Growing up in the 1970s seemed an impossibility thanks to social changes ushered in with or better put, by the Nuclear Age, which, with brutal and dispassionate poetic dispensation of psychic dissonance, manifested the most significant breakdown of the American Nuclear Family since the Spanish Influenza had in 1918 with its appetite for the middle aged. The biggest challenge was finding a way to be a child in a world that was in melt down and perpetually on the Eve of Destruction.
In the few weeks between July 16 and August 7, 1945 mankind had gone from a small group of scientists, politicians, and warriors with the knowledge and will to build and detonate a nuclear weapon to virtually the entire euphemistically named Civilized World having some sense of the Promethean gift Dr. Oppenheimer had bestowed on us. Man not being a creature endowed with enough forethought to temper the desire of having an Ultimate Weapon, began an arms race that quickly escalated from an ability to destroy entire cities in minutes to a faculty that previously had been exclusive to the divine: humans had the means to destroy the world.
The Arms Race needed to be marketed, or better put, propagandized and this is where the psychic dissonance is germinated. As the number and types of nuclear weapons in the world began to proliferate like chihuahuas giving birth to mastiffs but with the proclivity of rabbits, the government took diametrically opposed approaches: “The future is brighter and better in the nuclear age!” and “The Russians are coming!” A subtle blend of optimism and paranoia was just the elixir to get the masses in line with strategic Mutually Assured Destruction: MAD. I’m not one to give much credence to conspiracy theories, although I often formulate them, so I will just say that either by providence or design the novel medium of television came along, simultaneously distracting from that existential cacophony with its entertainments and rose-colored-glasses view of American life and reinforcing the paranoia with its News programming.
Eventually that schizoid messaging began to precipitate a subtle, nihilistic hedonism that resulted in a questioning of tradition and authority not seen since the Enlightenment: the Id and Superego playing the parental Ego and its authority against each other.Eventually, this evolved into a social upheaval. The divorce rate skyrocketed, Life Magazine asked on its cover in 1966 “Is God Dead?” as traditions were abandoned for more modern and expedient modes of everyday life as we went from”duck and cover” to “only the cockroach will survive.”
In earlier generations the extended family would have been present to pick up the slack in parenting but the housing boom combined with the revolutionary changes in American life found a shocking number of children being raised by the TV instead of grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins. The swirling edies of change in the real world often made the characters in TV shows the most consistent and positive relationships in the lives of these semi-orphans of the twin Social and Sexual Revolutions.
My earliest interaction with the TV, that I recall, was when I was around the age of two, in our one bedroom apartment. My mother had turned the black and white set off and the picture had shrunk to a tiny blue-white dot in the center of the screen, I walked up and pressed my eye against the fading light trying to see the people in the TV and imagining what they were doing when we weren’t watching. In the early 70s I had my first fantasies that involved having my own TV series, it was a cross between “Room 222” and “Medical Center” except that I had powers like Samantha in “Bewitched” (Why not? It was a fantasy!) The opening credits would show the skyline of a sunny, warm city by the sea then a flyover shot of a highrise apartment building as I stepped out onto my terrace, marvelling at the day’s beauty, then vanishing in a flash of light, I would appear in an identical flash wherever my friends, played by Karen Valentine, Diahann Carroll, and Leonardo Nimoy were, whisking them away on our adventures. Next: a sequence of flyover shots of us on a mountain top; in a desert; on top of the Eiffel Tower; at the bottom of the ocean. All of this was set to the music that I eventually was able to compose and record (a link to which is at the top of this page.)
In 1977, at the age of 14, I dreamt of that TV world after years of not really thinking much of it but that dream became a nightmare. As the flyover at the mountain top began, off in the distance was a flash and a mushroom cloud began to grow on the horizon. I wisked us away to the desert where there was another atomic blast, only closer, then to Paris where the Eiffel Tower was already collapsing and my friends were vaporized in the heat of yet another blast. I woke up screaming and scrambling to get out of bed, finally realizing I was awake, I began to cry so hard one would have thought I had lost real friends.
For years the psychic dissonance had been trying to break free of my subconscious, that is when it finally did, and I too began to question what was real; what was important; whether I wanted to live in a world that could see my friends vaporized over a false notion of moral, ideological, religious, and philosophical superiority.