Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It Seems like Only Yesterday

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It Seems like Only Yesterday

Article excerpt

People are pretty good sports about the new year. Day after routine day, we sustain our pysches with the myth that history's true here-and-now is precisely the period of our own lives. Then every Jan. 1, at the flip of the calendar, we discover that our experiences and memories are another year removed from the present. They, and we, are sliding inexorably toward that dimness known as "the past."

This becomes apparent when we play a simple game with the way time passes. It works like this: You think of a recent event and then show that it actually occurred closer to some relatively ancient event than to the present. If someone describes himself as, say, a "child of the Watergate era" to suggest youthfulness, you can note correctly that the 1972 Watergate break-in is closer in time to the rise of Joseph McCarthy in 1950 than it is to the present day.

If you're into middle age, be prepared to discover that today's college students and office interns think of Sputnik the way you think of Prohibition. To them, the Vietnam War is as remote as the Great Depression is to you. A "Happy Days" made today and looking back on the past from a similar distance would be set in 1977, four years after "Happy Days" first aired.

If "American Graffiti" were made today, it would be set in 1982.

Now we're into 1994, when for the first time:

The Arab oil embargo (1973) is closer to the Rosenberg executions (1953) than it is to us.

The first manned moon landing (1969) is closer to Hiroshima (1945) than to us. Hiroshima, in turn, has since last year been closer to San Juan Hill (1898) than to us.

Musical memories will be particularly misleading. It's surprising how much of the new music that you like is old:

The Sugar Hill Gang's first rap songs (1981) are closer to Woodstock (1969) than they are to us.

Beatlemania (1964) is closer to "Porgy and Bess" (1936) than to us.

Even that anthem of the here-and-now from the last campaign, Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" (1977), is closer to Henry Mancini's "Moon River" (1961) than to us. …

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