Wednesday, February 27, 2008

the Sixties legacy

The sixties was gasping it's last breath. It was the end of the decade, Guy Lombardo was moving up his baton. The sixties was a crusty old ex hippie. And he gave this speech (with apologies to John Steinbeck and Tom Joad).

I'll always be with you. Wherever you go. Every time a woman feels she has heard a sexist remark, I'll be there. Every time you pass a Whole Earth store, I'll be there. Every time you turn on the FM radio and hear another sixties oldie, I'll be there.

Every time someone says holistic, I'll be there. Every time you pass a folk arts festival on the highway, I'll be there. Every time you read that diet is what causes arthritis, I'll be there. Every time you listen to "Fresh Air" on NPR, I'll be there. Gay rights? They owe it to me. Feminism? It all came from me. Gentrification? It has its roots in my spirit. Brown rice? I'm to blame brother. Whole wheat bread? That is my child. Hear a dulcimer on the radio? I'm guilty.

Your niece is living with a guy? That started with me. Wheat pizza? That comes from me. Organic? You're looking at grampa. Your date is driving the car? That wouldn't have been allowed in the fifties. Women using four letter words? Blame me. Your boss isn't a White guy? Me, sir. And a million other things.
"I'll be aroun' in the dark. I'll be everywhere-wherever you look I'll be there..."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The first time I heard about girlie shows

One day our family had an outing to Freedomland, the ill fated amusement park that was supposed to be New York's answer to Disneyland. Apparently, Mrs. Mills had a sister who sang in a band, namely the Jimmy Dorsey Band, then fronted by Lee Castle. As a bonus, Donald O'Connor was performing on the same stage.

Freedomland was okay, but not great. The best thing there was the tent where the disc jockey from WMCA was doing a radio show in front of a group of bored teenagers.

Outside it started to rain. In the band shell Donald O'Connor appeared and sang "Singing in the Rain". The stage was not sheltered from the weather. Donald O'Connor was a real trouper. No wonder my mother named me after him. The band played. The sister sang. And we all went home, soaking wet but happy.

The other big fair was, of course, the New York World's Fair, amply described in the book The End of the Innocence, by Lawrence R. Samuel. He was on the radio this morning.

The New York World's Fair was a hotly waited for event. I had been looking forward to it ever since hearing about the one in Seattle a few years earlier.

Contrary to it's detractors, for a kid it was great. Futurama was great. The Disney exhibits were great. My mother thought the electronic Abe Lincoln at the Illinois pavilion was real until he stopped talking. I got to go twice, once because my father wanted to go and once because my mother's friends from Ohio wanted to go.

After several hours of touring and tired from the day, my parents sat down at a bench at the fair. Soon a man shyly came up to my father. He almost couldn't speak, then he said, whispering, "do you know where I could find a girlie show around here?"

My father paused. "I don't know, I think the Texas exhibit has some scantily clad ladies." After living with my mother all these years, he had become a Texas booster too. And I heard a new term to increase my vocabulary.

Today there are remnants of the fair in Queens. You can still see the unisphere and the walkable map of New York at the Queens Museum of Art.

Editor's note: We'll get to an explanation of life after the sixties in due time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How we envisioned the future

And so it was New Year's Eve and I was at my first New Year's Eve party. Not the flannel pajamas with my brother watching Guy Lombardo New Year's Eve party. No, I was at a real party with young people and a few drunken adults. The sixties were coming to an end and we were looking towards the future.

The nice part was that everything had changed. "Straight jobs" would be gone. We would all become free spirits picking and choosing among meaningful, insightful, occupations, bolstered by plentiful government grants provided by a free, enlightened America.

The men would become motorcycle repairmen, carpenters, organic farmers, writers, actors. The women would make quilts and pottery and grow flowers. The slums would disappear as black Americans would join the ranks of the middle class and move into our parents houses as we would all live in communes or new cities in the dessert.

The sixties were ending and a new world was beginning. The seventies would be a time of brotherhood, freedom, happiness, and only the "straight people" would be left behind.

Some of the wiser babyboomers were like ants in contrast to the multitudes of grasshoppers. They knew that accounting degrees and MBA's would still be needed in the seventies and that the expectations of the longhairs was a load of hooey. They knew the world could only use so many guitar players. They reasoned since most people never went to the theatre millions of actors would not be able to find work.

And so the sixties ended on a high note of expectation. Keep tuned for in my next post I will tell you what happened after the new year was rung.

Editor's note: I was just browsing the other blogs and Tacky Christmas cards is swell.