My parents were not cool. They hated my long hair, didn’t understand “that loud psychedelic hippie music,” and thought Mary Jane was a girl I liked. My father did the comb over, wore white socks with black shoes and tightened his belt just below the sternum. My mother loved everything Lucite, covered the furniture in plastic and thought a hard-boiled egg in the center of meatloaf was cutting edge.
As a teenager, I believed I’d someday be the ultimate cool father; after all, my lexicon included words like “Cool,” “Dude,” and “Groovy Man.” There would be no palpable generation gap between me and my progeny.
The following decades only served to reinforce my delusion. What kid wouldn’t think that his skydiver, comedian, writer dad who backpacked through Europe, drove cross-country in a hippie van, went to tons of rock concerts (So I’m told) and was a volunteer fireman and NYC-EMT wasn’t the coolest thing on earth?
My naiveté ended this weekend while visiting my wife’s sister. Her teenage sons were talking about music. I listened intently to their discourse on pop artists; none of whom I had ever heard of. When I revealed this tidbit, they questioned me with an air of disbelief. “You must have heard of the song, …or ….” “Nope,” I said. “Not one. Okay, one. ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it.’ It’s the dumbest, most ridiculous song I’ve ever heard. And no, I’m not homophobic. It’s just a stupid song. I hate all of today’s music. It’s overproduced, artificially created bubble-gum pop with no substance; sung by manufactured singers. Crap I say.”
When I finally stopped, avoiding an imminent embolism, everyone stared at me like deer in headlights. My wife, as well as my brother and sister-in-law knew all the singers and songs. The three “adults” in the room actually LIKE some of that dreck. I almost divorced my wife on the spot. (I should have known we’d have problems when she didn’t find Albert Brook’s Looking for Humor in the Muslim World to be funny).
Reality has struck and I now dread the size of the chasm in the generation gap that will no doubt exist when my girls turn thirteen and I’m pushing 63, assuming I’m not pushing up daisies. I won’t be cool, will I? They won’t embrace my music, will they? What kind of horrible noise will they call music? I know real music darn it: Janis Joplin, The Band, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Robert Johnson, Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Gabriel, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, B.B. King, The Who, Bob Segar, ZZ Top, Joe Cocker, Moody Blues, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Beatles, Ray Charles and Tom Petty.
I’m not looking to debate who was left off or put on my list. The point is just that I am clearly concerned that my angels will someday say, “Daddy…your music sucks.” My obvious retort will be, “You call THAT crap you listen to music?” And so the gap will widen further, demoting me from cool to LAME.
It’s not only music. It will be everything. I remember where I was on 9-11 and when Kennedy was shot. I saw the 1969 Mets win the Worlds Series and Neal Armstrong take one giant leap. I remember Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations. Woodstock happened and the Berlin Wall came down during my watch. Heck, I had a rotary phone. Incidentally, a rotary phone is part of the permanent exhibit at the Long Island Children’s Museum. Something from MY life is in a museum? Move over Neanderthal, there is a new species in town.
I had a black and white television with only seven channels…and I had to stand up, walk over to the television and manually change the channel. Oh, the hardships. I walked twenty miles to school…uphill…in both directions… in the snow…with no shoes.
I think I’m developing a Russian/Jewish accent. I’m starting to walk bent over. I think I’m my own grandfather. Kids today, what do they know? Gap-Shmap. Don’t talk back. Clean up your room. I didn’t even have a room growing up. I was too busy hiding in the shtetel from the Cossacks.