Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Forget the play ironing set, stamp me up that slick cigarette case!

Have you ever paused to consider how the decade you came of age in (or at least spent the better part of your pre-teen/teenaged years in) affects your world view? Well, I have. Because I don’t have enough to worry about. Without suspicion I’ve been mentally examining the people who enter my world every day—family, friends, and strangers (strangers who randomly, and publicly, implode for no apparent reason) in an effort to determine if their behavioral choices reflect a cultural influence.
My penny-psychological study has forced me to conclude that if you came of age in the 1930’s you’re a product of the Great Depression and have the “ketchup bottle” approach to life: you refuse to throw away that bottle of Heinz 57 until you’ve drenched the sedimentary dregs with enough tap water to shake at least three more clots out of it. If you came of age in the 1940’s you’re a product of World War II and have a “let’s party today for tomorrow we may die” approach to living: life is a swinging Sinatra song and you’ll Lindy your way into the grave. If you came of age in the 1950’s you’re a rock-n-roll boomer: you still have great style, all your own hair, religiously summer down the shore, and truly believe that every generation that has followed yours doesn’t know the first thing about being cool. If you came of age in the 1960’s you’re either still stoned out of your mind and/or extremely critical of the culture you sent into a tailspin. If, like me, you came of age in the 1970’s, congratulations—you’re a complete mess.
          I mean, we children of the ‘70’s had more than our fair share to deal with—an unpopular war, Nixon, Watergate, H.R. PUFNSTUF, streakers, perms, Beatle’s break-up, disco, and, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, plaid and stripes together. And I’m sorry, but no matter how hard J.C. Penny tried to market it, there was just no way plaid could ever be “rad” or stripes make a fat person look thinner—striped muu-muus made my full-figured aunts look like walking parentheses. I mean, if Marcia Brady couldn’t rock the plaid, what chance did we mortals have?
And then there were the S&H Green Stamps. I chased that dragon for years, looking everywhere for orphaned stamps--sidewalks, grocery store conveyor belts, the countertops of my friends’ kitchens. I hoarded those perforated square stamps in my Saver Book like an angry troll. I fantasized that I could save the 170 books of stamps required for the Silver Cloud Motor Boat, outboard motor not included! After months and months of saving what did I finally purchase? A play iron and ironing board set. If I had known that my future held endless piles of laundry I would have purchased the slim ladies cigarette case with the paisley cover and satin-lined interior. I iron every night, so trust me, smoking would have been the sexier choice. Put Hazel next to Polly Bergen and who do you think men would choose?
          This flotsam overtook my consciousness when someone asked me if I had any ideas for interesting fundraisers. That simple query sent my mind rushing back four decades to a time that seems steeped in meaning. Almost every social outing my family took in the early-to-mid ‘70’s involved a fundraiser. How many of you spent entirely too many warm-weathered weekend afternoons watching Donkey baseball games? I seem to remember my uncles and the then Mayor of Fort Lee, spastic passengers upon the backs of non-compliant donkeys, riding erratically around the field of Intermediate School in Fort Lee, mitts waving unsteadily in hand, in an effort to raise money for some cause. My favorite was the pitcher. Donkeys are fond of making mounds, not standing idly on the pitcher’s mound.  If the donkey stood still long enough to let the pitcher pitch, the ball would feebly wobble its way to the batter's box, but thanks to his donkey, the batter was now somewhere outside of first base. How no one ever got a hoof to the head boggles my mind. Let me add that they were riding donkeys after having imbibed more than a few cocktails. I must say, man-on-donkey baseball did put the “fun” in “fundraisers.” Clearly these kinds of shenanigans were the inspiration for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  And there was that time I almost caught a glimpse of Donkey love, but I was at the concession stand and my parents ushered me away from the field before my eyes could see anything that they promised would cause me to go blind.
          It’s true, my generation didn’t endure a depression, we can’t dance, and we’re not cool. And although we never upended culture, we almost certainly drowned in the tsunami of its pop. 

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