Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A child in the 60's

A Trip to the City

When I was a boy I was fortunate to have a life that seemed unquestioningly safe and happy.  I lived with both of my parents and was part of an exciting time, the 1960's, even for a kid who was too young to truly understand what was happening.  The emotion of the times was hopeful and powerful, something I could grasp.  The intensity was unavoidable.  Musicians dying almost weekly.  A march on Washington protesting the war that I didn't understand but knew to be a bad thing.  I knew enough to realize that there were two sides but I couldn't always tell which side someone was on.  A bus driver had a poster with a peace sign-good.  But why did it say it was the footprint of the American chicken?

During the long bus ride to the peace march, I saw my art teacher from school go by in another car and I always wondered if she saw me.  I knew she was going to the march and it reassured me.  She never said anything about it and neither did I.

My parents would often take me to the city, driving from our home in Long Island.  Sometimes these were "culture" trips during which we would visit museums.  About these I remember sore feet and boredom.  Then there were the trips to Greenwich Village.  I fantasized about moving there.  I wanted to be a hippie.  The scene reached inside of me and grabbed me by my guts.  The guys looked cool, the girls were pretty, the music was wonderful, and it had a simplicity to it.  I don't think we understood that politics was so corrupt yet.  The world did not seem so corrupt yet.  We just wanted the war to end.  There were good guys and bad guys, plain and simple, it seemed to me.  Now we accept corruption and try to find a comfortable place in its spectrum.  We don't expect it to stop.

I told my best friend that if I moved to the city, he wouldn't be able to write to me because he wouldn't be able to spell the town where I lived.  I thought it was cool that Greenwich Village was pronounced "Grenidge Village".  As I told him this he quietly pointed at my bellbottom pants with a pleading look on his face.  His mother's clear response was no.  You can't have those.  I didn't understand that what was cool to me and OK with my family was not the same with everyone else.  I always assumed I was on the side of the good guys.

Our trips to the city were magical to a little boy with long hair.  I was old enough to want to be a part of the scene, but young enough that I wasn't yet embarrassed to be with my parents.  A favorite memory is one that fills me with security even now.  Each of my hands held by one of my parents as we walked through the excitement, they would swing me over the curbs.  Happy and Safe.  My father is gone and I hold my mother's hand to help keep her from falling.  I don't have long hair.  I don't have much hair at all.

We would get pizza, mixed twist ice cream cones, shop at Azuma and Brentano's and Larry Schaefer's record store where albums were 2 for six dollars.  Everything seemed aimed at the senses, particularly visually, with psychedelic posters, lava lamps, and colorful liquid crystal toys.

On one trip a young black boy approached me and asked if I wanted to hang out.  I was tempted but afraid.  Did he recognize me for the Long Island boy that I was?  Did he plan to hurt me or did he really just want to walk around and check out the cool stores together?  Was he lonely or a predator? Although tempted, I stayed with my parents, wanting to go but afraid.  It was not consistent with the safety I knew and needed.  I wasn't one to take chances.

We would drive home, me in the front seat, my mom sleeping in the back.  I stayed awake, knowing that my father was tired and wanting to make sure he stayed awake too.  He would open the window to blow cold air on his face and play loud jazz music.  I would sit, thinking about the new poster I bought, or what would have happened had I played with that kid.

6 comments:

  1. What a charming essay! I grew up in the same period, although I am older than you I think, because I was a teenager in the 60's. I grew up in Manhattan, though, so remember all the things you mention. I miss Azuma! What a fun place to shop.

    While I mostly lived uptown with my grandparents, my aunt lived in the Village and I would stay with her often. What a thrill to wander around the Village at that time!!

    Great post! Thanks for the memories. :)

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  2. Hi Marie and Stacy,

    I'm glad you liked the post. I was hoping to convey the mood of the time. It was a sweet time in a lot of ways.
    Yes, Azuma was cool!

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  3. Nicely done!

    I came upon a recipe for Beef Stroganoff. Are you brave enough to try it again?

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  4. Hey Weezer,
    Thanks. I'll pass on the stroganoff.

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