Twenty-five years doesn't seem like a lot of time to a Bowhead whale or single malt Scotch, but, in your real life, a heck of a lot can change while many things can stay relatively parallel. In 1994, twenty-five years ago, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone were still alive; Richard Milhous Nixon died, Kurt Cobain committed suicide, O. J. Simpson did or didn't kill his wife, and Justin Bieber was born. The planet had about two billion less bipeds in 1994, and I was a much younger man.
In 1994, in his book Closing Time, Joseph
Heller wrote in John Yossarian's voice:
A prick in the White House? It would not be the first time. Another oil tanker had broken up. There was radiation. Garbage. Pesticides, toxic waste, and free enterprise. There were enemies of abortion who wished to inflict the death penalty on everyone that was not pro-life. There was mediocrity in government and self-interest too. There was trouble in Israel . Men earned millions producing nothing more substantial than change in ownership. The Cold War was over, and still there was no peace on earth. People did things without knowing why and then tried to find out. Nothing made sense and neither did anything else.
In 1994 we watched Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Dumb & Dumber, and Natural Born Killers. Also, in real-time news, the United States was sending military forces to the Persian Gulf.
There were no new bombings that year-although in the previous year, the World Trade Center was bombed, and Timothy McVeigh was probably planning the next year's bombing in Oklahoma. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died all on her own of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and Congress enacted a ban on assault weapons.
In 1994, Amazon went live midyear-there was no Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or Google, as those are things of the future. The first smart phone appeared and cost $1,100.00; texting was available the previous year, with hardly anyone using it. DVD players were three years away and would start at around $600.00.
Twenty-five years before that, minimum wage was $1.60; adjusted for inflation, now it would be $10.95. Minimum wage in 1994 was $4.25 which, when adjusted, would have been worth $7.20. Today $7.25 is adjusted to $7.25, which means, in "olden times," you were paid less but could buy more. How 'bout them Granny Smiths?
"A Whole New World" from Aladdin won best song while we watched both sides of the Irish lay down their guns. Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, and Israel signed accords with the Palestinians and a peace treaty with Jordan.
Friends and ER debuted on TV, and Go for Gin won the Kentucky Derby. Schindler's List got Best Picture as the world turned its attention to 800,000 in Rwanda being slaughtered by Hutu extremists in 100 days.
Newt Gingrich became the House Speaker as Bill Clinton almost went down because of someone doing him a favor (an impeachable offense, it turns out). There were armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Mali, Mexico, Somali, Bosnia, Croatia, and Yemen.
But who cared?
Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, Anna Nicole Smith (26) married ultra-rich J. Howard Marshall (89), Bill Gates, Jerry Garcia, and Celine Dion tied the knot (to other people not to each other), and R. Kelly (25) wedded Aaliyah (15). In other news, sadly, Billy Joel was divorced from Christie Brinkley.
Twenty-five years ago, the prospect of global warming had reared its ugly head, but we were too busy, distracted, or just plain stupid to take it seriously. We had a chance to cut back on over packaging, under recycling, and systemic wasting of our natural resources. We could have concentrated on quality education instead of pushing economically disadvantaged kids through our school systems into unskilled employment at a poverty wage. We could have curbed mega companies from dictating policy to our elected politicians by dangling campaign contributions like a carrot on a stick, at the expense of our environment and our welfare. We could have debated more and fought less. Shoulda, woulda, coulda … ain't it a
I don't need to tell you what the world is like today; you either are aware or not. We no longer have security, faith, or trust in our present or future, and hope is in short supply. We know that everything that contributes to our quality of life comes with a price tag, and any small measure of normalcy can be snatched away faster than a speeding bullet.
I find in my inquiries that it's not a case of paranoia, apathy, or even ennui-we just have nothing that we can rely on in our lives, so we rely upon nothing. Another shooting, out of control fires, flooding, corrupt governments, hostages, extremists, white nationalists, and riots in the streets? Poverty, crime, crumbling infrastructure?
Help! Murder! Police!
It's all mesmerizing on television, but what can be done? What can we do? The world has already gone to hell in a hand basket; have some cheesecake, watch the Golden Girls, bring in the dog, and put out the cat. Yakety Yak (don't talk back).
So, as the Sun pulls away from the shore and our boat sinks slowly in the West, we're greeted with another new year, full of assumed possibilities to get it right somehow, and I'm left with the only words that make any sense-and these from the song "Prince of Peace," written and recorded in 1970 (that's gonna be fifty years ago) by Leon Russell:
Try and judge me by my time and changes
And not mistaken words, for I say many
Listen only to my song and watch my eyes
There's not much time to spill, there's hardly any.
Happy New Year.