Saturday, August 13, 2016


So, have a go then and
say what you will but of
course so will I. The years
around 1960 suddenly
somehow seemed like
some new, and stupid,
happy breakthrough.
It was curious : I well
remember that Winter
when 1959 was about
to be turning over to 1960.
I guess I was eleven. The
still-in-infancy ideas of
things like network TV,
all that Edward R. Murrow
and the Huntley/Brinkley
Reports and news commentators
and, talk-shows with the
political pundits and
personalities, just being
started  -  they were all
going on, endless blather,
about the new decade,
what the 60's would
mean, the Kennedy/Nixon
thing, the changing of
society and the way
people thought of things.
I mean it was all chatter,
a background noise. They
already knew, the networks
and all, that they'd have to
fill airtime with something,
and hot-air bloviating was
as good as anything else,
and no one knew the
difference in any case. Who
the hell would pretend to
know what the 60's were to
bring anyway? Just another
dumb decade : Cuba, Vietnam,
Dienbienphu, Laos, Kennedy
screwing around everywhere
he could and everyone pretending
not to notice. Pope John XXIII,
the little, fat gust of Italian wind
blowing in, church, politics,
Catholics. The whole mish-mash.
I had a book I'd bought too,
'Britain In the Sixties'  -  all
about the same stuff; some
snippy tome about the 'European
Economic Community' or the
'Coal and Steel Federation', or
whatever they used to call it
back then. Common Market,
it was later called. Even that
was all a better picture for
me, since they were all on
the balls of their ass anyway
from the war, trying to rebuild
all that busted-up infrastructure
and farmland and come up
with some sort of new
industrial base and product
(Thanks! America!). That all
I could at least understand;
they had a task at hand. What
did America have? Disneyland
and Knott's Berry Farm and
cars with enormous fins?
Granted, at least they wanted
to get to the Moon, but why?
It certainly wasn't for any deep
or cosmic reasons, which is
really all I wanted to see.
In my school years, for what
seemed like a lifetime, eight
long years of it, all I ever saw
on the wall, in every classroom,
was this dour photo of some
balding, serious, starchy-suited
guy named Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Dwight? The portrait always said
he was 'President'. He looked
like anyone's Uncle Dodo. Who
was he, and why? So long for
one guy? President? As a kid,
he was really the only tangible
presence of a 'Government' I
ever saw  -  and maybe the
post office, which kept moving
around anyway (In Avenel it
had three different locations
I can remember). This Eisenhower
guy, it seemed like he must never
move around, not even to take
a crap. Let alone how we were
never told he was a military
guy. Captial M on that one.
On Sixth Grade, Mr. Ziccardi
always bragging about this
country and pointing out the
hellacious shortcomings of
Russia and the Communists,
how kids squealed on their
parents there, turned them in
to the authorities, how every
bit of life was regimented, how
you could only buy things in
the government store, called,
oddly enough, 'GUM' (G.U.M.),
it stood for something and, MOST
importantly, how over their in
Russia they had portraits of their
leader, Stalin, plastered everywhere.
Even in the schools! Hey! Wait
a minute!!!! All it came down to,
essentialy, was there was no real
difference; and the difference
there was was interpretation,
what people 'felt' about things.
Spin. Face it, world over, people
are people. Even in 1960 I knew
that the Soviet-Russians, and
even the Chinese, were pretty
much just like us, wanting
things, paving roads, cutting
endless trees and roads through
the past, fornicating, making
mad love to their wives and
making a billion kids, schools,
sweaters, coats, shoes, gifts,
cars, houses. It was all the same.
America was just screwing it
up their way, just like the
Russkies and the Chinamen
were screwing it up their own
ways. Nothing much to die over,
and their 'God' was being used
as much as a tool as ours was.
So, that was that  -  as I looked
up into the night sky sometime
after Oct. 4 1957, a few years
earlier, I already knew something
was up. It was the writer, John
Reed, back sometime in the 20's
or 30's, I think, who said, after
a trip to the new Soviet Union,
under Lenin, 'I have seen the
future, and it works.' That was
all ground-shaking stuff back
then, and now they had the first
'thing' in the sky, flying around,
orbiting. They called it Sputnik.
It was even a cool word : it meant
'traveling companion' or 'fellow
traveller of Earth.' Wow, what a
cool word. I was 8. My entire
block, Inman Avenue, they 
would turn out, in the 8 o'clock
darkness, or whatever it was, 
and everyone, sharing lawns 
and curb and street, could be 
seen (me included) looking 
skyward, craning necks to 
follow that little blinking
light, like a star but not, 
across the dark sky. Certain
orbiting times, told in 
advance, let everyone know 
when they could view this, 
like the Perseid meteor 
shower or an eclipse. Out
on the street, it was a bit
like a Twilight Zone scene, 
all the grumbling fathers - 
the sarcastic ones being 
sarcastic, the mean ones 
being mean, the fidgety, holy
ones being that  -  all over 
this stupid twinkling light
crossing high in the sky.
 The Walt Disney show,
abut this time too, used to 
play 'When You Wish upon 
a Star' as a theme-song or
something. This became a
surrealistic version of that.
Jiminy Cricket! and the rest. The
mothers came by muffled and
quiet and in awe. The kids, we
kids, would just be romping
around, elated to be out and
looking up at something, 
anything. It was mostly 
anyway the quiet that got 
me, how this crazy thing 
could be so quiet. Not a 
sound. Not a peep. I'd
rather expected a celestial 
roar, though none ever came.
Somehow, the idea got around
that this made 'us' very vulnerable,
that now that the Commies had 
taken possession of the faraway 
skies, they could control us, drop 
bombs, watch us undress, control 
what we do. They were suddenly
no longer a country of chubby, 
downtrodden, short peasant-farmers 
under the axe of Stalin but instead 
crafty, wise, sly and dangerous, 
well-advanced scientific technocrats 
out to murder us where we slept and
lived. There was no longer any logic 
to this, and no way to figure it out. It 
appeared to me, then, that the entire
world had been politicized. It had gone 
from 'Howdy Doodie', somehow, to
Howdie, Duty!' and everyone was
expected to show up for this fight.
Times was a changin', I guess.

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