No, but I played one in St. Elmo’s Fire

I had to do a triple-take when I read this:

Actor-writer McCarthy named Travel Journalist of the Year

(Romenesko, Poynter Online, via Society of American Travel Writers)

Yes, Andrew McCarthy, Gen X sensitive-character actor who played a budding journalist secretly in love with pearl-necklace-wearing Ally Sheedy in St. Elmo’s Fire, has won the “2010 Travel Journalist of the Year in the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition.”

I know nothing of McCarthy’s writings, but as the overly super-sensitive guy in my formative years, of course I always connected with his characters (my favorite movie of his was 1985’s Heaven Help Us; nearly unashamedly, Weekend At Bernie’s takes place money on my Andrew McCarthy flick list).

Musings upon the death of the Cheez Doodles creator

Someone needs to erect a big, puffy, orange statue in Central Park in honor of Morrie Yohai.

As the New York Daily News put it Monday morning: “Morrie Yohai, who died of cancer at age 90 last week, was a mystic, a World War II Marine pilot and a philanthropist. But he’ll probably be remembered most as the creator of the Cheez Doodle.”

I’m all for eating right and healthy and organic and local, but sometimes I think, well, I’ll just go to hell — I love my Cheetos, Cheez-Its, creamsicles (at my going-away party upon leaving my last job, my co-workers laid out a spread comprised solely of orange-colored food), and yes, Cheez Doodles. Hypocrite? Guilty as charged. Check out this editorial, also from the Daily News:

“Cheez Doodles, those tasty, neon-orange puffs, are most certainly not organic. Nor are they made in cast-iron kettles, according to artisanal methods. Nor are they sold at greenmarkets by upstate farmers. Nor do they contain cancer-fighting antioxidants.

“But they brought cheese to millions of fingers – and joy to plenty of mouths, if not waistlines – thanks to Morrie Yohai, born in Harlem in 1920 and reared in the Bronx, the son of Jewish immigrants from Turkey.”

I’m thankful I’m as healthy as I am, with the steady diet of junk food I was raised on, and still indulge in (usually at work, when I’m on deadline, or late at night, when I’m dealing with writer’s block, er, procrastination). I’m at about the correct weight for my height. Perhaps it’s my rapid metabolism, no doubt spurred by four to five cups of coffee a day.

As my sister commented on my Facebook profile, yeah, right, so it was Cheez Doodles that were Morrie’s secret to living until 90? Maybe. Maybe it will be mine too. That, and junk snacks, and coffee.

A food-related digression: My mother had a rule about breakfast cereals: Nothing with marshmallows. Everything else was OK (which essentially translated into us eating as much sugary cereal at breakfast as we wanted, so long as they contained no evidently noxious marshmallows).

Once a month, our grandparents baby-sat us on a weekend overnight in their apartment in Yonkers (complete with plastic on the couches). Our grandfather would take us out in his Buick (I sometimes got to drive with him in his Gremlin, which smelled of his pipe tobacco, though I don’t think there was room in that tiny P.O.S. for my sister, younger than me) to pick up Grandma from her part-time job at Alexander’s department store.

Then it was off to a pizza dinner (sometimes it was The Ground Round, with silent Our Gang and Abbott and Costello films — literally films — projected on the screen in the dining room and baskets of salty popcorn and peanuts in the shell at every table). Dinner was followed by a trip to Child World toy store (with the Peter Panda mascot) and Waldbaum’s supermarket (yes, we were spoiled rotten by our grandparents).

To top it off, at the precocious ages of 10 and 7, perhaps younger, we’d assure Grandma that, yes, of course our mom allowed us to eat Lucky Charms, Boo-Berry, or whatever other heavenly marshmallow-laden cereal we could hungrily toss into the shopping car. We would happily gorge ourselves on the stuff the next morning, with cat-that-ate-the-canary smiles crinkling across our faces at the breakfast table when mom and dad would come by to pick us up.

If they made Cheez Doodles cereal, we would have had Grandma buy it, too.

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Gen X writers on The New Yorker’s watchlist

Allow me to crow, for a moment, about my generation, even if it’s because of an admittedly arbitrary (and who knows, like most discussions of this sort, could be potentially pointless) list:

The New Yorker Picks Young Writers Worth Watching

“The New Yorker has chosen its ’20 Under 40′ list of fiction writers worth watching, a group assembled by the magazine’s editors in a lengthy, secretive process that has provoked considerable anxiety among young literary types. … All but two … are in their 30s.”

—New York Times, “20 Young Writers Earn the Envy of Many Others,” Julie Bosman, June 2, 2010

As the Times notes, none of these authors were born before 1970. At a time today where trend stories about Boomers and Millennials seem to drive most generational-related news stories, it’s nice to see Gen X writers,  particularly the younger half of my generation (those, like me, born in the Seventies, as opposed to Gen X’ers born in the Sixties) get some due.

They hail from all over and, as The New Yorker editor David Remnick put it, they have nothing in common except their age. But that’s a big thing to have in common. Growing up at the same time as these authors, living through the same world events (if certainly not the same direct life experiences), I’m naturally more inclined to read them, just to see if we do indeed share even part of a worldview because of our similar birthyears.

Of course, I can’t help being a killjoy, but anyone want to take morning-line odds on the inevitable carping? Not from fellow writers, or even from fellow Gen X’ers among the great unwashed masses within the creative underclass? No, from those aforementioned Boomers (bound to say, at that age, they did it better) or from the aforementioned Millennials (bound to say, at their current age, they can do it better). And shit, a mere two paragraphs later, here I go falling into the same pervasive trap I just criticized the news industry of perpetuating. Icepick, heal thyself.

Who listens to bloated aging Baby Boomers who took all the jobs and made all the rules so that Gen X’ers could never get ahead in the marketplace anyway?

Mike Francesa is basically the king of sports talk radio in the New York City area, which, by definition if you live in ego-centric New York City or its environs (within 100 miles), makes him the king of sports talk radio.

Based on reports, Mike Francesa, age 56, ripped into one of the leading Mets bloggers, first by insulting his hygiene (this from a man, whom I’ve seen in person, who could generously stand to lose a few pounds). Still, that sort of classlessness is de rigueur for talk radio, particularly sports talk radio, and is sadly endemic to our society. So I’m not going to debate its appropriateness, or complete lack thereof.

No, Francesa added to his talk: “who reads blogs anyway?

Well, Mike, plenty of Gen X’ers do, particularly those who write them and who couldn’t land jobs in traditional media (or get promoted or get new ones at bigger papers) because of bloated, egotistical, aging Baby Boomers like you who sucked up all the jobs, then changed the rules and qualifications for entry level and mid-level promotions, which might have been fine except that those rules never applied to you, Boomers, in middle and upper management and in the even-slightly-higher profile jobs.

No, asshats like you have made a career out of “do as I say, not as I do,” while fucking over the economy to fatten your wallets and bellies, and then had the temerity to cry about your retirements drying up in a poor economy that you created. Yeah, Mike, I read blogs. I write for two of them. So do a lot of Gen X’ers who got shut out of your fucking industry and others because of your bloated, whirlpool-sucking presence.

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Stuck in time

Not much more to comment upon after reading this New York Times article, except that, with their greater numbers population-wise, it’s no surprise that we’re still debating the issues of the Sixties, and will continue to do so until the Millennials are running the country and we’re all in the Gen X old-age home.

“In part, it is probably because so many of the Americans most engaged in politics — as well as those who run campaigns and comment endlessly on them — are old enough to remember Altamont. It is your classic self-fulfilling prophecy: the more the ’60s generation dominates the political discourse, the less that discourse engages younger voters, and the longer the boomers hold sway over our politics.”

—NY Times, Matt Bai, May 25, 2010

Over-parenting in my generation

Lenore Skenazy and David Brooks (two of my favorite reads, by the way) touch on the tendency of parents of a certain age (mine) toward ultra-over-protection of their kids.

The theory from Strauss & Howe is being borne out today. It goes: since we generally grew up as latchkey kids as children (and perhaps grew up to be Latchkey Men, with a nod to the excellent Wek) and were largely left to our own devices as our parents granted us freedoms (partly out of their own absorption in their own lives), that now, as grown-ups with kids of our own, our generation tends to over-compensate as parents, and thus overprotects our kids to the point of stifling them.

From Brooks:

We’re familiar with talk about how Vietnam permanently shaped the baby boomers. But if you grew up in or near an American city in the 1970s, you grew up with crime (and divorce), and this disorder was bound to leave a permanent mark. It was bound to shape the people, now in their 40s and early-50s, reaching the pinnacles of power.

It has clearly influenced parenting. The people who grew up afraid to go in parks at night now supervise their own children with fanatical attention, even though crime rates have plummeted. It’s as if they’re responding to the sense of menace they felt while young, not the actual conditions of today.

From Skenazy, advocating “Take Our Children to the Park…& Leave Them There Day”:

As you readers know, I believe in involved parenting — teaching our kids the skills they need to be safe and self-reliant. But there’s not a whole lot of chance for a child to put any of that into practice and get good at it,  if mom is by his side for a full 18 years.

As a parent who admittedly trends toward overprotection, I’ve also left 3½-year-old Icepick Jr. in the backyard (which would make me a bad parent, according to the pediatrician in the Daily News article) for a whole 90 seconds while running inside to pee (with the windows open and an infield-full worth of outdoor toys, fully safety-approved, to occupy him). We’re fortunate in that we live less than a city block from the elementary school Junior will eventually attend. I’m looking forward to walking with him to that school someday. And someday later, (gulp) letting him walk there by himself.

On generations and immigration

The New York Times had an interesting article on yet another issue that (apparently) splits the Baby Boomers from the younger generations — the Arizona immigration law. What I like about this article, unlike typical “trends” stories (often, as not, from the Times as well as from other outlets) is that it delves (as well as a 1,200-word article can, anyway) into the potential sources of this particular generational divide:

Immigration, which census figures show declined sharply from the Depression through the 1960s, reached a historic low point the year after Woodstock. From 1860 through 1920, 13 percent to 15 percent of the country was foreign born — a rate similar to today’s, when immigrants make up about 12.5 percent of the country.

But in 1970, only 4.7 percent of the country was foreign born, and most of those immigrants were older Europeans, often unnoticed by the boomer generation born from 1946 to 1964.

Boomers and their parents also spent their formative years away from the cities, where newer immigrants tended to gather — unlike today’s young people who have become more involved with immigrants, through college, or by moving to urban areas.

—Damien Cave, NY Times, May 17, 2010

Certainly, like everything else, this is an issue that divides those within a specific generation. And of course your perspective may well depend as much on geography as anything else.

While the article specifically cites the Baby Boomers, and quotes people along with naming their ages, it does not name the younger generations — probably a safe approach. Still, it’s easy enough to decipher.

It’s interesting to see that most of the representative “young people” quoted in the article are in their early 20s and teens — Millennials (Generation Y, if you must).

That’s no slight to us Gen X’ers, by the way. Our worldview is trickier, and we’re firmly the middle child between the Boomers and the Millennials, which should be a surprise to no one, least of all, my fellow Gen X’ers. My best suspicion is we’re collectively more conservative-leaning, at least economically, though I’d also say it’s safe to say we’re also more tolerant on social issues, probably without even realizing it. Perhaps it’s merely by being exposed to a more diverse America (I hope) as well as our own Sesame Street upbringing, to cite an example in the Times article.

Cranky as we can be, hopefully we won’t follow the example of the (seemingly) increasing conservativism of the Boomers (marching in Tea Parties after marching in the 1960s). But neither will we go as far in the other direction as the Millennials seem to have gone, for the time being, anyway.

So where does Gen X stand on immigration? This post is my roundabout way of saying, I have no idea. I really do think we are generally more tolerant of diverse backgrounds, but we also want to see people working legally; though we busted our butts and bent a few rules to survive in the job market (both at our entry levels and even now), we felt we did it legally. However, we’d be blind to assign the blame at the job takers, and not the hirers. Laurie at PunkRockHR nailed it more than a month ago when she wrote:

Let’s stop employing people who don’t have a right to work in America. Isn’t it illegal to hire illegal immigrants? Isn’t it immoral to pay people below the minimum wage solely because they can’t speak English and they’re in a position of weakness?

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