Category Archives: Personal History

The Decade of Our Youth

bo-derek-10I went grocery shopping last night after work. Exhausted though I was we were completely out of food and I’d gone to work in the morning with a stale croissant from Safeway and Starbucks (possibly the worst supermarket and worst coffee franchise ever) so I was resolute in my desire to fill a shopping cart with a basket of good food from a different food chain. Taking my time I was drawn to the magazine rack as I strolled by leaning heavily on the handle of the cart. People Magazine had put out one of its glossy special editions “Celebrate the 70’s“. The cover features the Bee Gees, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Bo Derek, and Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. The back cover is: Mary Tyler Moore, Richard Nixon, Mark Spitz, Star Wars, Patty Hearst, Donna Summers, David Cassidy, Burt Reynolds, and the Village People. I mention the cover images in detail because with the exception of Mark Spitz I could, without hesitation, name very single celebrity on the cover and the movie or show they were famous for or being featured in. This is particularly a feat considering Bo Derek was pretty much solely a phenomena of the 70’s – known for one bouncing boob moment and a, at the time, unusual hair style. It’s also amazing because if you gave me a cover of the 80’s, 90’s, or the 00’s I would be lucky if I got 25%.

Much as I thought I hated the 70’s at the time it is clear from this example that I am a child of the 70’s. While I was born in the 60’s and have always sort of revered that particular decade and felt the one that followed was really a pallid and sometimes laughable shadow of the previous epoch shattering decade, it is the 70’s that stand out in my mind with a clarity that no other set of years will ever achieve – no matter how important personally to me. It’s truly the nature of the beast that is called human. When we come of age is, for the majority of us, marked permanently in our brains in a way that no other time of our life ever really can match. We are marked forever by the intensity of our youth. We are moving from childhood to adulthood on a cresting wave of hormones and adventure. The life in front of us is full of the unknown and of promise. We are actualized hope and we soak up life like a sponge.

As artists, whether writers, painters, poets, musicians, or sculptors, we need to soak up the world around us with the same intensity all the time. For those of us mature in years enough to have gotten some distance from the decade of our awakening the line might seem quite clear from when we were almost entirely alert (though maybe not terribly self-aware) to the years that followed when, no matter how we tried, the lights became less bright, and the world started rushing past us so fast we couldn’t hope to catch every image, every emotion. We all get tired out from so many hours spent washing the same dishes, going to the same supermarket, working the same job, but as artists we have to recapture the wide-eyed all-encompassing gaze of our youth. Your mind should be like a camera recording snapshots of life that you can paste into the album of your work. Age is what makes the selection of the images more discriminating.

I bought the special edition of People Magazine only to find that what I had once found to be banal and boring (oh the irony that when we are most awake we are also at our most opinionated and jaded!) to be bright, full of hope, and yes, even innocence. The 70’s now seem to me to be halcyon compared to the decades that followed and I challenge anyone to disagree. I won’t be watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels anytime soon, but I can remember watching them the first time around far more clearly than I remember what I watched last night.

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Winged Mercury and Dude, Where’s My Internet?

Wyatt panicking this weekend

Wyatt panicking this weekend

The moral of the story is two-fold: when you head off for the weekend don’t forget to tell your mother that you’re going; always leave the neighbors with a spare key.

Saturday I was bundled into a car, literally dragged away from the computer when my fingers were smoking with literary inspiration, so that I could make it to New York City in time for a family gathering of some importance. We had planned to go later in the day but there was a blizzard on its way – maybe we could miss it? We didn’t but fortunately it wasn’t a real blizzard. Unfortunately neither Connecticut nor New York felt like plowing our direction of the highway. There was definitely some careful yet white-knuckled driving for the entire trip but we arrived safe and sound at Grandpa’s in the Bronx.

Dinner was extremely pleasant though – leftover chicken soup from last year’s Passover (from the freezer) – and roast chicken cut up into scary chunks with a nicely dressed salad and the good company of family members reunited. My family has recently begun to merge with my lady’s family and I’m being indoctrinated into a large and warm circle of wonderfully literate and engaging people. We were each shown to our accommodating beds for the night and I sank into mine with great relief after a harrowing drive. I had, briefly, attempted to access the internet with my laptop but there was no open wifi, and no dialup. However a couple days away from the computer is a welcome change I find.

I am also always sound asleep at 4:00 a.m. It’s never a time you’ll find me restless or in a book. I like my eight hours and I generally sleep like a bear in winter. The cell phone had to ring quite a few times to wake me and even when it did I found myself too late to catch the call. It was my mother in California. This is alarming. Obviously something is wrong – perhaps with my younger sister or my little nephews. I called right back. My mother is so hysterical she doesn’t even realize it’s me at first. She’d tried to phone me at home but my phone was dead – she’d tried Pan but it was down. Apparently she’d received word, all the way in California, that there was a fire that COULD be my house all the way in Vermont and once she found both my phone and web site offline she was sure I was burning to a crisp.

Amazing how news travels. She was ranting at me with various things she thought I should do to save the cats when she realized I was safe, but my mind was foggy and I was waking everyone else up as I got louder and louder in my confusion. Then it was reminded to me that I could simply phone my local police station and found out the truth of the matter before further panic ensued and we also woke up the octogenarians in the apartment. It turned out that my home and cats were safe, but a neighboring apartment building was, indeed, ablaze. Once I had calmed down my mother relief changed to chagrin because that is when it occurred to me that my community site was hosted on a server in my living room and when the fire department turned off the electricity to the block they shut me down.

The emergency power backup that I have hooked up to the server is designed to shut down the server safely if the power goes off and stays off for a long time. It’s also designed not to go back on unless a human being tells it too – in case the situations of power fluctuations, etc., which means that I was now 200 miles away from the button to turn it back on. There was no way I could just turn around and drive back before attending the family function.

In the morning I expected to find dozens of direct messages from my Twitter network to my cell phone, but oddly nary a one. I tried DMing out, but it kept refusing to send them. I feared that either I was technologically a dunce, or that Twitter was down too. I think the real answer is that I am a dunce at times, but the fact remains that if I had a Blackberry or iPhone I would have been connected and able to let people at Pan Historia know what was going on. Finally I had to phone a real person to get the message out.

I managed to put my troubles out of my mind most of Sunday, instead enjoying being cut off from technology and enjoying spending the day in New York City’s Museum of Natural History – I hadn’t been there in years – and then later to a fancy Italian restaurant with the huge group of family gathered together. The day, however, was not completely unfraught. Frantic calls were made that upset my partner. It seemed that her car was not starting back in Vermont. There was much discussion of the ramifications of this as the car was needed for work on Tuesday as well as our impending journey across the U.S. Visions of exorbitant mechanics fees were the topic of much of the conversation.

It became obvious that we would just have to cut the New York City trip short so we shipped out early this morning, Monday, and headed back to the wilds of Vermont. Or rather it seemed like we had been in the wilds of Outer Mongolia with our lack of ability to get internet, Google the news about the fire, tweet, fix the car, or turn on the server, and now at last we were returning to civilization.

The car started. The server rebooted with the touch of a button. The coffee was made, the dinner was cooked and once again all is well with the world. Now let me Google a bit more about that iPhone contraption…

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Mercury went into retrograde this weekend?