Jewish World ReviewJan. 14, 2004 / 20 Teves, 5764
The Second Greatest Generation
Friends keep telling me, "Phil, you need a cell phone."
But I don't. I really don't.
Sometimes I think back to my formative years; not only did we not have cell phones, we did not have pagers, answering machines, computers, TV remotes or airesol cheese. In fact, looking back on it, we are lucky to be alive. Life for my generation (I was born in 1964) was so frought with peril that our parents should have birthed litters of hundreds of us, like baby turtles, just so one would live to reach adulthood.
As babies, we teethed on chips of lead-based paint that peeled from our cribs.
We had no child-proof lids, doors, cabinets or anything else. As toddlers, we crawled around, sampling cleaning solutions and
playing with loaded pistols we found in closets.
We rode our "Bigwheels" without a helmet and when we crashed we bled profusely.
We rode in cars without seatbelts, airbags or air-conditioning; sucking down a mixture of carbon monoxide and second-hand Lucky
Strike smoke as Mom and Dad puffed cigarettes and swilled alcohol in the front seat.
We subsisted almost entirely on sugar; Frosted flakes, pop tarts, sodas, candy bars, Twinkies, Hohos, Zingers, Doodads,
We drank water from garden hoses and bathroom taps... and LIVED!
We ate red meat and lots of it. And we did not give a tinker's damn whether the cow we devoured was "free ranging" or what kind of
life it had.
We had only one video game, Pong, a single ball bouncing back and forth. And we were glad to have that one ball! There were no
Playstations, no Nintendo. We actually went OUTSIDE and rode bikes, and played kick ball and dodge ball and "smear the queer"
and other violent, potentially deadly games. Sometimes, competition got so heated that two kids would fight. And after punching
and kicking each other for a while, they would go home, and no one would come back with a gun and "pop a cap" in anyone's "-ss."
Lawyers were never inolved.
In school, there were dumb kids. Teachers called them "slow." They did not have a medical excuse, they were not "bi-polar," nor did
they have "A.D.D.," they were just "D.U.M.B.."
As we reached early adulthood we learned about beer and driving at the same time.
We danced in discos and wore dangerously tight polyester pants and platform shoes so tall that falling from them could be fatal.
We had unprotected sex with chunky middle-aged women we met at Johnny's Hideaway.
We rode amusement park rides on qualudes and slurped jello shots like candy.
Though we were too young for Vietnam we did survive "Watergate," the comet "Kahoutec" and the ugly "Milli Vanilli" scandal.
We did not fight the Nazis but we did fight Herpes, AIDs and a rather lengthy baseball strike.
We were the last generation of Americans taught that we were accountable for our actions. We win or lose because of the choices
we make. Failure, for us is not a "disease," it is our own FAULT.
We get no parades. Tom Brokaw could not care less about us. We are the second greatest generation.
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JWR contributor Phil Perrier is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comic.
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© 2003, Phil Perrier