Tag Archives: the good old days

It’s Not Easy Being Green

23 Feb



It’s Not Easy Being Green

L. Stewart Marsden

Control v. the lack of control is a conflict I’ve lived with for most of my life. It’s at the heart of AA’s mantra — and gaining the wisdom to know the difference is, in my experience, a life-long pursuit. In retrospect, I’ve been far more foolish than wise.

I’m hesitant to write these thoughts, as inevitably someone will point out there are no excuses for some/many of what I struggle with. The good news — at least to me — is that I do struggle with them. In a world that seems to have become black and white on so many issues, I’m in that fifty shades of gray area, and I’m not talking about the book and its focus. 

What I absolutely cannot and did not control:

  1. When and where I was born;
  2. Who comprised my family;
  3. What level of social status I was born into;
  4. What level of income my family had;
  5. What my level of innate intelligence was;
  6. What my skill tendencies and talents were/are;
  7. When and how I will die;
  8. What levels of pain those I love will go through, and whether or not they will endure them;
  9. Who I am attracted to;
  10. What tragedies will impact my life.

No doubt there are more, but the short list should suffice.

It has taken me these many years (I’m approaching seven decades on this earth) to realize and accept the responsibility that all of the above are not excuses, and that I have either controlled or abdicated control over the effects of those things over which I had no control. In other words, allowed the uncontrollable to control me. It’s the laissez-faire tendency that has been a challenge to overcome. The “well, that’s just who I am” attitude of helpless resolution.

I’m currently watching (binging, really) the Netflix series, “Grace & Frankie.” To mark just how far and to what extent American culture has changed, the show would never have been produced back in the early days of television. That’s not what goes through my head as I watch it, though. What goes through my head are the various elements of the series that I struggle with. I’m supposed to simply be and let be, right? And if I am uncomfortable about various scenarios of the show, that’s an indication there’s something wrong with me, right?

I won’t spoil the series for you with detail, other than the basic plot is two male partners in a law firm announce to their respective wives they are gay, and are divorcing their wives so that the men can marry each other. Archie Bunker would have dropped dead. I’ve never been an Archie Bunker type, but found myself not understanding it, either. 

What does that make me, then? Homophobic? I probably am. And I could probably point to the era into which I was born as an excuse, or the implied revulsion of the Bible over people who act out their same-gender sexual orientations. Or the myriad of conclusions the rigidly straight world makes as an explanation to one recurring question, “Why did God make me this way?” I won’t belabor the responses, which are just as fantastic as dogmatic believers explaining how the world was created in six days. That particular “sin” has found its way to the top of the charts, and has remained so in the religious minds of many.

Still, I admit to being bothered by it. So I’m left with what can I control about this issue? My mouth, for one. Not out of fear of being labeled myself, but making sure whatever I say and however I react is carefully measured for its impact. 

My children are more tolerant of far more than I. I’m not sure that means they are better people than I am — whatever that means — but they are certainly more understanding. They have lived with a variety of change that really wasn’t change for them. 

I grew up when the south was segregated. Separate, but equal, ran the dogma. Bathrooms. Movie theaters. Schools. Water fountains. And my parents hired black women to do various necessary things about the house — even though my mother didn’t work outside the house. Not every white family had maids or people to do yard work. But we did. How do I reconcile that past with what is now the norm? It clearly falls under the controllable part of my life. I wasn’t born a racist. As Rogers and Hammerstein clarified in South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” But I have worked sincerely on that aspect of my life in a variety of ways, yet, I suppose the term racist does apply to me at some levels. 

I grew up when “gay” didn’t refer to someone who preferred to sexually and emotionally connect with members of their own gender. Or when the other parts of LGBT where code words, and not political referendums.

I grew up when sex was not explicit — either in attire or behavior — on the scale it is today. When one-night-stands were not necessarily planned, and when females were more coy than aggressive in relationships. When married TV couples slept in single beds separated by a lamp table.

Grace & Frankie takes shots at many of these, including guns (another sacred cow). That’s probably the only controversial issue I have settled for myself: I don’t and probably won’t ever own one. It’s your right, however. What I cannot understand is how we’ve gotten to the place nearly all school children from kindergarten up have to be drilled in safety procedures to protect them from someone with a gun.

It’s a difficult transition from the world I grew up in to the world in which we now live. My pathway has been along lines that are less absolute. I wouldn’t have either thought of or predicted that when I was sixteen. But when I was eighteen? As I’ve written before, the convergence of civil rights, women’s rights, and Vietnam was the point 9 earthquake that seemed to shake things up forever. Of course, these are not excuses either.

I’ve often looked back to wistfully remember “the good old days.” I realize they weren’t good for everyone; that the agonizingly slow change for the better for them has not been as easy for me and others like me as well. We had to either change as well — or dig in. Many chose to dig in. Others of us have elected to change within. Either choice has its results and/or consequences. Neither is easy.

It’s not easy being green, said someone very wise.

Ignorance & Knowledge

24 Feb

Ignorance & Knowledge

L. Stewart Marsden

If you ever visit St. Augustine, Florida, make sure you get a drink from the Fountain of Youth Ponce de Leon thought would restore you to a younger age. At least it is reported that he thought so, but, like most things today, it could be Fake News.

It’s interesting to me that when the question “Would you like to be a child again?” is posed, most answer it conditionally: “If I can retain all I now know.”

That would certainly take care of a lot of the early learning necessary skills, like being potty trained, and how to tie your shoes –– not to mention how to tie a necktie. It would certainly give you perspective on what you need to know to survive, and why calculus, diagraming a sentence, and who was the drummer Ringo replaced when he joined The Beatles are not part of critical knowledge for most of us mere mortals.

Of course, most of the above skills eventually go in reverse as you get older, like the potty training. I’m not there yet, but I guess I’ll know at the time. It depends.

The problem with becoming younger is that we wouldn’t also go back in time, where youth is fondly remembered as being innocent and sweet. We revere our childhood days, otherwise there wouldn’t be all of the asinine Facebook posts asking, “Do you know what this is?” and “Like this post if you’ve ever used one.” I don’t use that anymore because there’s a new and better product that does the same thing faster and more efficiently. Since I don’t use it, why do you care if I remember what it was?

We rue the loss of understanding, as when Texas Instruments replaced the slide rule with a digital way of solving a math problem. Who the heck cares if I can figure out the cosine of 92º when I can press a button –– no, simply say, “Siri, what’s the cosine of 92º?” to get the very same answer with a fraction of the process?

I know. The answer is somehow invalidated if you don’t understand the process. BS.

Chaos Theory proponent Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park) screwed up innovation –– or the refining of innovation –– when he vehemently attested, “If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox …”

Funny how we don’t learn how to use an abacus in order to truly understand ones, tens, hundreds, et.al. It did precede the slide rule, after all.

Here’s the thing about somehow returning to a younger me: I’ve forgotten all the bad things that happened to me for the most part, and was unaware of other really bad things.

For example, people post things like “life was simpler back then. You could play in your neighborhood and ride bikes and frolic in the creeks and dirt. Schools were safer then. There wasn’t a threat of violence like today …”

Again, BS.

Now, if you were white, middle class or higher, and lived in an exclusive neighborhood – yes. If you weren’t?

The only people I observe pining for the “Good Old Days” are the ones who were part of a very exclusive minority of people (back then it was more than 1%, I think).

IF you were part of that small percentage of kids growing up, you weren’t aware of the struggles going on just beneath the living room carpet where they had been swept. Every once-in-a-while you glimpsed curious indicators that made little or no impact upon your daily existence: Whites Only. No Coloreds Served. Etc.

Perhaps you thought every family had a Virgie Mae or a Juanita or a Lora May who cooked the best fried chicken, cleaned the house and did the wash and ironing while your dad worked and your mother went to her novelty clubs (bridge and gardening). Who doted on you in many cases more than your own parents. Someone you fired with regularity whenever you didn’t get your way.

I don’t normally wish I were younger, because to be younger would probably be without benefit of what I now know. And if I were younger with this age-accrued wisdom, I would be miserable. Knowing what was really going on would be far more painful than not knowing. Kind of like playing cowboys and Indians but being aware of The Trail Of Tears.

Ah, there’s the rub! The dilemma! The … hypocrisy? I have the wisdom now, gleaned from the fields of years of living and experience. What the hell am I doing with it?

Perhaps God knew when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil how it would alter life as they had once known it.

Perhaps, like so many I observe, it is better to be ignorant. After all, the Wise Ones say “Ignorance is Bliss.”

That, and being young.

Innocence Lost

2 Aug

Innocence Lost

by L. Stewart Marsden

I caught myself today reminiscing about childhood days long past — well, relatively speaking, that is. The Parthenon is long past.

I’m a part of that glut of baby-boomers who, when we grew up, had the world by the tail (see, even the expression is pretty telling). We could bike anywhere in town without our parents worrying. We played outside from dawn to dusk. We greased our peroxided hair into ducktails, and Converse high tops were $8 a pair. We flocked to the Paramount downtown for hours of big screen entertainment — cartoons, news reels, adventure series, and a swell grade B movie about blobs or Godzilla or maybe Gene Autry, the singing cowboy.

The edge of living was rounded and smooth — not cutting and dangerous.

Forty-fives ruled the teen tune appetite, with The Platters and Pat Boone and The Kingston Trio.

McDonald’s arches were new. And the sign read “Over 100,000 hamburgers served” at its beginning.

Radio was AM, crackling in and out as we drove along. And, speaking of driving — four and forty air conditioning: roll down four windows and go forty miles an hour. Seats were vinyl — cold in the winter, skin searing in the hot summer.

Baseball. Barbie Dolls. Mickey Mouse Club. The Captain and Mr. Green Jeans. Howdy-Doody.

The good old days.

So, I rue the passing of time in terms of the loss of innocence. It’s a rather boring theme, I know, to those who didn’t experience that innocence.

The past was not without its deep and dark drawbacks. Segregation. I remember the evidences of that, too, but more as a wonderment than as something that impacted me on a daily basis.

Perhaps every generation has its own time of innocence. I keep thinking that period of time has been accordioned down to a really short period of time, judging from the news and the culture of the day. Judging from how children are quarantined and protected against God knows what; how they spend their days, fused into various gadgets that allow them no alone time, no creative time, no boredom.

I’m still a bit biased in thinking my old days were the good old days. I morn the loss of scary movies back then that are pretty laughable today, when compared to the stark and gruesome film techniques of modern Hollywood. Very little left to the imagination.

And the accessibility via the internet of — well — pretty much anything you would want to see and a whole lot of things you should never know — in your innocence — exist.

So, here’s to Fabian and to The Day the World Ended and to Rock Hudson and Doris Day and to candy cigarettes and to National Geographic and to Norman Rockwell and to White Castle hamburgers and to roller skate keys and to penny loafers and to Greasy Kids Stuff and to a myriad of long-forgotten or fading or never experienced moments — the essence of innocence lost.

Remember when?

27 Jul

Remember when?
by L. Stewart Marsden

There’s a Facebook fad (FF) that I’ve noticed of late. It’s the “Do you know what this is? Do you remember this? Do you remember when?” fad. You know what I’m talking about, right?

I’m not sure what’s causing it. Maybe it’s a throw-back to when we were kids and we came out of a movie and everyone started talking, “Yeah, and remember when that guy . . . ?”

Remember doing that?

Saturday Night Live’s Chris Farley (remember him?) developed a character who interviewed people, like Paul McCartney, and would ask, “Remember when you were in ‘Yellow Submarine?'” Etc.

So, there are pictures of things we no longer use, along with the question “Do you know what this is?” as if to say, “If you don’t know what this is, well — YOU”RE AN IDIOT!”

Things like:

  • old vacuum tubes for radios or TVs;
  • the foot button that controlled your high beams on your car;
  • a hand-crank ice cream freezer;
  • an old rotary dial telephone;
  • an ice box;
  • glass milk bottles;
  • a dairy home-delivery truck;
  • an engineless push mower;
  • a hand-crank drill;
  • and much, much more.

Why do I need to remember these things?

And then there are pictures with the question, “Do you remember . . . ?” again, as if to say, “If you don’t remember this, well — YOU’RE AN IDIOT!”

  • Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody;
  • Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans;
  • Beaver Cleaver;
  • Rod Serling;
  • The Cartwright family;
  • Ozzie and Harriet;
  • Perry Mason;
  • Andy Griffith and Don Knotts;
  • and, again, much, much more.

Again, how do I benefit remembering this stuff?

Not that these memories don’t conjure up days when life was really very different from today. You know, the “good ol’ days.”

But times change. Technology changes.

My dad was born in 1919. He lived through the advent of technology that included radio; television; nuclear energy; satellites; space exploration; computers going from multi-room configurations to the laptop; rotary dial telephones to cell phones; film cameras to digital; Model T cars to the Chevrolet Corvette. And a whole lot more! You know someone like that, chances are.

And guess what? I never remember him asking his contemporaries, “Do you know what this is?” or “Do you remember?” He simply enjoyed it all.

It’s not like any of us has much to do with all of these memories. They are part of our past. They are milestones and markers of the passage of time. None of us is any wiser, or any less of a person because of our remembering these things.

Save it for your kids. Amaze them with the hardships of your life having to live without HDTV, or texting, or microwave ovens, or tablets, or Beano.

Yes, I do remember most of the stuff. I want to shout back, “Don’t YOU?”

Okay. I feel much better. Got that off my chest.

So, whatever you do, don’t forget this post!