I Do Not Yell At Clouds
I was just listening to Marc Maron in conversation with Chris Hayes on Maron’s WTF podcast and Hayes at one point admits that as he’s aged he’s begun to identify, just the smallest bit, with old people pining for the good old days. Hayes is 36, Maron is 51.
I’m 61. I have no nostalgia. Zero. Almost nothing was better in my day. Almost everything is better now. And I am optimistic that things will be better still in 10 years.
As I write this I strain to think of anything that was better in the 60's, 70's or 80's, which I assume are the decades about which I should be feeling nostalgic.
A short list (in no particular order and including the profound and the trivial) of things that are not just a little better, but way better now:
Cars. My car will out-corner, out-run, out-last anything on the road in the good old days. In a collision my car would go through a 60's car like a hot knife through butter.
Entertainment. I have access to essentially every movie, every TV series, every book, every song ever recorded in all of human history. And it costs very little. It sucked having a great TV show simply . . . disappear forever once it was watched live. In “my day” the vast majority of books were in the bookstore for a couple of months and then flushed down the memory hole.
Medicine and Dentistry. I was born around the same time the polio vaccine came out. We didn’t have flu shots. We didn’t have organ transplants. We didn’t have hormone replacement therapy. We didn’t even have tooth whitening, for God’s sake. Today I, or more likely my wife, could chop off my penis and a surgeon could sew it back on. Really. Sew. It. Back. On.
Communication. I’m writing this in Edinburgh, Scotland. I call or text my daughter and my wife for pennies. When I first traveled to Europe as a teen-ager, calling home meant finding a local post office, filling out a form and waiting in line for an hour to make a phone call. No, really. There is nothing, literally nothing, in the three decades of my youth that I would trade for my iPhone.
Food. Sweet Jesus we ate shitty food. Even the French could barely cook worth a damn in the 60's and the Brits were basically eating out of troughs. But at least they could both make an excellent cheese and the French could bake. Americans couldn’t even do that. We had the distinction of making the world’s worst cheese and the world’s worst bread. Also lousy beer and lousy wine. The entirety of ethnic food was canned Chop Suey and canned spaghetti.
Coffee. Let me just say this: I would stab a man who would serve me what passed for coffee in the good old days, and a jury of my peers would let me off.
Diversity. In my youth people came in two colors (white and not) and two genders (male and female.) That was it. You were whatever they put on your birth certificate, period, end of story, there will be no variation. I was alive when black and white could not marry. I was alive when Jews could be excluded from colleges. I was alive when women had exactly three career options, secretary, nurse and teacher, and were stigmatized for not being housewives. And gay people were all “confirmed bachelors” who just hadn’t met the right girl. This must seem like madness to kids today. Guess what: it was.
So, I am nostalgia-free. The 60's sucked. The 70's sucked even worse. And the 80's sucked with the addition of lousy music and godawful hair and clothing.
Thank the God I don’t believe in (not that I could have admitted that in the good old days) for the Civil Rights Movement, Punk Rock, Women’s Liberation, Alice Waters, Stonewall, Steve Jobs and the Woz, a whole host of scientists and medical researchers, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Ralph Nader, Starbucks (not my favorite, but they changed the world,) and a long, long list of men, women and movements that may have been born or done their seminal work in the good old days but gave birth to a much better new day.