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Jnana Hodson

Each elementary teacher they had said the same thing: "Yours is the worst class I've ever had. Something's wrong with you." First grade. Second grade. Sixth grade. When did it end?

"With us?" Look around.

Couldn't they see, D.L.'s was the first class born with the set on? The first kids with that constantly in the background, and often dead in front of them? Nobody had warned anyone, or even prepared them. Or the children. All, at the crest of a vast uncharted social experiment.

It wasn't enough to be born in the shadow of World War II. There was motion in Korea, presaging Viet Nam: Red Menace everywhere.

The screens were gray, rather than silvery. Dirty snow, gunpowder, ghostly fallout. Couldn't anyone see, Howdy Doody was anything but guileless, a masked Pied Piper waiting to be paid. Follow the Lone Ranger. Even Tonto, into a sunset. A nuclear holocaust sunset.

By mid-twentieth century, finding anything that comes without cost was difficult. Free resources, like clean air and pure water, diminished daily. Thank technology and booming population. Look closer and see that even human sacrifice continued.

Wise, seasoned guides were almost totally relics. Even books failed to fill the role of elders, as they had for a generation: no, the black-and-white set now pointed the way. It was both priest and household altar. (Their own children have another round of gods to worship: color MTV, personal computers, videotape, DVD. But do they have a revolution to execute or uphold? Or merely zoombie?) (Adults can ask themselves: "When is the last time I was bored? Or even had time to slow down?)

Even with the fears within their grouping, sameness is not equality.

Listen to the chant: We were different, broken off and away from tradition, because they who were in power changed the rules on us, all the way through. No annual baseball trip for the crossing guards. No formal dance. Negate the ongoing with New Math. This war, unlike the one our parents fought, had no heroes, posed no clear-cut threat to our shores, was shrouded in gauze. And at college graduation, the promised jobs dried up. Take your Ph.D. and drive a cab in some city.

Connect the dots: Television begat rock-n-roll begat The Pill begat acid euphoria. Nowdays every teenager must have a car, its windows a monitor screen a video screen, a multiplex screen. This is the legacy. Look, but don't touch. Don't get involved. It's always somebody else.

Unearth antecedent context: Their history in no history, an erasure of geopolitical advancement. Except in professional sports and related commercial entertainment industries, there are no giants. Those passing as heroes and heroines all have press agents. Maybe sports has become the religion for men and for boys; the mall, for women and girls. Hollywood and rock for all.

Leave a message on the answering machine tape. Fax me in the morning.

Beam me up to a Brady Bunch in the ethereal airwaves. Microwave dinner. Use sunscreen. Cancer lurks everywhere, if you live long enough.

Of course nobody understands their children. Authority was broken. By them, by us. By the oppressive cult of conformity. Hippie nonconformity kept the sofas and televisions of their parents. Who are they? Who are we? Who was anyone in the matrix? Oppression continues; opportunities decline. The subsidiary president now reports to a conglomerate vice president who now reports to the CEO. Back then, there were no CEOs.

The fortune cookie asks: What have you done with your life?

Grownups did learn they could ride bicycles: twenty gear settings. Skinny tires, not fat. Go back, hightop.

Gear settings, like moods, with technical complications. So what's game?

Go ahead, accuse many of yuppiedom. For many, paychecks for the same jobs had half the purchasing power the older workers took home. On top of it all, mortgages soared. Salaries paid in Monopoly cash. Tin figures on cardboard. Go play. Go figure.

The rallying cry, after all, had been, "For the times they are a-changin'."

It became quicksilver. Confusion.

Get lost. Hit the road. Stretch your thumb.

The warnings rang hollow.

Gas, grass, or ass.

An extended free ride takes a psychic toll.


Somewhat of a neo-Luddite, Jnana doesn't have a cell phone or DVD player -- yet. His two stepdaughters expect to wear him down on this position. His work has recently appeared in Generator Press, Little Brown Poetry, Organic Literature Experiment and Tin Lustre Mobile.

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