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Another View Of The Idyllic 50s

I read with interest the online comment on growing up with the simple pleasures of small town Ohio in the 50s and 60s. Real eggs, a milkman and all the rest. There is something to be said for this, although I'm not sure I'd have been content to lick the milkman's castoff ice chunks all day in summer. It was already too late for me.

In 1954 progress was raging in the outlying areas of Hartford, Connecticut and though there was still a milkman, we didn't know his name, and the only farmer anyone knew about was the old guy with the dilapidated house and barn adjacent to our subdivision lot, and his field long grown over with weeds. The old man, once a week or so, would walk with his black leather shopping bag (his own bag - there's an idea that took fifty years to catch on) down the new street with the ticky-tacky little boxes, to the grocery store precisely one-third of a mile down the hill on Rt. 4. Streets in our development had phony names intended to sound classy or sophisticated. My parents' house was on Wyndwood Rd. A groaner even for a third grade kid. And this kind of thing grew into an awareness that conformity requires a certain amount of pretense.

The sameness of the "housing development" with its two types of dwellings - ranch and Cape Cod - and this could be a chicken-or-egg question - created or encouraged, or amplified, the deadly conformity that was a main theme of the 50's, the nice, ask-no-questions white America that the Trumptoids and double-digit IQ tea party and neo-nazi types want to "bring back." But then Elvis Presley appeared on TV and radio and began blowing it all to hell except Trump's sense of tonsorial beauty.

The old farmer, to us ticky-tacky kids, was weird, scary, crazy. In his matching dirty denim overalls and coat, his fashion sense was definitely not influenced by Robert Hall clothing ads on TV. He was a relic of an era we knew nothing about. We would sneak up there and look around in his barn at what I later learned were artifacts of real life in a time not so long gone by. "Property rights" being what they are in the USA, it occurred to me that the old man had to have gained permission to cross someone's yard to reach the street, and I wondered whose.

My parents were New Yorkers and the closest we ever got to a real farm was the occasional roadside stand "out in the country." My father called a woman who ran one of these "Pasta Fazool." She was Italian and my father being enough of a cook to discuss recipes with her, she encouraged him to make pasta e fagioli (literally spaghetti with beans) with her tomatoes. We never ate this at home, but many years later I remembered the woman called "Pasta Fazool" and made some, and it was good.

There were those of my generation just itching to escape the home town, get out there and experience whatever there was. Some because small town life was boring, oppressive even if it was pleasant. For me it was anarchy, pure and simple. My behavior and attitude were such that one day in high school, the principal's son cornered me in the hall and warned that I "better watch out," because he'd just read a book called The Catcher in the Rye and I was like the character Holden Caulfield. Headed for trouble.

AM Radio

"You may know that I like to complain, and that I do it because there is so much to complain about." -- Jim Gibbons

It's all well and good that we complain about NPR. But I listen to it on the car radio because it is the least irritating station available, aside from Scott Simon, unless I listen to the classical or jazz stations, when the classical isn't too bland and the jazz isn't too frantic.

The aftermarket radio with the bastard wiring job in my 30-yr. old car is "having some problems" i.e., with the controls. The volume control is rotary push-button affair and often as not just won't work. And you can't get inside to clean the contacts, no user-serviceable parts inside. Lately, I can't get the FM band that carries NPR, or any of the stations in that range. Fooling around with the band selector, I engaged AM for the first time since I bought this car in 2002.

When I was a kid back east, AM radio was "top forty" more or less, but before the Drake format people bulldozed most of the stations into a limited payola-fed playlist. This was the golden age of guitar instrumental records, which I liked, but there was nothing for the kids to sing along with, and that era faded away just in time for the Beatles.

Suddenly I was in a twilight zone of right wing blather. Trickle-down Limbaugh stuff. These guys are talking to people I do not know, and don't want to know. That must be them in the big pickup trucks tailgating me angrily, or in the well-manicured, gated communities, with alarm system warnings and Trump signs in front of the houses. One of them is surely the guy overheard on the street in Denver saying "We gotta get the nigger out of the White House." It sure isn't the Mexicans down the street pulling their landscape equipment off to work every morning. I'd have hardly believed any of it it if I didn't hear it for myself: They love the bible - did you know that even a Jew can saved if he comes to Jesus? - they love William F. Buckley. Guns, the NRA.

They hate the notion of global warming. Today one announcer challenged parents to ask the kids, "What is the greatest danger you will face: Islamic extremists or carbon emissions?" Answer - the one that poses less of a threat to the economy. They hate Hillary for the wrong reasons, saying the WalMart board member is a "known socialist." Topsy-turvy world, everything backwards. At breakfast, Dad buttering his napkin and wiping his mouth with the toast. Obama is out to destroy America. These AM listeners apparently don't know that such big political figures receive their marching orders from the same elements. HRC's finger-to-the-wind shifting of views according to yesterday's news would be a marvel to behold if it weren't so obvious. If politics is show business for ugly people, there still must be script writers. One guy called in to rave about a movie, even if Matt Damon is in it: "Of course you wouldn't want to think about his politics, him or Sean Penn." Damn Hollywood liberals.

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