Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back When


by Amy Lignor of The Write Companion


As a book reviewer for many years, I’ve been inundated with YA after YA of vampire vs. werewolf.  But, recently, I was sent a truly beautiful book about the Civil War.  No, of course, this is not a “beautiful” subject, but the writer and photographer focused on the many houses, buildings, and plantations that have gone to ruin - and it made me think of how ‘cold’ things have become.

This country is young.  Unlike the ruins of Rome, Athens, etc., the United States has a very short history when you think about it, and losing ANY of our past is a frightening thought.  In the Gilded Age, New York City and the East Coast had their Astor’s and Carnegie’s, with their huge homes and gallant parties.  The South had their endless fields, mint juleps, and manors that could stop your heart if you looked at them long enough.  The construction, the work, the soul that went into creating our architecture was extraordinary - and letting them rot away into nothingness is a heartbreaking reality.

Think about it! Not from a political standpoint, mind you, but a purely artistic one.  I’m not here to fight about ‘us vs. them,’ or ‘us vs. us,’ I’m here to discuss back when.  This is yet another song by that talented “Tim McGraw,” who sings about a time when, a coke was a coke; when the wind was all that ‘blew;’ and, my favorite, when you said I’m down with that, it meant you had the flu.  He sings of an easier time…when we were nice.  Or, at least, some of us were.  He sings about a time when my mother sat in a booth at a pharmacy in her hometown surrounded by her high school friends, while they talked, laughed, and ate grilled bologna sandwiches (ick) and washed them down with REAL cherry coke.  It was a time when my mom drove a 1955 pink and gray Chevy (I could kill her for losing that!). 

There was a time even further back when Houdini made an elephant disappear before an audience’s eyes; and, a time when the cornerstone was laid for what would become the grandest library in this country, where Patience and Fortitude still sit and stare at you as you walk by. 

Artists flourished.  Immigrants came to our shores following in the path of the Mayflower, which was one of the first to reach this land from across the sea.  There was a time of education, where writing the statement, I love you has now been replaced by a beeping phone that says:  I luv u.  Grammar has almost become obsolete, and penmanship isn’t required because of the keyboard sitting in front of you.  Each and every decade brought new and brilliant innovations to this country, as well as some that could one day be used to end us all.

The 1910’s was when the film industry in Hollywood began to rise.  The ‘Roaring 20’s’ had their flappers, and a stock market crash that blew everyone’s mind.  The 30’s saw the Empire State Building rise into the sky, and The Great Depression almost destroy society.  In the 40’s, America banded together with others to destroy a Fuhrer who was determined to create a deathly Reich; and, the 50’s appeared with rock-and-roll, poodle-skirts, and teenagers screaming for Elvis.  The 50’s began with our men dying in Korea, and ended with the survivors heading to Vietnam to lay down their lives once again. 

Social change and political upheaval introduced the 60’s.  This decade saw the fear of missiles, “Camelot” destroyed, and watched man achieve the impossible and walk on the moon.  From the building of the World Trade Center to disco and feminism, the 70’s had its own triumphs and losses.  And the 80’s brought heavy-metal hair, the Cold War, a “Boss” who was Born in the USA, and the death of John Lennon.  When the 90’s flashed by in what seemed like an instant, sideburns came back into style and, for women, “The Rachel” haircut from Friends was all the rage.

When the clock wound down and our next century began, brilliance and pain came in waves as we watched the huge realm of social networking rise…and those two grand towers fall…

Comedy has gone from the hysterical team of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin to “South Park” accepting  Tony for best play of the year!  Each and every decade has seen new artists, scientific geniuses, literary kings and queens, and death.  Now we have singers who intrigue the world on stage with odd names like “Ga Ga.”  We even have our own new Houdini by the name of Jason Escape (Jason Gardner, to his friends).  We have books that will become legend as Edward and Bella fade into the “Twilight,” and we have more and more stories to tell in every subject from fashion to technology.

But…when we begin to destroy our history we become a truly ‘cold’ society.  When we begin to let our buildings, monuments, and history crumble, we let go of what made this country beautiful and innovative in the first place.  Each and every one of us needs to make sure that - even though our technology has become greater - the discoveries of the past don’t disappear.  We need to hold on to the time where manors AND manners were important.  There is no way to know who we are if we don’t remember where we’ve been.  …And that’s the truth!