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Friday, January 4, 2013

Forty Isn't Old, Is It? Is It???

I am 40 years old today. I know that isn't very old, but I am starting to say things to kids like, "thirty years ago, we didn't have all that stuff!" and "When I was your age, we would have killed to have that." You know, things that old people say. So, just for fun, I thought we should look back at some of the things that have changed since I was a kid.
Sure, we had television. But they looked something like this and weighed 800 pounds. Younger people should pay especially close attention to the knobs on the front. It's how you changed the channels. And if you were the youngest one there, you would be the one getting up to change them for an adult. Not to worry though because there were only three channels to choose from. If you didn't like what they were watching, it was tough shit, because odds are...there was only one TV in the house that got reception.
They all had big antennas sitting on top of them. Someone would cough in the room and the picture would go all fuzzy. That's when you had to get up and move the antennas around until it got better. If it still didn't get better, you squished a bunch of aluminum foil around the ends of the antennas. It never really helped, but it made the adults feel better about watching 'I Love Lucy' reruns through a sea of white haze.
Every house had one of these on top. The giant TV antennas helped you get that mysterious fourth channel in...sometimes. The wires leading from the antenna to the TV were usually ran down the side of the house, through a window, and strung across the floor somewhere that you walked a lot, so you'd trip over them and cause the TV to lose all reception during 'Bonanza,' and get yelled at for it.
The height of American ingenuity didn't always involve inventing new stuff, so much as putting other things together...like this TV with a record player built right into it. Sweet. Oh yeah, we didn't have VCR's or DVD's or CD's or MP3's or Ipods. When you wanted to watch a movie, you went to a theater (possibly a drive-in) or watched whatever was on TV that night. If you wanted to listen to music you played a record. My kids have never even heard a record, and have no idea what it means when I say, "Stop asking me for that. You sound just like a broken record." You remember that favorite record of your dad's, that you'd have to get up and jump ahead every time it got to the scratched part that skipped over and over again? It was Patsy Cline or Roy Orbison at my house.
Not to say that we didn't have cutting edge technology. We had it! If you were really cool, you had an eight track player with the giant tapes that lasted about eight plays (hence the name?) before the machine ate them. Then you had to spend an hour digging the wad of black reel tape out into a heap on the floor. You could even hold the tapes in your hand at the store...but you couldn't steal them because they were locked inside of cabinets with plexiglass fronts that had big holes all over. The holes allowed you to put a hand inside, but not get the tape out. Ingenious!
We had phones, sure. But they looked like this, were attached to the wall, and there was only one of them in your house. Period. If you were lucky, the chord was long enough to stretch into the other room so you could talk to your friends without having to do it in front of your parents. Oh yeah...that circle thingy is a rotary dial. If the phone number had a '0' in it...dialing was going to take forever while you waited for it to click all the way back around.
Video games were all the rage then, just as they are today. If you were lucky, you had a tiny black and white television set in your room that someone found at a garage sale and could hook up one of these babies.
Then you could sit in your room for the next six months of your life staring at this! Woo hoo! Pong action, baby! That's right kiddos. That is the entire game. Slide the bar up and down to stop the giant, bouncing pixel.  It NEVER gets old. Ever.
Candy bars were only a quarter when I was a kid, but to get a quarter you had to listen to an hour long story about how your grandparents survived the entire great depression on a dime and a single, shared loaf of bread. Sometimes, it wasn't really worth it.
You didn't have to worry about terrorists when I was a kid. We didn't have to worry about much of anything...because we had the cold war; the mother of all childhood fears. America and Russia were in the middle of a forty year standoff and arms race that was almost 99% certain to result in the total annihilation of the planet. Fortunately, if you hid in a gymnasium and covered your head, you could dramatically improve your odds of surviving the nuclear fallout.
Nobody had ever been dumb enough to think that you could put water in a bottle and sell it yet. You drank tap water...no matter what it looked or tasted like. Honestly, it still chafes my old man ass every time I have to shell out four bucks so a kid can slurp down a bottle of Parisian Springs water. There's a God damned tap right there. It's RIGHT THERE!
We didn't have much...but we had roller skating and lots of it...everywhere.
We looked damned good doing it too.
And we had cigarettes! Everywhere. People smoked in restaurants and on airplanes and the teachers smoked in their lounge right inside the school. Every home had at least four ashtrays in it, and even if they didn't smoke, they kept ashtrays around for the people who did! Back then, it was considered rude NOT to let someone smoke wherever they felt like it. Oh yeah, and that guy was the president.
And when a kid got caught smoking...the prevailing wisdom was to make him sit down and smoke a whole pack until he got sick from them! Brilliant! That way, the wisdom went, Little Johnny will never ever want to light up again. It worked too...or at least until the kid came down from the initial nicotine rush and started jonsing for his next high.
But forget about what we had or didn't have. It didn't matter. Because if we survived the nuclear winter, by the year 2000, we were all going to be living in the most awesomest futuristic universe ever! We were going to be living in domes on other planets and under the ocean. Everything we owned was going to run on solar power. We'd have televisions we could wear on our wrists, and fly around like superman on personal flying devices! Rock on!
When I was a kid, looking ahead, I knew that I was going to be one of the lucky few survivors of the nuclear holocaust. Just like I knew that I'd probably have to repopulate the future world with Brooke Shields. But, I was willing to do it, because also I knew that by the time I was forty we'd be living on Venus, eating meals that were the size of a pill before you added a tiny droplet of water to them, and I knew, that no matter what, there would always be...Disco!


  1. Brilliant, Buzz. Especially the Chesterfield ad with Ronald Reagan. I go through this on a daily basis with my kids and all their friends.

  2. 40 isn't old. Jay made me say it. ;)

  3. I know it Jay. I feel more and more like the angry old man in the neighborhood who runs out from behind a shrub and steals the baseball when it rolls into my yard. I'm expecting any day now that some kids are going to put a flaming bag of poop on my porch.

    And psychopath...well...anyone named psychopath is probably responsible for flaming bags of poop, so I won't say too much. :)

  4. I wish I had the energy and know how to put flaming bags of poop on peoples porches. LOL ;) Unfortunately too old for that. Besides, daughter wouldn't let me take the grandkids so what fun is there in that?

    Anyway.. I too enjoy your blog.