My Generation

As this pandemic goes on and on, I’ve been struck with a recurring thought: I’m so glad I grew up when I did.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s which means a few things.
I grew up with great music.
I experienced drive ins.
I saw ET, Rocky, Jaws and Animal House in the theater.
I remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV and saw elected leaders put their country over their party. Can you imagine that?
We watched Walter Cronkite every night, read an actual newspaper every day and believed what we heard and read. Why? Because it was true.
My friends and I played outside until it got dark. My parents didn’t feel a need to hover, they knew my sister and I were safe in our neighborhood.
We knew our neighbors, every single family on the block, and we looked out for one another.

I remember when a neighbor’s house caught on fire and we stood on the lawn watching the blaze and were scared that the house may burn to the ground and that our friends would be forced to move away. We cared for each other genuinely.
As pre-teens we roamed the mall, soon to be a relic of the past, visited bookstores (remember those) and saved our money to buy record albums (vinyl!) and baseball cards.
We didn’t keep the cards in pristine condition or look at them like investments.  We flipped them, traded them, put them in the spokes of our bicycles and memorized the stats on the back. We even chewed the bubble gum inside the packs even though it tasted like cardboard—dusty cardboard.

We took the Long Island Railroad to the city and wandered Manhattan and saw some things that… well …helped us grow up.
We bought old cars for little money. Rusty Mustangs and Cougars and we even managed to appreciate the unique design of the AMC Pacer—which in our optimistic eyes looked like a short squat Porsche.
We went to dances, proms, comedy clubs and Broadway shows which were affordable back then.
We went to Shea and Yankee Stadium and truly believed that the “Magic was Back.”  (It wasn’t).
Our friend’s mom worked as a store nurse for Macy’s (do they have those anymore—store nurses that is, Macy’s seems on the way out too) and she made sure to reserve us concert tickets which were $8 back then.

We saw Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Styx, Aerosmith and a slew of other classic bands. We once slept outside to get tickets to see The Police at Shea Stadium only to get seats just below heaven. We didn’t care, we were there and that’s what mattered.
We had fake ID’s and we snuck into bars and it felt exciting. We could get caught. But we never did. And every time we got past the burly bouncer we saw another kid that we knew wasn’t quite of age.
We spent hours shooting hoops, throwing around a baseball or a football and trying to hit a spaldeen ball with a stickball bat over the roof of the neighbor’s house.
We listened to music, shared pizza and talked about what we were going to do with our lives.
There were no texts, no social media, no Tik Tok videos but we did have MTV when the station actually played music.
Can you imagine?
Last night, I shared 90 minutes of Zoom laughs with five guys who were there for it all.

Dave, who biked to my house to trade baseball cards when he was five and I was six. We’ve been friends ever since.

Joe, whose dad owned the pizza place with the best thin slices. New York style.
Greg, who drove a Dodge Dart Swinger and was our designated driver.
Scott, the Mets and Giants fan, who could hit the ball over the roof.
And Howie, whose mother was the store nurse and who had an older sister who would drive us around and talk sports with us. She would later become a famous pioneering sports journalist at ESPN. But to us she was the cool older sister with the driver’s license who thought we were funny.
When we speak via Zoom these days we gather from Southern California, Northern Virginia, New Jersey, Raleigh, N. C., South Florida and Stony Brook, N.Y.
Our conversation these days is focused on current events and we argue—politely. But those arguments always end with “hey, I still love you guys” which could be a lesson for all of us.
And we do.
There’s too much history and too much in front of us to ever walk away from each other over how we differ in our views of a virus.
I see the men these guys have become—all successful in their own ways every time we talk.
But I still see the boys we were too and that connection to the past is critical.

 I remember conversations from 1979 when a few us pledged to stop being so shy around the young women we liked.
That conversation prompted me to finally ask for a date with someone I had a crush on for years.
I was so nervous that I did not remember what she said when I asked. I walked away from her so nervous that I literally had no idea what she said.
Apparently, it was a yes because a day later she said she couldn’t go out because she was going fishing with her uncle or something. I never had the courage to ask again.
My supportive and sensitive friends responded by printing T-shirts of people fishing with a cutting remark underneath the graphic. Hey, this stuff makes you resilient. So thanks guys.

Anyway, we talked last night about how we feel so sorry for kids today. Cut off from their friends and girlfriends, denied proms and graduation ceremonies and unsure if they will be going off to school in the fall or if they will be cracking open their iPads.
One of my buddies kids is in limbo about college and another just had two boys graduate college and grad school only to enter a scary job market.
Sigh.
You wonder and you worry how this will impact a generation.
As I said, I’m grateful to have grown up when I did. We didn’t have much in the way of technology but we had each other. Still do.

Comments

  1. I have very similar stories from my childhood. Though I suppose many of us do. You really reminded me of how much the changed. Thanks for making me feel old.

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      He meant to say has changed but I don’t have the technology to fix it. It’s a generational thing.

  2. Wonderful reminiscing! I’m a little older than you but you brought back great images of my childhood!
    Thanks for the memories!

    • Jeff Perlman says:

      Lainie, I hope today’s youth get a chance to have some of these simple experiences. They mean so much.

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