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Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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a peach that will bring you to dreams
december 1, 2012
Bounded by Mary's birthday in October, and our wedding anniversary in January, this time of year is a special land for Mary and me. Chock with the inland seas and green mountains of Thanksgiving, my own birthday, Christmas, New Year's.
About a week ago we watched the new Rolling Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, on HBO . A retrospective on the Stones' fifty years in music. Like a lot of look-backs, it included footage showing what was going on in the world during that period.
And it occurred to me, as my birthday approached, What a fascinating time it's been.
Growing up in the Fifties, when adults ruled. Children had no power. Cooed over as long as they knew their place. Like women. Like minorities.
The only time adults really listened to children was when a child would kiss their ass, for example writing a school essay on how adults really know what's best for us, and everyone should just ignore juvenile delinquents. Don't put a spare cigarette behind your ear. That essay would get published in The New York Times, and the tall teenager, acne and eye glasses and a suit you would wear to a funereal, invited onto the Today Show, in glorious black and white, blinking and sitting erect on Dave Garroway's sofa as he kissed ass all over again coast to coast (Garroway was a great, charismatic early TV star. A lot of fun. Slicked-back hair and a sloppy grin. I Googled him just now to make sure I got the spelling of his name right, and was shocked to discover that in his old age he committed suicide.)
TV was propaganda. Idealized families. The handcuffs of white picket fences. Obey. Make a pie, smoke a pipe. Father Knows Best. We had to constantly practice drills about what we should do if an atomic bomb exploded on top of our school (Get under your school desk, link the fingers of your hands over your bowed head. That would save you.) Fallout shelters. They were a big thing. A national debate as to whether or not it was morally right to not open the door of your fallout shelter to families who hadn't prepared as well as you had. The general consensus: Keep the door shut. Let your neighbors turn into x-rays while your electric can opener rotates the lid of a can of beef stew. Punish the grasshoppers.
Tomatoes sold in supermarkets were bred to grow in square shapes, for ease of packaging. Mushrooms were only sold in cans. It was impossible to buy them fresh. Steak, on the other hand, was fantastic. Lots of marbled fat.
Then rock n' roll happened. People our age singing songs about us. Not about adults, who became irrelevant. Ed Sullivan, of all people, wielding the hoe that burst open the giant seed pods. And the war started. And protests against it, because we sure as fuck didn't want to go to some jungle swarming with bugs and kill people. You'd drive down a street, past shops, and hear music everywhere from the sidewalks. Everywhere. Like we were living in an album. And the drugs came in. Great, at first. We're all one! Pass the joint. Followed by Woodstock. A revolution going on, and we were going to change the world. We don't mind the mud, and our hair is past our shoulders. Assassinations. John Kennedy. Robert Kennedy. Dr. Martin Luther King. Race riots. You can't keep telling people to wait for the next generation for things to be more equal. Rock stars with a J in their name started dying at the age of 27. What kind of weirdly-specific curse was that? The pill. No one called it "the birth control pill." It was always just "The Pill," because of how it changed society. For the first time in human history, kids could have sex with each other (even adults could have sex with each other), and no one would get pregnant. And I almost forgot. We actually walked on the moon. A couple of times. And then, for some reason I'll never understand, we stopped walking around up there. We stayed on Earth. A great planet, but still.
Then the Seventies, the horrible realization that in addition to having terrible looking hair, and wearing god-awful clothes, we had to get jobs. People spent a lot of time sitting on sofas picking at their faces, under the influence of a whole shitload of drugs that should never have been given to humans. Marriages broke up. Disco. I actually like a lot of disco, but come on-It could only have occurred during a time when a lot of bad drugs were circulating. Fantastic movies came out. Like the revolution in music the decade before. Apocalypse Now. Chinatown. A Clockwork Orange. Taxi Driver. The Deer Hunter. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Jaws. The Exorcist. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Barry Lyndon. Alien. Five Easy Pieces. The Conversation. McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Badlands. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All That Jazz. The Man Who Fell to Earth.
And as we went into the Eighties, we all decided we wanted to make as much money as we could. Blue dress shirts with white collars and white cuffs. Red power ties. Suspenders, for Christ's sake! What the fuck were we thinking? But we did make money. We spent it on a lot of stupid stuff. The equivalent of giving a cat a credit card. The "healthier than thou" fascist movement started. Don't smoke. Don't drink. Don't eat meat. Don't listen to rap. Don't let your children cross the street unless you're by their side, holding an umbrella over their head. Sleep with one eye open. Child molesters and empty calories are everywhere. We became slaves to machines-exercise machines-willingly. Who would have thought? People started wearing clothes with corporate logos. I'm serious. VHS tapes came out. You could watch an entire movie, uncensored, on your TV anytime you wanted. Stop it long enough to take a piss or fix a drink. Heralding our current Great Age of Convenience. Not much else to say.
The Nineties. Computers. The Internet. Everyone had their own home page. The cheerfulness of Gifs. Want to know what Pete and Ally and the kids did last weekend? Here's the pictures, lots of limbs and heads cut off. I really liked that homemade look. Visiting people you didn't know, who didn't know you were visiting them. I wish we still had that naiveté. Email! You could be best friends with someone on the other side of the world, without ever having actually met them, which was really cool. Everyone made money in the stock market, because so many dollars gushed in from 401k accounts every stock just kept surging up. Yahoo! was trading at $367 a share (now it's at about $8.50.) Music started to make a comeback. Seattle grunge. Movies started making a comeback. Good Fellas. Pulp Fiction. Fargo. Unforgiven. The Usual Suspects. The Sixth Sense. Reservoir Dogs. Magnolia. The Big Lebowski. We were coming into our own again.
The aughts arrived, and with it the revolution that had occurred in music and movies finally spread to television. Series that told honest stories dominated. Six Feet Under. The Sopranos. Mad Men. Dexter. Breaking Bad. But the movie industry turned to shit. Big budget sequels, reboots, comic book adaptations. No quiet moments between two actors practicing their craft when you can just have a big Boom! instead. It was all about the popcorn. The twin towers burnt to the ground. The Big Brother We Now Have the Right to Spy on You for National Security Reasons While You Wipe Your Ass Act passed. Cameras everywhere! On every street corner, in every parking lot. You exist because the federal government allows you to exist. Man now went no more than 250 miles into space, a few hours' drive on a highway, to a space station that was a plastic Cracker Jack prize compared to what we had once dared to dream a half century before. One small step for Man, one extremely modest step for Mankind. By now we should have been drinking Tang while floating upside down in an orbit around Jupiter.
And so here we are, in the Teens (is that what we're calling this decade?) We're more connected to each other than ever before, which is really good. Our economy has collapsed, but we're optimistic. We finally have an African-American president, a good man, which is about time (but we still have a long way to go.) There may be an exciting announcement about what Curiosity found analyzing Martian soil, in December. All of us are older. But we seem to be doing okay. Sleep has become more important. The peace of it. Slowly closing your eyes, and in that interior darkness unique to you, imagining a peach. A peach that will bring you to dreams. Every once in a while, when we're not expecting it, a song comes on, in the kitchen, in a car, in a shop, in an elevator, in my mind, and we're whisked backwards to what we once were. Not a bad thing?