The Land that Made Me Me - Part Two
You see, I had this space suit.
How it happened was this way:
"Dad," I said, "I want to go to the Moon."
"Certainly," he answered and looked back at his book. It was Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, which he must know by heart.
I said, "Dad, please! I'm serious."
This time he closed the book on a finger and said gently, "I said it was all right. Go ahead."
"Eh?" He looked mildly surprised. "Why, that's your problem, Clifford."
Robert A. Heinlein
I continue the commentary on the poem from my previous post ...
We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie, they never made it twice.
We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.
Ahh, yes... Annette... We all fell for Annette. She had such wonderful... dance steps.
And it's true about the movies: sequels and remakes were completely unheard of.
They never made a second Beach Party or Muscle Beach Party, or Bikini Beach, or Pajama Party, or Beach Blanket Bingo, or How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, or The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini .
"Do it once, and do it right," was their motto.
Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp,
And Reagan was a Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.
We had a Mr. Wizard , but not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn't talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, Me.
Did you know that the chimp who played opposite Reagan in Bedtime for Bonzo also played Cheeta in Tarzan? And Reagan was a Democrat. Those were the good old days.
But "Oprah couldn't talk yet"? It can't be literal, she was born in January, 1954, so she obviously would have been able to talk before the end of the fifties.
This must be intended less than literally—as an allusion to the flip side of the fifties. The side we didn't talk about.
Oprah, who has made her fortune by talking, would not have been allowed a voice back then. She, or any black woman like her, would have been silenced for being as outspoken as she is now.
That line makes me nostalgic for today.
We had our share of heroes, we never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.
For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me.
We'd never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,
And Airplanes weren't named Jefferson, and Zeppelins were not Led.
And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees,
Now it's making me homesick for the sixties... Actually, it's an interesting comparison. I would say that the early Beatles (I Want to Hold Your Hand) were a little more innocent than Elvis, with his hip action that couldn't be shown on television.
And Marilyn Monroe was incredibly talented, but innocent?
Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.
Okay. Mary was innocent.
We'd never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they weren't grown in jars.
Babies aren't grown in jars today, either. On the other hand, they're probably more likely to be breast-fed. So I guess we've become more conservative, in that area, even if we're slightly less innocent. And how does all this fit in with the Janet Jackson thing?
And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and 'gay' meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never co-ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.
"Gay" didn't just mean fancy-free in the fifties, either (though I was in my teens, and in the sixties, before I learned it had another meaning—it was in an article in Life, or Look magazine, remember those? Remember The Saturday Evening Post?)
At any rate, the word certainly didn't mean "fancy-free" to those who were unfortunate enough to be gay in the fifties. The innocence of the dominate culture came at too great a price for them, however comforting it might have been to others.
We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.
And Hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.
And some very fine fiction, too, for pre-teens. Remember Robert Heinlein's pre-Stranger in a Strange Land stuff for juveniles? Rocket Ship Galileo? Have Space Suit, Will Travel? I wonder how many kids learn about rocket science, or Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, while reading for pleasure today. Have Space Suit, Will Travel still holds up as a novel after all these years.
Buicks came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.
And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,
And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me, Me.
Interesting parallelism... I can't make out the meaning though. Buicks and side shows and bathing suits and Coke and below the knee skirts and... Castro?
We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions
in the Land That Made Me, Me.
There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda , and cats were not called Bill.
And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three,
And ancient were our parents in the Land That Made Me, Me.
It does seem like people got older faster in the fifties, and I can't figure out whether that was an illusion, rooted in my young point of view, or an actual fact.
Is my generation really younger, older, than my parents' generation, or does everyone feel that way about themselves?
I don't know the answer, but I think I'll stop here.
There are eight more lines about how our figures and eyes have gone to pot, which I'm not interested in, perhaps due to my own repression and denial.
Even my generation should be allowed a little intentional innocence.
At least, that's what I think today.