some vacation!

When you're a rural telecommuter, being locked out is a lonely business.

Monday, November 21, 2005

how "yearist"!

I was amused to read this funny essay on Tom Kernaghan's Oakwriter blog this morning. Tom seems to have become enamored of a certain rare species of North Americans: those born in 1964.

First off, let me make this clear: I was not born in 1964. But I was conceived in 1964, so I think I'm close enough to offer some insights. Not that Tom would expect me to, but what the hell.

Being born in 1964 or 1965 means you spend your life at the ass-end of a pig moving through the demographic python. This translates to spending your formative years following a huge wave people who have already been there, already done that, and already gotten bored with it just a few years ahead of you, but are only too willing to tell you why it was so much better when they did it first.

My life was constantly filtered through another boomer's lens. No matter where I was on my journey towards maturity (and I'm still working on it...), there was someone 7, or 11, or 17 years older who told me "Oh, don't bother, the FILL-IN-THE-BLANK (music, drug, destination, emotion) was SO much better when I did it in 1974. It's crap now".

Part of that is true: boomers had sex before AIDS. Boomers had drugs before crack and crystal meth. Boomers had cheap travel. Boomers had property before inflation, jobs before Free Trade. Boomers could stumble out of university in the 70's and into great careers, or spend 10 years travelling with a backpack and a guitar and still come home to fulfilling work. If you came out of university in the late 80's, like me, you probably worked in telemarketing or waited on tables for several years because someone 10 years older than you was occupying the entry level career-track job you thought you'd have.

We on the the tail-end of the pig were witnesses to a lot of folly that our elders in the "me generation" indulged in, from disco to cults. If we have bullshit detectors, it's because there were finely honed as we watched so much of it fly around us. It's no wonder we "got" punk (yes, yes, I know it was a boomer invention, but how many boomers really got it?).

I remember when I discovered punk. It was February 2nd, 1979. I was 13, in Grade 8, and I had just heard on the CBC Radio news that Sid Vicious had been found dead in his bed after celebrating his release on bail pending his trial for the murder of former lover Nancy Spungeon. I sat on the edge of the guacamole-coloured bathtub where my mother was bathing and tried to make sense of it.

The thing is, it wasn't that mystifying to me. I got it. As part of the hand-me-down generation, I understood the rage, I understood the "fuck you" that was Sid Vicious. Days later I got my first period. Then, as the Rheostatics song goes, "that summer I saw The Ramones". Heady stuff.

And yes, the Beatles were brilliant, and yes, the Beach Boys were geniuses and you know what? Stiff Little Fingers and The Buzzcocks still make me tingle with pleasure.

And you know what else? Some of my best friends are boomers. There are simply so many to choose from... chances are some of them are bound to be great.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger oakwriter said...

Haha. Great piece, Philly! Thanks. Okay, I'll let the cat out of the bag. I was born in 1966 -- another "where-the-hell-are-they-now" birth year. I got punk myself. Though I love older music as well. I chose 1964 because, well, I really mean it when I say I've seen it. But to be honest, I would ascribe those same qualities to others born in the 1960s.

Okay, maybe even some boomers. ;-)

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous ralph said...

I'm a child of 1963, myself. I've had long discussions with friends about what it means to have been born then. Personally, I don't identify at all with boomers, and I've spent many years resenting the hell out of them, much like you. My wife, on the other hand, also born in 1963, seems to identify with them much more than I do and doesn't like when I express my opinions on that subject (although we both have strong punk rock histories, too -- me in college radio, her going to shows at Max's Kansas City and the like when she was 16). The interesting thing about being born at the ass-end of the pig is that you almost get to choose whether you're part of the boom or not. I identify *much* more with Generalization X and the characters in Slacker than with the baby boomers.

Part of the difference may be in your parents. My parents were quite young when they had me, and were born during World War II. My wife's parents were a good ten years older when they had my wife, and were born during the depression.

The classic definition of the baby boom is that it happened when the generation that fought WWII came home, and ended when their childbearing years ended. My parents were of a generation after that; they weren't really cognizant of the war. My wife's parents were a lot closer to being part of that generation, having memories of that time, although not quite old enough to fit the classic definition.

To this day, I really can't listen to the music of the boomers. If I listen to anything before 1977, it's garage bands or Congolese music of the 1950s, or even big band and swing music. The whole experience of having a youth culture that wasn't mine shoved down my throat by the boomers tainted my experience of that culture. There's a hole in my interest in music and culture that runs from about 1968 to 1976.

I was listening to the punk rock channel of XM last night, Fungus 53, and they played "God Save the Queen". Listening to the lyrics, they seemed eerily appropriate for today. Our jobs are being shipped to Shenjian and Bangalore, something I have first hand experience of. No future, indeed.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger oakwriter said...

I'm glad to hear that others have had discussiond about this with their friends. I've had many myself. And it's interesting what you said about how the age of parents can affect you. I've read of studies which suggest this very thing. Children of young parents tend to be more rebellious and less likely to identify with the generations above them. And while my taste in music is all over the place, I had many friends, especially in the underground scene during the 1980s, who like you got nothing out of the older music.

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Philly M said...

Well, I'm not sure if my parent's ages account for anything, but there is an 11+ year difference between them (my mom was 24, my dad was 36 when I arrived).

But there are bigger differences than age: my father's family is liberal and urban, my mother's family is conservative and rural, so it was not a given that by virtue of birth year my dad was stuffy and my mom free-wheelin' when I grew up.

My mother's mother spent her teen years hard-scrabble poor on a farm in Northern Ontario. She never forgot that poverty, so much so that the depression mentality was deeply ingrained in my mother, who was born after. My father, who lived in a modest middle-class home through the depression, never noticed any hardship or deprivation. He was not infused with that practical conservatism that my mother knew.

More important, no doubt, is the fact that both my parents were working musicians when they met, and that my father spent most of his life as a jazz musician. Still plays regularly, too!

If I have open ears, it is both because of, and in spite of, his refined tastes which range from the American Songbook to bebop to Latin jazz.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger oakwriter said...

That's cool, Philly. Latin jazz. I played the drums, though jazz was beyond my ability.

I guess cause and effect can be a bit of a moving target. And never that simple. Perhaps a bigger factor is how you react to your parents, whatever their age and wherever they come from - what you accept and what you reject. And I do believe you are just born with certain tendencies.

My parents were both young when they had us (early and mid-20s). They were war babies. My mom grew up in comfort and my father's family struggled terribly. He did well despite his tough upbringing. My mom hung with the beatniks in early 1960s Yorkville, and my dad became an engineer. Neither is conservative, really, but they did teach me the value of work, education, and frugality.

And they're both good dancers, so perhaps I get my rhythm from them! :-)

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous laurel said...

... younger sister suddenly understands: the "been there, heard it, seen it while you were still listening to am radio" digs of our youth make perfect sense now. (Of course, truth be told, you never were a follower. I wound up with the Michael Jackson and Platinum Blonde in my collection until you steered me into more interesting waters!)
All the while I thought you were just trying to remind me of how smart you are ;) but really it was an outlet for all the "been there" piling up on you from your older or more urban (urbane?) friends.
Still, to this day, I credit you as the reason for my diverse music tastes. That's why your show is a natural fit for you - you've been introducing friends and family to what's weird and wonderful for years before you had your own podium to share it from.
I guess dad gets some credit for that taste, too. I think of all my early birthday parties, begging him to play boogie woogie. "faster, faster!". Throw in mom's Brazilian collection and it's no wonder we managed to totally evade disco in our household.

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