Thursday, October 26, 2006


Had an interesting e-mail exchange with a former colleague of mine today. He told me that, as a United Way fundraiser, some of his co-workers were planning to deliver Candygrams. My former colleague asked what I thought was a sensible question - whether or not the candygram would be delivered by a landshark*. He received "a sea of blank faces" as a resposne, along with the sneaking suspicion that he's getting old. For the record, I believe my former colleague is about the same age as I am. So he can rest assured that he is old.

Hey nineteen, that's (A)retha Frankin/She don't remember the Queen of Soul/Hard Times befalling Soul Survivors/She thinks I'm crazy, but I'm just growing old.

Thus sang Donald Fagen, way back in 1980, about a similar dilemma. Popular culture being what it is now, I'd guess that a nineteen year old woman of today would have a better chance of knowing Aretha Franklin than the love/lust interest that Fagen chronicled. People do get second chances now - I even saw Sam Moore is out performing again, 40 years after his glory years as the front half of Sam and Dave. But it is unnerving to think that something you remember well is falling down the memory hole.

This sensation, noticing your own obsolescence, is part of why the Beloit College Mindset List is always such a crowd pleaser when my alma mater trots it out each August. We have an older population now and one that is especially insistent in clinging to its own nostalgia. Living in the age of MP3s and DVDs also means that we can have our memories pretty much on demand. Back in 1980, it would have been quite possible for a young woman not to know who Aretha Franklin was. Aretha wasn't on the radio much then. Today, you can hear her by accident a half-dozen times during the course of a day. True story - in 1980, I didn't know who Marvin Gaye was. I only discovered him once I went to college, even though he was still actively recording throughout his life. Today, I own several albums with Marvin's music and can get anything he ever recorded with just a few keystrokes.

So we are getting older, but we can shape our experiences in ways that were unimaginable in 1980. Even if our experience doesn't include a landshark.

*If you still don't know what a landshark is, it refers to a bit on the original Saturday Night Live program, where a "landshark" attacked various victims by pretending to be a messenger, or plumber, or by delivering "candygrams." I still smile when I think about the bit, even if no one else remembers it. Who knows, maybe in 2035 no one will understand why "I need more cowbell" is so funny, either.


Anonymous said...

I was greeted with the same sense of my age and mortality when a younger co-worker informed me that they had no idea who Herb Tarkick and Less Nessman were. "We'll be right back with more news, and Less Nessman" Sigh!

Anonymous said...

That's Herb Tarlek and Les Nessman. Too bad age and wisdom don't come with spell-check!

Anonymous said...

What would the Talking Heads say? Psycho Killer, qu'est ce que?