by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

The other day, a teenager asked me a question: “Did you really live in the

Well, yes, I said.

“Wow! Cool! How was it?”

I took a deep breath. I knew this was coming. Whenever America runs out of ideas, it decides to “bring back” an era. As near as I can figure, the era must be at least 20 years old to qualify, which is just enough time for us to forget how stupid it was.

So now, with the war in the Persian Gulf, the rush is on to bring back the
’60s — particularly the late ’60s, which was indeed a time of war and protest. Although “protest” these days is little different. Last week, I saw a rally in San Francisco during which one person waved a sign: “DISCO, NOT WAR!”

I never saw that one in 1968.

But OK. I don’t mind this bring-back-the-’60s stuff, as long as you, the kids of the ’90s, don’t follow everything we, the kids of the ’60s, did back then. It wasn’t all fantastic, you know. Sure, we were socially conscious, politically aware, and aspired to something out of high school besides owning IBM.

But we also had Tiny Tim.

What’s that expression? Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? I don’t want to see that happen. For one thing, I couldn’t bear to listen the Fifth Dimension again.

So as a public service to you, the young people, I offer the following guide to “Things From The ’60s That Should Be Avoided The Second Time Around.”

Ready, man?

That’s one. Avoid not-so-groovy customs
* TIE-DYING: This was the practice of throwing a perfectly good T-shirt into the wash, dumping in a box of dye, and coming out with . . . a T-shirt full of dye! Brilliant, huh? We thought so. Our fathers, on the other hand, wondered why all their underwear was purple.
* INCENSE: Back in summer camp, we used to burn incense to keep mosquitoes away. Then, suddenly, people began burning it in their living rooms. And not just bug incense, but stuff that smelled sickly sweet, like rotten Jell-O. Usually, this was accompanied by sitar music. Why? I have no idea. I do know I never saw a mosquito from 1967 to 1970.
* SITAR MUSIC: While we’re on the subject . . .
* BELL-BOTTOMS: I have done some checking here, and I believe the ’60s were the only decade in history in which people reacted to the world by widening their pants bottoms.

Based on extensive research, it didn’t do a lot of good.
* NEHRU JACKETS: heh. Heh-heh. Heh . . . ha . . . hAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! No. Go ahead kids, really. Bring them bac-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
* BLACK LIGHT POSTERS: Here’s a good one. Sell kids a bunch of posters, then tell them they’re no good unless you buy a special light, plug it in, and sit in an otherwise pitch-black room, staring at the colors. We fell for it, by the way. I am not proud of this.
* DANCING: The late ’60s didn’t really have dance steps like you kids are used to. It was more loose, more free, more like, well, like someone dropped a muskrat down your shorts. And then there were the people who danced by themselves. They always scared me. They had this weird look in their eyes and moved as if they were catching invisible butterflies. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it was the . . .
* BLOTTER ACID: Also to be avoided.
* ZODIAC SIGNS: Back in the ’60s, it seemed extremely important to know whether you were born under the sign of the fish, the sign of the twins, the sign of the crab, or the sign of the archer — when actually, we were all born under the sign of The Sucker.
* SANDALS: Believe it or not, young people used to wear sandals to work, to weddings, everywhere. Why? Who knows why? We looked like we were starting a kibbutz.
* GROOVY: Every era has expressions that become dated. But for some reason, the word “groovy” — well, trust me, kids; you use it now, you’ll regret it later. I recently saw Paul Simon in concert, and he started doing his ’60s hit “Feeling Groovy,” and every time he came to that line, ” . . . da-da-da-da-da, feelin’ groovy . . . ” — he looked like he was going to throw up.
* LAVA LAMPS: I have no idea who invented these. But I bet he danced by himself.

Also: EIGHT-TRACK TAPES, “LAUGH-IN,” LOVE BEADS, SIDEBURNS. Stay away from these things, kids, and you should be OK in bringing back the ’60s. Go right ahead.

By the way, if you come across an expression, “Never trust anyone over 30”
— I, uh, wouldn’t pay any attention.

We were kidding.


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