went to was Howard Johnson's, and that was only when traveling. The sixties saw fast food chains become the casual dining choice of the masses, spurred on by baby boomers and their new driving privileges.
Chinese and other ethnic foods became more sophisticated in the sixties. In the Chinese restaurant of the fifties and early sixties my father always ordered pepper steak and I always had chow mein, all eaten with forks. In the late sixties, pseudo sophisticated young people went to the cities and ate Moo Goo Gai Pan with chopsticks. During this era the falafael was born. Eating at the communal table of the Paradox on East 7th Street was the hip thing to do.
Italian restaurants cropped up that served more than spaghetti. Calimari became acceptable outside of the old Italian neighborhoods. Cooking shows entered America's picture tubes with Julia Child leading the way.
As the sixties culture came into fruition, soul food, macrobiotics, and vegetarianism entered the scene. Stores where you ground your own peanut butter emerged in the bohemian neighborhoods of our towns. Skippy was relegated to the children and Grandma. The malt shops of Ozzie and Harriet were closed. Of course in the seventies, America became nostalgic about the fifties and old fashioned diners became hip again.
Editor's note: This is my most popular post. Must be the Google references. I am currently working on Hard Times, a blog about modern times.