People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
The last months, traveling the western US, I’ve somewhat consciously sought to see as many of my old friends who are around this region as I could. Consciously since it is likely I may well soon decamp for some distant place, perhaps never to return. Consciously, as in many cases – my own included – the clock is running down, and this might be a last chance to see them, either because I or they will no longer be. Such are the thoughts which the diminishing of time – as well as of muscle tissue, sight, energy and the blossoming of liver spots, lack of hair, and the other vicissitudes of aging – impose. Seeing some old friends, I am struck, as surely they are likewise with me, by how much they have aged.
Annette Funicello was in the first Mickey Mouse Show, which began in 1955. I am sure that while Uncle Walt would be appalled at the thought (or perhaps perversely pleased) that Annette was the jack-off queen for a generation of suppressed 1950’s boys – she had visible tits and exuded a sensuality the other girls on the show lacked, she was our go-to girl. I know because I asked friends if she were their fantasy of choice while pounding the meat – the restrictions those days being far more stringent than today. Back then Elvis was cropped above the waist for some modest gyrations on the Ed Sullivan Show; today Lady Gaga can virtually lap-dance on your face and no one seems to raise an eyebrow. But time indeed marches on, heedless of our wishes, and steadily grinds our bodies to bits. Even those of stars, large and small, of the silver screen. Annette dropped from social sight some time ago, a victim of time and MS. She died today in Bakersfield, CA., 100 or so miles north of where I write in the San Fernando Valley where she once graced a sound stage, wearing the Mouseketeer ears with which the Disney Corporation made its global mark. She was seventy.
The day before, on Sunday, April 7, Les Blank also joined the list of no-longer-here, hot on the heels of Roger Ebert, about whom I wrote only a few days ago. Les was 77. I met – and nothing more – Les a few times out on the festival circuit. He was a well-known documentary filmmaker, a figure in the Bay Area film and cultural community, much liked by everyone I knew. If I believed in such things, I’d imagine a raucous New Orleans wake going on now in his honor, for a life well spent. But I don’t believe in such things, and know his spirit is now but a stiff piece of soon to disappear flesh, with everything that made him – like all of us – what we are in any way notable for, gone. Sic transit gloria.
I will in another place try to get around to writing a bit more deeply about this process of aging – of watching one’s family and friends grow fat or gaunt, hobbled by infirmities, ravaged by disease, and finally slipping off into death, whether done with grace or rage or indifference. It is, to say the least, an interesting process, one which our culture seems to do its best to avoid confronting except in a frantic effort to escape it. Our medical system, our consumerist life-style, our shallow public philosophy of life in general sends us in flight from speaking of it, or contemplating it outside the dumb legal necessities which property imposes.
Today there was an article by Susan Faludi published in the New Yorker, on my long-ago friend Shulamith Firestone – an article prompted by her death in August 2012. I’d tried to provide some information for Susan, not just about what little I could remember about Shulie back in 1964-67, but also things trying to give her a little sense of flavor to the tenor of the times, so I suggested she see a few short films made back then, one of which, unknown to me, was based on a real-life friend of Shulie’s — who had committed suicide while I was in prison. Reading the article, for the first time in a fair while, I wept – for Shulie, her sister, and many others, including myself. I wept for all the needless pain inflicted on us all, and which in turn provokes us into inflicting pain in our turn.
This Be The Verse They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you. But they were fucked up in their turn By fools in old-style hats and coats, Who half the time were soppy-stern And half at one another's throats. Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, And don't have any kids yourself. - Philip Larkin