Friday, September 3, 2010

For What It's Worth No. 22

It’s been a busy summer. Business trips and pleasure trips and visits from people we love. Our first visitor this summer was my son, Geoffrey who is a chef at the four seasons in Houston, Texas. He came to New York with the expectation of working in a few restaurants just for the experience. He brought his knifes as any good chef would but ended up being inspired not by the kitchens he worked in but by the visual treats that is New York. Days turned into weeks and not once did he sit foot in a restaurant other than as a customer. He walked the upper and lower east side and west side, uptown and downtown; he took in the sites of Brooklyn and Prospect Park. And he endured the oppressive heat that is so unusual for the east coast and learned to live without air conditioning—something he could or would never do in Texas. It was a good time to bond and as a parent you come to fully appreciate your kids when they become peers especially when they turn out smarter than yourself.

Our second visitors were my daughter and my grandson, the differences and similarities could not have been more stark. Here is my grandson, Quentin, three decades younger than my son yet he seemed inspired by his new surroundings, different from what he sees in his hometown of Dallas. It got me thinking about the decades we live in, the first decade through the last of our lives. When I look back on my son’s three decades I marvel at all the changes that have taken place, then I look at my six decades and all the many more changes that happened.

I grew up in the era of radio and television, newspapers and magazines, the Sunday funnies. Where shopping was done in the Sears Roebuck catalog or at their brick-and-mortar store. Where S&H green stamps could fulfill dreams. Where coffee, tea and milk were hand-delivered on a set schedule. Where transportation was the streetcar, bus or train. Where everyone wrote letters or postcards and corresponded by mail. And libraries were sanctuaries of knowledge. Where magazines were over sized and comics were our entertainment—both providing the color in our lives. Where a radio gave us our music, Popular Mechanics gave us ideas on how to build things and Playboy gave us lust. Where having a typewriter in the home was a rarity and a fountain pen a prized-possession. Our single phone hung in the kitchen connected directly to a pole outside. Our TV relied on a pair of rabbit ears to bring in the blown-out black and white images. Our news came at 6pm every night unless it was bad news, which would interrupt our regularly scheduled program. Where we lived with three painful assassinations and put a man on the moon.

My son grew up in the beginnings of the computer age, today he downloads music, full-length movies, games and videos, he flies when he doesn’t drive—I can’t think of a time when he’s been on either a bus or train. He hand-builds computers. He orders everything online and rarely sets foot in an actual store. He gets his hard news 24-7 and his soft news from blogs and emails and texts. His need for information is just a Google search away. His keyboard follows him everywhere he goes. My grandson begins his journey in a fully-digital era where an iPhone is common and apps multiply like rabbits. Where e-books and i-Pads are becoming the norm. What’s ahead in the next ten years? What, oh what, do the next three decades hold in store for us?


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