In this space over the past weeks, we’ve discussed my love of “Casablanca,” trains and my discovery of neckwear at an early age.
The bow tie went down a storm last week, by the way. There will be others.
Tuesday is my wife’s late night at work, so I watched the latest round of “Carson on TCM,” in which Conan O’Brien introduces full-length interviews from the old Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” with people like, taking examples from last night, Bob Hope, Truman Capote, Bing Crosby, Tony Randall and Lauren Bacall.
You see where I’m going with this?
The first thought one might have about someone with interests like many of mine is nostalgia; I want to relive my childhood, or else things I saw when I was growing up.
Hold on, though; I’m going to be 40 in November, folks, not 70. I’m Generation X. If what I feel is nostalgia, I’d yearn for things like parachute pants, “Square Pegs” and Mikhail Gorbachev.
But I don’t. I don’t even miss deely bobbers. I hope no one does.
So, what is it?
It seems to me I’m nostalgic for someone else’s childhood, for an era not my own. Is that all it is though, nostalgia? It can’t be if I never experienced the things involved in the first place, can it?
I have a leather jacket based on the aviator barnstormers of the 20’s and 30’s. That novella I keep mentioning? It’s set in 1953. The next one I’m going to write will be based in the 30’s and have its roots in the pulp magazine heroes of that time.
Hey, fellow Gen X-ers, remember The Spider? The Shadow? Doc Savage? Of course not!
Wait, what about the first three Star Wars movies and all the Indiana Jones films. I love those, don’t I?
Yeah, but they’re based on the serials of the 30’s. Crap.
So, what it is with me, anyway? Am I just a man out of time? I have no idea, to be honest.
I can easily sit here and say, well, I should have been born in the 30’s, or perhaps the 20’s so I could really appreciate the culture of the 30’s. That would be an easy answer.
But would I have wanted to live through the Depression? Would I have wanted to leave my blood, and maybe my brains, on Omaha Beach?
I don’t know, maybe I would have. Maybe, like so many people around back then, I would have just got on with it, got through it, somehow. Maybe that’s something that’s missing today. I’m not sure I see many people around me willing to just get on with it.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve reached back in time for, or perhaps been pulled back in time by, most of the things that interest me. When I look at what the 1930s version of the future would be, it seems a whole lot cooler than what we ended up with in a lot of ways. Not all ways, of course—people aren’t dying like clockwork at about 60, for example—but, I don’t know, there was such romanticism about things like aviation, trans-Atlantic travel and what one might see at the next World’s Fair.
Today, I have a little glass slab in my pocket on which I can access all the knowledge in the known universe and I don’t bat an eye unless it takes too long for someone’s Instagram photo to download into my Twitter feed.
I won’t go so far as to say I think things were better back in the 20’s and 30’s for two reasons. First, I wasn’t there. Second, I’m sure things, on the whole, are far better now in most respects. That is, hopefully, the nature of the human race; we move forward inexorably, with stumbling blocks along the way.
Miley, for example.
What I will say is there’s something about that bygone era that appeals to me, draws me to it, in ways I don’t think anything still to come ever will.
Perhaps unfortunately, I don’t think we were able to zero-in on exactly why that is during our visit here this week, but I think if we agree it has something to do with the promise of a fantastic future based on the exploration of new technology backed by simpler virtues and ideals, I think I’m good with that
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas