Mr. Nostalgia seems harmless, and in small amounts, he is. But he can be hazardous, too. If we let him get a grip on us, he will persuade us that our lives were once over the top with endless total fun and vast joy, everything was great, and that our lives now are pitiful by comparison, and can never be even close to what bliss and splendor they used to be. Now that's not realistic, and does not describe the past or the present realistically and fairly. We tend to forget bad times, or as much as we can, and exaggerate good times, at least a little. We can say Sunny Hills in the old days was Paradise, a Heaven on Earth. But no matter who you were, that's not quite true, People still died or got sick sometimes, and teenagers had broken hearts. Sometimes a dog you loved would get hit by car and die, or your best friend and her family would move to Massachusetts and you'd never see her again. So we have to be careful and not get carried away. Mr, Nostalgia is tricky. (Oh, yes, you are!) Sometimes when we feel blue, he will tell us whoppers and we might believe them. We'll feel like the meaning of our lives evaporated years ago! So untrue. We know how you operate, Mr. Nostalgia. You can stay, but you have to behave yourself. All right? Memories and history are one thing, all blended together, but nostalgia is kind of dangerous,
Now that we have that cleared up, we can indulge in a little nostalgia, or even a lot if you want. We know what we're doing and we won't be fooled. We're in the driver's seat with our seat belts fastened,
Here we go!
REMEMBER when we could just drop in on our friends and it was OK? We didn't have to phone first, or make an appointment, or get permission or be ashamed. We could go over to this friend's house and if he wasn't home, we'd probably chat with his mom a while and then take off. We used our common sense and tried to be considerate, We'd go to the next friend's house and her mom would say she was in out in back, talking to her girlfriend, You could tell in a few seconds if you were welcome or not, and act accordingly. Maybe you could sit down and join them, go for lunch at Hillside or even cruise down to the beach. Or maybe the friend would have something she wanted to talk about with the first trend, and after a minute you would use your tact and beat it. Plenty more friends to see. That was spontaneous and warm, almost like a big family. You'd meet a lot of people or get to know them better if your friend was busy, or working down at the Snack Shop, or even swimming over at a big jerk's house. Her dad might be a great guy who served in North Africa during the war and actually knew Ernest Hemingway or Dodger manager Walter Alston in his old hometown. He'd tell you about it, or he might describe the time he saw Winston Churchill for a second in London, 1944, or when he danced with Ann Sheridan ("The It Girl") at the Hollywood USO in 1943 and she gave him a sweet peck on the cheek afterwards, Or your friend's older brother might be on his way to check out some new records at Wallach's Music City in Hollywood and ask you if you wanted to come along. Sure! Anything could happen. Maybe your friend's mom would mention she went to USC (or Stanford or Kansas or NYU or U of Utah) when your own mom did, and you ask her and she'd say: "Bunny Snodgrass was your mother? SHE WAS IN.MY SORORITY! A darling little red head with dimples and a cute figure! BUNNY SNODGRASS! Bunny from San Leandro! We used to loan each other clothes!" What a coincidence. Or maybe she went to Berkeley where you planned on applying and she might tell you about a detail you never knew, and you'd decide not to. Another girl might stop by to see your friend and you'd never really me her. The two of you would click right away. WELL, BY THE TIME WE WERE SENIORS, THAT ERA OF DROPPING IN STARTED TO PETER OUT. If you called certain girls or stopped by where they lived, and suggested something, they say: "Hold on while I look at my appointment book!" [45 seconds pass. Then she comes back and says -- ] "I can't make it! We're going see my great aunt in Glendale -- she's was in a movie with Rudolph Valentino once but she was too tall, so she married a kid she went to LA High with, a lifeguard at Venice and a Marine in the Pacific, and they owned a pet shop in Highland Park for 40 years. She's a blast! Could we make It Tuesday, maybe?" And more and more people had jobs they were serious about, or they started going steady, even got engaged. You could still drop in on a few people, but soon some went away to a different college from you, we drifted apart and added new friends. Quite a few guys joined the service and some went to Vietnam. A few of those came home, but not to Fullerton -- to San Jose instead or Denver to Dallas or Seattle. Little by little friends got married and GONG! BOING! GONG! RING! DING! That was the Death Knell of dropping in, because you couldn't exactly drop in on your best buddy when his wife had twins two months ago, or your sister's best friend who was 8-1/2 months pregnant and just wanted to eat and sleep. Not if your old baseball buddy married a really nice girl, but she just wanted their privacy and didn't approve of friends who "just stopped by. You had to call and ask. It really wasn't practical any more --- a couple might be DOING SOMETHING -- and now we were adults with responsibilities and commitments. If you were lucky, you might have one really close friend you could still drop in on, and his wife would say, "Oh, hi, Melvin. Bruce is out in the garage. Can you stay for dinner?" But It was a lot of fun white it lasted.
Ever go to somebody's house and knock and knock and ring the bell and pound on the door, but nobody answers? You really want to see the people so you stand there waiting, You wonder where hey might be, or if they might possibly be passed out from drinking strong tequila, or f they're upstairs doing the Wild Thang, or listening to the radio out back turned up too loud to hear you? Or maybe sleeping even this early because he got back this morning from driving in straight from Milwaukee no rest? [KNOCKKNOCKNOCK] Nothing, Do you hear a cat? Probably not. Possibly. But they don't have a cat. 30 seconds pass, Have the neighbors called the police because you look like prowler? You notice they have a small "widow's window", I think they call them -- a small window about the size of a pack of Luckies, with a tiny door. But It would be rude open it and peek inside. It's almost time for dinner and you're starting to get hungry, ANSWER THE DOOR, DAMN IT! Hey! Cool down and relax, Another 30 seconds pass, You realize it's rude to stand here waiting this long when they obviously don't want to answer the door, if they ARE home. (You feel like SUCH A DOPE!) Well .. what the heck? Just for second. You check to make sure no one is watching ,, and you open the little door and it's dark, but your eyes adjust and THEN YOU SEE JOANIE, KARIN, ANNETTE, NANCY or CLARICE 4 feet away in a raggedy old nightgown and she's not wearing a ,, anyway .. SHE SEES YOU AND SAYS, "HOLD ON, FRED! HI! I'VE GOT THE FLU AND .. " [she opens the for and squints in the sunlight -- "JACK'S WORKING LATE C'MON IN, BUT WATCH OUT! DON'T HUG ME! WHAT'S UP?" She's obviously sick, pale as a sheet, kind of green aT the gills and feeling crabby but straining to be polite YOU FEEL LIKE THE KING OF THE JERKS! Why didn't you turn around and walk away after the first series of knocking?
You stand half outside and ask her if there's anything she needs or you'll be on your way and you're sorry. She yawns and looks like she's going to throw up. "No, I don't think so, You can stay a while --" You apologize again, wish her well and start off. She calls out, "I'll tell Jack you were here!" but her voice fades as reach for your car door, get in and scram. You feel like the lowest mass murderer at Alcatraz on a cold, rainy morning. You'll never live this down ..
Yes, once or twice. [sigh]