Disclaimer: Maudlin & Sentimental Drivel
I am attached to the beauty of what is old, not Greek old (although I do love Greek history) but old for the new Mod. Old for the 20 somethings and the 30 somethings. There is comfort in hearing someone order a Manhattan. For most those days are gone but my generation is the last to probably have experienced it, the last to know, not first hand but second hand. Our parents and grand parents lived it. Even then there were popularity contests, all kinds of social issues and the evil residue of the Victorian years (there were some great things about that time too). Love it or hate it, the 40’s and even the 50’s had something which is now only a memory. The following sea of what Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation is all I have and it is majestic to me. Manners.
In the 80’s we tried to mimic it in fashion, in the 90’s we tried to mimic it in music (it wasn’t all Grunge) but the clothes or the sound do not a polite society make. In the 40’s the majority of people looked nice and acted nice. They acted good. They believed in goodness. There was honor. Yes, yes there was thievery and depravity but nothing like the level we see today. Not anymore. No more. No more manners, no more polite society. And I don’t mean separation of classes, I mean the act of being polite.
I have a safe haven of another time. A restaurant that is old but not exploited by the hip. Phyllis Diller walks in the door wearing a mink stole which perhaps is fake, but it doesn’t matter. I hope its real. The faux wood seems real, the waiters are polite and gracious. They treat her like a lady. She is a lady. A lady who saved my childhood with her zany humor. I want to gush over her but I won’t. I want to cling to what was good about every generation. I want to embrace polite society but it does not exist anymore. There is no respect for different opinions, different lifestyles, you must agree with society (some things never change) or be ostracized. Of course now if you are religious, you are ostracized. Why is it okay for Bill Maher to bash religion in any form but it’s not okay to be Christian? How did a soulless man like that become the arbiter of intelligence?
I keep telling myself that clinging never solves anything so I drift and enjoy the timelessness of this place. The doors will close forever one day or some stupid hipster will attempt to make money on something that was once real; but by faking it with the young and beautiful it will never rise to what it once was. The new young adult was not raised with manners, they were raised to take what they can get and have a massive chip on their shoulder. The world owes me! Only thinking about what they can get.
Keely Smith lulls me back to my happy place, back to safety. Frank Sinatra tells me that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but I’m not afraid. I feel safe and cared for by ghosts. The other patrons have known life 40 or 50 years longer than I. They have suffered and they know. They have been through wars that were not documented on Twitter or by a text. They were proud to be from whatever country they served. Their wars touched everyone. Everyone. It wasn’t a soundbite war. Even if you did not believe in the fight, you stood by your country.
An 80 some odd year old man sits with his companions at the table next to me. He sips his Manhattan quietly while another, younger man (late 70s) goes on and on about himself. Is he Russian, South African, German? Hard to tell. He boasts about his life, the good, the bad, and the atrocious while the other man eats and drinks quietly. The elderly woman with them is coquettish and polite claiming she knew nothing about anything, and that she had been raised in San Jose. The middle-aged woman (perhaps a daughter) attempted to make polite conversation saying she knew a Russian, etc., when really she should have just sat back and listened. That was all the blatherer wanted. Yet it was still a polite time.
The stories at this restaurant are not stories you will hear at the hippest eateries in Los Angeles, etc. In my opinion, there are no interesting stories to be heard at the places which you are made to think are fascinating. Those places are the true morgue’s. Where I sat was a living and vivacious place, full of the history that once was a beautiful nation, now a nation everyone seems hell-bent on bashing and being ashamed of. All the good our ancestors have done is being erased and only their mistakes are held high on poster boards of those that believe in nothing. It is acceptable to say you do not believe in love, God, women, men. Now you are meant to be angry about everything, distrust everything, have no tolerance for anyone. Never speak the truth, never admit to frailty, to being human- the show must go on at all costs.
I know I’m not making a lot of sense but I hope you get my “drift”.
One of my favorite movies is The Best Years Of Our Lives by William Wyler. Made in 1946, it is the story of 3 soldiers returning home from World War II and their struggle to enter civilian life again. It is a struggle happening right now with our soldiers returning home from Afghanistan but you don’t hear too much about them do you? Of course our Vietnam Vets were forgotten as soon as their feet touched American soil. But I’m going off on unintended tangents. I love Wyler’s movie because it describes a time in the United States with a clarity I can understand. I know it’s only a movie and I know it wasn’t all rosy and perfect but I’m being sentimental at the moment.
My heart breaks a bit while I sip my gin martini and sit quietly in a dark corner of a tiny place stuck in time. June Christy will escort me to my car, pat me on the back and wish me well as I go back into our self-indulgent world. I try to keep their songs in my heart but the meat dress wearing new generation will beat me down eventually and I guess that its okay. I want nothing to do with what is now.
- Louis Prima, Keely Smith And ‘That Old Black Magic’ (npr.org)
- The Children’s Hour – William Wyler (mrmovietimes.com)
- The Westerner (mrmovietimes.com)
- Dodsworth – William Wyler (mrmovietimes.com)
- The fool, the fools….by his friends you know him (sluggerotoole.com)