March 30, 2009


They say - "they" being John Updike in particular - that all writing is if not a return to the womb then at least a return to earliest youth. Those early experiences are what the writer mines. I recall those summer nights in the early '70s during which the '70s weren't yet interesting because kitsch wasn't yet in vogue. I recall ordering 7-ups in those absurdly small bar glasses they served soft drinks in back then. The Elbow Room was one such bar which my Dad frequented and thus I visited as a tag-along. Other than the 7-ups and tasty beer nuts I can recall nothing. If I could revisit that rare ground now I would pay attention, for my grandfather was still alive then and sitting a barstool from my dad. I would look around at the other drinkers and listen to the dialogue. Work? Sex? Politics? What did they talk about in a small Germanically-flavored town in Ohio in the '70s?

Of course the fact that I was a child was part of why I was brought along in the first place. It's the same reason you allow your dog to be around when you're making love or going to the bathroom. I was essentially deaf, dumb and blind. I wouldn't understand most of what they were saying.

Change seems most recognizable only in retrospect and even then it must often be aided by artificial time dividers like hit songs. Is it only via music that I can remember now that 1982 differed radically from 1985 which differed radically from 1987? I can listen now to Alan Parsons Project's Eye in the Sky, released in 1982, and see how foreign it is to the time of Men at Work's It's a Mistake in '83, which is so different than, say, Simple Minds' Don't You (Forget About Me) or Katrina and the Waves' Walking on Sunshine just a couple years later.

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