Sunday, June 24, 2001

Children of the 60s

I used to say, "If I see another Boomer web page with "psychedelic" or swirly pastel backgrounds, a lava lamp, or a cartoonish hippie, I'm gonna lose it!" Now I have to include the "shaggy headed clean-cut boy next door" in the instant trigger for a gut churning response. I swear... "I'm gonna hurl!" as my daughter says, if this 70s retro sentimentality doesn't get more realistic. Oh sure "That 70s Show" is cute, but it isn't quite there. Although the nondescript name of the show does illustrate the fact that there isn't a name for us or our times. 

Now one part of me is gagging and retching at the blatant mis-packaging (anything familiar here?) of our generation into a distilled sticky sweet pabulum. While sex and drugs and rock and roll are mentioned, it's all squeaky-clean sex and drugs and rock and roll. Where are herpes, overdoses, and Sid and Nancy? I tell ya, WE are the ones who have to do something about this. We are the only ones who CAN do anything about this. There has never been any balance in our culture's perception of us, the Late Boomers...

But for the moment I just want to wander down memory lane and digress (something I do very well, if I do say so myself) about what I remember as really happening, as opposed to what society is collectively choosing to remember about being a kid back then.

The term "hippie" was buried (I saw it, on TV!, they had a coffin and everything) during the "Summer of Love." I was ten years old that summer. I never was and never will be a hippie. I hate to admit it, but my memories of "the 60s" are mainly from television. I have personal memories of things like reading Nancy Drew books with my best friend, and the like, but those are memories of my life, my memories of "the 60s" really do seem to have come from news broadcasts! People who know me have heard the story about me seeing my brother, the Marine, on the 6 o'clock news when he was in Vietnam, but this goes beyond that to something we all experienced. Well maybe not all, but many of us. While my growing up in a fairly rural not-much-going-on area could explain this "televised" view, it could also be that by the time we were kids, everyone had a television (which wasn't the case in the 50s) and it was still a relatively safe form of entertainment. We were allowed to watch most of what we wanted to see when we wanted to see it -- there was no 24 hour a day Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, or Disney Channel. Parents didn't have to "police" our viewing. Maybe they should have... all the trends we now collectively wonder about got started during our youth.

My childhood wasn't exactly the "Wonder Years," but I didn't live in suburbia either. I remember "Dark Shadows" coming on in the afternoon, just after school let out. I swear this directly translates to some of the vampire/Anne Rice success/Victorian romance novel success the western world is experiencing. Girls thought Quentin was sexy! And "Gilligan's Island" was a hit for similar reasons... Ginger and Maryanne fueled young male fantasy. TV even entered into my non-TV playtime.
I remember closing my toy box lid to get a better view of the Beatles waving and smiling as they came down those plane steps to set foot on American soil for the first time. And my favorite "Barbie" type dolls included a Twiggy doll and a Samantha (Bewitched) doll. Does this relate to the popularity of Wiccan practices today? And then there was H.R. Puffinstuff (actually spelled Pufnstuf) -- wowsa. Was that trippy silliness or what? And for kiddie consumption, no less! The sixties psychedelic life for us was experienced through a children's eyes. Did it set us up for acceptance of giant talking mushrooms? Oh, never mind. I think the biggest single influence of the 60s on me was Rocket J. Squirrel. Bullwinkle and Rocky shaped my political views, my sense of humor, and even my fascination with archetypes in fairy tales.

I doubt that I'm the only one who remembers much of the 60s through television's filter. Now I know at least one person my age who actually went to Woodstock as a child/young teen, but for most of us that was a world away. I think we should get our stories straight and market our memories ourselves rather than letting mass market culture try to reinvent the various stages of our lives.

Enough for now...

I promise that next time's rant will be more "mature."
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