A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
It’s hard to live in a time when the gods are changing, but it’s loads of fun, too. This transitional world we live in is so full of cool it’s difficult to sort things out. So many neat things are going on right now that I’m totally pissed I’m never going to see where they end up in 50 years. But honestly, I haven’t completely comprehended our world for at least a decade. Somewhere I lost track, and even though I can still fake it, there are too many holes in my knowledge to ever claim understanding again. Fortunately, the world has gotten so large that I can just narrow my focus, avoid the stuff I don’t recognize, and keep on moving. But there are certain things that I miss from the old world; things that were quaint and homey and comfortable. And sometimes, I’m just a bit sad that young people will never enjoy these things.
Quiet contemplation on the bus. In the olden days, people on buses used to sit in their own world. They read books and newspapers. They decided what to have for dinner. They mulled over their problems. Sometimes, they talked to each other in that secret mono-voice reserved for private words in public places. They looked out the windows and thought about their lovers. Buses were romantic places.
Cheap restaurants. Before fast food, restaurants had neon names and vinyl seats and thick noisy plates. The servers were waitresses and didn’t introduce themselves. They were places to go for breakfast or meet for lunch. Places to have conversations. Places that had pie and the promise of more coffee if you wanted a longer afternoon.
Love affairs. Relationships are such artificial animals. They’re built on the premise that the clinching ache in the bottom of your belly has a beginning, a middle and an end. They take too much thought and are almost corporate in their planning. I prefer the days when people had love affairs that began by accident — at places like bus stops or cheap restaurants. They took time to unfold, over longer and longer, long evenings in wood-paneled restaurants with adult only lighting. And even though they always began as separate adventures, unlike relationships, love affairs got passed back and forth so many times that they became a jungle of intertwisted experience that could never be understood separately again.
And if you did it right:
Love affairs led to newspapers, those big Sunday thumpers that took a half a morning to read. They had complete sections that you could trade across the breakfast table. They were big enough to fold, so you could drink your morning coffee. They were lazy with long stories. They had movies you wanted to see and places you wanted to go. They had columnists from faraway Chicago and Frisco who had something to say. And they had crossword puzzles that might take all day — even with help.
Today might be a brave new world. It is a brilliant place, with new and exciting things. But sometimes I just like the feel of yesterday.