Settling down in a Starbucks on Fifth in the Gaslamp on a drizzling Monday morning, I am attempting to pore over the U-T to see what I missed over the weekend — what, maybe, I should have been writing about but did not. Couldn’t, really: strung up to an IV drip, catheter penetrating the old member uncomfortably as the Lasix (a urinary diuretic) did its work; plus, dreamily whacked on morphine. A newspaper from Athens would have made as much sense as the incomprehensible menu of flavorless foods I’d been handed.
Having written for newspapers for more than 20 years, it is, I suppose, ironic that I don’t read them. As a result, I have no idea how to pore over them except by imitating commuters I’ve studied on trains, out of boredom. Don’t even know how to fold one of the things.
Still, I make out in the business section that last Friday, the 11th, I missed the North County Business and Industry Forum sponsored by the Palomar College Foundation and the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce. Whaddya gonna do? I had to ask myself. Also, a seminar of sorts at the SCORE (no idea) Entrepreneur Center downtown on C, and Tax Consideration for Small Business. Well, I can’t be everywhere.
Here’s something I needed to attend, no doubt, but this pesky ticker of mine... “When the June gloom burns away, you’ll reach for that wide-brimmed hat because you want protection from skin cancer, right? The San Diego Hat Co. thinks so. It is giving away 300 hats Friday at its Seaport Village shop.”
I set down the paper and reach for an issue of the free weekly you are holding. Among the music ads toward the back is a largish one. It seems that Harrah’s Rincon casino is to host the rock acts Yes and Peter Frampton at their Open Sky Theater on Saturday, July 10.
As if I were a character à la Marcel Proust, biting into a tea biscuit, the names of those acts propelled strobe-like memories of the 1970s. Considering myself more a product of the ’60s than someone ten years younger, I recall that by 1972 I was wishing I could find a way to hibernate through the rest of that decade. I nearly did with Quaaludes (banished from the earth by a single DEA agent) and Victorian novels, but I could not escape either Yes or Frampton.
I couldn’t agree more with a quote from Rock: The Rough Guide, 1996, as they relate common reactions to the prog-rock perpetrators: “pomp rock hippies…airbrush them out of rock history…self-indulgence, pretension, and an emphasis on style over content.” And yet, to balance the entry, the volume goes on to cite why the group may have been so embraced: “one of the most imaginative, skillful, and daring bands around.…”
Frampton, another act I cannot much abide since 1967–1971 (when he was with the Herd and then Humble Pie), is responsible for (as of 1996, anyway) the best-selling live record of all time. But to this day the opening hook alone for “Do You Feel Like We Do” can produce in me a queasiness bordering on nausea as it triggers a series of sense memories from those ten years — a cavalcade of mediocrity and gaud that culminated in disco by 1976. Regarding the release on CD of Frampton Comes Alive!, critic Alwyn W. Turner wrote, “It may prompt you to wonder if the world went mad in the mid-’70s and, in particular, why so many people fell for such a dreadful version of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’?”
Seeing those names together in that quarter-page advertisement, I questioned myself that I should react so viscerally with, what? Anti-nostalgia? I thought of the qualitative and quantitative differences between the 1960s and ’70s. It seemed I had been at some of the darker historical moments of the ’60s and yet still felt a kind of allegiance to that time. I was 17 and attended either Lincoln Park or Grant Park that entire week in August of 1968. I was there in Altamont, California, at age 18 for the Rolling Stones concert where a man was killed and the vibes among some 300,000 people were volatile and grew more toxic with each passing hour. I had moved to Haight-Ashbury in 1969, after the area had become boarded over and deserted except for huddled junkies.
Still, I thought of the ’70s (as others did) as “The Me Decade,” yet still thought of the ’60s as “The Us Decade.” Some words to the unattributed takeoff on the theme to All in the Family in George R.R. Martin’s novel The Armageddon Rag occurred to me:
Always knew who you could trust
Cruising in your microbus
They were them and we were us.
Those were the days.