I was stopped at a light, smiling, staring through the storefront window. It was a hot yoga class. Middle-aged grown-ups in clown-colored workout gear were sweating, grimacing and writhing in naughty poses. Very 2018. You couldn’t pull off such a coven in 1958 without drawing a mob complete with farm implements, kindling, pamphlets on perdition and matches.
When I was a boy, a woman here in Newhall was stopped by local sheriff’s deputies. She was running. The police leapt from their prowl cars and hustled her to safety, all the while, heads darting, looking for the fiend stalking her. She explained, patiently. No one was chasing her.
She was just — running.
“From — what?” asked one of the deputies.
In the 1950s, boxers did “roadwork.” But women? They simply didn’t jump into their husbands’ sweatpants and run for the cardiovascular heck of it.
I have lived to see cell phones, corner marijuana stores, baseball desegregated, the Internet, lung transplants and women marrying women. Good. Bad. Indifferent. So many dizzying changes, since I was a boy. Technical. Social. Moral. Ethical. Medical. Cultural. Time itself has been warped.
We dance differently.
My three dopey-like sister substances Leslie, Tweedie and Lisa were all head cheerleaders at Hart High, a scary-screaming-half-century ago. Had they attempted a few pep rally gyrations from the year 2018, police would have ran onto the court, wrapped them in blankets and escorted them to the poky. Of course, in hindsight, perhaps had they expressed themselves with such rank abandon, perhaps the girls might have married better.
In 1969, my best friend Phil took a computer programming class our freshman year in college. His assignment? Coerce the computer to figure how much is 2-plus-2. Phil punched holes — in just the exact right spot — into dozens of thick cards. Then, he fed them into the gaping mouth of a computer that was — not making this up — the size of a two-story building. I kept Phil company. As he aerated a forest-worth of incorrectly punched programming cards, on the chalkboard I drew a stick figure of Picasso playing golf, with a voice box saying: “2-+-too = FORE!”
Today, we have cell phones that fit in our pockets. The cheapest is more powerful than Phil’s huge state-of-the-art two-story mainframe. We can play movies, order pizza, launch rockets, find our way to any place in the world, including wickedness.
How did life change, so much, so quickly?
At the turn of the 20th century, we had one phone in the Santa Clarita. One. It was at the general store and available a few hours a week. I thought of cowboys, a half-day away, riding into town. With the comforting and lazy rhythm of horse’s hooves, did they use the hours to rehearse what they’d say to a distant loved one? What would they think of people today, hair the color of jellybeans, not watching where they’re going, staring into the narcotizing abyss of their Androids?
I so loved my conversations with dear Ed, my gruff and former father-in-law. He once told me of being an Indiana farm boy during World War I. Ed would walk into town, just to see the blacksmith and hear his stories.
You see, the sooty farrier had fought in the Civil War. I was talking to Ed, who talked with a blacksmith — who had survived a war fought with muskets.
An interesting bridge we all straddle, this blending of generations.
My niece-and-nephew-like substances, Christina and Coastal Eddie, are sneaking up on 40. When they were little, they sat next to me in my pickup. We were on a mission to retrieve a casserole dish from Grandma’s garage.
“Stay here. Touch nothing. Think good thoughts,” I instructed. “I’ll be right back.”
After throwing open the big garage door, I quickly found our holy grail: Grandma’s giant enchilada dish.
I closed the garage door.
As I’m walking back, I glanced through the windshield at Christina and Coastal. Cherubs in shock, their mouths were the size of Cheerios.
I had to ask. “What’s wrong with you bozos?”
Holding their breaths, it was Christina who could keep it in no longer:
“Uncle John! You’re the STRONGEST man in the WORLD!!” Coastal stared at me as if I were Og, the feared giant from the Book of Numbers.
It took a moment to unravel what was going on.
They had never seen a person open a garage door manually. It was always done with a clicker. They knew nothing of The Old Ways, of Garage Door Hinges. It’s an old theme: How we see the world; How the world changes.
The pace? It feels like it’s quickening.
In a blink, 60 years will pass. Things will be discovered. Some improved. Some worsened. A child will sheepishly stand, wide-eyed and patient. She’ll listen to some old soul wax nostalgic about life so long ago in 2018.
“When I was young,” the veteran lectures, “everyone had these odd structures glued to our homes. We put ‘cars’ in them and called them, ‘garages.’”
Will the future’s child respond with the obvious question:
“What’s a ‘home. . . ?’”
John Boston is a local writer.