Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wondering How It Happened That Your Future Is Suddenly Going Up In Smoke? In The Words of The Poet, "The Answer Is Blowin' In The Wind."

After all was said and done, weren’t the Beatles just a band?

It was the late seventies. I was in my late twenties. I was interviewing for a job and the boss said: “How about starting on Monday?” It was a straight commission sales job – no reason to jump too quickly. “I would like to think about it and get back to you on Monday,” I said. “But, it’s a perfect fit,” he said. “Maybe, but I’d really like to sleep on it.” Then, in a tone of exaggerated frustration, he said, “Look, we really shouldn’t be having this kind of communication problem. I mean, we both grew up with the Beatles.”

I had never been much of a Beatles fan (I liked them, but I didn’t love them. You know how it goes.), and until that moment, I had never thought of myself as having grown up with them. Now, I hear that, because of them, I have a generational connection that is supposed to ensure a special kind of communication and understanding. It was an obvious negotiation ploy.

Years later, I was at home, with a bunch of neighbors – all roughly my age, except for one who was a few years younger. At one point, David interrupted and sounding annoyed, said, “You all speak in a kind of code.” An interesting comment. But remembering it weeks later, hard as I tried, I could not come up with a single part of the conversation that might have sounded like code. Did we mention Janis, without using her last name? I should have stopped him on the spot and asked him for a list of words he needed decoded, but I didn’t think of it.

Oh, about that sales job, I took it and started on Monday. I had known him for less than an hour, but his vintage was so very familiar. If I couldn’t trust a guy who grew up with the Beatles, who could I trust?

You didn’t see Bernie Madoff dancing at Woodstock…or did you?

Bernie Madoff, born in 1938, would have been too old to go to Woodstock (unless he was there just to sell drugs – probably phony ones). John Thain, born in 1955, would have been too young to know or care about Woodstock. I was born in 1948, and I didn’t go to Woodstock either, but like a lot of us, there were moments when I could have been convinced that I did.

Here’s my question: Would real Woodstockers (defined as those who attended and those who sort of attended) ever have gone on to become members of today’s avaricious sociopathic business elite (the venerable ASBE)? Look, most of us eventually sold-out (that’s what we called it when one of us got a job that required wearing a tie), except for Ben & Jerry types who managed to whip their Chunky Monkey sixties values into a sweeter kind of capitalism, and never had to go clean shaven to do it. Of course selling-out doesn’t mean selling your soul. To do that, you have to go the extra $1400 wastebasket mile.

Where have you gone Lee Iacocca
A nation turns its doubting eyes to you
Woo, woo, woo…

Before there was all that sex, drugs, and rock & roll, there was The Great Sadness.

In fact, for those of us who were thirteen or eighteen, or somewhere in between (I had been fifteen for one day) it was indeed The Great Sadness, which went on to become The Great Betrayal, and led to The Great Anger, and finally -- The Great Cynicism. Not everyone in my tenth grade class was saddened by the news from Dallas. Strangely, some really didn’t care. It didn’t stop them in their tracks. It didn’t break their heart. I‘m sure some of them loved the Beatles, and I bet a couple of them went on to manage hedge funds.

But for the rest of us, who had just experienced our first real life Greek tragedy, the future turned kind of scary. We fell asleep staring at a portrait of JFK and woke up seeing the face of LBJ painted over it. Cruel. Very cruel. Couldn’t they have given us a transitional face? And while they were at it, a transitional mind, heart, and soul?

Please forgive the speaking in code, but if you are not of that age and if your eyes didn’t fill with tears, as did Cronkite’s…then it’s hard to explain. All I can tell you is that this was the real day the music died.

Wherever you are now, you passed through Dealy Plaza on the way there.

Oh, before I forget, I find this interesting, and hope that you might too. It was only recently – just a year or so ago – that I stopped being a grassy knollist. How about you? I watched a television documentary that demonstrated that a lone gunman could actually have done it. Maybe. Maybe not, but possibly. And with that possibility, my lifelong, rock-solid grassy knoll-Warren Commission whitewash-Mark Lane-Jim Garrison-CIA cover-up worldview -- begun on the first day of my sixteenth year – cracked! Yes,cracked…then dissolved sometime in my sixtieth year. You know, it felt good to be relieved of all that self-protective, but debilitating cynicism. Now, where do I go to get it back?

When you finally broke down and joined the country club, did you remember to bring your inner Dylan with you?

When Yippies became stockbrokers, did they only sell stocks in good, clean, socially responsible companies? I doubt it. For one thing, there weren’t enough Ben & Jerry’s to go around. And for another, middle class comfort was back in style. We all did what we needed to do to get our piece of the pie. But thanks to us, it would become a much more idealistic pie. I’d like mine with a half scoop of Chunky Monkey, please.

Well, enough reminiscing. I have three questions: Where are we now? Who are we now? And, does it even matter?

Oh, and one more question:

Still crazy after all these years?

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