Profiles in Uselessness: NostalgiaJuly 20, 2009
Ah, nostalgia. Like selective amnesia and repressed memories, a yearning for a simpler time is often the result of something annoying in the present triggered a rose-tinted mental Super 8 film, often accompanied by With a Little Help from My Friends, by a twitchy Joe Cocker.
Whether the trigger is an “Insufficient Funds” notice, being lost in the “wrong side of town,” kids cutting across the lawn late at night, multi-racial new neighbors or the latest chart-topping single, “Remember When” dementia can strike at any time.
No one ever remembers a terrible time from their past during these stroke-like fits of retrograde amnesia. It’s always a “simpler time” when you can prune life’s variables down to just the ones you can handle, like when men were men, children were respectful, and women shut the fuck up.
To a simpler time!
- When women burned bras rather than wearing them.
- When Christians were fed to the lions, rather than elected to positions of power.
- When candy cost a nickel and came in two flavors: licorice and horehound.
- When this was all orange groves. Tended by illegals.
- When Coke used to contain actual cocaine and could treat polio, male pattern baldness and the gout.
- When arranged marriages were the norm, rather than this “speed dating” that everyone seems so fond of.
- When your news came once a day, delivered by a child laborer on a Schwinn.
- When there was good television, broadcast two hours a day, on one channel. And the rest of the day, the schedule was filled with great wholesome test patterns and technical difficulties.
- When Russia was our only enemy, rather than a loose confederation of religious fanatics, both domestic and foreign.
- When After School Specials dealt with harmless subjects like hookworm, comic book theft and smoking Dad’s pipe without permission.
- When cars were made in the U.S. of A. Great, hulking beasts that were more aerodynamic when driven in reverse and contained such safety features as 30 feet of hood and plate glass windshields.
- When women and minorities couldn’t vote, leading to the great presidencies of Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland (twice).
- When buying a pack of gum wasn’t like an interminable trip to Baskin-Robbins, which in those days only carried vanilla, licorice and horehound.
- When people didn’t undermine nostalgia by using inflation-adjusted dollars, thus turning our wonderful five-cent candy into a 95-cent gouging. Things were cheaper back then, dammit!
- When children received only the education needed to secure an entry-level position in the fields of textile manufacturing, railroad construction or chimney sweeping.
- When everyone at the bank knew your name. And your kids’ names. And your sexual indiscretions.
- When art was actual pictures of stuff, before affordable photography made it redundant.
- When singers actually sang about things, rather than vague emotions. Wonderful and powerful songs like Mellow Yellow, Yummy Yummy Yummy and Twist and Shout.
- When someone ran Old Glory up the flagpole, people saluted, goddammit! And wouldn’t ask impertinent questions like, “Did you mean to hang it upside down?” or “Man, do those Chinese make an awesome flag, or what?”
- When our favorite actors and actresses had the good sense to stay “closeted” until they died, giving their body of work a sudden injection of subtext.
- When “Duck and Cover” could protect you from a 30-megaton blast, flying debris, deadly levels of radiation and intelligent discourse.
- When you could smoke everywhere: on an airplane, at the movies, on the operating table, while working the medicine ball at the gym, at AA meetings…
- When America used to head home from a war with the spoils of victory, rather than a red “Participant” ribbon.
- When Indians were real Indians and stayed on reservations when not entertaining us during Wild West shows or parades. Back before we got all these fake Indians who don’t speak a lick of English and field customer service phone calls or assemble electronics.
- When there were only three religions in this country: Christian, Catholic and Jewish. And we were free to hate on the third one.
- When men were men and beat the fuck out of scab workers, pausing occasionally to be photographed taking their lunch break 500 feet in the air, atop some unfinished skyscraper.
- When men were men and would join forces with the all-Irish police department to beat the fuck out of union members.
- When firing up a cigar at the bar meant you were a rich and well-respected individual rather than a rich and insufferable prick.
- When the worse thing local teens did was suck down a few too many jerked sodas and occasionally kick the diner jukebox.
- When accusations of witchcraft were taken seriously, rather than just dismissed with, “They’re just goths, for christsakes. And they’re as scared of you as you are of them.”
God bless the good old days. Let’s hope they never return, bringing with them racism, sexism and a general xenophobia. We’ve put that all behind us now, in our present utopia.
So the next time the bank turns down your loan application, a local merchant asks for your photo ID, or you have an embarrassing and disturbing conversation with a sullen and profane teen, don’t wish yourself back to your childhood days. Instead, seize the moment, enjoy your life, live in the present and try to remember all the shit you put up with when you were younger.