Monday, January 9, 2012
Guest Blog: Nick Faraone "Coming of Age in the 1960's""
Some of you know that one of my profoundest poetic influences comes from my big brother Nick Faraone. His poetic influence on me as a child is so deep I have not yet been able to write about him. Suffice it to say--for now--that it was he who first taught me poetry which included Wordsworth, Keats as well as the French poets and a few Italian ones (read to me in the original languages and then translated by Nick) and many other types of poets and poetry.
I was 12-years-old when Nick first taught me poetry. Nick was in college. He had a double major in History and Education with a minor in Philosophy.
We were--we are--the grandchildren of immigrants. Nick was the first in our family to go to college--or finish high school for that matter.
He taught me--among many things--to think. He taught me that the lack of money and privilege can not keep me from the most precious experiences in life: ideas, language, music, art--that these "things" were as much as my birthright as the air I breathe.
For now, though, I thought I would re-post some of his own recent writings.
"Coming of Age in the 1960's"
by Nick Faraone
When I grew up in the fifties in Farmingdale my heroes were Superman, Father Knows Best, The Lone Ranger and Captain Kirk of Star Trek. I played baseball every day till the sun went down and watched T.V. with my family. My earliest recollections in life were watching Edward R. Murrow, on our only 17” black and white T.V., with “Person to Person” and, as a child I can remember the exchange of prisoners in the Korean War. I remember my History teacher telling our class that the U.S. Presidency didn’t change because of assassinations like the South American Autocracies. The most provocative thing I did in 1956 was reading Peyton Place.
In contrast the sixties decade has been described by historians as the decade that resulted in the most significant changes in our history. In 1969 the race to space was won by the U.S. by putting a man on the moon. This one event caught more press and attention second to only the Vietnam War. The 1960s were also time of turmoil, probably described as such for the racial unrest during this period, social injustice and because of our involvement in the war in Vietnam. The magnitude of violence in the streets of U.S. cities as well as on college campuses in protest of the War in Vietnam was unprecedented in our history. The burning of the flag and draft cards were widely used as tools for protest.
I remember the beginnings of the loss of innocence when I was 18 yrs. old and working a part time job, going to college in 1963, when I heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. This was the President that we felt would bring about meaningful change, put an end to the Vietnam War and in 1961 promised that, by the end of the decade, the United States would land a man on the moon and bring him home safely. Our music was the ebbing melodies of Doo Wop to be replaced by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, and of course, the iconic Woodstock Festival from August 15 to August 18, 1969 and Haight-Ashbury which drew the attention of youth from all over America. The neighborhood's fame reached its peak as it became the haven for a number of the top psychedelic rock performers and groups of the time. Acts like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin all lived a short distance from the intersection.
In 1968 I learned that one of my Farmingdale High School friends, Johnny Odierno, had been killed in Vietnam. This brought the War painfully close to home. In 1969 I decided that I should see the world and leave the provincialism in which I had grown up. I traveled to Europe and was in Paris when on the big screen in the Champs Elysees on July 20, 1969, both Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon fulfilling Kennedy’s promise and rekindling hope for my generation. Random Frenchmen and women came up to me and congratulated me, as an American, for that heroic accomplishment.
In 1970, during summer break, I returned to Europe, this time Spain, under the control of the dictator Franco. I was infatuated with the writings of Hemmingway ( The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bell Tolls and Death in The Afternoon) and fell for Spain and a Spanish Senorita. Back Home, I was saddened by the Kent State Shootings and the breakup of the Beatles.
Regarding the idea of perilous times in which we live, I well remember 1975 as I had just turned 30 years old. I was just married for one year and was in my sixth year teaching in North Babylon (Robert Moses).
John Lennon said "The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility." I don't know about the possibilities but I do know that the 60s was an event that even today's school children try to research and understand why the 60s decade had so much impact on today. Sometimes I wonder how we survived the sixties, we had no child proof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets; We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Coke and Pepsi with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside playing. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day and we were O.K. We would spend hours building our bicycles out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Play-stations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no DVD movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, I-Pods, BlackBerry, no personal computers, no Internet, Internet chat rooms and NO FACEBOOK....we had friends and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Little League had try outs and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. The idea of a parent taking our side against our teachers was unheard of. They actually sided with the teachers! If you were lost or in trouble you were taught to find a policeman.
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it.