Sunday, January 03, 2016


Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

As my hair now starts to turn grey, I feel very proud to be a part of one of America's greatest generations.  We came together - Black and White - to danced in the park as kids in dashikis, Afros, and with flowers in our hair, and we did our very best to make America live up to its professed ideals. We used to say, "Don't trust anybody over thirty" with their antiquated ideas.  Now we have children older than that.  The years have flown by like minutes, and now we're dropping like flies, but we showed the world how it was done.  We loved, we partied, and we raised hell.
 Where are those idealistic kids that we once were? I thought time was standing still and I would be young forever.  But time hasn't stood still. Now when I brush my teeth in the morning I'm looking at that crotchety old guy that I never took seriously as a youngster.  I thought I just missed  a "love-in," not forty years!!!    It's unreal, because I don't feel that way.  I'm still thinking the very same thoughts that I did in my twenties, and I've held up pretty well.  But now, with grey hair sprouting like Spring, and "my babies," whose jaws I so loved to kiss now in their forties, and my beautiful young wife that I loved so desperately in the grave, it says it all.  I now have grandchildren older than I was when my late wife and I fell in love.

But in spite of all that, sometimes I forget how the time has flown, only to be reminded by life in no uncertain terms, like when I run into young gangsters in the liquor store and they say, "What's happening OG (original gangster)?" Or like a couple of months ago when I noticed this gorgeous woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties staring at me in a restaurant. I have a woman so while I was flattered, I just nodded and smiled. But before she left, she turned around and started walking toward my table. As she was walking toward me I was thinking, "Wow, how am I going to get out of this gracefully?"  But when she got up to the table she said, "SIR, I really love your salt and pepper beard. It reminds me of my father's . . . before he died." I could barely hide my disappointment.  So life is telling me that I'm clearly no longer a kid, and I have more life behind me than I have to look forward to.  

Where has the time gone!!!?  I want a do-over!!!  I want to hear Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Dexter Gordon for the first time again. I want to hear Aretha singing "Skylark," and I want to turn on my radio to the voice of "Mr. Kicks, the Jammin' Jai Rich." I want Jimmy teaching me "BEAD" on the saxophone, and dazzling me with a flurry of 16th notes to "A Night In Tunisa," and Miles brooding to a lady name Stella on a sultry Summer night. I want Tollie Strode back to tell an impressionable teenager that "Excuses are the tools by which, with incompetence, we build monuments of nothing."  I want Malcolm back, and Martin, and Huey.  I want Rick Holmes, telling me it's "Rick's Affair, with the melodic, lyrical, powerful sounds of jazz." And I want my eyes to rest upon those proud young sisters walking in the park in mini skirts, with beautiful brown thighs, Afros, and hooped earrings again. I want to hear a young Don Carnelius saying, "You can bet your last money, it's gon' be a stone gas, honey,"  and I want to walk into a room and see a beautiful young woman's' eyes saying, "He might work."
I want all that back. I want to relive the sixties and seventies - but savor it this time, with the understanding that once it's gone, it can never be recaptured.  This time I won't take it for granted, I swear. But I guess that's what heaven is all about, playing a bad imitation of John Coltrane to congas and gyrating beauties in Griffith Park, and nurturing sweet dreams of what life holds in store.


Yes, I want all of that back, but that said, I take great pride in being a part of the greatest and most artistic and knowledgeable generation that America has ever known, and I'm proud to say that spirit continues to live in me.  We were a part of one another, and we continue to live in each other's soul.  Whenever I see a brother or sister whose hair is turning grey, I feel a very close kinship to them. I say to myself, "They were there, and we are one."
We were about love, and knowledge, and celebrating life. We were about anti-war, anti-bigotry, and people coming together, regardless of their race, creed, color or sexual orientation. We were engaged, and we held the establishment's feet to the fire. We forced a president to resign, ended mandatory conscription, demanded the end of a war, and we forced equality for women and minorities.  We had it together. The world had never seen anything like us before.

So I want to take this opportunity to say, well done Boomers. Yeah, we got a little high and raised a little hell at Woodstock and a jazz festival or two, but we had style, and intelligence, and we did ourselves proud. History will remember us fondly . . .  And just think, they tried to call us crazy.  America should be so crazy today.
But Boomers, we have a job that is yet to be completed. Those of us who are still around need to dedicate the rest of our lives to transforming America; our brothers and sisters who are now gone expect it of us.  So let us keep the flame burning, and not let them down.


Receding hairline, failing vision,
hair now turning grey,
an aging boomer in final protest,
Father Time his foe this day.
Donning his headband, tie-dyed jeans,
and scorched draft card of protests past,
he set out for one last battle,
as in his youth that had quietly passed.
Ode to an aging Boomer,
a different kind of man;
colleagues all now in the wind,
as he makes his final stand.
But he found no placards or the sound of Trane,
no passionate speeches in the gentle rain,
no pretty girls wearing mini skirts,
and no solemn guards on pig alert.
All he found was a new America,
and more freedom across this land;
the fruit of his struggle
for women's equality,
and the rights of his fellow man.
He found Martin, Chavez, and Malcolm X,
all standing by his side;
He found Thomas Jefferson
and all his forefathers
beaming down with pride.
He found minority children across this land
whose reach now exceed their grasp;
He found Jim Crow angrily cursing him,
as he takes his final gasp.
He found pride as an aging boomer,
more hero, than common man;
He found a quirky old fart embraced by history,
for having the courage to take a stand.
Alone, an aging Boomer,
fellow travelers now in the wind;
but one last time he limps to his trench,
to defend his fellow man.

Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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