One Voice

… because one voice, armed with the truth, can help begin to heal the world.

Only one life removed from Lincoln and Booth

Baby boomers have been accused of thinking that the world began on the day they were born, and that nothing that happened in “olden times” really matters at all.

In the last few years, I have been thinking about the relationships between different times, and how things have changed in that respect. I can turn on my satellite radio and listen to Oldies stations that play all Sixties music, all Fifties and even All Forties music. Now there was great music made in the ’40s, but that decade ended nearly 62 years ago.

I wonder if the folks who were old enough in the ’40s to remember the culture of 62 years earlier were really nostalgic for the 1880s.

I particularly love music from 1967, the year I graduated from high school and the year I turned 18, but for me to listen to music from 1967 fully 44 years later would be comparable to listening to music from 1923 when I was 18.

For one thing, I don’t think folks had the nostalgia for the past back then that so many of us seem to have now. Baby boomers may be the first American generation to think things were better when they were young and unsettled than now and they are older and established. In some cases, that is because things haven’t worked out the way they planned, but it seems like more than that with a lot of people.

My friend Mick has an amazing amount of nostalgia for things that weren’t that wonderful at the time. So go figure.

The clip here is from 1956, and I never saw it or heard of it until today. I was familiar with “I’ve Got a Secret,” the show this clip is from, but I never knew that in February 1956 they had a show in which one of the guests was the last living witness of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

That’s something that happened 84 years before I was born, and my life overlapped with the 96-year-old man who saw it. If you consider the fact that Lincoln’s death came less than 89 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and there were certainly people in America in 1865 who were alive in 1776.

When you put it that way, I am only two lifetimes removed from July 4, 1776, and in all probability, my own life will overlap with someone who will see the dawning of the 22nd century.

It’s enough to make you feel small.

But a lot of the real boomer nostalgia isn’t from the ’60s. It’s from the ’50s — things like Howdy Doody, Davy Crockett and the Mickey Mouse Club. Some of my first really vivid memories are from 1956, the year I started school


posted by Mike in Americana,history,Media,memories,television and have No Comments

I am the eggman, I am the eggman …

Goo goo ga joob

Oh, dear Lord, my head totally looks like an egg.

I did something today I haven’t done in nearly 40 years. I went to a barber shop.

I can’t even remember when I stopped. I know in the ’70s, unisex hair salons started popping up, and instead of looking for a barber pole, I started getting my haircuts at places called Hair Factory or similar names.

I spent a lot of money on haircuts over the years, mostly because I was never happy with the way my hair looked. Finally a couple of years ago I decided it was silly to keep worrying about it, so I made a decision. Once or twice a year, I go in and essentially have all my hair cut off.

Then I let it grow till it starts to annoy me and I repeat the process. Until recently I was getting buzz cuts with the second-shortest clippers, but with my two most recent cuts — including the one today — I’ve gone for the Full Monty.

Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I suppose the Full Monty would be to have my head shaved, but the problem there is that when white guys have their heads shaved, they don’t look cool like Michael Jordan.

We look like Mister Clean.

Actually, the picture here makes me look a little like one of those guys with connecting sideburns and mustache, but if you look more closely, you’ll see that it really is a beard. It’s just that the hair on my chinny chin chin is basically white.

The part of today I enjoyed was going to a real barber shop, complete with candy cane pole. It’s only open four days a week, and the guy who owns the shop is the only person working there. He was probably a little older than I am, and it was really fun to talk with him about the old days before young girls styled men’s hair, rather than just cutting it.

Back in the day, my grandfather used to take me to his barber shop, where his favorite barber — whose name I remember was Harvey — used to give me buzz cuts. That was pretty much the way I wore my hair until I was 13.

Somehow, though, things were different then.

I swear my head didn’t look like an egg when I was a kid.

posted by Mike in baby boom,Uncategorized and have No Comments

‘Picture shows’ tell story of our lives

There is something ineffably sad about old abandoned movie theatres.

The last picture show?

Larry McMurtry captured it so well in his wonderful novel, “The Last Picture Show,” made into an excellent film by Peter Bogdanovich in 1971. Shooting in little Archer City, Texas, the director used the closed “picture show” as a metaphor for a dying small town and indeed, a dying time.

Saturday afternoon I was shooting some photos of the partly dead, partly dying old downtown in Hondo, Texas, when I saw the Rave Theater. At first glance it looked as if the last film through the projector was “Jaws” or “Star Wars,” and it made me think.

I wondered how many generations of South Texas kids had visited the Rave, and how many could look back now on memorable nights in their lives, and I thought about some of the memorable nights in my own life spent in other theaters in other cities.

My first date with the lovely Cheryl Newman was a movie and so was my last one. I remember standing outside a Washington, D.C., theater in the freezing cold with Shelley Marcus as we waited to see “M*A*S*H.”

I remember my first date with my first wife — a midnight show of “American Graffiti” in September 1973. I believe it was the fifth or sixth time I had seen the film, one of my favorites. I remember our last “date” too, an evening out six years later to see Burt Reynolds and Jill Clayburgh in “Starting Over” while our marriage was crumbling around us.

I remember all sorts of movies with all sorts of women in the 12 years between my two marriages, and I remember taking my wonderful Nicole to see “Gas Food Lodging” on a night she was so happy she skipped when she crossed Wilshire Boulevard.

Movies matter. During the early days of our marriage, when Nicole and I were still working to get to know each other, she told me she hadn’t been looking to get married, that she only wanted someone to go to the movies with. I could certainly understand that. Going to the movies ought to be a communal experience.

I thought about all these things as I looked at the Rave, and then I realized something. As run-down and battered as the building looked, the name of the movie on the marquee wasn’t something from a generation ago.

It was “Iron Man 2,” and even though there was only one show a night at 7 p.m. six nights week (closed on Tuesdays), the Rave was obviously hanging in there.

I had to smile.

There was something very right about that.

posted by Mike in Americana,love,Movies and have No Comments

Christmas shopping has really changed

Christmas shopping definitely isn’t what it once was.

When my children were younger, we used to pick a Saturday or Sunday in early December. Then we would bundle up, battle the traffic, find a parking space and then struggle through the crowds in that holiest of American holies — the shopping mall.

It wasn’t always that way. In fact, when I was a kid  myself back in the Pleistocene Era, there were no shopping malls. Even the idea of shopping centers in the suburbs was relatively new. Back in the day — and I mean the 1950s — most of the shopping still took place at large downtown department stores. And if you lived anywhere near central Ohio, the granddaddy of all the department stores was Lazarus in downtown Columbus.

Back then, department stores sold almost everything, from furniture to record albums, from clothing to toys. Go into a Macy’s or a Nordstrom’s today and you won’t find much of anything you don’t wear — clothes, jewelry, makeup, etc. One thing I remember about the Columbus Lazarus was that it had a good-sized room with pay telephones and chairs all around the walls, and chairs and benches in the middle for people to sit and relax.

I remember that the sixth floor was the toy department. Toys only occupied part of the sixth floor most of the year, but from Thanksgiving until Christmas — the Christmas shopping season in those days — the department expanded to cover three times as much space.

To kids of 8 or 9, it seemed almost magical.

Lazarus in Columbus, Ohio

Lazarus in Columbus, Ohio

I remember reading in several of Bob Greene’s books — he’s two or three years older than I am — of trips downtown to Lazarus to buy the new Beatles album, or the time he purchased a pair of slacks and his first guitar.

I didn’t live in Columbus. We were 50 or 60 miles away in a suburb north of Dayton, but I remember trips to the state capital to shop at Lazarus. It was a bigger deal in those days — Interstate 70 didn’t open between Dayton and Columbus until the summer of 1962, so 50 or 60 miles could take as long as an hour and a half.

It was always worth it, though. Maybe it was just the perspective of a young boy, but Lazarus always seemed special to me. In fact, I can only think of two department stores that have filled me with the same sense of awe.

One was the original Macy’s on 34th Street in New York City. I remember getting off an elevator on one floor there in 1995 and seeing nothing but grand pianos. That was impressive.

The other is a place I’ve visited two or three times now — Harrod’s in London. I’m pretty sure Harrod’s is bigger and has a wider selection of merchandise than Macy’s or Lazarus ever did. It probably had to be to impress a guy on the far side of middle age, a guy whose sense of wonder is a lot more difficult to impress.

I’m sure it would be fun to do my Christmas shopping at Harrod’s someday, a lot more fun than I had tonight when I visited, made a few searches and clicks and took care of about 50 percent of my shopping without ever leaving my chair.

I’m not sure life is meant to be that easy.

posted by Mike in Americana,Family,Holidays and have No Comments
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