Volume 18 • Issue 14 | August 26 - September 01, 2005

The Penny Post

What’s with the young?

By Andrei Codrescu

Boulder, Colorado is more like itself every time I go there. Tourists from the Sixties, now in their sixties themselves, stroll the pedestrian mall like it was their past. On a crisp sky-blue summer afternoon, two longhaired boys blew mightily into two longhorns plugged into washing machine agitators attached by hoses to earphones strapped to the heads of a middle-aged couple who moaned in ecstasy with their eyes closed, prey to a big-time flashback. Then a naked bicycle gang went by with anti-war (Iraq) signs, a daily event that all locals (except the ones who live along the route) admire. The rest of the fare was nearly unchanged: Bob-Dylan-like folk singers who put their own (rebellious but gentle) words to sentiments of social responsibility; bums paid by the city of Boulder to play “homeless,” peddlers of hemp shorts and tie-dyed tees dipped in patchouli; gaggles of teen nymphlings imitating streetwalkers circa 1974, followed by moms buffed in desert spas looking indulgently on any life forms with a yearly income less than their manicures; college girls with shiny new tramp-stamps on the small of their backs into which a bikini string descended like a plumber’s line into a well.

What’s with the very young, you might ask. I’ll tell you, at the risk of having you gag. Years ago, I conducted an experiment in collaborative poetry: I asked several young people I knew to write a line of poetry that started with the words: “my mother…” They all completed the line in various ways, some earnestly, some goofily. Some said that their mothers were unhappy drunks, others that their mothers flew to the moon every day at 5 p.m., others complained that their mothers had joined the aliens in the fight to destroy the planet. None of them, as far as I know, declared their mothers sane or useful. Now, in 2005, in the 21st century, I conducted the same experiment with new students. Without exception, they all loved their mothers. One girl did yoga with her mom and went through fire-purification rituals with her. Some even mentioned, without being asked, that their fathers were pretty cool, too. These kids were a completely different breed from my long-ago subjects. They loved their parents. And no wonder: most of them were tattooed from head to foot, a feat impossible without parental approval (or more difficult, anyway), and were attending expensive art school paid for by parents who had quit making an issue out of the uses of an education. These young persons had no Oedipal Complex! It was incredible. I shouted at them: “What have you done with the Oedipal Complex! You’ve destroyed the Oedipal Complex!” They really had no idea what I was so worked up about, and they were actually amused. I finished my harangue with what I consider to be the ultimate curse: “You are going to be tourists!”

There is no greater misfortune, I told them. Tourists are grown in hothouses. If you are raised in a suburb where your only natural enemy is the Lawn Patrol, you’re bound to be defenseless when transplanted to a city. If you grow up in the Boulder pedestrian mall you’re going to be pet food when you descend to sea level. If you find nothing wrong with your parents, you’ll be just like them. And then the world will stay exactly the same. And that’s O.K., if you’re cool with that.



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