Goodbye to Gramma Watchie

What happens as we try to come to terms with our past is that we see our lives as a process of continual disenchantment.  We long for the security provided by the comforting illusions of our youth.  We remember the breathless infatuation of first love; we regret the complications imposed by our … [Read more...]

Come Back, Shane! The National Nostalgia

[This appeared in the Southwest Review 98 (No. 1) 2013]   “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time, it’s a state of mind.  It’s whatever you want it to be.”                                                                           … [Read more...]

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

It had been a dark and bitter year.  The war languished in Vietnam, students rioted around the globe, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, North Korea seized the USS Pueblo, a B-52 crashed carrying four hydrogen bombs, Chicago police battered demonstrators at the Democratic convention, Robert Kennedy … [Read more...]

The Nature of Nostalgia

  “The Atlantic Ocean was really somethin’ in those days.  Yes, you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days.”            ―Burt Lancaster as Lou, an aging ex-underworld figure sitting at a beachfront bar in Atlantic City.          After forty years, I rendezvous in a restaurant with a … [Read more...]

The Best Year

Until the age of eight, I had always lived in the city, in old hotels and second-floor flats.  During the war we had moved around with my father until he was shipped overseas for the invasion of France.  When my mother died in the summer of ’44, my father was allowed to return, just missing the … [Read more...]

Lofty Days: Ode to a Childhood Friend

When I met him in 1946, Tommy Alden was a chubby third-grader with merry eyes, curly black hair, and a jovial intensity.  He lived in a white house with green shutters on a poplar-shaded street in old Palo Alto.  We grew up together a few blocks apart, waiting at the same bus stops for the same … [Read more...]

RoyRogers

He was born Leonard Franklin Slye in a Cincinnati tenement to a part Choctaw-Indian shoe-factory worker and his wife.  He grew up on a houseboat in Portsmouth, Ohio, and on a farm in rural Duck Run.  In 1930, the Slyes migrated to California in a ’23 Dodge, Grapes of Wrath style.  He drove a truck, … [Read more...]

Our Game

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.  America has rolled by like an army of steam rollers.  It has been erased like a blackboard and rebuilt, and erased again.  But baseball has marked the time.  This field, this game; it’s a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all … [Read more...]

The Romance of Extinction: Nuclear War Films

  Of all the contrived analyses that cling to science fiction films of the fifties—McCarthyist body snatchers, Russians from Mars, the Bomb in the guise of Godzilla—the most pervasive has been the anemic notion that viewers sublimated the Bomb as the stereotypical Victorians did sex.  The … [Read more...]

A State of Mind

  The surrender of Japan and the assassination of President Kennedy, bracket an era variously known as Pax Americana, Good Times, the Best Years, Happy Days—the American High.  It was a time of solid families, effective schools, and reliable careers, a time when government and institutions … [Read more...]