The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, August 07, 2006

GENERATIONAL WOES: I may be wrong about this, but I think that as a general rule you should always avoid calling your own opinions general rules, since as a general rule this is usually an attempt to universalize your own petty prejudices and give an aura of permanence to what is often merely the passing foolishness of a given age. Having said that, I think that as a general rule I am a fairly tolerant person. I try to get along with everyone and I tend to accept people as they are and I don’t try to change them, knowing that as a general rule people are who they are, whether you like it or not. So it’s best just to go with the flow, which is a philosophy that makes life livable, I think.

So, just as a matter of courtesy, will someone please let me know when the baby boomers finally and long last reach that state known to previous generations as maturity? I know that maturity should happen at some point and I would like to be around to take some pictures of the great event if and when it finally occurs. As a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that I am a member of the baby boom generation and that frankly I dislike being a baby boomer, if for no other reason than being one puts me in a demographic cohort with a large number of morons I would just as soon avoid. I’ve often wondered if there was some way of getting the late boomers like me, the boomers born after 1955 or 1956, reclassified in some other category—Generation W, for example—that would, at long last, free us from the manifold stupidities of the classic boomers.

After all, we do not share any life experiences worthy of the name. Those of us who belong to Generation W did not protest the war on campus; Catholic schools in the Bronx did not have campuses in the 1960's and the nuns suppressed any attempt to protest anything with a good swift smack across the back of your head; if they were in a particularly nasty mood that day they would use a ruler to smack you with, and you couldn't complain about getting smacked to your parents, since most of our parents believed that if the nuns smacked you then you did something to deserve smacking and so your parents would smack you too, just to get in on the act. We did not engage in free love; there were no sex education classes in those days, except for what little information we could glean from the walls in the boys’ restroom, most of which lacked any real philosophical content and any physiological terminology longer than four letters, so we’d never even heard of free love, much less engaged in it, and no, we did not serve in Vietnam, either; however desperate the Army was for warm bodies after the 1968 Tet Offensive, the local Bronx County draft board wasn’t going to spend its valuable time trolling through playgrounds from Riverdale to City Island looking for nine year old boys willing to go overseas to fight for their country in an unpopular war, especially a country where there were no Captain Crunch cereal, no Saturday morning cartoons, and no place to get a decent egg cream (non-New Yorkers may insert the favorite snack/beverage/whatever of their choice here; for me, it was egg creams, a New York delicacy which, despite the name, contains neither eggs nor cream).

This list can go on and on, of course, almost ad infinitum or ad nauseam, whichever comes first, but I think that the examples given are enough to show that for Generation W the link to the life experiences of the baby boom generation is, at best, tenuous and at its worst a classic case of guilt by association. We are not them, they are not us, and so let us depart the one from the other, the better to reach our own generational goals. I am not sure what the generational goals are for Generation W; if anyone has any bright ideas I am more than willing to listen to them; but for the boomers the main goal, and I base this conclusion on my own observations of boomer behavior, is to get to their second childhoods without ever really having left their first.

The reader is, no doubt, wondering just what brought on this somewhat intolerant screed about the generation to which I ostensibly belong, and since it’s sometimes a chore to pad these things out to eight hundred or so words, I will tell you. Here in our happy little burg scarcely a week goes by without some sort of festival in one or another of our municipal parks. Most of these happen in Memorial Park, which is the big park in the center of the city, but there are also a good many held down at Riverfront Park, where you can see the river, catch the river breezes, and, on the weekends, buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market. Riverfront Park recently was the site of the local Latin American Festival, an annual event celebrating the culture and diversity of our happy little burg’s diverse Hispanic heritage, even if the only Latin American flag anywhere in sight was que bonita bandera de Puerto Rico.

As always, the food was good, the girls were pretty, and the music was great. There was a girl rap group, which I didn’t care for, since I don't like rap, girls or no girls, and then a Hispanic doo-wop group doing hits from the 1950’s, which I did like, since I do like doo-wop, and then the salseros and merenguistas came and did their thing, which is what everyone was waiting for. And I was there as well, doing my thing; I went down to the park with both cameras loaded and ready to shoot. And I took a lot of pictures, some of them actually pretty good, if I do say so myself. So there I was, taking pictures left, right, and center, and there, in the midst of one hot salsa tune, I saw them. Yes, even in the midst of a Hispanic celebration, there were baby boomers, and even worse, gringo baby boomers. There were two of them, a man and a woman, and you could tell that they were classic boomers, not merely from the preponderance of gray in their hair, but from the too young clothes they wore, as if red t-shirts, shorts, sandals, and an air of perpetual grooviness could hold back the onward march of time, and from the way they danced to the music. I do not wish to sound like a philosophical ethnocentrist here, but I think it is fairly safe to say that salsa and merengue are, as musical forms, culturally specific, and that when one is dealing with a culturally specific musical form one should respond to it in a culturally appropriate manner. You do not samba to Johann Strauss’ Die schöne blaue Donau, after all, just as you do not do the funky chicken to Jimmy Sturr or the Watusi to Benny Goodman. In short, a salsa band is not the Grateful Dead, and when listening to salsa you do not mindlessly wriggle about grooving to the music in some pathetic Sixties throwback free-form retro acid alterative modern dance gyration that makes you look like you’ve got a large and fairly angry electric eel stuffed up your ass sideways. When you respond to a culturally specific musical form in this manner, you do not look like a free spirit being one with the universe; you look like a jackass, except, of course, el burro sabe mas que tu, and don’t you ever forget it, buster.

I suppose I shouldn’t let things like this annoy me, but they do. Those people weren’t doing anything except having fun, and why shouldn’t they have fun? It’s a free country, after all, and if they want to look foolish then let them; what’s it to me? Nothing really, but I couldn’t help comparing these two with their chronological companeros, especially the ones that I know were not born here in the United States. They came dressed casually as well, but they didn’t try to look like over the hill teenagers; they were adults and they dressed and acted like adults. They seem to understand that however much fun adolescence was, that part of their lives was now long over. The boomers will never admit that, not now, not ever. Why be a boomer at all if you can’t obsess year in and year out about your childhood and adolescence? What would be the point of existence then?


  • At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Neil said…

    I think the boomers are going to be acting the same way in the nursing homes.

  • At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, dude, you bogarted some of my best life material! I did get whacked for getting whacked by the nun... no due process, no nothing.
    Having been born in 1956, I am currently in my "mid to late 40's" at least until the odometer turns over. I am with you that I would prefer a label that does not pidgeon hole me with the grey pony tails.
    I suggest the line of demarcation be at those whose SS benefits will not kick in at age 65, but rather some obscure "later date" that I don't recall a 24/7 media "crisis in SS" circus eating up the news cycle when it was voted on.
    I don't even allow real boomers to get started on discussing SS reform when reform such a good number of those "Mime majors" will show up in the next 10 years at retirement in a groovy t shirt and say "Wow I made"


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