Boomers Seek Diversion from the New Normal

The idea that someday it would be a normal occurrence for people not in the same location to talk to one another — and be able to see the other person speaking at the same time — was a futuristic dream fueled by the display of the Picturephone at Bell Telephone’s exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair.

Fast forward to today, and most boomers, who had never heard of Zoom two months ago, or ever ventured into Facetime, Portal or any of the things their children and grandkids have been trying to get them to try, have already had their fill of innocuous video chats with family and friends. Mister Boomer counts himself among this group, but a recent chat with family prompted a boomer flashback that might inject a little bit of fun into your next video obligation.

Shortly into the scheduled chat, once everyone finally figured out how to make each other visible on the screen at the same time (as they did the week before and the week before that), the conversation lagged. There is only so much to report when everyone is doing the same thing — staying at home. That is when the conversation veered to a discussion of the best of the cheap brands of toilet paper that still seemed readily available. While Mister B simultaneously thought it a convenient and even currently necessary overview of the pros and cons of questionable two-ply — and that somebody should make a website about it — he also took a trip in his mind to 1964:

Come on everybody… I say now let’s play a game…

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that Mister B lives in a world of flashbacks. He regularly wakes up to the sound of music playing in his head in what he has termed, Morning Jukebox Syndrome. And who among us has not come across a scene or a smell that triggers an immediate memory of another time? In this instance, boomer music was surfacing again to save the day. If you haven’t guessed yet, it was Shirley Ellis singing The Name Game.

Mister B remembers the song because his family had the 45 RPM record. He also remembers how kids in the schoolyard would taunt each other with their Name Game phraseology, an insult instead of a whimsy. Then there were the dares when kids would prod you to “do Chuck!”

Mister Boomer was surprised to find his picture sleeve recording was worth more than a few bucks thirty years ago, and sold it well above the purchase price from 1964.

But if the first two letters are ever the same … drop them both and say the name …

Before your next video chat, send the link to Shirley’s video ahead of time to the scheduled list of family and friends. Be sure to include the grandkids on this! Then when the appointed time comes, play your home version of The Name Game, starting with the grandkids’ names.

If, in the process, you completely annoy your children, who will be hearing their kids repeatedly singing their names for the next week like it came from The Lion King or Frozen, then you win.

What memories of The Name Game do you have, boomers?

Boomers Had Their Own Ideas of Shelter and Hope

Boomers lived through a time when people hoped and prayed that the national collection of nuclear/air raid shelters, which were mostly housed in the basements of government buildings, would never be needed. As it turned out, nuclear war was avoided, but many of these shelters were used in subsequent storms and natural disasters. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find one still in existence. In addition, many boomers had family air raid shelters built in their basements and backyards.

Yet, even living through that time of worry and tension, nothing could prepare us for the current medical emergency that has been visited upon our world. Dylan sang about a woman offering “… shelter from the storm,” and the Rolling Stones pleaded, Gimme Shelter. What strikes Mister Boomer during this crisis, though, is not sheltering songs and predictions of the apocalypse, but rather the use of boomer-era music in a hopeful fashion.

In particular, Lean on Me, by Bill Withers, is being played and sung everywhere, by and for healthcare professionals and first responders. Ironically, Bill Withers passed away on March 30. That alone would have been reason enough to become reacquainted with his body of work, but this crisis has elevated Lean on Me to a point near anthem status.

There are reports of families playing and streaming boomer-era music in their shelter-at-home isolation for their kids and grandkids, passing on musical knowledge that, in Mister Boomer’s humble opinion, was the best the twentieth century had to offer.

There is another boomer-era song that has been repurposed for reasons far beyond what George Harrison might have envisioned. A hospital in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in this country, has taken to playing a snippet of Here Comes the Sun over the PA system when patients at the hospital have recovered from their ailment and are being discharged. That one small act of referencing a ubiquitous boomer-era song sparks a ray of hope for exhausted and weary medical personnel throughout the hospital. It is a reminder to them that people are surviving, and their work is not in vain.

Mister Boomer certainly adds his voice to the chorus of those singing the praises of our healthcare and essential workers. But it is particularly gratifying to know that from a group now considered among the most vulnerable to this disease — boomers — comes musical bits of unity and hope.

There’s Got to Be a Morning After, boomers. We Can Work It Out.

What songs give you hope during these trying times, boomers?