Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talk Thursday: I Remember When ...

Now there's a topic to make you feel old. Fortunately I was feeling old already as I was contemplating my birthday, which I always start doing when Joan starts contemplating her birthday. We're a month and a day and ten years apart, she and I, and she's due. Due for what? Well, no major medical procedures, let's hope. But definitely due for a birthday dinner at Red Hot & Blue, the local barbecue pit, which I love because it has food other than barbecue. Yes, I'm the only Texan who doesn't like barbecue. So sue me.

Anyway, I remember a scad of things that people born after, say, 1980 don't remember. This is kind of fun sometimes, because to all intents and purposes I grew up in a different world than they did. For example, I remember when the Russians were the bad guys. I posed this to a 19-year-old co-worker, and she said, "The Russians were the bad guys? Are you kidding me? They're pathetic! They sink their own submarines!" And so I tried to explain about the domino theory and Korea and Vietnam and the Berlin Wall, and detente and glasnost and why Nixon went to China. And she blinked at me, this winsome creature so young and full of life, and said, sympathetically, "I'll bet you thought Cate Blanchett was really scary in Indiana Jones 4, too, huh?"

Like I said, different world. I remember when we sang "Up, Awake! Ye Defenders of Zion" right after the "Star-Spangled Banner" before starting the school day. (I went to school in Utah, in the early 1970s, and apparently several Supreme Court decisions before Madalyn Murray O'Hair--or at least before word of her hit the local school board.) I remember when gas was 78 cents a gallon during the Iran oil embargo, but it didn't matter because you couldn't find a gas station that had any. Not that I expected to live long enough to learn how to drive because the Russians (remember them?) were going to push the button and start the nuclear war that would destroy life on Earth. I remember "On the Beach" and "The Day After" and wondering why anyone would want to survive a nuclear war in the first place. (Yes, I was a fatalistic little kid. It was kind of hard not to be.)

I remember when Jimmy Carter was President and for a few shining years there, everything looked hopeful. We were going to have electric cars and we'd stop relying on oil from the Middle East. We'd all pass the Presidential Physical Fitness Test and devote our lives to community service and everything would be just grand. Then Reagan got elected and AIDS swept the planet (coincidence? Probably) and the Space Shuttle, that great symbol of American know-how, blew up because it got too cold out. And inevitably the jokes started: "What does NASA stand for?" "Need Another Seven Astronauts." Oh yes, the witty repartee never stopped.

On the other hand, I remember when there were no play dates and nobody had ever heard of day care. Kids ran around the neighborhood on bikes after school and hung around in each other's yards, and nobody panicked and called the local police department's gang control unit. I remember when there were no cell phones and no Internet, and you had to ask your parents' permission to use the phone because telephone calls were expensive. If you wanted to know something about something, you had to go look it up at the library because there was no such thing as "googling." I remember when you'd be walking to school, and somebody's mother would be driving by and she'd stop to pick you up and give you a ride the rest of the way, and it never occurred to you for one second that this might be an abduction about to happen. There was no "stranger danger" because there weren't any strangers. Everybody knew everybody, except that sinister old dude who lived across the street, and everybody still knew he was the sinister old dude across the street, so you still knew him even if you didn't know him. And after he died it turned out he was a millionaire several times over who'd left all his money to the library or the hospital or something. People were just weird like that.

I remember when the school day ended at three and the parents came home by five. I remember when we spent weekends at Snowbird because ski lift passes only cost $15 each (scary to think of now, isn't it?) I remember when you could get on an airplane and not only avoid being groped by the TSA (because there was no TSA), but you didn't even have to walk through a metal detector. There was no such thing as "skyjacking", the Twin Towers were still standing and Osama Bin Laden was just another reactionary fighting some pointless war in Afghanistan against the Russians, who used to be the bad guys. Oh, and we were financing him then, too. Your enemy's enemy is your friend.

And on that note, it looks like I've come full circle. So I'll just say this. I remember when I didn't have a blog, and I just blathered this stuff to myself in the shower. Heaven forfend we ever return to those days. Cheers, all.


Cele said...

Oh mi gosh I wish I could say I wrote this blog... because it was great and I have no idea what I am going to do with this topic. I'm still working on the last one.

Jen said...

Joan agreed with me about having a blog vs. blathering in the shower - apparently I had a tendency to use up all the hot water.