During the Ozzie and Harriet years, when I was seven and people called me Jimmy, my sister Becky and our best friends Mikey and Patty, would beg old tattered terrycloth towels from our moms and pretend to be George Reeves. We’d tie those old faded pastel rags around our necks, stretch out our arms, hands flat, fingers pointing forward, tilt our heads down and run like Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, occasionally jumping with all our might, with the hopes of getting airborne like Superman, or at least Mighty Mouse. And when we were burnt out and our little bodies too tired to try any more, we’d go to sleep at night and have flying dreams.
My sister and I moved around a lot while growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, but wherever we lived it was Kidland, either as part of a mob of kids running up and down the middle of our suburban streets, or in packs roaming the woods, or scattered in hordes over the vast plains of school playgrounds. Kidland was great. It was great because there were no adults. It was beyond fantastic because we were all fueled by our imaginations. Television rocket-fueled our little minds, jazzing our kiddie dramas and kicking those dreams into orbit.
A few years down the timeline, during the black-and-white Beverly Hillbillies era, we could be seen in backyards playing astronauts pretending we were Alan Shepard or John Glenn with cheap white plastic helmets on our heads. After that most of my efforts to fly were in my head and inspired by the philosophy of science fiction, especially the grand master, Robert A. Heinlein. Then the I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched magic charmed us. We all desperately wanted the skills of being able to twitch our noses and make wishes come true with the flourish of a TV sound effect. Can anyone doubt why in the epic times of The Monkees, Star Trek and The Time Tunnel we turned in our terry cloth capes for grooving with micrograms? Later on into the 1970s, after growing up with Archie Bunker, we became disciples of Carlos Castaneda, studying the ancient wisdom of the New Age, or wishing for rides with little green guys of the third kind. And don’t forget our cousins the Jesus Freaks, Hari Krishnas and Moonies who chanted about the transformation of Earth into Heaven.
Is it too much to say that the Baby Boomers wanted transcendence? Why weren’t boomer guys satisfied with putting on our Brooks Brothers and dancing the nine-to-five? Why weren’t our sisters, the boomer gals, so unsatisfied with wearing stockings and bras and staying at home to be queens for a day every day with Donna Reid?
There is always reality. Meridith Grey cannot fly or make McDreamy disappear with a twitch of her nose, even though she has a nose that reminds me of Samatha. And are the post-boomer generations any different from the boomers? Hiro is our kind of guy. During Christmas I listened to my nephew, an Iraqi vet, talk fondly of the golden age of television cartoons, waxing nostalgic with his brothers over favorite episodes of The Transformers. I kept my mouth shut and just listened, but I was thinking, no way man, The Flintstones and Jetsons were the golden age of cartoons. Yet, it didn’t go unnoticed that the next generation wanted to fly too.