The World of Tomorrow

The future simply isn't what it used to be.

I've never left Louise Elementary School when you get right down to it, haven't really changed one bit, though so many around me have. But am I standing still? That's what I want to know. When poised on the deck of a departing ship, to the passengers it surely appears as though it's the shoreline which is receding, while the vessel remains immobile. And that's as good an interpretation as to be hoped for, if Occam's Razor is of any merit. Move over Einstein.

All these years later, I can still recollect things from the sixth grade, a couple incidents with particular clarity. First, the teacher was a Fascist, of that I'm confident. He did everything in his power to make sure students understood obedience first, only deigning to consider education thereafter (but, that was usually a contraindication, in the language of pharmacy). Moreover, he was probably a sexual predator in the making, a thought which crossed my parents' minds more than once as he expressed an interest in hanging around with my brother at the playground or inviting him over to his pad to listen to Frankie Laine records (come on, Mother and Father, that was a dead giveaway). I'm certain he enjoyed movies about gladiators. And then the way he harassed my good buddy Fake-Nose for an excess of flatus one day was unconscionable. I was overjoyed when my other childhood friend, Johnny Gilbert, heaved all over the teacher's desk one afternoon, whole stewed tomatoes commingled with kernel corn as I recall, splattering the leatherette grade book with a slimy mess worthy of Linda Blair's worst exorcism.

This is the same son-of-a-bitch who didn't cotton to me reading H. G. Wells' books in class. As a teacher, he was a filter, not a pump.

Anyway, as part of the usual Friday morning regimen, we, the students, would peruse our
Weekly Reader magazines, and then gather round the bulletin board on which the teacher had thumb-tacked a glossy, four-by-six poster illustrating various world events (fit for young acolytes). We learned to fear Red China, and that Khrushchev's smile was sorely misleading, and that America had been specifically coronated to help Viet Nam save itself from itself, a glorious cause any patriotic red-blooded citizen would long to die for.

Tangential thought: I  wonder how things would have been viewed if Ho Chi Minh had offered succor to Robert E. Lee?

Rather absentmindedly, the poster never told us of hippie chicks congregating in San Francisco, jiggling in the streets bare-chested, or what Dr. Timothy Leary was up to at Harvard creating such a stir, or that Wells' notion of "free love" was resurfacing, even in Iowa, but this time to a more appreciative audience.

The one thing we did get to learn halfway decently about was science, on the Weekly Reader glam-sheet pinned to the board. Cyclotrons (we had one on the Iowa State campus), the discovery of the 103rd element, Lawrencium, and the NASA Mercury missions to explore outer space: these and much, much more caught the collective attentions of the mini-adults circling the bulletin board each Friday. Except for Johnny who was looking distinctly queasy by now.

And then one day, the flashy and exceedingly glossy poster which mesmerized our tiny eyes described "the world of tomorrow." The theme was, what would the world be like when the year hit 2000? To a sixth-grader, that seemed so distant, that it wasn't even clear the world would exist by then; after all, the Soviet Union intended to bury us. Smacking shoes upon a U.N. desk made a big impression on us kids.


Can anyone imagine living that long! A new millennium, even if Jesus decided to sit this one out. It was pretty heady stuff for an eleven-year old punk to ponder. In a strange way, I really didn't think that I (or the world) would last long enough to see the calendar reset and start the decimal digits rolling over again from zero.

Between 1964 and 2000, the universe exploded within my miniscule cranium like you wouldn't believe. Expanded consciousness, reading, thinking, daring, performing, exploring, questioning, meeting, debating...a lot happened between then and then.

Not long ago someone claimed that I seemed pretty brave back in those days. Maybe. But given my temperament, whatever happened certainly was inevitable. That's what art does to a person. You want to raise an obedient kid, a docile perpetuator of the order? Then keep him or her away from De Sade, Crowley, Wilde, Ginsberg, the Fugs and certainly Steppenwolf! For that matter, Shakespeare is a particularly subversive influence.

I'm glad to have met those agents provocateurs back when it counted, even if it meant living a life in which love obeys the Dirac delta function.

Next installment: Pater 

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