Monday, July 16, 2012

Why can't we all just get along nostalgically?

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 10:00 AM

Christopher de VInck
  • Christopher de VInck
In our topsy-turvy media world not much happens in sequence. First I spotted Charlie Meyerson on Facebook slamming Christopher de Vinck for an op-ed in Sunday's Tribune that maybe waxed a shade too enthusiastic about the joys of an old-fashioned childhood. Hours later I opened the Trib and read de Vinck's piece for myself.

What a letdown! I'd expected so much worse. I give Meyerson this: lines like "If you never used a rhododendron leaf as a dollar bill to 'pay' for 'gasoline,' you have never been a true child," do sail into space. I was a true child (I think), and I never used a rhododendron to "pay" for anything. Neither did any kid I knew. None of us had any idea what a rhododendron even looked like, and to tell the truth, to this day I still don't. I dimly remember the then British poet laureate rhyming rhododendron with Hendron in a paean to Virginia Wade back in the 70s, but that nifty effort didn't make me curious about the flower.

My currency of choice was baseball cards and comic books.

But labeling de Vinck's effort "simplistic nostalgia," as Meyerson did, is like calling pink pink. And calling out de Vinck for "denouncing" the childhood of everyone else "who grew up in another time or fashion" teases hostility from de Vinck's blissful little exercise than eludes me completely. Yes, the photos chosen to accompany the piece do "all show white kids, seemingly from the 1950s," and yes, that was a time of "discrimination, repression and paranoia" as well as fireflies. But Meyerson, a lovely writer, here is taking a wood chipper to a dandelion.

There's probably no good reason to comment on either de Vinck's essay or Meyerson's critique of it, but I have fish to fry. For weeks now I've wanted to say what needs to be said about Geico's recent "theme park" commercial, and here's an occasion. This was the commercial about a couple of sappy parents who didn't save enough to take their kids to a theme park because they bought the wrong car insurance; so they rigged up a few games and rides in the backyard that the kids think are really stupid. Watch the ad.

When I was a kid we came up with games and rides that were a lot more stupid than anything in the Geico commercial, but once our imaginations kicked in they were wonderful. I'm sure de Vinck and his pals did the same kind of things, and I bet Meyerson did too. The message that a trip to the nearest Six Flags beats anything families can dream up on their own is lame and sad. De Vinck may never have seen the commercial, but his op-ed reproaches it.

Geico got childhood wrong. Anyone disagree?

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