It was astonishing. And most disconcerting.
Speaking at a women’s group at The Piedmont Club in downtown Spartanburg (well worth seeing for its gracious Victorian exterior, elegant interior and pancreas-inflating dessert table), it was a treat not only to have Paul come with me on this lovely occasion, but to be entertained ourselves by a truly talented vocalist group called The Corporation from a local high school. Into the room swept the girls in long, deep-blue gowns, followed by the boys in black shirts and ties.
To be honest, I thought it was going to be a little schmalzy, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken. They did a whale of a job with the current hit from Phillip Phillips, The Beatles and even a little “Satin Doll.”
The arrangements were fresh and original, and the audience was thoroughly charmed.
And then it happened.
After the program ended, I leaned over and said to Paul, “They’re so wholesome and clean-cut – it really gives you hope for the future, doesn’t it?”
Well, thank you, June Cleaver. Did I really say that? And worse, did I really mean that: making a judgment about the potential of a group of kids based solely on their bright complexions and neatly combed hair? That only they, and others who look as if they used to tour in the 1970s with the “Up With People” show, are capable of restoring America to some halcyon “Ozzie and Harriet” era that never truly existed, outside television?
What about the “longhairs?” What about the kids who, frankly, looked like me in high school, donning ripped blue jeans with frayed hems dragging in the dirt? The army of girls, well before sophisticated hair products (besides that silo of “Dippity Do” that used to sit next to the sink) who wore our long, lank hair, parted dead center like Marcia Brady, the backs of our wrists dabbed with a drop of the obligatory musk oil so that we walked around smelling like a Berkeley head shop? The boys with their pot-leaf belt buckles who ditched class to stand in line in hopes of scoring a ticket to an upcoming Led Zeppelin concert? Our parents were dismayed – nay, horrified.
But guess what? The great majority of those kids who used to sneak off to a local field with a bonfire and a keg party (so easy to get away with that sort of behavior before cell phones, texting and other tracking devices) have gone on to have happy and, dare I say, very suburban lives. I see a couple of them on Facebook now and then, posing with their grandchildren and taking funny selfies during their anniversary cruises to Grand Cayman.
So I apologize to The Corporation. I wish for you nothing but health and happiness. It won’t surprise me one iota if you all get into the colleges of your dreams and find good jobs, SUVs, homes, kids and rapidly swelling 401ks.
But I also hope you prove me wrong and consider backpacking across Europe with your friends, muse over opening a coffee bar in Prague, or fall recklessly in love and move to Austin, Texas, to begin an independent record label. You know, something that would leave June Cleaver speechless.
And if your parents and even your grandparents tell you that you’re crazy, just remind them that there was a time when they were also caught up in teen reverie, driving home from school with the windows rolled down (seriously, you had to physically do that with a crank inside the car) floating along in a dream as Robert Plant crooned to Jimmy Page’s mandolin:
“Made up my mind to make a new start, Going to California with an aching in my heart.
Someone told me there’s a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair ...”