So They Call This Progress

I am approaching the end of this journal. The ideas of my relationships or my nights out until the early hours of morning and the roads I’ve taken are an outline of my life. I suppose this journal will be limited to a few more entries, which means I have to plan for what’s ahead of me now. 

As I write this, we are approaching the end of the year. We are a few days short of Christmas in New York City. We are a few days away from the big ball dropping in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The year will be 2022, which sounds crazy to me because I was born in 1972 and the ideas of the year 2000 were much different from what we thought it would be.

This time of year is special to me. In part, this is a sad time but in part, this is a time when I remember where I came from and what I’ve done. This is the time when I remember the loss of The Old Man. This is when I think about our yearly tradition on New Year’s Day on the beach at Point Lookout. This is also a time when I reflect on what I’ve done over the last year.

It’s a new world out there. I swear, it’s hard to recognize anything after the pandemic. Nearly two years have gone by and where are we? What are we doing? 
I often wonder if any of my oldest relatives who died long ago would recognize the world if they came back and saw it today. What would they say? What would they think about the technology? What would their faces look like if they sat in a zoom meeting or saw the computers we use?

I remember being a small boy and on a ride called Walt Disney’s The Carousel of Progress. I remember the song that went on throughout the ride.
“There’s a great, big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. There’s a great, big beautiful tomorrow, just a dream away.”
The idea was to inspire hope and show the brilliance of our inventions.

I don’t know what I thought the year 2021 was going to look like. I don’t know if I imagined flying cars or whether we would be living in space stations and become so entwined with technology. 
I am part of a generation before the great technology boom. I had a rotary phone. My home was humble and our use of the television in the den was certainly a part of our lives. There was no such thing as call waiting. There were no cell phones back then. Car phones were mainly a new approach to communication. Beepers and pagers were popular. Admittedly, at some point, I had a pager too.

There was more to life than games or gaming, which is not to say that we didn’t have video games as kids. We had them too. Of course, the graphics were less fancy. I had a computer when I was a kid. It was called a Commodore 64, which was mainly a useless machine that I never knew how to use. There was no internet back then. There were no flash drives either. We had floppy discs. I played a few games on it and to be honest, I even had a strip poker game on it, which means even then, computers were involved with something dirty.

Know what else we had?
We had the outdoors. We had places to go, things to do and people to see. We had playgrounds and basketball courts. We met up. We had record stores where they sold albums and cassette tapes. I bought posters for my walls in places like this. 

My generation talked more. There was no texting or emailing. People called and left messages on an answering machine. Then again, I never had an answering machine until I was older. The phone just rang if no one was home. There was no social media. There was no such thing as cyber bullying.
And sure, there was plenty of bullying when I was a kid. The difference is when it comes to technology, bullying can go worldwide within seconds, all due to a click of a button.

I wonder if this is a generational idea but perhaps it’s been this way forever. Each generation is told by the ones before theirs about what it was like to be a kid “In my day.”

I think about that ride, The Carousel of Progress.
I think about the first time The Old Man brought home a microwave. I think about our very first VCR, or wait; no, I can remember a video camera that we had for home movies. This was a huge machine. It was somewhat heavy and clumsy. And here I am, decades later. I am writing to you from a small laptop computer with a video camera for my zoom meetings and WebEx presentations. I have a camera on my cell phone and the entire contraption with all my contacts, records, pictures and albums weighs less than 8 oz.

I don’t know what I thought my life would look like as I approach the 50 mark. It’s strange to me because I have seen people grow from young to old. I have watched the adults in my life become the elderly. And again, I wonder what my oldest relatives would think of the world we live in now. I wonder what they would think about our carousel of progress. Or wait, would they see this as progress at all? Would they tell us that we were going the wrong way? Maybe they would. Maybe they wouldn’t.

I remember The Old Man telling me to go outside and stop wasting my time in front of the television.
He’d say, “All that television is gonna turn your mind into mush.”
I often drive by empty playgrounds. I see the swings that only move because the breeze moves them. I see empty slides. I see unused seesaws and this makes me wonder.
Whatever happened to building model rockets and blasting them off into the air?
Does anybody do that anymore?
Do kids still build clubhouses?

Whatever happened to going outside?
Where are all the kids?
Are they free to roam their neighborhoods anymore?
Is this progress?

I go back to that song from The Carousel of Progress. “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, just a dream away.”
I think we had better dreams than this. But I’d like to hope that there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow.
I’d like to think that somehow, we can move through this pandemic experience and be closer than ever before.

It’s just a dream away.


One thought on “So They Call This Progress

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