Today’s Column – Retro Relief

Our past has a very strong pull when the present is so scary.

You don’t have to look hard to find proof that jittery Americans are seeking elusive comfort in nostalgia. We’re clinging to shards of the so-called good old days to get us through bad new days.

Maybe we think the only way to see a light at the end of the tunnel is to throw ourselves into reverse.

The New York Times carried front-page news last week that candy sales are rising while other parts of the economy melt. People are snatching up the same cheap, sugar nuggets that fueled their kickball games and sleepovers. Adults without jobs refuse to go without Skittles.

Women are lining up to see New Kids On The Block, and neither the act nor the audience has been a kid in years. USA Today buzzed about a new book extolling the virtues of play and how harried, unhappy adults make too little time for it.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune carried a report last week on how a few Roman Catholic churches are going extreme-retro, offering sinners indulgences so they can repent like in the old days. The Middle Ages.

Vinyl records are selling. Old TV on DVD is hot. I half expect Bon Appetit to have a tater-tot casserole on its cover next month.

Now, I’m not judging. I, too, am guilty of moonwalking toward the past.

Shuffling things around a basement closet awhile back reminded me that I’m still the owner of an Atari 2600, circa 1981, video game system and a few dozen games.

I also have a 25-year-old, 13inch color TV that’s an analog relic in a digital world.

It was a match made in the heaven of memory.

I hooked up the old system and it worked perfectly.Grabbing a Coke, Classic, from the fridge, I settled in to blast asteroids and aliens and waves of incoming missiles. The familiar hand cramp and thumb callous were not far behind.

Also thanks to the digital TV conversion, we now have the Retro Television Network, beaming oldies all day on KWWL’s channel 7.3. You can watch “Magnum P.I.” every night if you want.

There’s that cocky, lovable Tom Selleck, in trouble again, stopping to use a pay phone and getting his news from a newspaper. He has a “little voice” inside that narrates his adventures. Today, he’d whip out his BlackBerry and tweet “@TC,@Rick: Higgins mad about Ferrari.Being shot at. Ltr.”

On Sunday, I grabbed my copy of “Berlin Diary” by William Shirer. It’s the book I read at age 16 that made me think about becoming a newspaper reporter. Flipping through it reminded me of the excitement I felt about telling interesting, important stories. Now, working in the city where Shirer’s career began, I’m wondering how much longer I’ll get to tell stories.

This is and always will be a sentimental country.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. An economy-sized bag of Skittles is going to give you a gut ache eventually.

It’s comforting to reach back, but getting through whatever it is we’re going through means being engaged in the present. If better days are out there, they’re ahead of us.

Still, if blasting a few aliens makes you feel better, fire away.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Today’s Column – Retro Relief

  1. old school

    i had an itch for some retro things as well. i joined a local group of slotcar racers (www.imar.us) who race competitively once a month. i can still remember getting a slot car set from the sears catalog one Christmas and my dad and i raced for hours.

    merging the new with the old, i recently built a media PC (mythtv) for my living room and it has all the old video game systems like atari and nes without the need for finding the old cartridges. got to love the internet !

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