The Ramblings of a Gen Xer

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Recapturing The Sweet Bird of Anthem

On Monday, it was ripping sounds and lyrics:

They're piling in the back seat.  They're generating steam heat.  Pulsating to the back beat. The blitzkrieg bop

By Sunday it was a group from Ireland reflecting civil war:

And the battle's just begun.There's many lost, but tell me who has won? The trench is dug within our hearts. And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart 

The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop. U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday. The Cure's Head on the Door. Echo and the Bunnymen's Killing Moon, and many more. These were the Sweet Birds of Gen X youth anthems that moved and made sense to me. They were the angst. They were the songs that echo rebellion. They were the songs that defined, designed and defied in my youthful mind. 

By the time the "Jesus Years" rolled around (the Jesus Years is the time from age 30 to 39 in which a young adult professes who they are and what their calling is, or have a good sense of it), these anthems were forgotten, or, worse, the idea of having anthems to reflect time and space wasn't adulting now. If one had anthems during these times, they were generally background noise, heard over the radio, or retro-fixes with now-warped mix-tapes of the"good ol' shit" found at the bottom of moving boxes played over the now-out-of-date cassette player. 

But these were now serious times. Some of us got married and had children. Some of us took well-paying jobs that retired our rock 'n' roll dreams. Some of us moved away and started a new identity elsewhere. All of us became adults, and, by doing so, we began to discover ourselves through these professions. These testimonials now became who and what we are: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11). So our Sweet Bird of Anthems we paraded around to in our youth, were now put away in the discovery of our adult selves. 

As Gen Xers started moving closer to the Jesus Years exit signs, our lives began to show a different direction we were heading towards. Those married were now divorced and single parents struggling to make ends meet. Those who took well-paying jobs burned out and ended up opening up small businesses. Those who moved away came back home,  but nobody remember who they were, so they had to restart another new identity.  Our confessed professions were just that. Professions. We professed, but it was not who we thought we were. Those childish ways: disillusioned, angst-filled, rejecting of status quo, mistrusting, cynical of establishments, and dystopian, weren't thrown out but laying at the bottom of the moving boxes with the mixed-tapes. 

But did our old anthems to get us through it? We loaded our iPods with them, but, unlike the Boomers who live in denial and nostalgia, the music didn't resonate anymore.  Sure the music reflected the childish ways, but the feelings were now seasoned with adulthood. It wasn't hard to figure it out. The music of our Gen X youth wasn't relevant to us anymore. 

Sad ending? Oh hell no. The Blank Generation is a resourceful and creative lot. We started finding new anthems that reflected our lives. We expanded our tastes in music and found different artists that were writing songs and lyrics relatable to our current situations. With songs like Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell's Outfit: 

You want to grow up to paint houses like me.  A trailer in my yard till you're twenty three.  You want to be old after forty two years. Keep dropping the hammer and grinding the gears

Green Day's X-Kid: 

I once was old enough to know better, man, but I was too young to care. Many cares, probably would, but Hollywood is dead and gone.

We were reunited with the love of making soundtracking to our lives. Like those days with SONY Walkmans with cassette mix tapes, we once again walk around with our indestructible iPods jacked in with non-wireless ear plugs listening to the music we understand in our now middle-age lives. And understand with conviction because we sought it out on our own. 

Gen Xers aren't those dweebs driving around in a convertibles blasting Bob Seger, or the tuned-out texting hipster poser with wireless earplugs. Gen Xers are spottable because we are the ones in deep-thought, walking at a slacker with purpose pace, creating our own real-time private videos through the music blasting in our headphones. 

Yes, we've digitalized our mix tapes and listen to the "oldies" as well. I mean there's nothing like a cut from the Ramones' Pleasant Dreams or Clash's Sandinista! to start the day off. But we've learned to not live in the music through nostalgia but by appreciation of these musicians and their contribution to not only the music world but to our own lives. They did help shape us. They did give meaning in a world that didn't give a rat's ass about us (and still doesn't). They were an anthem for our youths, and we were proud of that sound. 

But here we are, 21st Century, and, ironically, the institutions have still let us down. Social establishments have still failed us. The world has gotten more cynical and more dystopian since we were 21. We may have had to put aside some of those childish ways due to adulting, but what we didn't give up on was the love of music and how it plays an important part of our lives. Because, as children and now adults, music is all we have to help us understand the world around us no matter if it was 1984 or 2020. 

And that is how Gen X recaptured the Sweet Bird of Anthems. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Latchkey Kids of Middle History

So here we are in another worldwide crisis. We, the proud members of the Forgotten Generation,  look at our surrounding, our environment and decidedly cope. We are the generation that has been through our own world crisis of a day when the towers fell and the world stood shocked, terrified of a new end and a new beginning.

But we made it. How?

Because, as always, without parents to comfort us, burned out teachers who didn't instructed us or a world that didn't give a rat's ass about us, we were force to take in the chaos and figure out what to do about it. Go mad? Take drugs? Or make it into something creative. Most of us chose the latter. It's what Gen X does best. Cope. I wrote this as a reflective piece before the this health crisis. Let it rise as a coping mechanism of this forgotten generation found sandwiched between two dumpster fire generations. 


Fuck this and fuck that 

A latchkey generation told the future was golden, paved by the luminary Cultural Revolutionaries, the promise of a New Brave American, to us, the orphans of mid-life century crisis parents. As we sat there alone on Fourth of July Christmas Day ready to open that shimmering box of wrapped hope, anticipation building, we finally tore into the bows of promise, ripping through the ribbons of renewal, the wrapping papers of yesterday and got to that sealed box.

We carefully opened it as not to to slice our fingers on the edges, pulled back the tissue and what did we see?

An empty plain white box.

“Mom?” We shouted. “Dad”. We futilely whispered. “What’s with the fucking empty box?” We said to anyone who was listening.

The empty plain white box became the world around us.

We saw the Children of the Revolution vote for Trickle Down Economics. We saw rivers on fire and nobody cared. We read stories, took in films about dystopia then watched a world become it. We witnessed a plume of a radioactive cloud cover Eastern Europe. We’ve endured two embarrassing impeachments. We saw the lemming followers of the Jonestowns, the Wacos rise and fall time and time again.

We saw a Promise for All become All for the One Percent. 

And this made us very pissed.

Heyyyy, we fucked this all up for you! 

But nobody listened to a rabble rousing bunch of skateboarders, punks and anarchists playing Dead Kennedys full volume. “Get a job”. They shouted at us. “Can’t. You Boomers got them until retirement.” We retorted. And so the Boomers just apathetically shrugged us off as irresponsible and unimportant driving off in their luxury imports to the bright sunset of 21st Century retirement.

So, we got jobs as waiters, retail clerks, telemarketers until brave ones decided to create something of their own. Some opened their own restaurants, retail stores, technology driven industries; these businesses became backbones of community economic renaissance while others went on to create a world of online supply and demand.

Some just faded away broken by this failed "Promise".

With Love from the Author 

But those latchkeys kids of Gen X who made it out alive, we’re still pissed. We just happen to be a tad more restraint about it now. Don’t get us wrong, we will not hesitate smacking someone who calls us Boomer and is on constant stand-by with a lighter and gas can. Yeah, we’re pissed off, have to, because that’s what fuels our reactors.

The latchkey kids aren’t alright, never will be, but we’ve carved out a helluva generation for ourselves that can deal with whatever shitshow is thrown at us.