Monday, May 25, 2015

The Pain From an Old Wound

Happy Memorial Day (U.S.), loyal listeners.

In a matter of previewing our upcoming episode on Wednesday, let's talk a little bit about memory. About looking back. About nostalgia.

Earlier this week I happened to be at a book signing for my wife's debut novel, and was browsing the immense floor of the New England Mobile Book Fair. I came across a hardcover copy of political historian Rick Perlstein's 2014 opus, The Invisible Bridge, about the rise of Reagan during the late Nixon and Ford administrations. It's alternately banal and terrifying, and the way Perlstein describes Reagan haunting the periphery of the political mainstream at this time is sort of like watching a locomotive barrel towards a fuel truck.

Let's leave aside the politics for a moment, though, and talk about how absolutely seminal this book has been for squaring the circle of the 1970s with respect to this podcast and understanding on a deeper level the conditions that led to the late-Carter malaise we've mentioned as we begin to barrel towards the 1980s. Especially when it comes to pop culture. You want to talk hijackers-as-heroes, like we did in Episode 3, Speed Kills, Del?
In Esquire Tom Wolfe noted the fact that people who hijacked airplanes and took over buildings were becoming cultural heroes to an alienated populace -- seen as men "at the end of their ropes" risking it all in a struggle against the "system." The terrorist, as his fan construed it, created "his own society, his own system: in the bank vault, in the Olympic quarters, in the prison courtyard... striking out against the endless exfoliation of American power... I finally cut through the red tape... I am a celebrity!" (Perlstein 193)
Or how about disaster movies and crumbling infrastructure, like in last week's The Dungarees vs. The Suits?
But fans of the former Hollywood now got to enjoy the good old days in comforting visits: in disaster movies cast to the gills with all the familiar stars... (Perlstein 165-166) 
...and in Boston, the collapse of the shabbily constructed Tobin Bridge, where a single strike by an errant truck caused two hundred feet of the upper roadway to collapse into the Mystic River. (Perlstein 167)
Or going back to Episode 3, the golden age of UFOlogy and the Bermuda Triangle?
Back home, a UFO scare was afoot: two men from Pascagoula, Mississippi, reported a cigar-shaped vessel with flashing blue lights pulled them up in its tractor beam; there claw-handed beasts paralyzed them and performed a medical examination... three books battled it out on the paperback bestseller list: The Gods from Outer Space and Chariots of the Gods, both by Erich von Däniken, which proposed "ancient aliens" had build monuments like the Pyramids, Stonehenge, and the sculptures on Easter Island; and Bermuda Triangle, which wondered whether the lost city of Atlantis was responsible for the supposedly mysterious disappearances there. (Perlstein 175)
Or even in the pilot, when we talked about cults?
Sometimes, and even more frighteningly, children made themselves disappear. They ran away. They became willing captives to strange Svengalis and gurus, their personalities suddenly changed... Steve Allen, the TV personality, discovered that his missing son had joined the "Love Israel" cult and now went by the name "Logic."(Perlstein 207-8)
So yes. Reading this book this week, in between Episode 6 and this week's episode has been eerily appropriate and prescient. Because all these things are half-remembered in my mind, a faint echo forward from the 70s, when I was ages 0 through 4. Because there's going to be a lot of the half-remembered, a lot of haunting in this week's episode, a lot of childhood memories curdled and turned sour and wrong and uncanny in the intervening decades.

And so, with that in mind, here are some photos of me and my family from the 1970s which may help you get in the mood for some of the topics we cover, fashion-wise and nostalgia-wise, in this week's episode, dropping Wednesday morning. Disappointed to report I could find no photos of me either in a red-and-blue-striped John John-from-Sesame Street ringer tee or in a Danny-from-The Shining New England Patriots tee, but still, these are pretty good. And remember: your dad didn't need Instagram filters. Damn right he used a Polaroid.

Circa February 1977. "Walk This Way" was in the Top 20 this month (and probably being played incessantly by WBCN in Boston), so picture me doing that Joey Kramer drum break that got sampled by Run-DMC or something.
This is probably late 1978, right around the time WKRP debuted, and look! I am within five feet of a television set. THIS MEANS SOMETHING. Or, maybe, I was just always within five feet of a television set.
My fourth birthday, August, 1979. Check out a) the Superfriends cups and plates and b) that proto-gamer cake, replete with bowling pins and 2d6. I rolled a 4, because that's how many years I was.
The wedding party of my parents (4th and 5th top row), August, 1972 (erratum from the podcast episode). No words here. Should've sent a poet. Keep this photo in mind during our episode as we talk about Herb's tux.
My mom the cover girl, on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Extended Benefits department newsletter. Inside caption calls her a "telephone correspondent," but in 1973, the boys in the office still called her and her colleagues "phone girls." She's been a Director/VP for 25+ years now, so... suck on that, gentlemen.
My dad, late 1975, packing on that newlywed/newborn weight assiduously, with an entire plate full of pie, cake, and Italian pastry. No one said getting married/quitting smoking/having a screaming newborn would be easy, pop. Also, be careful, because you just might be Charlie Manson.


  1. Presented ABSOLUTELY without comment:

    1. (Although, let's be COMPLETELY fair here... the wedding photo on the left was 1972 and Herb was WELL behind the times wearing that in 1979.)

  2. I thought we were supposed to post EMBARRASSING photos! These are GREAT! You are adorable and your parents are too. That is EXACTLY what one should have worn to get married in 1972.

    I have some finding/scanning to do but I will post my contribution as next Monday's meta-post.

    1. But why does your cake have dice AND bowling on it? Was that a thing? Were you a Strat-o-matic Bowling player at 4?

    2. Hah, no, but I can tell you without fear of contradiction that my favorite two pasttimes at 4 were a) candlepin bowling and b) board games. I wonder what sort of Sliding Doors-type scenario we could concoct from me pursuing bowling more passionately than board games in the years to come. Some sort of sequel to Kingpin, no doubt.

    3. "Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules? Mark it zero!"

  3. I swear, I put that quote in before I'd heard this week's episode!

    1. Hah, I thought you *were* referring to this week's episode.