dire straits ~ private investigations
why does the doctor have no face?
stones ~ sister morphine
The previous post cryptically noted that "since 1945, there has been a near complete cultural blackout." I was just beginning to think about this when I blogged that one-liner ten days ago. I've been thinking about it a lot more since. The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, defines "blackout" as follows...
While sense #1 may be where the term originated, it's senses 4 and 5 that mostly concern us here -- and maybe a bit of #3. I'm still not quite prepared to write about this, but the sources I've been collecting give some pretty good hints of where I'm headed...
One of the things that makes it difficult to write about the late 19th- and early 20th-century proclivity for occult spookiness, proto-fascist nationalism and bloodthirsty manifest-destiny-cum-eugenics-driven racism, is that Nazism -- one of the main branches of this family tree -- has largely been made into a laughingstock. Nazis are B-movie material, the stuff of wild-eyed conspiracy theory. If you poke around on Google, it's not hard to find innumerable restatements of the opinion that the very mention of Nazis renders any argument moot and destroys the credibility of the arguer forthwith. When I first started going down this road, in the back of my own head I heard: "Nazis? Come on, you can't be serious!"
But take another look at the outfits that published the books listed above: Yale, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Cambridge... However much your mileage may vary, we're not exactly talking Marvel Comics.
The truth is, before about a year or two ago, I never had any interest in Nazism. None. I've never had much interest in the standard-issue history of the 20th-century, and none in the 19th. Most of all, I've had zero interest in World War II, Hitler or anything to do with National Socialism. I'm embarrassed to admit it was only several years ago that I had to look up "Shoah" and "Holocaust" to get more than a vague sense of what those terms referred to. Antisemitism was a word, a concept, a problem once upon a time. Uh-huh, whatever.
I was active in CORE as a kid, like any self-respecting white boomer liberal, but racism -- if I ever knew anything about it -- was so... yesterday. I went to DC for the March on Washington, but when Martin Luther King was delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech, I was in bed with my girlfriend. We went down to the Mall late that afternoon and kicked through the leftover rubbish. Depressing. Also around that time, I ran into a book called Black Bourgeoisie. It said -- at least from my quick scan, I thought it said -- that what Black Americans really wanted was bigger cars, more color TVs, and a shot at white-collar middle-management jobs. Me, I thought what was "worth preserving" about black culture was drinking cheap wine on summertime stoops and playing Delta blues on beat-up guitars, maybe getting stoned on weed and catching the last set down at the Pythod Club at 2am.
The mostly middle-class Third [ward] had promise. To a large degree, it was a stable community whose residents owned homes and had good jobs. The Third ward was not all black. Some whites lived there; others visited, attracted by places like the Pythod Club, one of the best jazz spots in town. The club had a lot of tables jammed together, but whites crowded in alongside blacks and everybody felt comfortable. Nearby was a restaurant called Smitty's, whose barbecue was so much in demand that customers had to stand on line to await service. To sit down to eat, you took any chair available. In that New York deli-style setting, strangers black and white ate together and swapped stories of Smitty's barbecue sauce.That must have been written after my time, because when my friend Ivan and I went there, we were just about always the only white faces in the place. Smitty's, up on Clarissa Street, had more college kids from the University of Rochester across the river, so it was more of a mixed scene. I saw a guy in there one night musta weighed 300 pounds easy, with a lavender suit, a gold medallion the size of a saucer around his neck, a whore on each arm and two plates of fried chicken on the table in front of him. He wasn't no college student. Later, somebody pulled a gun. Still, it was hardly ever what you'd really call dangerous in that neighborhood back around 1965. But it suddenly got real dangerous one night about a year later and a dozen blocks away. Ivan was murdered by a couple white punks who jumped us in the "good" part of town when they mistook him for me. Yeah, a long story. Like the man said: in '65 I was 17. Running blind.
Anyway, the point of all that had something to do with Black Bourgeoisie, which was re-published in 1997 with the subtitle "The Book That Brought the Shock of Self-Revelation to Middle-Class Blacks in America." I guess it brought some kind of shock of revelation to me, too. After reading that damn thing, after Ivan got killed, I started doing a lot of acid and not giving a shit about much of anything. All I wanted was to move up to the country, baby, paint my mailbox blue.
I guess I have a certain warped perspective from another era at this point. I'm 58, which means I was born in 1947. A lot of strange things were happening that year -- none of which I ever thought about until I tried to figure out the bouncing baby bourgeois Buddhists and wannabe bhikkhus of Boulder. However, it was this "private investigation," as Dire Straits once put it, that got me very interested, and has led me to recently wonder why the Nazis America fought WWII against were as forgotten two years after that war ended -- by the year I was born, that is -- as, say, Osama bin Laden is today. There will be plenty more words on this score later on. In the meantime, here's a partial list of events from 1947 that says something I can't quite yet articulate about something important that happened back then. About how the blackout got started...
I realize it may seem a bit odd, but of all the items on these lists, the one that really stands out for me is the Woody Woodpecker entry. It was just that kind of year in what Franz Kafka once called Amerika.