The Boom Goes On | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Boom Goes On 

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To the editors:

A special message to Julie Phillips [July 31]: you're my kind of girl. "Baby boomers" have held the cultural floor a little too long now, and you've pointed this out with wit and style. It's no surprise to hear you're as sick of hearing about the 60s as I once was of hearing about the Great Depression. I hope you'll be able to get on with your life, now that you've stuck it to us with a vengeance.

Boomed out, huh? It must be hell having a bunch of spoiled brats for elders. But how do you think a lot of us not-so-spoiled "boomers" feel. I mean, that moniker's enough to make me sick and always has. And selling out ain't always so easy; somebody has to buy. Imagine what it's like to encounter these "Where Are They Now" articles about every band that ever coughed in a microphone, month after month, when you didn't give a shit where they were back then. If I'd been told in '67 that I'd still be hearing "Born to Be Wild" on the radio, any day of the week in '87, I'd have laughed. It wouldn't have even occurred to me to shudder. But the idea of seeing Star Trek reruns when I'm in my rocker has me shuddering now.

Still, I think we may be worrying and complaining into a corner this way. Don't you think there were more than a few youngish folk back in 1797 who were sick of hearing about the Boston Tea Party? Isn't it likely that if Paul Revere made his famous ride with a videocam on his shoulder, we'd still be riding with him every so often on Entertainment Tonight? What I'm saying is, please don't lay the blame so widely for all this "self-absorbed prattle." I for one, didn't ask for the remake of Beach Party, or reruns of every sitcom that hasn't faded in the can since the birth of television. Not everyone ran out to buy Sgt. Pepper on CD to celebrate its 20th birthday. Some of us are aging gracefully enough, having sown our oats soundly at a time when media didn't have files prepared to perform the perpetual instant replay we see now. The generation in power had endured such catastrophe in their youth, they had little appetite for nostalgia. Now there's room for columnists who feel compelled to print pages from their personal diaries, for an ever-growing supply of collective home movies waiting around every turn of the channel, pick-a-year radio weekends. Unless you bury yourself pretty deep, it's near impossible not to think about turning 40, and I'm not even there yet. It's like, uh oh, Mom's bringing out the baby pictures again! So while it all may register as nausea for others, a real curse is on "boomers." This media you say we control won't let us forget. It just grows like the proverbial bean stalk, and the giant appears to be wearing Nikes.

I can't believe this is what an entire generation really wants, as you say, though I admit I sure look wrong. Dumping entirely on media doesn't satisfy either. How would you expect the news vacuum you "postboomers" create to be filled? You don't riot about apartheid. You're enlisting in droves to go to Honduras. Prudent or otherwise, it's not news. How many articles about Amy Carter do you want to read? And calling us names like "Establishment" is premature. Check your Time/Life Library Julie. It's pretty much the same bunch that burned a generation's ass 20 years ago, trying to burn yours now. We're living a lot longer in America nowadays. They pull polyps out of Reagan's intestines faster than you can say, "Peace Now!" I didn't see many boomers at the Iran/Contra Show, unless Fawn Hall's older than I think, or Ollie's younger (if I'm splitting hairs it's only to separate the truly gray from the merely streaked). But the young Top Gun fans don't need to be sent to war. I don't think anyone could stop them. A young friend came to me depressed after saying farewell to a group of schoolmates at a "Boot Camp Party." What was I to say? Sorry we didn't change the world?

I'm asked, more often than you might think, to recount draft-dodging/rock-festival exploits by younger friends. I think they're looking for alternatives to the MTV flashback versions they never seem to get away from. Much as I used to beg old beatniks for stories of going to the liquor store for Kerouac, or washing James Dean's windshield, in what seemed like the misty past. Images of those days weren't available on video at the street corner. All I knew of the 50s was Ike played a lot of golf and Buddy Holly died. I sympathize. It has to be a bore to see and hear about Jimi, Janis, and Jim, over and over, but rock stars are living longer too. When a death anniversary happens to fall on a slow news day, what do you expect?

Idealism and its abandonment? Hey, under the influence of certain drugs, depressing thoughts can produce psychotic reactions. A lot of people needed wishful thinking to survive, if only for eight hours or so. I don't know what to prescribe for enduring the dilemma in question. "SHUT UP" never works, as you can see. Cynicism gets old too. A VCR and a subscription to American Heritage may be the only way around Monkees reruns, low-impact aerobics, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash interviews, at least until Johnny Rotten turns 40. Do yourself a favor; try to look the other way. I think we're stuck with the Timeless Teens Show for a while yet.

We're in the same Love Boat Julie. That's all I really want to say . . . but before I go kiss the sky, I must tell you where I was when Kennedy was shot. Feigning illness, I was home from school watching The Rifleman. Ironic, huh? And anytime I want to get all misty, I can still tune it in on Channel 32. Admit it now . . . don't you think you might get a little misty yourself the day Sesame Street goes off the air?

I'm only teasing Julie. The way things are going, it never will.

John Henry

Chicago

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