Confessions of a Monster Boomer, Part One
About a decade ago, I realized I had my own socio-cultural-generational niche. I'd long accepted my status as nerd and a geek, even before I knew those actual words. But my geekiness hadn't seemed pegged to a particular generation. Despite having some vivid memories of both the 60s and the 70s, I'd never associated myself with any of either decade's major cultural trends. Indeed, for much of my early life I was perpetually out of the loop, and even when genuinely cool (as opposed to merely trendy) stuff was part of the zeitgeist, I tended not to catch up with until years later.
I was aware of the Beatles as early as 1965, and can remember being seven years old and arguing with a neighbor kid because I thought their haircuts meant they were girls. But I don't think I voluntarily listened to them until 1974, when I caught Yellow Submarine on the ABC Movie of the Week and was bowled over by "Eleanor Rigby." In 1966, when I was eight years old, I thought that Bruce Lee's Kato on The Green Hornet was the biggest badass on T.V., but five years later, I didn't go to see Fists of Fury in the theater, nor see any Bruce Lee movie until 1980, almost a decade after he'd died. When my fellow high school seniors were grooving to KISS, I was discovering Bob Dylan (I'd sing "It's All Right, Ma, I'm Only Bleeding" while walking to school). I got my second ever hard-on over a black woman (the first having been Lt. Uhura) upon finding a Pam Grier pictorial in some second-string skin magazine (probably Gallery) in 1974, but I didn't see Ms. Grier's specRACKular talents on display in Coffy and Foxy Brown until I was working at a video store in the 80s. I wasn't aware of Gordon Lau, the Master Killer himself (and later Pai Mei in Kill Bill) until the mid-90s, although a bunch of his 70s Kung Fu films had played in downtown Fayetteville theaters (where I'd have been scared shitless to have sat amongst the G.I.s and the pimps, an audience I'd enjoy rubbing elbows with now). I knew that Shaft was the slick private dick who was a sex machine to all the chicks, but had only seen him in his short-lived, watered-down TV show until I started watching Blaxpoitation movies in the early days of homevideo. And so on.
Oh, I wasn't out of EVERY cultural loop. I saw most of the episodes of Star Trek in their original run, as it became a ritual for my father and me, but it wasn't really something I shared with my gradeschool friends. Maybe if I'd been, say 12, rather than 8, when it first aired, I might have later become a dyed-in-the-wool Trekkie, but while I loved the show, I didn't worship it, it wasn't part of my interior life. Same thing with The Avengers and The Prisoner, both of which I saw during their initial American network TV runs and loved, but which didn't effect me quite the way they would have if I'd been slightly older.
And yes, speaking of the word "older, I am indeed quite the remarkably well preserved fossil.. Cue the du rigeur exclamations of "I can't believe how young you look!"
I make jokes about that now, but it was a subject I avoided when I first got on MySpace (and before that, on Friendster). At that time, I still tried to think of myself as being in my EARLY 40s and hid my real age by claiming to be 100 years old. I wasn't trying very hard to fool anyone, but for some I was less comfortable about admitting that I was 44 than I saying that I'm 48. Maybe the fact that some women in their early 30s (and even a few in their late 20s) seem to be more amused and intrigued than dismayed by my age is part of my coming to terms with it. Or maybe it's that I've actually met some forty-something women whom (unlike the ones I used to meet on dating sites) I'm genuinely attracted to (indeed, the last two Greensboro women I made overt passes at were, respectively, 41 and 43 years old, although one of them immediately shot me down in favor of some dreary ageing hippie, while the other preferred to play the tease rather than actually go out with me).
So, yes, just like Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock, I grow old, I grow old, But while I may not wear my trousers rolled, I remember a lot of things that many of you don't. I can remember when Southern cities actually had downtowns, and one saw first-run movies in downtown theaters, rather than at malls or multiplexes. Many of those theaters had balconies, and in their concession stands, they sold little plastic bottles of orange soda that were shaped like oranges, with built-in straws (what the Hell were those things called, anyway?) I can remember when one could see freaks and fake monsters and "educational" sex-oriented slideshows and big-titted strippers at the sleazy old-school NC State Fair (I wrote one of my best old blogs about this). I can remember eating at Woolworth lunch counters, and ordering chocolate Sundays and sodas at Eckerds, and buying comic books for 12 cents from spinning metal racks at Rexall and 7-11.
I've written elsewhere and in this blog about Doctor in the Butt, the weird game we played at Glendale Acres Elementary School at recess. One thing that strikes me about it now that seems almost as alien as the fact that we were merrily putting pebbles and pill-bugs up each other's asses is that we were COMPLETELY UNSUPERVISED. Our school was beside a patch of woods, and nobody watched us at recess to make sure we didn't wander into those woods. I lived in a neighborhood about six blocks away from the school, and other than the one crossing guard, we didn't see any adults from the time we left our houses until we stepped in the classroom. And part of that five-days-a-week journey took use behind a church and down a dirt path through a patch of woods. Nobody thought that was strange.
Until 7th grade, meeting black kids were something that happened at other schools. We weren't entirely whitebread, in that some of the most popular boys and girls at Glendale Acres were of Lebanese ancestry (there's actually a long tradition of Lebanese families – just Christian ones, of course – living in the American South, my kung fu teacher Dennis Makool being a prime example of a fifty-something Lebanese-American Baptist good ole boy), and there were some Asian kids, and the first girl whose newly developed boobs I can remember staring at was Josephine Hoffman, whom nobody picked on for being Jewish. But we didn't have any "coloreds," as we called them, although I met (and got beat up by) plenty of them once I was old enough to be bussed off to the Seventh Grade. I could go on, but I suppose that's really a subject for another essay.
So, why I am I calling this blog "Confessions of a Monster Boomer" instead of "Confessions of a Deceptively Youthful Rake Who's Really an Old Fuck?" Like the fate of Han Solo, frozen in his cozy Carbonite, the answer is . . .
To Be Continued.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Confessions of a Monster Boomer, Part One