One of the most important features about growing older is an inevitable mushrooming collection of memories. This is a good thing. It provides continuity to our lives. It’s good to have people around who can remember other times. It helps to render perspective in our thinking as a community. It’s what gives depth to culture.

I’ve tried to imagine a culture without memory, say farther back than six months, or even a longer but limited time, like five years. Even saying it doesn’t make any sense. It would be like a world populated totally by suffers of a kind of Alzheimer’s Disease. Where’s Rod Sterling when you need him? Wait a minute! Did he already do this?

I have noted many times how memory, as one gets older, is more like fiction than history. Was it really that good then? Or are we just making it up, now? I think that mostly we are dealing with differences. As in, time changes everything. Comparing then with now is a favorite pastime among those who can actually do that. It isn’t necessary to be old to do it. It’s particularly revealing to hear a teenager talk about when he or she was little. There they go, building continuity into their lives.

So apropos of nothing, here are a few examples of things I remember that are quite different from the way things are now. If you need to go rake some leaves now would be a good time.

FOOD. As a boy in South Louisiana, it was a culinary axiom that if it tasted good it was good for you. All of it tasted good. Today, there are all kinds of warnings that pop into one’s head as one cruises down the grocery isles. That’s too fat. That’s too caloric. That’s dairy. That’s full of cholesterol. That’s not enough fiber. We read labels.

I can remember when we began eating tinned food. There were home canned things in jars, but that was a whole other thing. We didn’t need labels. You could see what was in there. Mostly we ate out of a garden all year long. All my food was naturally “natural”. Nowadays that costs extra.

Furthermore, today, food is all about marketing and nutrition. Not freshness and flavor. If the right chemical nutrients are present, then it’s good. It’s full of the sunshine vitamin and calcium for strong bones! But does it have any flavor? And nobody ever mentions gravy. How can you have a decent life without gravy?

MUSIC. In my college years I studied voice. Elvis was shaking out “Heartbreak Hotel” while I was standing stock still and stiff as a broom handle belting out classical art songs, and hymns. When someone sang a song it was all about the voice and the words that were to be clearly understood. Enunciation was in. Even though Elvis was all over the place, he could be understood. Today it’s all about a full body contact performance. It’s production, lights, movement, layers and layers of anything that glitters, rattles or slithers. It’s outsized, electrified, amplified and if there is room, exploded. I suppose someone is understanding the words. I don’t.

TELEVISION. I remember no television. (OK, that’s my problem.) We watched the radio. (And we saw things too.) And we talked about it. When we did get TV, it was mostly some painfully simple local product. I can remember watching Dolly Parton and Porter Wagner in black and white with a microphone – and that was it! No strobes or side singers.

There were, of course, those actual old, made for the silver screen movies. Drama was in. Soon there were programs made specially for the TV format and the industry began its numbing and dumbing down process to where it is today – in my opinion. Oh, we watched it and the price we began to pay was the absence of conversation and intimacy.

TV has a role in our culture. It is like visual muzak. It relieves us of the threat of needing to speak to the other person in the room, or even looking at them, while being able to say we spent the evening together. I mean, how cool is that?

Anyway, I remember. I can almosgt feel the continuity.

I wonder if Pawn Stars is on tonight.

Be well, and stay tuned.               I’m Jerry Henderson.

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