Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There's No Stalgia like Good Stalgia

Last week Thursday started as usual, with coffee and the newspaper, and one of my first pleasures every day is to read what my long-standing friend Doug Moe has to say about things in his column in the State Journal. Doug had the way-back machine on, and was reminiscing about his 21st birthday. Doug so loved the Travis McGee novels that John D. MacDonald penned, that on his 21st birthday, Doug sent away for information about houseboats.

McGee, the protagonist of the novels, lived on a houseboat. The young Doug Moe was fascinated.

Later in the morning, wasting time on Facebook, I saw that several of my friends had posted “throwback” pictures of themselves - another one of those viral things that go around on the social media. I contributed a picture of me at the ripe young age of 33, wearing the official 1982 WISM-AM t-shirt. My wife commented under the picture “Handsome as ever!”, God bless her.

By that time, the nostalgia machine was running full tilt.

I’ve often said my mother is responsible for my voracious appetite for reading, my vocabulary, and my acerbic tongue. She read to me constantly in my early years, and imbued me with a love for reading - and writing. My father taught me the virtue of “putting the hay down where the cows can eat it”, curbing my tendency to use words like “acerbic” and “imbued”.

I figure I can get away with it here, because you guys are pretty smart.
Doug Moe loved the Travis McGee novels, but my addiction was the Hardy Boys mystery novels. I read every Hardy Boys book in the Hortonville Public Library, and the librarian - Sadie Klein - even “imported” Hardy Boys books for me from the Appleton Public Library. Titles like “While The Clock Ticked” and “The Sinister Signpost” still come easily to my memory.

Frank and Joe Hardy were my heroes. I was completely absorbed in their fictional world, and longed to solve the kind of intriguing mysteries they always fell into. I was crushed years ago when I learned the “author” of the novels, Franklin W. Dixon, was really a pen-name used by a number of authors who actually wrote the novels for the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

But my true youth was much more like Tom Sawyer than the Hardy Boys.
I grew up midst pine forests, a crystal clear lake, a sky that was always blue, summers that lasted forever, and the best friends you could imagine. Every day was a banquet of sandlot baseball, fishing, row-boating, bicycling, exploring; every night was camping out under a blanket of blazing stars.

Everybody knew everybody else, from one end of the small village to the other; nobody ever locked the door to their house; and kids who got caught “causing trouble” were taken to their parents for discipline, not juvenile court.

That’s the way I choose to remember it, but I can’t adequately explain it to my kids, who grew up in shopping malls and went to schools with metal detectors and cops roving the hallways.

I wonder what childhood recollections they’ll have, when they’re as old as me. It will probably involve some video game.


  1. Don't write re-runs of virtual reality.

    Ferlinghetti, a poet of my time, and yours Tim.

  2. In the Phaedrus, Plato argued that the new arrival of writing would revolutionize culture for the worst. He suggested that it would substitute reminiscence for thought and mechanical learning for the true dialect of the living quest for truth by disc”
    -- Marshall McLuhan, poet and prophet for all time to come

    The lens of history has a soft focus. It's a quality that, on the whole, serves us well. But these are not what H.H. Munro described as "reminiscences of what never happened."

    I can attest that life in that village was no idyll, but the forests and the sand pit and the lake and the boat, a redeemed derelict, with it's preposterously oversized mushroom anchor, and the Muskrat Island storm and the shack on the island in the creek, and bicycling at flank speed to escape the farmer's dog (not entirely successful), and a thousand other adventures -- they were all there. And, on many a night, that canopy of stars.