Listen to this post below on SoundCloud
I am definitely more than a little retro- in some ways. Like most of us, or at least most of us weird artistic ones, I am a strange combination of retro and its opposite. When referring to a person, retro describes someone who loves old ways, or loves old things, right? Does just being old count?
Not in my society, unless you managed to get some level of famous. Which is fine, since we don’t need a lot of bog-headed old people roaming around, thinking they’re all that when they don’t even know how to use their smart phones. Back in my youth using electronic equipment at all was where people of a certain age stumbled, metaphorically, thus giving the youth of America cause to snicker, condescend, and possibly thumb their noses. And that was still the age before remotes. I’m talking about a TV or VCR with, like, 5 buttons aside from the on-off switch. Media players were no more complex that the kitchen stove.
And isn’t it cool that we who once thumbed our noses now humbly bow our heads? For we are now our parents; unable and/or unwilling to invest time and effort in keeping up with technology. Taking pictures with your phone and posting them on FaceBook (or Instagram for iPhone users) is the common technology bar for my generation. We imagine we are pretty hip, but it’s actually the contemporary technology equivalent of finding the on-off switch for my parents. It’s kinda sweet, sure; there’s enough smiley-face cosmic entertainment there for a lifetime, when most of your life is over. Sending people photos of… everything! By touching a screen! With your OWN FINGER!!!!! And ANYONE IN THE WORLD CAN SEE THEM!!! What???? Time to get busy! We’ve got grandkids, here! So step back, young’uns! We got a whole lot of posting to do!
Though most of us old folks aren’t called to move beyond the blissful simplicity of social media, I, for one, am selling myself on line, and that’s enough to give me heart palpitations, however age appropriate they might actually be. For those of us old people silly enough to enter the complicated promotional software maelstrom, we may toss fitfully as we dream of houses perched high along mist–covered West Coast cliffs. One big rainstorm and we’ll slip into the tech abyss, our hands occasionally waving for help, until we discover there’s none to be had. We are just too far behind the electronic 8 ball. We must pick ourselves up, hose ourselves off , and face the snickering, for the pace is beyond our skills. We are better at crude, boring things like filling bird feeders, and not minding outhouses so much.
Yes, there are still backroads available, where retro is not only acceptable, but expensive; folks throwing a lot of effort and many shekels at vivifying their idea of the past. Once we ourselves are retro, the backroads are not trendy, like bubblegum-sized fir branch-skewered fermented beets sprinkled with chaga dust, served in an old enamelware bowl. They’re just, well, normal. Just as planting your own chickens and then lopping off their heads was normal for many of my generation’s grandparents. Or do you plant chickens? Some people these days don’t know the answer to that question. They have never seen one with its head on. Maybe chickens grow on a Petri dish of absorbent gel, a sort of plastic packaging parthenogenesis. Snicker, tee hee. As my Mom used to say.
The unsmart versions of media players are now cool, to the lovers of retro. LP record tables are back; I never would have foreseen that, no sir. I thought I laid that aspect of my youth to rest decades ago. Turntables and their lack of electronics definitely look like history, in a country with no more history than we have in the U.S. It’s just a little strange when they were, for me, once the only option, and then they disappear into the mists of time, to reemerge one day as retro. It’s kind of like being a member of an antique car club, with dues you pay but meetings you never attend. Or forced labor in a living history museum.
Nowadays of course, all kinds of things from the late 60s and early 70s are fashionably retro. People want to take advantage of my glorious youth without sporting the wrinkles and joint pain, gosh darn it. Well OK, let’em have it. Back then I would never have dreamed I would hear Gracie Slick singing White Rabbit over the sound system as I walk to my car after shopping at Angeli’s grocery in small town Iron River, MI. I guess it makes sense, since the local excess of old people that shuffle zombie-like across the parking lot are pretty much dropouts. And on drugs, too; sometimes a plethora of them. Psychedelia survived to become retro, yes? The music, the tie dye, the pot- all, all, survivors. Just like me.