Last week in Amsterdam, I walked around with my friend Max, and we found ourselves talking about our aches and pains. My mono. His knee surgery. Our both having gotten fat. I realized that we are fast becoming those people, those old people who talk about the failure of their bodies. Max and I are both 46, which isn’t old at all, if you think about it, but for most of my life, I thought it was really, really old.
When my father was my age, I was 13. Look what was on the pop charts that year, 1980. I remember pootling around the roller rink listening to that stuff. Forty-six years before that, know what was on the pop charts? Look. It is mildly disconcerting to realize that I am far, far more likely to listen today to the music of 1934 than the music of 1980. It is mildly disconcerting to recognize that we are as far away from Reagan’s inauguration as we were at that time away from Harry S Truman’s. It is mildly disconcerting to reflect that if ABC wanted to launch a nostalgia-based sitcom like Happy Days, it would have to set it in the 1994, during the first Clinton administration.
Think about that: we are as far today from the first Clinton administration as the country was from the first Eisenhower administration when Happy Days debuted. I remember watching Happy Days as a kid and experiencing it as set in the misty past. But then, at that time were only six years past the assassination of MLK and RFK, which to me as a child seemed like events that happened in another era. Only six years! Twice as much time has passed since 9/11. Chances are my children see 9/11 as an event that happened in the history books, not in “real life.”
What brings this to mind was Alan Jacobs’ post about how strange it was to realize that Rome is farther north than Chicago. Did you know that Baghdad is farther north than Baton Rouge? I did not, until I just checked. As Alan puts it:
All of us carry around in our minds timelines and maps by which we orient ourselves to history and place — and almost all of these mental constructs are wildly inaccurate.