Skip to main content

Diff'rent Strokes

Roger Ebert's recent blog post (worth a read, by the way) about becoming an "old fart" in an ever-changing world has inspired me to be write about my own view of the changes I've seen happen, and how I've tried to adapt to them. Sometimes, adaptation has occurred without a moment's thought, and sometimes it has been a struggle. I'm still not sure what exactly precipitates one reaction vs. another.

Firstly, it should be stated that I grew-up middle class, and currently live a fairly modest middle-class existence. There were certainly a few years, after my parents' divorce and when I was living on my own, that I was living a working-class life, and I'm not one of those middle-class kids who deludes themselves into perpetually thinking that their lives are, always have been, and always will be, of the same financial status. Things can go up, and things can go down. But I mention the whole 'middle-class' situation as a statement on what sort of lifestyle I led growing up.

There was a time in our modest little home on Draper St. when the television consisted of the 'big three' networks: ABC, CBS and NBC, and PBS. Of those, I watched PBS the most, often wiling-away hours in my bedroom, my little 13" green-encased TV with the rabbit ears bringing me the joys of Victory Garden, This Old House, Julia Child and Doctor Who. When television was watched in the living room, it was normally whatever my parents fancied, which consisted of James Bond films on ABC, Columbo reruns, Murder, She Wrote and westerns. Eventually, we received cable, which in that day came in the form of a box that sat atop the television set, and you had to get up and movie the dial to whatever channel you wanted to watch. It went up to Channel 35. Oddly, while I enjoyed having more channels, the whole advent of cable didn't really phase me too much.

The first time I remember a sea-change occurring was when our household procured a VCR. The concept of it absolutely dumbfounded me. Everything I'd watch on TV had been by the schedule of the networks. Now we had this device that would allow us to purchase a hard copy of something, put it in, and watch it whenever we wanted. I could view The Transformers cartoon at my leisure! These places called video stores started popping-up like weeds. I remember our family frequented the one in Country Fair Mall and, later, the Stars & Stripes video store at the strip mall on the corner of Kirby & Mattis. I found these stores to be truly wondrous places. My parents and I rented and watched nearly the entire Alfred Hitchcock film collection which, to this day, still provides fond memories.

Things that we take for granted now, like computers and the internet, came along at various intervals in my life. It was a fact that my household was without a computer until the mid-1990s. Before that, I only had access to computers at school. There were special 'labs' for them, and we used Macs. I used to stay after school and do some fiction writing in those labs, as well play some games of Oregon Trails. Later, after high school, I'd trundle over to the Illini Lab on the University of Illinois campus and get my first taste of the internet. Still later, I got a hand-me-down laptop from my mom, which served as my first real computer/internet home experience.

The portability of music is something I still marvel at. As a kid, records and cassettes were the method du jour of consuming tunes. Kids in grade school were always envious of whomever had a walkman. I would wear-out my cassette tapes of Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, and Sting. It took awhile for me to warm to compact discs, but eventually (in 1994) I purchased my first CD, a maxi-single for Moby's Feeling So Real, and was hooked. Eventually, Ashley & I discovered the joys of iTunes, and now most of our music is on the computer and on our phones.

I made the transition from VHS tapes to DVDs with ease, partly because I was working in the movie & music department at Circuit City during that time, and so was surrounded by the newest technology. I faced the transition to blu-ray with some hesitancy, but have now embraced that, too. E-reader devices are something which Ashley & I have, but I still grapple with, as I worry about the future accessibility of the books I 'purchase' on them. I use a Nook, and can't help but wonder what would happen to the books I've bought and read on it should Barnes & Noble suffer the same fate as Borders? But it does make more sense to use an e-reader: less trees are felled for the sake of pages, and reading is reading, whether it's on paper/ink, or a device/e-ink.

As for more socio-geographic shifts during my time, I've seen the rise and quasi-acceptance of gays & lesbians, transgenders, Hispanics, the first bi-racial President of the U.S., the proliferation of chain stores and restaurants, 24-hour services, 'green' initiatives, an increase in strident partisan politics, the re-unification of Germany, and the death of close family and even friends. Some of these are specific to my life, some of them are markers of everyone's lives. We all have our shared and unique experiences, to be sure. We all witness the world change around us. The question is: How do we handle it?

I feel as though I've handled most changes in a fairly decent fashion. Some stuff took longer to warm to than others, but for the most part I've done ok. It's true, there have been certain developments that I've disliked (even if I've partaken of them). 24-hour services fall into this category. I do not think the world needs to be anymore 'immediate.' In fact, I sometimes wish that things could slow down a bit. But then that's the crusty side of me talking. I realize this. For some, access to things 24/7 is a god send.

There may come a point when I can no longer adapt so well to change, and no longer have the desire to work harder to do so. I hope that day is far off. This isn't because all change is good. Indeed, some changes should be railed against. But for the most part, society advances in a positive manner, and to resist it, or become encrusted only in what we are comfortable with, is a sure way to become miserable with the world. And who really wants that?


  1. I happened on my old walkman and discman when I was purging the accumulated crap recently. They were the height of technology, yet when I compare them to my iPod Nano, which boasts a video camera (why?), the mind, it boggles.

    I have a kindle myself and as an avid reader who long ago ran out of space, oh how I love my kindle. Reading, as you say, is reading, no matter what the support - and ever so much lighter.

  2. I didn't know the iPod Nanos came with video cameras. That's.... interesting.

    And you're so right about the e-reading advantages (no more running out of space for books, and so much lighter). The only concern with my Nook is if Barnes & Noble suffers the same fate as Borders (they're currently looking for a buyer).


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

Third Death

My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?

Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.