I’ve been on a bit of a retro binge lately. It began one evening when I went looking for some light television fare to end my day. But what I found was too violent, too raunchy, too depressingly real. I remembered how I miss Carol Burnett and “Get Smart”, “The Waltons”, “All in the Family”. So I wandered onto Netflix and found old reruns of — “The Rockford Files”.
You may remember the series. It stars James Garner as Jim Rockford, private eye — cute, irreverent, “open to anything except marriage or murder.” The opening credits pan the desk in his trailer in Malibu. The phone rings (a black phone on a cradle). We hear his answering machine (with a recorded tape!) introduce the case for the episode while we see a game of solitaire laid out on his desk (real cards). I sighed and transported myself back to the 1970s for an hour or so. The plots were predictable — the sassy lady lawyers in polyester pantsuits, the scuzzy villains with sideburns and ugly plaid sports coats, the mandatory car chase. It was like a trip home. I loved it.
A couple of weeks ago had an hour to dally in the mall, so I window shopped. I don’t understand the fashions today. The pants are too skinny, the tops too floppy, too transparent, too many-layered. The shoes are ridiculous. I detoured into a Sears store (What’s more retro than Sears?) and came out with a classic shirt, rollup sleeves, breast pockets, crisp collar, black with tiny blue flowers. It was perfect. A day or so later I realized it was almost exactly like a shirt my mother made for me in 1953 when I was leaving home for college.
I couldn’t decide on which of the books on the New York Times list I should buy next for my Kindle. Instead I chose Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, followed by Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I found depths in both of them that I didn’t remember when I first read them fifty years ago.
I’ve heard that I can get exactly the music I want on my smart phone from Spotify or Pandora, but I haven’t figured out how, so I return to the music on my computer taken from my old LPs — Dave Brubeck, Laurindo Almeida’s Bossa Nova, Patsy Cline in full whine. Carol King. Helen Reddy. And for walking on the treadmill, La Bamba (not the rap music they sometimes play in gym class).
One day, grocery shopping, I walked past the quinoa and polenta and went home with a bag of russets. Three times in one week I made a steaming bowl of mashed potatoes with butter. Heaven help me.
Sometimes I just get a little nostalgic for the way things used to be. No, let me rephrase that — the way I remember tiny scraps of things from the past. I know better. But once in a while …
I’m better now. I saw the movie Selma and watched Rory Kennedy’s documentary, Last Days in Vietnam. This week I watched the final episode of “Mad Men”. I really have no desire to go back and do any of that again. We can cherrypick the best of times, but we shouldn’t lie to ourselves.
I still miss Carol Burnett.
Rosemary Rawson is the author of Coming of Age (SRP, 2014).
Coming of Age by Rosemary Rawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.