One of the very best things about the Internet is the way it makes possible the preservation and celebration of the ephemera of our culture—the intended-to-be-disposable stuff that used to disappear into attics, landfills, and/or oblivion before there was a place to put it. One celebrant I’ve been enjoying recently is Retroland. This week’s posts span a spectrum from the original McDonaldland cookies to KISS hype, including a promotional film for their 1978 movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. And I have mentioned Plaid Stallions before—a site whose mission is to relive the 70s one catalog page at a time. I find myself perpetually enchanted by some of the clothes people wore back then. The pink bell-bottom number here is strangely awesome, and I actually owned a turtleneck like this.
Retroland’s tagline is “You Are What You Were.” I like that a lot, even though I know it isn’t true. I may claim that in my head it’s still 1976, but I know I am not the same person I was in 1976—and thank goodness for that. The kid who lived through the unforgettable seasons of that year had no idea how much he didn’t know about life, and wouldn’t have listened if you had tried to tell him so. And when I get nostalgic about those wild nights in college, I forget that the kid participating in those wild nights was, at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, quite an asshole.
I suspect that all of us have been people we are glad to no longer be, even as we cling to the memory of having been those people.
I have, from time to time, gotten reacquainted with people I’d known since childhood but had been out of touch with for years. Generally, we discovered that the adult versions of ourselves were far more likable than the younger versions had been. Time had sanded away our most maddening qualities, but it had left much of the good in us intact.
So we are not necessarily what we were, no. If we’re lucky, we might still retain the best of what we were.
Coming tomorrow, we will, predictably enough, visit 1976 yet again. As an appetizer, here’s a song that was on the radio 35 years ago this week. It hasn’t changed in that time, but I have—and the song sounds a lot better to me now than it ever did back then. This video is another matter: It looks like it was shot through a lens covered in Vaseline and directed by Randy Meisner’s mom, but it’s a relatively rare opportunity to see—well, OK, mostly hear—the Eagles performing live in their prime.