As far back as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the 1960s. The immortal music being made and released on a weekly basis. The social and political rebellion for a better tomorrow. The wild fashions and unique styles. The shiny muscle cars. The groundbreaking films about the counterculture and shifting perceptions of America and the greater good. I’m all about it. Count me in.
A lot of that adoration for the 1960s is a direct result of my parents. My mother? She was a flower child who had a “Leave It to Beaver” childhood, only to become a political activist when she entered college in 1966. My father? He was a 1950s football jock, who entered the Army just at the Vietnam War heated up with American involvement. My mother loved The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rascals and Sly & The Family Stone. My father preferred George Jones, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughn.
So, needless to say, I soaked all of this in as a youngster. The music of the 1960s was always on the house or car stereo. Both would tell my little sister and I stories about growing up in that time. I began reading books about the 1960s, wearing tie-dye shirts to elementary school, blasting The Grateful Dead and watching any film or documentary I could about the Vietnam War, the social/political counterculture or whatever else could better inform me of the era.
But, as you get older, you start to realize how ridiculous it is to think about “how much better” your life would be if you grew up in another decade. You tend to forget all of the social issues and travesties of the past, and how, in all honesty, we’re becoming a more socially tolerant and politically progressive country every year. Believe it or not, the facts speak for themselves.
Nowadays, I want to — and do — apply what I feel was important and worth fighting for in the 1960s, the spirit of the time and of the people, and to use that knowledge and passion to bring positive change to my current time on this planet.
That thought of appreciation for where I am now, and what change I am capable of creating, really stuck in head when I first saw the film “Midnight in Paris.”
The beloved 2011 Woody Allen indie film focused on “Gil,” an American writer obsessed with Paris, France. To him, that city is the only place where you can turn that romanticized vision of an American exile writing “The Great American Novel” into a reality. For Gil, as a 21st century individual, he wished to have lived in Paris in the “Roaring 1920s.”
Gil: “This is unbelievable. Look at this. There’s no city like this in the world. There never was. I don’t get here often enough, that’s the problem. Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain? Imagine this town in the ‘20s. Paris in the ‘20s, in the rain. The artists and writers.”
In the surrealistic film, Gil finds himself time traveling back to 1920s when the clock strikes midnight on his casual late-night strolls around the streets of Paris. In that time warp, he befriends and falls into love with Adriana.
At one point in their interaction, while Gil immerses himself in his fantasy, the two of them stand in front of a turn-of-the-century carousel. And though Adriana lives in the 1920s, she looks at the antique machine in utter awe, stating: “Isn’t it beautiful? It’s my favorite era. I love it so much, everything was so perfect.”
Soon after, the duo ends up in another time warp: Paris in the 1890s. Adriana is all excited. They then discuss what is “The Golden Age”? Gil feels “The Golden Age” is Paris in the 1920s, while Adriana feels it’s Paris in the 1890s. Gil: “Adriana, if you stay here though, and this becomes your present, then pretty soon you’ll start imagining another time was really ‘The Golden Time.’ That’s what the present is — it’s a little unsatisfying, because life’s a little unsatisfying.” This is when Gil has his own epiphany about his 21st century existence.
I take what I watched in that film and add it to the saying, “nothing’s the same, everything’s the same.” Sure, we do evolve as a species and as a society. But, at the core of daily reality, the common themes of the human condition throughout the centuries tend to remain the same, just the playing field looks different.
That said, I remain an eternal optimist. The pendulum swings in either direction at any given time. Things are bad, something getting worse before they get better. But, with the timeless unbreakable human spirit of good defeating evil, the course of history shifts back towards progress and change. And as I write this, it’s Tuesday. Election Day. I hold out hope for the future. Change will come, and all for the better.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Celebrate Veterans Day with live music during the second annual “Sunday at the Opry” at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Colonial Theater in Canton.
2 Anne Fitten Glenn will hold a book signing from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Satulah Mountain Brewing in Highlands, and also a presentation at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva.
3 Western Carolina University will present a program to commemorate the ending of World War I on campus Friday, Nov. 9.
4 Americana/folk act The Maggie Valley Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Currahee Brewing in Franklin.
5 “Grids & Gradients: The Visual Systems of Vernon Pratt” will run through Nov. 9 in the Bardo Arts Center at Western Carolina University.