January White Sale. Does anyone remember the january White sales, appliances, sheets, even clothing–anything white went on sale just after Christmas. I use to run the ad proofs to the retailers when I worked for an advertising department of a local newspaper. The proofs would come out wet from the printing press where many of the ads had been hand designed by placing block letters into small grooves that held the letters and the images flat and in place. Then the printer–a man in those days, not an electronic box that connects to our macs and pc’s –the printer would wet a roller with ink, run it over the lettering and then press a sheet of paper against the printing block and there you had the January White Sale Ad of the day.
I would quickly run the ad to the retailer and come back with corrections before the presses rolled…
But in this story it was not January. It just happens to be January while I am writing. Actually, it was November of 1963 and being in the newspaper world was exciting. Things were done in a timely fashion, people each had a job to do and with little consciousness toward efficiency, the jobs got done and the presses rolled everyday on time.
At that time news feed came into the news office through a large black metal box that looked a little bit like an old fashioned 1930’s console radio.That is me in the dark blue suit, skinny, serious, always polished because that is what my dad taught me to do before leaving the house. I think i must have thought I was Jimmy Olsen. And the guy who taught me everything managed the advertising office. His name was Dick Mc gee. Nicest guy–just promoted up from the job that I then held. He was always looking after me, telling me how to do the route so that I could get back before the dead lines..
I did everything by foot. I would drop off the ads, run to the next retailer drop off that ad and do that for as many ads as there were to be in the paper that day. Then I would start the loop again this time collecting the corrections. It took well over half the morning and I was always, always scared that I would not get back on time.
Well one day as things were going on as usual, news began to come through the ticker-tape. The President had been assassinated. I was stunned–it could not happen in my deluxe work, in the perfect early 60’s world where good was good and bad was bad and all was easily ascribed to either black or white–like the ink on paper. Not in our perfect world, but yes, right here in my world it was happening and I was among the first to know. Long before the T.V. started blaring every inch of the Dallas route and Mrs. Kennedy in her pill-box hat covered in blood in the back seat of a limousine convertible , would be he last first lady to ride so exposed.
It was the twin-towers of my generation, the shot heard around the world. It was a shot that changed everything. No one would ever be trusted in the same way again…the age of American innocence was as dead as our beloved President. The world was as right as it would ever be in my life time. We had a beloved democratic, catholic president. The Pope was human and eager to engage the world–they tried to assassinate him as well. I loved a woman that I would marry, I taught christian doctrine classes at the local church. I had the best family on the street and in the whole town, maybe.
Then it began to unravel, a dead president, a new president that was actually presented as Macbeth’s murderer–The war, the god-awful war that no one wanted and so many were coming home dead or just never to be heard from again. Black flags with large white letters P O W & M I A flew beneath all the american flags…
Jackie married a man just for his money–how bad was it going to get..then drugs and heavy metal music and sounds and smells melted into one big chaotic, big business, corporate america blur. It was finalized big corporations were being seen as bigger that the government and soon no one trusted anyone. Paranoia followed innocence right into a drug-induced haze of righteousness & shallow remedies. Literacy replaced with, Steal this Book. Saturday Night Live was the accurate news of the world, much like comedy centrals, Jon Stewart is the us today.
Then Martin was killed and finally Bobby–the last Great Hope of our generation–gunned down and his murdered gunned down right on our T.V’s, right there in our living rooms–side by side with Archie and Edith Bunker, the line between reality and the t.v. was blurred for good. News was nods to events–sound bites, with little to no substance and the schism began between the hippie, rebelling, gay- sex-loving, drug-rocking culture, and the rest of the world stuck in a a 1950 delusion that they refused to let go of, Archie the de-facto American hero.
It has never been the same, times were never so innocent again.
I am writing this short essay, because I want to include it in the final book of chapters that I want to publish. I want my history and the history that I know and read about to come together in some fashion. None of it need to be particularly real, it just need to be accurate to my truth. My individual perceptions that slowly gave way and yielded a personality, a career, a tortured man of many sorrows & a man hell-bent on grabbing the gusto. I knew that this was it. Life was all I had and that the only rules I needed were those found in my heart, or my gut.
Unfortunately, my heart and my gut spoke two very different languages and the gluttonous, greedy gut–got its fair share of living-in before I recognized that my heart also had a story to tell.
But that is for another chapter, another page in the history of bodily organs and their battle for dominance. Who would have guessed way back then when black & white and the 1950 deluxe model of everything was in its heyday, that all the shades of grey would ultimately be where the fight was fought and won or lost.