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39) Happy Birthday, Henry Rollins!

punk-love-b-day-henry

“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.”
― Henry Rollins

Today is the day before that revolting holiday that makes single people want to vomit a box of chocolates onto a bouquet of black roses before ingesting a lethal dose of cyanide.

With that disclaimer out of the way, in lieu of tomorrow’s twerpy twitterpated, chocolates for sex love fest, I am celebrating Henry Rollins birthdate 2.13.1961, the day the Soviet Union fired a rocket from Sputnik V to Venus. Romantic, isn’t it?

Henry was born in the year that marks the beginning of Generation X – 1961, the erection of the Berlin Wall. Henry shares the same birth year with Barack Obama, Princess Diana, and Douglas Coupland.

Henry is unique in many ways among his contemporaries. He understands America and the globe more profoundly than most Americans. He has been to damn near every major and minor city all over the U.S. and abroad thousands of times over throughout the years of his spoken word tours and intense gigs with Black Flag and Rollins Band.

He knows the streets, the crowds, the unique culture of every place he has been, spending long nights drinking black coffee and writing in dingy hotels, reflecting on everything he sees and feels and hears. A true solipsist, he is a master of himself and a friend of no one in particular. He is a productive, sober, and explosive voice of our time, kicking his ego to the curb with genuine and excruciating self-reflective truth. His razor sharp insight cuts deep into the corpse of the Gen-X zeitgeist.

Solipsist by Henry Rollins - signed at Spoken Word Tour at McDonald Theater • March 6, 2003

Solipsist by Henry Rollins – signed at Spoken Word Tour at McDonald Theater • March 6, 2003

I met Henry the first time in March of 2003 in Eugene, Oregon after a spoken word show. I have never witnessed anyone blister through a performance with the same elevated composure, perfect articulation, biting commentary, and thundering voice raking the audience into bleeding stitches for two hours without a pause or drink from the unopened water bottle on his stool. I was impressed by his intelligence and unique perspective on politics and relationships.

Five years later on another day in March of 2007, I found myself driving to Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood to attend the book signing of Punk Love. Henry had co-authored the book with an old friend, Susie J Horgan, a photography student and co-worker with Henry at Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop, who unknowingly photographed the emerging punk movement in the late 1970s in DC. This time I brought a personal letter to give to Henry.

Driving down the 101 to Laurel Canyon was like cutting through a crack in the pavement; windy and craggy, down into the bowels of the places cockroaches live and rock stars overdose on heroin. A meandering, overused road, dizzying homes of celebrities past, and suddenly, after several turns I was quickly approaching Sunset Boulevard.

I stopped at a light and viewed a man, looking older than he likely was with a creeping beard and red eyes holding a cardboard sign ‘NEED BEER.’ He posed with the sign next to his head, did a little hop and transferred the sign switching it like an old flip clock radio. He hopped again and rotated the sign in an upside down arch to read ‘FREE PIZZA BOWL,” his eyebrows twitching.

I couldn’t help but think of Vanna White turning the letters around on the Wheel of Fortune. The man grinned, showing his yellowed-teeth standing outside a small shack with a broken door hopping from side-to-side and assuring me that I didn’t need beer or a free pizza bowl.

My whole life living in Southern California, I rarely came to Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard was more like a gaunt figure in an outdated, oversized designer suit: colorful and small with bold billboards jutting out like rusty railroad spikes half jammed in the ground. I wondered what other burned out creature with yellowing teeth might want to have their way with me, stick a knife in me, stick a cock in me just because I’m walking around with this hole. I turned on Sunset Boulevard, then made a left on the side street adjacent to the Viper Room where River Phoenix overdosed on a speedball in 1993, an event I remember shedding tears over.

I pulled around the back of the bookstore where Henry’s website instructed to park in a tiny lot, where I found a space. Thank goodness I showed up an hour early.

I walked from the minuscule back parking lot around to the front. The sun was low in the sky and the orange of it saturated the streets. Long, jagged shadows haunted the sidewalk. Outside of the bookstore, magazine racks lined the small entrance of Book Soup. Everything on Sunset Boulevard seemed like a small rabbit hole into a perceived illusion of space, oddly private and strangely decadent. Inside, I was bombarded by towering vertical shelves of books – the opposite of the sprawling big-box bookstores I was used to. There was no room to walk, claustrophobic corners with no place to sit, like a cat in an undersized box.

A tall man with greenish eyelids was sitting behind a cramped counter like a morbid doll stuffed inside a child’s closet. I landed on an oversized art book at the front entrance; the largest book I’d ever seen. It was the size and thickness of the Ten Commandments, or so I speculated. I opened each page and watched it fall like an enormous leaf: a collage of handwritten journals, splattered with color and images cut and clipped in strange juxtapositions. I felt a nagging for a design project, the excitement of creating something new, washing over in smooth overlapping layers. As I was feasting on this wondrous book, just to my right, I see Henry Rollins walk through the door. I continued turning pages as his eyes looked in my direction and scanned the perimeter like a cyborg.

“Hey, Henry,” said the man behind the counter in a familiar tone.

“How’s it going,” Henry Rollins replied, disappearing into the meandering cavern of the bookstore. I was glad he was here. Like me, I suspected, he wanted to show up early and hang out browsing books, taking in the scene before the throng of strange creatures showed up.

I decided to explore, passing through the fiction aisle and up to the information desk. I wanted to know where the science and technology section was located. A girl with blonde hair and smudgy black eyes took me to the spot. I found Richard Dawkins’ books and looked through titles I hadn’t seen before. After a few minutes, I made my way to the entertainment and music books, knowing I would find Henry there. I shuffled into the little room.

Standing with his back to me, he was wearing his usual plain black t-shirt. I could see his tattoos poking out underneath, a skull and snake and the word ‘Damage.’ I stared at the Black Flag logo on the back of his neck just under his hairline. It reminded me of a barcode label. His long dark brown wavy hair from his Black Flag days was now short with flecks of grey; his face unchanged, still severe and handsome.

I walked across from where he stood to a large section of music biographies and saw The Lady Sings the Blues, the story of Billie Holiday and smiled at her solemn gaze. I found a book on the Pixies, and remembered seeing them at the Hollywood Palladium in 1991. I almost turned around to ask Henry if he happened upon a band that merged jazz and punk together, but decided against it. I didn’t want to bother him while he was immersed in books. So I just looked through mine enjoying the moment of sharing the space with him knowing that I was standing next to this amazing person who rages inside like me. I felt calm and content as two lonely birds on a rusted wire sit, lost in thought, sharing a moment of serenity between storms before flying away to another experience.

Book Soup "Punk Love" Book Signing • West Hollywood, March 2007 L to R: Henry Rollins, Lisa M. McDougald, Susie J. Horgan

Book Soup “Punk Love” Book Signing • West Hollywood, March 2007         L to R: Henry Rollins, Lisa M. McDougald, Susie J. Horgan

The bookstore began to fill up and Henry stole away and met up with a tall woman in a black dress in boots with long curly brown hair. It was Susie. She and Henry chatted while they hung Susie’s historic photographs for the presentation. Since I was there first, I stood nearby to make sure I could be up close. When most everyone filed in and we were all crowded around the back of the store, Henry and Susie introduced themselves and told us stories of how they met, the ice cream shop, and the infamous photo of Ian MacKaye’s brother, Alec that ended up becoming the icon of the American punk movement.

Susie continued her career as a photographer. Just like any movement, she and Henry were caught up in the swirl of a youth rebellion against a world that seemingly felt ineffectual. The moments they shared with us were precious moments of the spirit of youth in a collective expression of music and primal connection in a world that was indifferent to their lives, their hopes, their pain, and their future.

I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness that I couldn’t be a part of this moment in time, with all of these young and beautiful faces full of life and energy and angst creating something new in a worn out world. I was only 4-years-old when Susie snapped these photos. My own experience with hardcore punk came much later after the core of the movement had merged into New Wave. Sometime in high school in the early 1990s, that’s when I discovered Black Flag, Rollins Band, Fugazi, and Minor Threat. It was fresh to me, but the ice cream had already melted by then and Nirvana was the new youth movement.

I remember giving my letter to Henry and shaking his hand again. I asked him if he had any career advice as a writer. I was immediately embarrassed after I said it. He laughed and tweaked his face.

“Career? Career?! What I do… it’s not a career. It’s painful.”

Henry was right. Writing is painful. And I’m sure he would agree that writing, just like music is also cathartic and healing and necessary.

Whenever I am in doubt and feel terrible about anything, I retreat to Henry’s collected work. He makes the most sense, speaks to the darkness inside all of us more than any person I know. When I am depressed and angry, I know that he is also depressed and angry. Whether he realizes it or not, I have him to thank in many moments in my life because he is a stubborn rocket burning on in a futile universe.

Happy Birthday, Henry!


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34) A Memorial To Prince

“Despite everything, no one can dictate
who you are to other people.”

And Purple, Too


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28) Last Will And Testament of Generation X

Last Will
Tigers, narwhals, Bodhi trees, horses, snow leopards, the smell of the desert after a storm, Super moons, tribal tattoos, banged up skateboards, the origins of everything, old bras with the elastic showing, autumn, the color of crimson, orange blossoms in October, Chernobyl after people, Victorian buildings still standing, storm drains that run clear, pristine snow, dew on grass, black birds, white bones, trees in winter, old books, trails that lead to the edge of somewhere, old wine, sunken tombstones, and the rush of the wind.

100 years from my death, I hope:

It will rain in the desert,
Water will be plentiful enough to drain to the ocean,
Compassion will override commerce,
All little girls will feel safe in the world,
The beat of native drums will be heard once again,
Punk Rock will no longer be necessary,
Coyotes will howl in packs,
Old books will be loved,
Sunken tombstones will be remembered,
Solar will render nuclear obsolete,
Children will know tigers, narwhals, horses, and snow leopards,
And the fire within the earth will remain burning…

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24) School Violence in the 1990’s

I was in 7th grade in 1987. As a middle-class white kid living in the San Bernardino Mountains, our school was mostly safe. One afternoon, I recall two girls fighting in front of my locker, pulling hair and scratching each other. I had to get my books for my next class, so I told them to knock it off and yelled for a teacher. There was never a thought in my mind that one of them might pull out a gun.

Bullying was a problem in 8th grade. A girl in my English class threatened to kick my butt over a boy I would talk to in class. She told all of her friends and before I knew it, I had kids telling me that she was coming after me and I should prepare myself. I was terrified. I told my mother that I was afraid to go to school. I dropped out and enrolled in a home school program.

We moved to the city when I was 15 and I enrolled at a three-year high school. Socially, I adjusted well to my new school, larger and more diverse than in my mountain hometown. Violence was always at the edges of my world, but our campus was open and we didn’t have armed security guards at entrances with metal detectors.

It was the late 1980s and pop culture gave us punchy, satirical references to school violence and teen suicide. Julie Brown’s music video, “The Homecoming Queen’s Gotta Gun” made the MTV rounds in 1987 in classic 80s fashion.

 

Heathers

Newspapers.com

Films of that era, Three O’clock High, Tuff Turf and the teen cult film, Heathers explored the violent tendencies as school violence became more frequent, particularly in white suburban neighborhoods.

Released in 1989, Heathers was a psychotic fantasy crossing over into a grim reality. Dubbed by the media as, “the ‘Carrie’ of the 80s,” Heathers probed the dark interior of teen angst and the many layers of contemporary suburban high school life.

Veronica, played by Winona Ryder, tries to resolve herself between the sinister world of the three Heathers, the most popular girls in school, and Veronica’s anarchist lover, J.D. (Christian Slater).

Slater’s character takes on an eerie foreshadowing to Eric Harris, one of the two boys responsible for the Columbine tragedy. Veronica’s character is desperate to seek justice in a world gone wrong, but feels the pressure to perform with the popular girls.

Courtesy of IMDb

Courtesy of IMDb

In 1991, the controversial film, Boyz N The Hood, was released. John Singleton, the film’s 23-year-old director, responded to accusations that his film prompted violence in several theaters around the country, “I didn’t create the conditions under which people shoot each other… This happens because there’s a whole generation of people who are disenfranchised.”

It was one of the first movies to show the plight of African-American kids growing up in the South Central Los Angeles, experiencing violence in school and on the street, every day. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character, Tre Styles, reminded me of Veronica – both trapped in a cultural prison trying to find higher ground, to overcome the reality of powerful cliques, raging bullets, broken families and indifferent or absent parents.

Where Heathers was a morbid satire; Boyz N The Hood was stone cold reality. Veronica and Tre face an existential conflict, desperate to separate from the status quo, both revolting against a sociopathic, senseless existence.

14 June 1989 • Newspapers.com

14 June 1989 • Newspapers.com

From Boyz N The Hood, I learned that America’s black youth are completely neglected and left to fend for themselves. From Heathers, the message was clear: dethrone ineffective, exploitive leadership and stand up for those who are left behind.


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23) Mortgage Meltdown: A Gen-X Survival Story

Elena was a hotheaded Italian woman in her late 30s. She dressed in breezy skirts, high heels and several layers of makeup darker than her neck, giving her the appearance of a mismatched mannequin. Elena was my boss. We specialized in “expert negotiation and arbitration of credit problems.” I was 21 and this was my first real job.

I worked in the office alone for two weeks while Elena was on vacation. Before she left, we reviewed several credit reports left over from the previous Director, who took cocaine lunches and quit without notice. He used Wite-Out over the bad stuff and faxed the changes to his clients. While Elena was in Florida, I contacted 150 clients to convince each one that we would service their files without the use of Wite-Out. Naturally, I was quite relieved when Elena returned.

We were a two-girl office under the umbrella of New England Financial Corporation, a company based in Riverside, California. NEFC was a fly-by-night that sprung up in response to the mortgage crisis in the mid-1990s. The small brick building lined with purple pansies was like a Norman Rockwell painting, a pretty front to hide reality. The economy was in the dumps and consumers were under water with their mortgages. NEFC offered a solution – for $2,000 they would short sell your home and guarantee no impact on your credit.

The atmosphere in the office was fairly casual. One day I walked into the storage room to retrieve a file. The Executive Accountant suggested we close the door so we could be alone, exploding in giggles. Earlier that week, he brought his newborn son and glowing wife into the office for show-and-tell.

It was worse when he was around the General Manager. They tossed out sexual innuendos, convulsing like Beavis and Butt-head until Elena would curl her lip and displace their comments with a sarcastic punch. Luckily, for us – our office was relocated.

The new office was on the 2nd floor of an attractive business suite in Grand Terrace. I loved my job. I wrote business letters, mailed dispute forms and kept the office organized. Every 20 minutes Elena would go outside to smoke, combing through the pages of credit reports, leaving behind red-kissed cigarette butts like dead soldiers on a battlefield.

Within five months, we made good progress on our client’s files and received few negative calls. The company partners offered to put me through paralegal school.

Then, one day in early April, Elena received a phone call from NEFC. They fired their secretary, a bulbous breasted young woman who would talk about Endometriosis while dropping salad in her cleavage on our lunch break. I was called in to take her place. Elena was pissed. We had a ton of work come in – all failed clients of NEFC – no charge. She was pissed about that, too.

“Why don’t you buy yourself a bottle of Wite-Out, Mike? I can’t remove your mistakes,” said Elena, slamming the phone in its carriage.

Reluctantly, I drove to the Riverside office. The last time I remembered being there, employees would stroll by on their way to the copy machine, shoot the breeze and watch the O.J. Simpson trial on the TV next to the coffee machine. No one was around upon my arrival. The constant ringing of phone calls from desperate customers infiltrated the building. The General Manager told me to take messages. I was the only person answering the phones. One client received a 1099 from the IRS moments after waking from a stroke in the hospital. He owed $42,000. Others had similar stories.

“Sir, I’m so sorry,” I told the man, “Unfortunately, there is no one here that wants to talk to you. I recommend that you do whatever you think is necessary to take care of your situation.”

On April 13th, 1996, the day was warm and sunny when I pulled into the entrance to NEFC. Several white, unmarked cars were sporadically parked in front of the building. I parked and walked down the pathway to the door. Two men with bulletproof vests greeted me. One tall, stone-faced man was from the California District Attorney’s Office and the other, from the Employment Development Department.

“Do you work here?” the DA guy inquired.

“Yes. I answer the phones,” I said.

A suited man with a clipboard took my name and instructed me to go into the conference room. We were kept for 5 hours, interviewed by the DA and EDD personnel as a group and individually. By the end of the day, four locations in Riverside County were raided and over 100 files confiscated.

I was escorted to a chair in the conference room and sat back to watch the show like a cat on a limb with coffee in hand. Two NEFC partners and the General Manager were sitting at the long conference table. They looked like prisoners facing a firing squad; their impending doom was palpable. Dark, wet circles formed under their arms and the ceiling lights reflected the sheen on their creased faces.

After the interviews, I was released. I was dying to talk to Elena and drove to the other office. When I walked up the stairs, Elena was walking out carrying a computer monitor.

“Get out of here,” she growled. They were raiding our office, too. Not wanting to go through a second interrogation, I walked past the broad window of our office and down the other stairwell. That night, Elena came back to the office and stole some furniture, a phone and a fax machine. She asked if I wanted to go with her and take some items as compensation for the paychecks we likely wouldn’t receive. I declined.

I never acquired my last paycheck. During the months that followed, I returned to my previous job as a part-time cashier at a gas station. I had to move out of my apartment. I stayed with several friends, sometimes sleeping in my car before my shift. Two years after, I left Southern California and moved to Oregon.

I learned a lot during those 8 turbulent months at New England Financial: always keep your nose clean, if a co-worker asks you to sit on his lap – it’s called sexual harassment, you can live on bananas and Top Ramon, beware of businessmen wearing tropical shirts and never mess with an Italian woman who has a twin sister.

Courtesy of Newspapers.com

29 Aug 1993 • News Record, North Hills • Pennsylvania • Page 43 | Courtesy of Newspapers.com

REFERENCES:

Company Profile for New England Financial Corporation. Updated 17 Jun 2014. Wysk.com Web. Accessed 19 Jun 2014.

Harney, Kenneth. Washington Post Writers Group. Title Transfer To Avoid Debt May Bring Tax, Credit Woes. The Seattle Times, 12 Nov 1995. Seattletimes.com Web. Accessed 19 Jun 2014.

Mulligan, Thomas S. ‘Credit-Repair’ Firms Raided in Riverside. Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr 1996. Articles.latimes.com Web. Accessed 19 Jun 2014.


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21) When The Wall Fell: 25th Anniversary

I was 14-years-old watching the incredible events unfold on television. The military guards put down their guns and thousands of people cheering, crying, holding hands; soldiers handing roses down to the people on the west side of the Berlin Wall. The world hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. I cried with them, knowing this was a big moment. A small crack of sunlight crept through the thick disillusionment of my young mind. If an imposing, concrete wall running through the middle of an entire nation could be brought down, then maybe there is hope that the world can change, that people collectively can do the right thing.

The beginning of the Cold War and installation of the Berlin Wall in 1961 marked the birth year of many who identify with Generation X.  As young adults, Gen-X entering the workforce and in high school, witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago on November 9, 1989. This is the story.

“No one has any intention of building a wall.”
— Walter Ulbright, German Democratic Republic Head of the State

Walter Ulbright’s statement on June 15, 1961 was in response to the rumors that had been circulating in Germany over increasing geopolitical instability. A month later the construction began of what would eventually become a massive wall that would separate Germany in two. The Eastern government intended to prevent Eastern Berliners from escaping the Soviet sector of Berlin, cleverly deceiving the German people by reporting that its intentions were to prevent the West from invading the East. Approximately 138 persons and children died attempting to escape beyond the Wall.

“Between 1945 and 1961, well over four million East Germans left their homeland for the West, the greatest voluntary mass migration in recorded European history.” – Peter Wydon

The erection of the “Anti-Fascist Protection Wall” or Rampart marked the beginning of the Cold War. In just a few years, the arm of Communism incased Eastern Germany in a brooding gray barrier that stretched 111.9 kilometers from the north border to the south border. The citizens of Germany were unwillingly torn from their families, thrown out of their homes and stripped of their freedom for 28 long and painful years. Helpless citizens took out their aggressions by painting visual images that echoed their cries for freedom on the face of their intrusive enemy – the Wall.

In 1998, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Berlin. Several pieces of the Berlin wall were salvaged for public display. I visit the museum at Check-Point Charlie. I could never fully comprehend the significance of the Wall coming down in 1989. Visiting Berlin nine years after the event, I felt the deep impact the Wall had on those who lived on either side of it. There was a deep feeling about the place, a kind of residue. It was present on every street corner, every shop, every alley; I could feel it at the Saturday market in front of Humboldt University and the silence of Babelplatz, the place where Hitler burned the books. Despite it all, industry was booming in the East and one could see thousands of cranes for miles into the horizon.

A piece of the Berlin Wall • September 1998 • photo by Latchkey Lisa

A piece of the Berlin Wall • September 1998 • photo by Latchkey Lisa

Layers upon layers of paint covered the Berlin Wall. Author, Terry Tillman photographed the endless murals before its destruction in a book entitled, The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall. Tillman was a motivational speaker who had traveled to Berlin on several occasions and was profoundly influenced by the emotional turmoil of Berlin’s divided people.

The artist of the mural (below) is unknown. A cracked gaping hole in the wall forms a skull exposing walls behind walls in a labyrinth of dark gray and black. Two tall buildings in the distance appear as hollowed out eyes. In between stands the T.V. Tower, a powerful symbol of Germany. The German flag ripples in the wind at the top of its point against a dismal sky.

Image Source: The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall by Terry Tillman - 1990

The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall by Terry Tillman • 1990

The cracks and jagged edges form abstractions and materialize as other parts of the skull – a nasal cavity, a deformed jawbone with the mouth slightly agape as if shrieking in horror. Piles of bloody human skulls and bones lay crumpled at the base. Written protests can be seen in various places along the shattered walls of the mural. “If you think the system is working ask someone who isn’t,” cries one. Others say, “What you think and do comes back to you,” and “Kilroy was just another brick in the wall.”

Today, 25 years later, marks the anniversary of when the Wall came down, not only as a significant moment in history, but an important one in the development of the Generation X psyche. It was one of a small number of victorious moments that proved that things could change to a generation that harbored no hope for the future. Regardless of how some feel about the politics of Ronald Reagan, we were all inspired on June 12, 1987 to hear him speak the words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

 

SOURCES:

Stuttgart, Baedeker. Allianz Travel Guide: Berlin The Complete Illustrated City Guide. Trans. Jarrold Andsons Ltd. New York, NY: Macmillan Travel, 1988. page 100-101.

Tillman, Terry. The Writings on the Wall: Peace at the Berlin Wall. Santa Monica, California: 22/7 Publishing Company, 1990.

Wyden, Peter. Wall the Inside Story of Divided Berlin. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Page 46.

SUPPLEMENTS:

The Abandoned Buildings of the Eastern Bloc


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19) Jealous of My Mother’s Nostalgia

I was at the drug store to buy anti-depressants and maxi pads. While I waited for my pick-up, I scanned the newsstand to find anything worth reading when “Suddenly Last Summer” by The Motels drifted over the speaker – a song from my youth, a song from a happier time? I felt the emotional flood that happens in your middle years, that sweet trickle of familiarity, a memory of a moment in time. I thought back to my seven-year-old self, sitting on olive green shag carpet in my bedroom watching MTV videos at midnight.

Somehow, the song felt like one big menstrual cramp. My mother’s music was different. She grew up in the 1950s listening to Johnny Mathis, The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. She would get teary-eyed and sappy as if she wanted to go back. I felt like Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie Walsh in Pretty In Pink rolling her eyes as Iona daydreams about her prom night, slow-dancing to “Cherish” by The Association.

To my eyes, the pop culture of the 1950s resembled a bubblegum mask to shield children from the realities of the Atomic Bomb. Perhaps it was necessary for society to simplify and coat the culture with icing, a kind of euphoric bubble – the inside protected from a looming terrestrial supernova. It’s not surprising that Disneyland opened in 1955.

So, what’s wrong with my generation? I’m not dreamy about my generation’s nostalgia, growing up in the wake of the Vietnam War, the 1974 gas shortage and the Three Mile Island accident. Nothing was hidden. Music took on a futuristic, synthetic sound only after the nihilistic Punk years, a kind of Dadaistic movement and the end of disco. In the 1980s, behind the angular shoulder pads, Aqua Net hairdos and androgynous makeup, there was a hint of something approaching, like a dead end sign where the asphalt stops. We can’t back up the ‘57 Chevy and turn around.

I wonder if nostalgia works in reverse. Maybe the “Lost Generation” of the Great War looked pensively toward the 1980s future – George Orwell, not so much. Disneyland was brimming with excitement for the future with its Carousel of Progress and Tomorrowland. Today, many people who gravitate toward the Goth subculture – are nostalgic for Steam Punk. I know I was giddy as a gerbil on crack when I first saw The City of Lost Children. It appeals to my desire to bring the “Gilded Age” forward and let it live placidly with The Sex Pistols. Unfortunately, like Goth, Steam Punk has become watered down, glammed up, hair sprayed and fossilized. Looking back on my generation makes me want to pull a urinal out of a gas station, install it in an art gallery and paint a mustache on Bob’s Big Boy.

Marcel Duchamp - src Original picture by Stieglitz

Marcel Duchamp – Original picture by Stieglitz – Courtesy of: Wikipedia


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18) A Look At Generations That Orbit Generation X

The important thing to consider when analyzing any generation is that all generations play the cards as they are laid out before them. In a Forbes Magazine article, John Tamny declares, “the generation that had to suffer the death and destruction of war wasn’t so much the “greatest” as it played the hand it was dealt. It was an awful one.”

With that thought, we must realize that any given generation alive today – Silent, Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and those born after, if given similar challenges as the Greatest Generation, would likely have played the cards in a similar way. Every generation born, is born with a given set of circumstances and skills. It is unfair to equate a generation better than a previous one accounting for the environment, technological changes and societal characteristics in which they are born.

Consider Generation X as ground zero to the following discussion.

Typically, generations are defined by actual historical events. These definitions can occur immediately or after the passage of time when historians can evaluate objectively, unattached from the events and within the isolation of their own generational bubble. Here is an in-depth look at today’s living generations, with a concentration on the lesser known generations and the author’s choice of members from each generation.

G.I. GENERATION (1901 – 1924)

The “Greatest Generation” or the G.I. Generation was tied (for the most part) to the events of World War II. History did not have to pass for their automatic admiration to take hold. Society looks upon them with unconditional praise, regardless of their parenting skills and the unsustainable economy they created after World War II. We cannot forget that members of this military-centric generation led us into the Vietnam War.  To their credit, after giving everything to the efforts of World War II during their prime, fighting against Hitler, one of the world’s most seductive and terrifying leaders in modern times; it is natural they would have a psychological immunity to any conflict that came after that tremendous victory.

The G.I.’s were honored because of World War II and any analysis beyond that fact is irrelevant and unimportant according to some. Tom Brokaw, a member of the Silent Generation, revered the G.I.’s as the “Greatest Generation” and was “incomprehensive” to the G.I. experiences putting them high above all others on the generational pedestal. Outside of their sacrifices, we cannot ignore some other legacies they left with us: weapons of mass destruction, unparalleled prosperity for a time and a strong middle-class that produced a large generation with a tendency to suck the air out of the world’s economy, the Baby Boomers.

As a female Gen Xer, I personally honor and thank those who served our country, past and present. However, naturally critical in my own generational bubble, I cannot shy away from analyzing these other less shiny legacies of the G.I.s. Their children, the baby boomers, thrived from their abundance, nurtured to assume the free entitlements established by their parents. In many ways, this is where we should have slowed down.

Noteworthy members of the G.I. Generation: Kurt Vonnegut, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, George Orwell, Walter Farley, Tallulah Bankhead, John Steinbeck, John Wayne, Vincent Price, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Rachel Carson, Peace Pilgrim, Kate Hepburn, Ray Bradbury

We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up. 
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 – (G.I. Generation)

SILENT GENERATION (1925 – 1942)

The Silent or “Lucky Few” is a smaller generation between the G.I.s and Boomers, lucky enough to take advantage of the G.I. Bill, enjoy living wages and buy affordable mortgages and cars. Many would retire just before the 1990’s bubble burst with good pensions, supplemented by social security benefits and other perks of the post–World War II prosperity. This group silently maneuvered through the revolutions of the younger baby boom and were parents of Generation X.

In many ways, the arrival of the Silent Generation places them as back-up singers on the world stage of the generations, similar to, but with a higher status than Gen-Xers. The anonymity of the Silent Generation casts a gray color: their characteristics of not wanting to “rock the boat,” is like a fish going with the flow along a steady stream without having to swim too often. That is not to say that some were derailed from their idealistic coming of age in the 1950s, and drafted during the Cuban and Berlin Missile Crisis’ just before the shock of JFK’s assassination.

Noteworthy members of the Silent Generation: All three men onboard Apollo 11 that landed the first humans on the moon in 1969, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Margaret Atwood, Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, Shel Silverstein, Johnny Cash, Sydney Poitier, Bruce Lee, Dalai Lama, H. R. Giger, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Judy Blume

 You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension. 
― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead – (Silent Generation)

BABY BOOMERS (1943-1960)

The G.I. Generation’s children, the Baby Boomers, are nostalgic of their past, I think, because they were opposed to the military and cultural stagnation of their parents. They saw crumbling, military-driven institutions irrelevant to their idealism. Baby Boomers tend to give themselves a “pat on the back” for the cultural revolutions they set free and they should to a point.

Baby Boomer’s contributions were noble in opposing the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, civil rights and the push toward all fronts of environmental, humanitarian and other important earth-friendly pursuits. Also, important considerations of the Baby Boomers’ “great awakening” were the proliferation of drugs and pornography and the eventual sexual rot of the AIDS epidemic in the early ‘80s. To be fair, the Silent Generation was also part of this sexual exploration in the Swingers’ clubs of the day. Rick Moody’s, Ice Storm, demonstrates an eerie snapshot of this time in Generation X’s early childhood.

Noteworthy members of the Baby Boomer Generation: David Lynch, Steven Patrick Morrissey, Ian Curtis, Bono of U2, Jello Biafra, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton

The baby boomers are getting older, and will stay older for longer. And they will run right into the dementia firing range. How will a society cope? Especially a society that can’t so readily rely on those stable family relationships that traditionally provided the backbone of care?
– Terry Pratchett – (Baby Boomer)

GENERATION X / SLACKERS (1961 – 1981)

Generation X lives in the foggy aftermath of history and the emergence of virtual realities. When Generation X came along, there were no major cultural revolutions, wars or anything noteworthy to define us. This is why Generation X is such a mysterious bunch as a whole. Our elders misinterpret our divergent paths and our slow-to-conform indifference to the corporate job environment as negative and apathetic. But really, Generation X, with its mystifying pluralism has everyone’s best interest at heart, for we see the coming destruction and desperately want to put on the brakes before our pretty green and blue planet dies.

The sheer numbers of the Baby Boomers tend to overshadow any cultural relevance to Generation X, smaller in comparison and positioned to take the full brunt of the declining economy. Where the boomers dusted off their ideology and turned their focus on monetary pursuits, Generation X picked up that torch and it took us into some necessary, but dark places. However, where things are rotten and destroyed, there is growth. An attempt to understand the needs and desires of Gen-X: this survivalist, immigrant and cynical group, would find it just as necessary to question the values of the G.I. Generation beyond the victories of World War II.

As a member of Generation X, I can honestly say that if I was drafted in World War I and survived, I would be part of the DADA art movement that countered the senselessness of war and if I was part of the G. I. generation, I would enthusiastically support the cause against Hitler, and in the Silent Generation, I would be willing to march alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and if I was alive in the Vietnam era, I would oppose a war that should never have been fought and if I tested better on the ASVAB, I surely would have fought in Iraq. And yes, hindsight is 20/20.

Generation X is not a cohesive generation and we cannot be funneled into a specific set of experiences or historical moment. Our lives have been boiled down to Kurt Cobain’s suicide, latchkey kids, bad movies in the 1990s and other negative associations that denigrate us before we have the chance to define ourselves. It’s very likely that we will be similar to our Silent parents; we will make things happen along the edge of culture, moving stealthily through history.

I think Generation X, despite its envy of the Millennials, is willing to do what is necessary to act as this next dynamic generations’ wingman, provide guidance and support to move us toward a better balance. The world’s future rests on the shoulders of Generation X and how it leads the succeeding generations. This is especially true when looking at the world’s economy today.

Many of today’s corporations aren’t interested in ideas and improvements in the long view, only as it relates to short-term profit margins. Today, the job market is going downhill and Generation X, if they have not locked in those middle management “bulldog” jobs, are forced to carve a path through the thick concrete of a bleak economic landscape. The only thing we can do now is change the whole system by dropping out of it.

Our story is still in progress. We are late bloomers. The cards that have been dealt to us have restricted our ability to grow up, going from one recession to another, and we have no sense of entitlement because of our own existential depression. The desire to just survive is our entitlement.

Noteworthy members of Generation X: Henry Rollins, Ian McKaye, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk, Chuck Klosterman, David Gahan and Martin Gore, Tori Amos, Trent Reznor, River Phoenix, Brandon Lee, Jon Stewart, Laurie Halse Anderson, Alanis Morissette, Janeane Garofalo, Helen Bonham Carter, Queen Latifah, J. K. Rowling, Heath Ledger, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christina Ricci, Jack White

We’re just bodies to you. We’re just bodies and shoulders and scarred knees and big bellies and empty wallets and flasks to you. I’m not saying something cliché like you take us for granted so much as I’m saying you cannot… imagine our absence. We’re so present it’s ceased to mean. We’re environmental. Furniture of the world.
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest – (Generation X)

GENERATION Y/MILLENNIALS (1982 – 2004)

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are outpacing Generation X when it comes to competition in the current job market. This is probably due to the increase in top and bottom jobs but no middle-range  jobs, another bad timing feature of Generation X. Those Millennials born of vibrant Boomer parents were raised to believe they could do anything, even beyond landing on the moon. This exuberant and naïve bunch will certainly need the help of Generation X.

Millennials are still growing up, defining themselves and yes; they are the most prolific generation in numbers as I write this synopsis. Let’s give them a chance to make their presence known on the world stage, for it is a truly challenging one. We must give them a chance to grow up and find their place. To be continued…

Noteworthy members of Millennials: Avril Lavigne, Emma Watson, too be named…

As always, the world goes faster than we can actually interpret it, so please keep checking on this post, for I have future plans to add succeeding generations. There is lots of space to define, because our generation, Generation X, never had the chance to define itself – we were dubbed Generation X before we were eating solid foods and for that, I will allow time for the Millennials and all who come afterwards a chance to sort things out. As a last parting note, I want to thank all the generations, for we are in this together, this world, and we must understand one another and learn from our collective experiences and within our isolated bubbles, for we have much to do and must stick together in order to do it.


Copyright © 2014 Solo GenX Warriors 
Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

16) Where Is There?

There is just here.

WHERE IS THERE?

Is it a ship that arrives with adoring fans
waving and blowing kisses in the wind on a pier?

Is it a coupon book that promises the best price on
Doritos and travel cruises, but wait… there’s more?

Is it a cozy room where you spend your retirement doing nothing in particular?

Is it a gold trophy that will sit behind glass collecting dust?

Is it the moment you lose your virginity?

Is it a check in the mail that makes it okay that the drugs you live on
will keep you feeling nothing for another week?

Is it the moment you wake up from giving labor and realize you can’t possibly live with the beautiful creature you brought into the world because you are more helpless than it?

Is it a purple heart you proudly wear in the darkness of your trunk?

Is it landing on an isolated, powdery moon without oxygen?

Is it a large sum of money you count until you are certain it is enough to sustain you before you die?

Is it a nice polished, mahogany coffin with your hands displayed neatly, slumped and silent?

Is it the moment your chosen creator comes to relieve you of your suffering?

Is it when you learn that nature does what it does and you still suffer?

Is it the moment before death when all you have lived passes before you like a David Lynch film and you search for the meaning and there is none?

Is it the moment you realize that all of history is more relevant than your entire lifespan?

THERE is just here.


Copyright © 2014 Solo GenX Warriors 
Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

15) Marcia, Marcia, Marcia — Gen-X Is Jan Brady

If Gen X is truly the middle child, then many anecdotes about our generation can be found on The Brady Bunch, specifically in the character of middle child, Jan Brady. Jan (Generation X) annoyed with her older sibling, Marcia (Baby Boomer) always getting the attention. The boys love her. She’s prettier, her generation more flashy and funky. After all, she had the protests, the birth control pill, women’s rights and landing on the moon.

Like Jan, Generation X feels desperately mediocre. Gen X walked home from the bus stop around to the back of an empty house to get the key hanging on a nail from under the deck, made a small attempt to do homework and stayed in her room to watch television because her parents were out to dinner. She learned The Facts Of Life, understood that Good Times was all about getting white people to treat them with Diff’rent Strokes and she wanted to be Melissa Gilbert on Little House On The Prairie because she wished Michael Landon was her father. Of course, she was disillusioned that Landon wasn’t perfect and after River Phoenix’s death, Gen X Jan graduated from the University of HardCore Disappointments.

And then there is little Cindy (Millennial). So precious and wonderful, Cindy is the poster child of ‘Baby On Board’ – don’t drive like a murdering piss ant because I have a baby on board. Cindy is a star – raised to feel special and her parents love her and make sure she gets a trophy in her Taekwondo classes and soccer tournaments, even though she may not be that good. It doesn’t matter – little Cindy can be anything and everything she wants to be, despite not finding a job after college and her tuition being four times the amount as Mr. Brady paid for his suburban house in the early ’70s. Keep smiling Cindy, we’ve been there and we really do wish some of your optimism would rub off on us.

“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” says Jan with a deep sigh as Marcia speeds off in her SUV, squashing a squirrel on her way out of the driveway, off to a soccer game loaded with her precious children and a plethora of cheap gadgets she bought from Wal-Mart to keep her children entertained during the ten minute ride to soccer practice. Jan played The Alphabet Game on five-hour road trips and if she reached X before the last stop for a pee break, she gave herself a pat on the back. Jan looks at little Cindy, her cute curls and bursts of positive verbosity and is reminded that her parents weren’t that into Jan; just like every guy she dated who stood her up for a Laker’s game or a week-long D&D game with the guys.

Whatever… Jan feels bad no matter what, but only because she sees a way out of the impending decay of society if only she would wear her glasses. Jan just wants a better world and peace even if she puts holes in Marcia’s socks with an ice pick. Jan dreams about a small patch of earth to live on, not a Victorian mansion, or a McMansion in the middle of the desert. Jan would live happily in a yurt – in the country, somewhere on BLM land because all of the good places are parking lots and Marcia needs the best parking space. Jan would rather eat off the land instead of subsisting on cows, after all, their farts are contributing to global warming and the cows are partially mad for having to hold their farts in. Jan cares about cows, too.

And so, Jan = Gen-X = constipated cows.


Copyright © 2014 Solo GenX Warriors 
Solo GenX Warriors ™ | Disclaimer

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