Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lost In Limbo: An Accelerated Romp Through Generations

The Vermont County Store – purveyor of AARP-approved house frocks and other oddities targeted toward countrified shut-ins – has been advertising a primordial typewriter with the bravado generally reserved for President’s Day auto commercials. According to the latest catalog, inadvertently delivered to these quarters by my normally astute (and hernia recovering) mailman, the Manual Olivetti Typewriter beckons “all thinking persons past the age of discretion.” Or, translated into the common vernacular, “all persons with fond memories of the Conestoga wagon and unsliced bread.” Already scarred by the cancellation of Lawrence Welk, and shaking in their pantaloons at the advent of digital television conversion, lengthy testimonials from the so-called Greatest Generation read like a disturbing romp through the Land of The Lost.

Whether implicitly damning the invention of electricity (“my fingers had fallen victim to Author-Ritis and could not move fast enough to accommodate the electric typewriter”), or forced to arrest one’s hobby due to presumed technological distrust (“now that I have this wonderful new typewriter I may resume writing again”), nothing says “I drive an enormous Buick, eat cat food, and believe rock music is the spawn of Satan” quite like: “your typewriter survives storms and blackouts … the computer age is not for me.” Well, my dear, maybe this internet thing won’t catch on and we’ll all happily revert to ink wells, American cars, and outhouses. At very least, the nice folks in Weston, Vermont have cured a horrific case of Author-Ritis (although I’m sure there’s a suppository for that), and helped throngs of naïve octogenarians in deterring an amp service upgrade within their flower-print hovels.

Believe it or not, I actually respect the elderly. Before I’m painted as a heartless rogue who pushes occupied wheelchairs down steep hills (into traffic) or pilfers gallons of prune juice from under the noses of old women, know that I appreciate the dedication of our elder statesmen to this country. They loved it, molded it, and fought for it with a righteous mantra of sacrifice and heroism. Through the horrors of (then glorified) war, they wrestled with oppressive regimes in the hopes of preserving the same freedoms granted them upon entry into our harbors; never embarrassed to fly the flag of a nation which offered limitless opportunity where others tendered only prejudice and class immobility. Notwithstanding these valorous feats, this generation also built some of the most revolting architectural eyesores of modern times – constructed within the concrete-themed brutalist style – while razing some of the most beautiful, in an ignorant dismissal of historic merit in lieu of inexpensive solutions. Life in the Great Depression had soured a collective optimism, and this frugality of mindset extended forthright, for better or for worse.

Yet somewhere in the generational chasm between Big Band and Beatles, the brave legions of World War II veterans, and the wives that kept their homes in pristine form, got lost. Or perhaps they purposely opted to drop out, unwittingly dropping into long-standing stereotypes of clueless citizenry: dismissing much of the burgeoning pop culture scene, ignoring technological advances, fearing homosexuals, and preparing for death after age 65, needlepoint in hand, ass on rocker. Now sadly the butt of jokes after a lifetime of drudgery, witness the swan song of the last batch of Americans to drive 45mph in the center lane of an interstate, to mistake gas pedals for brakes en masse, dress in outmoded fashions, consider rock music “noise,” dye their hair blue, assume musty scents, or rage against the rebellion of youth. There will always exist gaps between parent and child, but none shall spread quite as embarrassingly wide.

And here I stand, a lowly member of the oft-forgotten Generation X; sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and their dope smoking, brain frying, hippiedom-cum-corporate model on the one hand, and the socially inept ADD cyborgs of the Millennial gang on the other. Numbering a paltry 46 million, X’ers rate a mere blip on the genealogical radar, spoon-fed the merits of Boomers our entire lives to the neglect of our own accomplishments. And yes, exposure of that generation’s erectile dysfunction conquest does cause a shudder down our collective spines, as do our declining inflation-adjusted incomes vis-à-vis our parents. But remember, we’re Generation X, and we don’t protest these proverbial tide changes, we just ridicule them. Truth be told, we’ve been a well behaved yet cynical niche of sorts, scoffing at our parent’s organized rebellion while sneering at the younger generation’s idealism and everyone-is-a-winner yet no-one-is-singularly-responsible upbringing. Painted as slackers, we’re actually quite shrewd, maintaining a healthy dollop of humor and self-deprecation, thus safely grounding our egos. In fact, our ability to think objectively and speak in complete sentences as opposed to instant messages could one day be an asset. Later rather than sooner, of course, once the media’s preoccupation with all things Boomer has finally drawn enough blood from that stone, and the world looks for a new group of leaders to replace the soon-to-be retired and full-time coital flower children. Naturally, that crown will pass fluidly to the Millenials.

So now that we’ve traveled the unofficial timeline through unsanctioned history, let’s return from whence we started, at the congenial Vermont Country Store and their prehistoric wares, where grandma considers delving into the mattress to buy that Manual Olivetti Typewriter. If you’ve got your bifocals trained on that relic, then the Grim Reaper’s been keeping a close eye on you, my dear. Perhaps an order of Super Omega-3 fish oil pills (item #52478) would add an extra six months, enough time to hammer out the next great American novel, tapping away ferociously through downed power lines and fuse box shorts. Or hell, the seven inch rotating “massager” (item #51669) might even render you immortal, like The Highlander, for a mere $79.95 plus tax. And that’s plenty of additional time to suck up the remaining social security pool that I’ve been quietly funding, without so much as a pout, especially for you. Happy diddling.


AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

I see you changed a thing or two here..looking good!

Theresa said...

Hah, I got to your comments before Chris. Anyway, what a great subject. They are the greatest generation and will probably hold that title for at least another 100 years or so. Again, wonderfully written with your usual hint of uncensored and abashed truthful sarcasm. Kudos!

Chris @ Maugeritaville said...

That's what I'm talkin' about . . . I'm a fan of the ranting, smart-ass Bastard, and this is it, in all its Bastardacious glory. This is one of your best posts, in my opinion. The line about the "last batch of Americans to drive 45 mph in the center lane of an interstate" nearly killed me, bro.

And the award was richly deserved, my friend.

MVD said...

Yes Alpha, in addition to the customized logo, I underwent a painful procedure of having the word "BASTARD" tattooed across my fingers in electric blue ink, as seen in the badge on the sidebar. I assume this can only improve my chances of securing a position amidst financial titans. Everyone should wear their blog name proudly.

Whew. I thought you'd abandoned me. Welcome back. I promise to be more interesting on version 2 ;)

MVD said...

"They are the greatest generation and will probably hold that title for at least another 100 years or so."

Well, Theresa, so says Tom Brokaw and the history books. But I'm calling "bullshit" on that moniker. A majority of the Greatest Generation should be able to navigate the internet. Talk about milking the World War II thing.

MVD said...

"I'm a fan of the ranting, smart-ass Bastard, and this is it, in all its Bastardacious glory."

Hey Chris - The accolade and the encouragement are truly appreciated. After all, this blog only works when we're all laughing. Hopefully, the bastardacious smart-ass remarks will keep flowing.

They never really got the hang of driving on our superhighways, did they? In their own minds, they're all slowly motoring on Route 66.

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

No worries, I'm always lurkin';)

Theresa said...

Okay, okay. You caught me. My dad made me read that book several years ago. And yes, my dad, just this year, got his first cell phone. Ugh!

dfyt88 said...

Cool blog. But it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. You think GenX is "oft-forgotten"? We Jonesers have been pathetically invisible until recently.

Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. The Associated Press' annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009.

It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down this way:

DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
Generation Jones: 1954-1965
Generation X: 1966-1978

Here is an op-ed about GenJones as the new generation of leadership in USA TODAY:

Here's a page with a good overview of recent stuff about GenJones:

MVD said...

"my dad, just this year, got his first cell phone. Ugh!"

My uncle, theoretically a Baby Boomer with no babies, doesn't even have a goddamn answering machine hooked up. A cell phone to him would be like a private Cessna plane for me. The man is truly living off the grid.

MVD said...

Hey dfyt88 - Welcome to the site. And yes, I was aware of the media hoopla regarding Obama's ascendency to the office of President as the first Generation Joneser. As you stated, for years this group was lumped into the Boomer tribe by virtue of demographics, although their cultural encounters (while overlapping on a timeline) were perceived quite differently. As this is not a genealogy blog by any stretch, that issue was knowingly omitted in the interest of focusing on the juxtaposition between old and young.

Pontell's USA Today article was a good read. While Gen Jonesers were mere tikes during the tumultuous 1960s, we Gen X'ers were another iteration removed from unrest, raised on abstract wars (against drugs and nuclear proliferation, eventually cooled by Glasnost). And, of course, on Duran Duran.

Thanks for reading and standing up for your own oft-forgotten clan.

bluntdelivery said...

ugh. the musty scents. I have a pair of canasta playing cards from my great grandma's basement. they have quasi-nude victorian women on the front and smell up the entire house with moldy scents - everytime we take them out of the box.

Jen said...

Fab post! One of your best. The only thing scarier than my father being in total denial about all things technological is his new found interest and loving embrace of social networking, e-mail and cell phones. I blame him for sucking me into the Facebook black hole. If he starts to Twitter, I will have to disown him.
Thanks for passing along the blog award. Both heartened and frightened that my ruminations keep a smile on your face and the razor blade safely tucked away. Now I need to come up with another idea for a post.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Interesting...I was just watching, er um my kids were watching, this gawd awful spawn show on MTV called "Teen Cribs". It was all about teen kids with amazing "cribs".
Long story short-this girl was the daughter of one of the founders of USA Today and they lived in an amazing "tree house" sort of sprawling crib. The point here is her dad-the USA Today journalist-had a massive office at the top of the tree house where his daughter showcased her father's most prize posession, his ancient manual typewriter. She proclaimed that her father "hates" technology, does not own a comuter and still composes his Friday contributing article to USA Today on that dinosaur.

Are we all missing something? The question begs to be asked.

MVD said...

"I have a pair of canasta playing cards ... smell up the entire house with moldy scents - everytime we take them out of the box."

Well, Brit, some people can't get enough heroin, and some can't get enough canasta. In both cases, you do what you do, regardless of the outcome, to get your fix. I suggest a dehumidifier or about 50 of those tree shaped air fresheners during the next tournament.

MVD said...

"The only thing scarier than my father being in total denial about all things technological is his new found interest and loving embrace of social networking, e-mail and cell phones."

I know a guy in his 80's, active in online communities, who pens e-mails as if they were written by a 35 year old. Young at heart (and mind), I suppose. Unfortunately, one of these days he's going mow someone down in his Ford. But that's a whole different issue.

MVD said...

"She proclaimed that her father "hates" technology, does not own a computer and still composes his Friday contributing article to USA Today on that dinosaur."

Welcome, Candy! Perhaps there is something empowering about bucking the status quo so severely. While the concept of relying on a typewriter versus PC may be curiously noble for the MTV set, that mantra doesn't work for everything. If the guy renounced showers for a garden hose, he'd have been featured on an A&E special about mental illness.

Suldog said...

As a Boomer with more past drug experiences than present dollars in the bank, I...

What was the question? Was there a question? I guess I just always assume that my opinion is important to everyone, so I assumed there was a question.

In any case, Hot Fudge and Oreo Cookie, with marshmallow, NOT whipped cream. Whatever the question, that'll have to do. And, if there wasn't a question, just file it in the back of your mind for when we someday meet and you suggest sundaes. It will save time. And if you wouldn't suggest sundaes, then why the hell would I want to meet you?

Nurse! There's a wombat in my Cheerios!

MVD said...

Easy, Suldog, I wasn't implying that your ilk were heading down the senility highway anytime soon. Quite the opposite, as Nursing Home v2.0 will be chock full of forward-thinking circle jerkers and daisy chainers.

But if we're to have sundaes, I'll see your hot fudge, Oreo, and marshmallow, and raise you a pistachio, strawberry syrup, and whipped cream. Oh yeah.

Ron said...

Hey, MVD...first of all THANK YOU SO MUCH! And not only for the award, but for your words. It's so nice to know that my ass exudes personality...bwahahahahahaha!

And kudos to you for having the award bestowed on you TWICE! Much deserved!

Ok...about this post. First of all, it's friggin' brilliant!

I'm not sure where the hell I fit into this. My consciousness has always been forward in "thinking". And yet, there is a part of me that resists techology (you're talking to a man who only got on the Internet three years ago and now I have THREE blogs and am customizing the HTML coding). I seem to resist technology at first, but then once I try it....I love it. So I guess my point is, "You NEVER know how you'll really feel about something until you at least expose yourself to it."

However, I DON'T have a cell phone. (I know...WTF?)

Hey...I always wondered if those were your fingers donning the tatoo. I have one tatoo, myself (on my shoulder) it hurt like a MOTHER!

City Girl said...

Just found your blog and laughed my ass OFF.
Thanks for that, no more StairMaster for me.

Gen Xers unite! Or know, totally up to you. I don't want to be a bother....

MVD said...

"You NEVER know how you'll really feel about something until you at least expose yourself to it."

So true about keeping an open mind, Ron. After, all I'm also talking to a man who just took up smoking seven years ago. Based on your predilections for jumping into the pool head first, I'd keep a safe distance from societal misfits. I'd hate to hear that, say, you finally tried methamphetamine and are now cooking it up in nine different labs.

As for the lack of a cell phone, well, we don't judge anyone at this communal round table. Whether you’ve just embraced shampoo, or were still considering swapping the ice box for a freezer, your retorts are always welcome here.

MVD said...

"Thanks for that, no more StairMaster for me."

Greetings, City Girl. I'll do my best to keep you off the treadmill if you stick around long enough. And yes, unite dammit! Pour me a glass of that bourbon you love so much and we'll toast to our generation's aimless ways.

Mrs. Bastard said...

I was gravely disappointed to see no mention of me or your son Geppetto in the list of "seven things about me." No dinner for you tonight! And no bastardly lovin' until you make it up to me! Wait until Geppetto hears about this--he will be so pissed!

MVD said...

Oh boy.

It's a good thing our neighbor's garbage cans are still at the curb. Hopefully, I can dive for enough old Chef Boyardee cans to last me through to breakfast.

(For those just joining us, my "son" Geppetto is a ten year old ragdoll cat, now apparently pissed at his slight. Who could've ever assumed that a man with an aerodynamic chest would one day father a bushy adoptee?)

Danielle said...

I have been lurking for sometime now. I usually can't make it trough an entire blog with all of the BIG words leading up to a SMALL point and still I end up rolling on the floor in laughter.
So hello from the lurker.
PS I agree with Out-Numbered a few post's back that your thumbnail is HOT

MVD said...

Oh Danielle, you naughty, naughty girl, peeping around here without so much as a wink. And to think, I might not have been presentable some of those times.

But hey, thanks for the complement! This site attracts more than its share of lurkers. If I ever silk-screen that profile photo onto a t-shirt, you'll get an autographed one. And that will be hot.

Keep reading :)

Danielle said...

That would be HOT. I would even fork out a few bucks for one! :)

Anonymous said...

LOL!!! I loved this!! I too enjoy writing about this generation. Usually they are the ones revolting against the generational norms... Like Walter who started doing crack and dating hookers when his wife Pearl died.

Fave line: "Already scarred by the cancellation of Lawrence Welk, and shaking in their pantaloons at the advent of digital television conversion, lengthy testimonials from the so-called Greatest Generation read like a disturbing romp through the Land of The Lost."

That was brilliant!

MVD said...

Hey Lingo - For all the "turn on, tune in, and drop out" of the Boomer generation, it's their parents that truly "dropped" from relevance. An entire generation refused to adapt to changing technology, attitudes, and culture, content to become the ass-end of jokes. At least they can get their dose of Welk on DVD (assuming, of course, their kids bought them DVD players).

Bunch of stubborn old bastards.

Matt Shea said...

Great post, Mike. When it comes to generations, I was born in the awkward year of 1979, halfway between the 'X'ers and the Millenniums. Therefore, I'm cynical AND blame everyone else for my problems, but also wear tight jeans whilst being ethnically diverse. It's a charmed life.

And thanks so much for the props. Here I am, taking a week and a half off from checking the Bastard and I come back finding I'm late for my own award ceremony. Hat of shame for me, sir.

MVD said...

"I come back finding I'm late for my own award ceremony."

No worries, Matt. Sure, there were some disappointed looks when the honor was bestowed in abenstia, but we kept the ceremony moving along at a decent pace, and filled your acceptance speech time with old clips.

Jazz said...

Can you still get ribbons for manual typewriters?

MVD said...

“Can you still get ribbons for manual typewriters?”

Noting your age, Jazz, I'm assuming (hoping) that this question was posed for informational purposes only. The answer, thankfully, is a resounding YES. Item H2993 scores the lucky Luddite "2 replacement ribbons, ingredients, or materials." A bit vague description-wise, but certainly enough to keep the prose flowing in the last of the un-electrified libraries.

lsbb said...

What goes around.....there is a similar generation to the x'rs that was raised during WWII but matured before the Beatles. Sandwiched between "The Greatest" and the flower children it was hard to get a word in edgewise, and no name was ever bestowed. But very much like the x'rs, they stayed in the background and never complained, even when huge swaths of them were sent off to be slaughtered in Korea. Their cultural icon was Elvis, who like his gen x counterpart Emminem created amazing art by crossing cultural bounds, although you wouldn't want your sister anywhere near them.

Using technology as a window is a typically bastardly brilliant take on the whole generations conversation. I have a friend who is a holocaust survivor who likes to take out his blackberry during lunch to check on his stock portfolio. I think the message here is to immerse yourself at the new, while not forgetting where you come from. I've been thinking, maybe a kindle, what do you think?

MVD said...

"think the message here is to immerse yourself in the new, while not forgetting where you come from"

I couldn't agree more. A successful generation embraces change, yet appreciates the triumphs and pratfalls of their predecessors. This juxtaposition of old and new ensures well balanced growth. That said, the Greatest seemed to ignore the former, while the Boomers revolted against the latter. Somewhere a happy medium exists.

As for controlling my younger sister, that's a lost cause.

Blogger said...

Did you know that a lot of people are earning $250 to $750 for a minute of their time simply just doing voice recording in a computer?

Blogger said...

You can earn $20 for a 20 minute survey!

Guess what? This is exactly what big companies are paying for. They need to know what their average customer needs and wants. So large companies pay $1,000,000's of dollars every month to the average person. In return, the average person, myself included, fills out surveys and gives them their opinion.