My friend Dennis and I left the Midwest for the sun-splashed beaches and the bikini-clad girls of southern California two days after Christmas. We strapped everything we owned on his Triumph TR-3 roadster and hit the open road arriving at his brother’s home in Orange County on New Year’s Day. |
That was decades ago.
The Southland looked and felt differently from today—not necessarily better, but there was definitely a more optimistic vibe and a neater, cleaner appearance. The Los Angeles freeways were spotless and free from litter, the overhanging signs were a bright green, and there was a total absence of gang-tagging. BUT…that was all on top. Underneath LA was (like today) a pretty girl with the clap.
At that time people felt free to speak their minds, no matter how offensive, which was another difference. In the today’s politically correct world one can’t really have an opinion without being accused of something sinister, racist, and/or mean-spirited.
However (as far as I know), one still can make observations. That is, if I say radical Islam is responsible for most of the terrorism worldwide, I get labeled by the PC police as a racist. But if I quote statistics that show 95% of all terrorist acts over the past 20 years were perpetrated by Islamic extremists, I’m simply making an observation based on recorded facts. (Hmmm, they’ll still probably call me a racist. Know what? Screw ‘em! I don’t give a rat’s ass! Through total misuse the word has lost its power.)
Anyway, get off the Timothy McVey thing already! He’s dead! (Not so for scores of Islamic bombers…)
One thing that has always existed (and is not connected to the present day, limp-wristed, sissified, PC-world) is that one can never go on about how things were better “years ago” or “back in the day” because you get labeled as an old fart, which is precisely why I only make observations.
Here’s a genuine Old Fart dialogue (with my comments):
“Time was you’d go to a baseball game, and people wore ties and hats!” (It was tough to see around those wide brims.)
“Yeah, and they sold beer in the stands and gave you a glass bottle!” (Bottles were convenient missiles sometimes aimed at players, which it why the practice stopped.)
“Yeah, and you could smoke in the stands!” (Cough. Choke. That was a real treat.)
“Yeah, and you weren’t bothered by pesky minorities!” (That’s funny; at Comisky Park I was the minority.)
“Yeah, and men took off their hats indoors!” (True. I still do. Home training I guess.)
“Yeah, and people dressed up when they traveled!” (Travel was considered a special adventure.)
“Yeah! That’s what’s wrong with people today!” (Once an old-timer gave me hell for drinking beer from a bottle rather than pouring it into a glass.)
Going on a pub prowl in California on Friday and Saturday nights was similar to the East and Midwest in that ladies wore nice dresses and guys wore coats and ties whether or not one had a date or was just looking. This included all the bars and night spots from Torrance to Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica. Most bands were live and featured jazz combos or surfer music. People held each other while slow dancing. Up tempo numbers included the twist, the pony and buggaloo. One could carry on a conversation in a normal voice. Not so today.
…I’m not making a value judgment just observing a difference.
We used to laugh at European and South American soccer fans because of their ludicrous behavior punctuated by fighting and rioting. When our baseball, football, and basketball teams won, there was only joyous celebration. Not so today. Now winning fans start fires, riots, fights—you name it. Now we act like those at whom we used to laugh.
…just an observation.
One thing unique to California when Dennis and I arrived was that practically everyone was divorced two or three times, and the most popular social sport was everyone suing each other. Now everyone nationwide pretty much follows suit. The disease took root and spread east in epidemic proportions.
Athletes, for the most part, were well-mannered and humble. Ted Williams was a notable exception. But the worst things he did were: spit in the direction of the sportswriters’ box when he crossed the plate after hitting a homer; intentionally fouled off line drives in the direction of the sportswriters’ box; and called politicians gutless.
Here’s a typical example from an SEC football game between Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee looked like they made a first down. Instead of bringing out the chains, the referee called the Georgia captain to the ball and had him look at the sidelines.
“Captain, it looks like they made the first down. What do you think?”
The player lined up his vision with the ball and the sidelines then turned to the referee. “Yes sir, they did.”
This happened several times during that game, and I noted the same occurrence through the years on other telecasts typically involving games from southern conferences. The sportswriters wrote about the spirited competition, the hard-hitting, and the sportsmanship. Civility abounded. Well…
…it did if one was white. Jim Brown and Ernie Davis would have a different opinion of yesterday’s southern conferences; however, because of the trailblazing of the Syracuse All-Americans, the world changed for the better.
…see, my observations give credit where credit is due. It deserves a mention that Brown got hosed out of the Heisman.
Even boxers were soft-spoken and humble; talking about respect for their opponent and how they wanted to win for Mom. Professional wrestling (rasslin’) was an exception, but always featured a hero versus a villain. Everyone knew rasslin’ was phony and it had a very small following; many simply curious about characters like Gorgeous George.
Then came a decade of: Winning is the only thing! (Vince Lombardi); I am the greatest! (Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali); Juan Marichal hitting John Roseboro over the head with a bat; cops being called pigs; and wide-spread, mainstream use of dope. Rasslin’ mentality abounded! Naturally rasslin’ became mainstream and quite popular. But at least the promoters call it entertainment, not sport. It’s phonier than ever, but no one cares.
Now most athletes are profane, full of ego and chest-thumping, self-importance. Many struggle with two-syllable words, and look like refugees from a carnival freak show. Rabid fans attack those wearing an “enemy” jersey; like gangs and their colors. Politicians follow suit. Countrywide civility is gone.
…simply an observation.
“Yeah, but this is still the best country!” proclaim the masses (perhaps suffering from denial, and for sure, ignorance).
As one who has traveled widely and lived abroad I suggest this worn out old saw is no longer true. But that’s only if you prefer civility, politeness, clean streets, unmarked buildings, and taxis that aren’t filthy and driven by smelly dirtbags.
I’m not complaining or making value judgments; simply making observations.
So, why the creeping social change?
Here’s my take.
Those born before 1929 were known as: 1) the depression generation, 2) the World War II generation, 3) the greatest generation (per Tom Brokaw), and/or 4) the “we” generation.
They created a better world by taking on fascist enemies, creating a social security system, overcoming the great depression, legislating against racism, and giving us a booming economy. They didn’t get everything right, but certainly enough. They set the society standard for succeeding generations to improve upon. Also, they didn’t want their children to suffer what they had to endure. Here’s a typical conversation between a “we” generation parent and his baby boomer (the “me” generation) son:
“Son, I never had a bicycle, but I’m going to buy you one.”
Incredulous look. “Whaddaya mean? Everyone has a bicycle these days.”
Meaningful sigh. “Nobody did when I was a kid.”
“That’s messed up.”
Patiently the father says, “Here’s the thing: I want you to take care of it just like I would.”
“Yeah, right (snort). If it gets wrecked or stolen what’s the big deal? You can always get me another one.”
Everything’s perishable to those in following generations. Many of us also had limited respect for the law suspecting that the whole system was corrupt. That being the case, what do you suppose our children think of the law?
“Hey, man, c’mon we’re going to demonstrate against the evil corporations.”
“What are we protesting?”
“That they’re evil, man! They gotta change!”
Blank look. “C’mon, man, we’ll fire up some doobies.”
But I’m not trying to hammer us present-day American citizens, just observing my decaying social environment and the ever-increasing horde of shit-kickers that occupy it. All societies fall sooner or later. It’s the human condition. We tend not to learn from the past because (we say): 1) things are different now, 2) that was then and the past no longer counts, 3) we’re smarter than they were, etc.
We just can’t help ourselves. We’re programmed to screw up.
Me? I’m still a young guy with a dream.
Copyright 2011 by Gene Myers
Author of SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010) by PublishAmerica, Fredericksburg, MD.
Author of AFTER HOURS (2009) by Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY. www.strategicpublishinggoup.com/title/AfterHours.html
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