Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

January 23, 2009

Time Passages

(Those of a certain age will note the Al Stewart reference. The rest of you, just carry on.)

Last week, my local newspaper reprinted a profile of Barack Obama first published in 1990, when he was at Harvard. I spotted "19 years ago" in the headline and did a double-take: surely 1990 can't be ... then I did the math. Yep, 19 years. So why does 1990 seem to me like it came and went sometime last week?

I can only conclude that middle age plays tricks with one's sense of time, or more accurately the passing of time. For me, the span between, say, 1970 and 1975 is huge, with so much happening so fast. I can rhyme off the changes I went through from one year to the next and cite parallel developments in music, politics, and sports. Conversely, I perceive anything from about 1988 onward as a monolithic chunk. If you want to know what has changed post-1988 and how quickly and dramatically, ask a 30-year-old; I can't see it at all. Even my most vivid episodes seem of a piece, thus blurring the distinction between one year and the next.

In a related development, at some point in my forties I awoke one morning and realized that this was no longer the era in which I grew up. Society had changed beyond recognition, and the values I held dear were quaint, archaic reminders of a gentler, more innocent age. (It's akin to that chill you get when you stroll past a TV set from your childhood in a museum.)

Anyway, my friend S. and I believe the world went mad around 1988, thus rendering subsequent events incomprehensible or insignificant. Example: why do most of today's rock singers—and by using the word "rock" I date myself—sound like whiny ten-year-olds? How could such an egregious faux pas have come to be trendy? There is but one explanation, kids: the world has gone mad.

My favourite year? 1971. Check out those chart-toppers and sock it to me!

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