74 Years in Review
Hey! Every media outlet takes time to review highlights of the passing year from their perspective. Why can't I? I will celebrate three quarters of a century in a mere five months. I suppose, in and of itself, that is an accomplishment. I have avoided, by luck or planning, addiction, accident, disease, and the wrath of God (or Linda). I look forward to more adventures, less risk, and better times.
So, in celebration, I want to review the life that was, still is, and, hopefully, will be. You are invited along, if only out of curiosity: no gifts, please.
First, and foremost, the entire Bogott family, mine, my brother's, and all of our progeny, have emerged from Phase one of the pandemic alive and well. I'll take that as a win. I say Phase one because Mother Nature is not through with us yet, as she was not through in the 12th Century when the Plague swept through Europe not less than three times.
Linda and I, in our fiftieth year of partnership, shared a number of adventures, including trips to Colorado to visit with family, to West Virginia to discover new places, and a fiftieth anniversary cruise down the St. Lawrence Seaway, to experience places, sites, and flavors new to us. We look forward to more adventures next year and in the many left to us.
Our true family legacy, our three grandchildren, continue to amaze us, growing into wonderful young people, exactly as we would wish. Our family is not famous, not rich, and will never make the tabloids or reality TV. But I can see in our grandkids the resilience, courage, and drive to make their own lives matter in this nutsy world that is surrounding us. They are, indeed, our legacy; and I could ask for none better.
When I stood at my school bus stop in 1958, at age 10, I thought to myself, 'Wow, I'll be 52 at the turn of the century.' I could not have imagined the changes that would alter my expectations of the world in those intervening years. In the sixty-three years that have passed computers have transformed our world in so many ways that the minds of baby-boomers continue to spin in disbelief. Travel is reduced to hours instead of days. Communication is nearly instantaneous. I don't need to elaborate more. We are all living through this. Our children and grandchildren are living it, too, but they are growing up in expectation of ever-faster change. We did not. Many in my grandparent's generation never traveled more than 50 miles from the place of their birth. Had World War II not intervened, my parent's generation might have mirrored that of their parents. My own generation, the Baby-Boomers, have lived life at warp-speed, not even knowing what warp-speed was, and barely having time to buckle our seat belts … those, too, something that didn't exist when we were young.
- The first phone I remember, a heavy black Bakelite monster with rotating dial and connected to the wall by a long black cord, was attached to a party line in Cleveland, Ohio. Our first cellular phone required a shoulder strap. Today, my phone slips into a holster on my belt and tells me when an unwanted call comes in, what the weather is expected to be, if there are traffic disruptions, and searches out menus for places to eat.
- I do remember that my mother had a credit card with The May Company in Cleveland. It was an embossed metal plate, similar to a dog tag, that was used to imprint her name and account number on the paper sales slip which would be forwarded to an office for processing. BankAmeriCard and MasterCard burst upon the scene during my teen years. Today, I can point my phone at a small screen and charge almost anything anywhere and at any time, day or night: no paper or plastic required.
- Mail, once delivered twice a day, Monday through Saturday, to a Postal Zone, (Cleveland, 24, Ohio), is now a once-a-day delivery to a cluster box a hundred yards away, a Zip Code, with Saturday delivery in jeopardy. Most mail now arrives in the form of an electronic image on my phone, tablet, or laptop; no stamp required.
- Taking photos required a dedicated camera, film and developing at the local drug store. Taking home movies required a different camera and processing. Sharing photos meant having copies made from negatives, a stamp, and an envelope to mail the copies to family and friends. Sharing a home movie required the viewer's presence in the room, a projector, and a screen. Today, I can share a photo or video with a simple keystroke, sharing it with the world, If I thought they cared.
- Television is another model for the technology explosion. My earliest memories of it are grainy black and white images of the Korean War. We experienced color TV in the motel rooms as we drove across country, moving from Cleveland to Albuquerque in 1959. Our first color TV arrived soon after we settled there. Memories of JFK's funeral, the Apollo 1 disaster, the upside-down image of the landing on the moon, and the final days in Saigon are framed by the 24" tube of our console television.
- World events were reported on teletype machines, often reported with phrases such as 'this just in', or 'film at eleven'. Film of those events was rushed by jet to New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco for processing. A recap of history occurring in Europe, or Asia, or South America were always seen the next day on the evening TV news. We were buffered from the reality of the times by distance and time. Today, we see Richard Engel ducking a Russian missile in Ukraine seconds after the attack. There is no time to breathe. History closes in around us at the speed of light.
- In the same vein, happenings around the world were once reported factually by Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, David Brinkley, and Chet Huntley, reporting only what had happened. Today, a myriad of sources interpret the news for us, telling us not only what we saw, but what it meant and what we should draw from it. Choose your view of history, as described by your favorite talking head. Is a zebra white with black stripes, or black with white stripes, or is it a horse that has been modified for some nefarious purpose? It depends upon the sponsor's point of view.
- I collected records of my favorite music, carefully sweeping dust from the grooves before placing the disk on a turntable and sending the resulting vibrations through an amplifier to speakers the size of end tables. Fast forward through eight-track, cassette, and CDs to today, when I could, had I the time, store my entire library within a storage medium smaller than a postage stamp and share it with that same world that doesn't look at my photos, much less care about my favorite music. I can listen to it from my phone or from tiny inserts tucked into my ears that reproduce sound far superior to that from my end table speakers.
It would be inconceivable to anyone who didn't live through it, the changes that have occurred in the last 100 years or the craziness of our existence today. I would like to hear Mark Twain or Will Rogers comment on Congress, the internet, the fall and resurrection of the political evils of Russia and North Korea, electric cars, private space travel, Covid-19, or Donald Trump.
Today, I'm standing on the sidelines. With luck, I've got 20 years left to watch the fun. It would be great to comment at age 100, using whatever yet-unimagined means will exist then, on what has transpired. I just hope I don't outlive our species. Right now, the jury is out on that one.
Happy New Year, y'all. Buckle up. It's going to be one heck of a ride. And we're going to need all the good wishes we can get.
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