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10 Jan 98

Nostalgia, 2030 AD

Over email, we discussed a web site put up by a middle-aged hippie, and the feeling of nostalgia and honesty it evoked. There seemed to be a warmth and sense of history in her young life that we don't have.

My friend Laura wrote: "all we have is bad sitcom references & happy meals--and Kennedy (the vj)...."

I don't disagree, but I wondered about our sentimental attachments. Looking at my Macintosh screen, I decided that we'll see this early Internet and email as nostalgic, with its heaps of icons and screen savers.

Sex will be different in thirty years, probably more complicated, equal, strange, and open at the same time. Fibers and colors will itch less and stay brighter. We'll have forgotten Bud Dwyer, who blew his brains out on TV. The Human Genome Project will be finished, and whatever Golems shall come from its spiral loins will begin arriving. We'll remember ourselves as wild and lonely, lamenting our squandered twenties. We'll know how foolish it was to feel guilty about kissing a drunk girl; we should have felt more guilty about eating cheese and bacon in the same sandwich. We'll remember the raw state of medical science, the diseases we could get today that would have killed us thirty years ago, in the 1990's. We'll remember our parents and grandparents as their hair grayed and their faces folded up like napkins, and finally the green cold of their Pennsylvania funerals. We'll remember college with a feeling of heavy warmth in our chests and a little longing. We'll wonder why we never really grew up, never ended up as adults, like our parents did. Our children will grow up and wonder why they never grew into adulthood like their parents did.

The Challenger explosion. Eating popcorn with real butter and parmesan. Watching cable at 2 in the morning, alone, barefoot and blanket-wrapped. When my ten year old son screams "I hate you" to me, over and over, throwing his futuristic electro-toys, I will remember lonely, difficult years as wonderful and free. Our movies, like "Titanic" or "L.A. Confidential," or "The Breakfast Club," will turn into dated classics. Our histories will be annexed, contextualized, written down, remarked upon, and added to the empty march of decades that swell the shelves of big bookstores: The 90's: a History. The literary classics of our decade will appear in anthologies. College students will wear our old clothes to theme parties. Sharp photos will look dim and faded compared to the imaging technology of the future. This web site will be an electronic cave painting.

That's the short list. It's a big switch, yesterday for tomorrow, and today usually gets lost in the move.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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