Monday, March 2, 2015

My World Is Changing

I’m starting to feel obsolete. I’ve already given up trying to keep pace with all the new technology changes; I readily concede that my brain is not up for that. What distresses me is the fading of smaller things, things that have been around all my life. The world is beginning to look less and less familiar. I know it's a generational passing of the torch, but it saddens me a little that young people can't appreciate the things I did. I like to watch Jeopardy on television. If you can tolerate the know-it-all attitude of Alex Trebek, the show offers a good test of one’s general knowledge. I’ve noticed that many of the bright younger contestants often have trouble answering questions that involve knowledge of events that took place prior to 1980. Those are the questions in my wheelhouse, but I fear the things I care about are becoming more obscure with each passing year.

Here’s an example. I love pop music from the 1930s to the 1960s… composers like Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer… the geniuses who created the Great American Songbook of standards played around the world. Their music spawned legendary artists like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Doris Day, and the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Les Brown and so many others. On one recent Jeopardy show, they asked a set of younger contestants a question about one of the greatest pop standards in America’s musical lexicon, and three  faces just went blank. They can tell you on which ass cheek Mick Jagger sports a butterfly tattoo, but they don’t know Cole Porter from a hole in the ground. My world is disappearing.
As a kid, when I went into the public library on Saratoga Avenue in Brooklyn, I was immediately comforted by the familiar sight and smell of books, thousands of them. The keys to unlocking all the knowledge between the covers of these books could be found in the card catalog, neatly and logically categorized, and all stored in those sturdy wooden file cabinets. Archived material was to be found on the microfilm library, accessible by loading clumsy reels of film onto a viewing machine the size of a 1952 Buick. Today in the public libraries there are no microfilm machines, no card catalogs, and most surprising of all, hardly any books. There are rows and rows of computers used by technically savvy kids who download books onto their PDAs. And there is no smell. My world is disappearing.

The playground was a second home to kids of the Fifties. Our parents had no fear of allowing us, at a very young age, to walk the ten blocks or so to Callahan and Kelly Park to spend the day climbing the monkey bars, standing up and leg-pumping the swings to their maximum height, sitting on our shirts as we flew down the hot metal slides, or jumping off the see-saw when your unsuspecting friend was high up in the air. Maybe we’d play some handball, shuffleboard, shoot hoops or run through the kiddie sprinklers fully clothed to cool off. Today I see playgrounds that look like giant Leggo sets… bright-colored ladders, tubes, and plastic castles. WTF,  Children “play” under the unrelenting supervision of helicopter parents (always hovering), nannies, and for all I know, armed security guards. Organized play dates have taken the place of spontaneous "play'. My world is disappearing.

I grew up around diners. There is no better meal anywhere than a good diner breakfast. Diners were not only for breakfast but the place of choice when we wrapped up a late night of carousing. What better way to settle a stomach full of "highballs" than to pile on a greasy burger, French fries and onion rings. (God I wish I could eat like that now.) These oases were open 24-7 to satisfy all your homicidal food fantasies. (Side note: There are no real diners in the entire southwestern United States, but I digress.) Diner menus today feature such crap as egg beaters (nothing beats real eggs), sliced tomatoes instead of well-done home fries, whole wheat pancakes, turkey burgers, and tofu salads. (When they run out of tofu, they substitute Styrofoam and the dumb yuppies don’t even notice.) My  world is disappearing.

Progress is inevitable, even beneficial for the most part, but it’s not always easy to see things that have been a part of your life slipping away. Maybe we hold on so hard for fear that we will be next to fade into the sunset. Cest la vis. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow something familiar will be gone, hopefully not us.


Children's Craniofacial Association