Walsh’s Wonderings — Lost pleasures

Robert F. Walsh

Nostalgia is often the diamond we create from the coals of our youth; all the grime and angst of troublesome reality gets lost in the glow of its own reflection. However, there are some things that truly deserve this fond refinement, rituals that provided happiness in our youth that later generations don’t even know they’ve been robbed of.

The arrival of Atari, for instance, transformed my childhood. Suddenly, I no longer needed to place my quarters in line on that giant telephone booth-sized Space Invaders game at the Howard Johnson’s; I could play it on my living room TV! Months were spent lost in the joy of figuring out hyperspace on Asteroids or discovering the invisible key on Adventure. The tyranny of Pong’s lifeless graphics was over!

Today, kids complain about the lag on their Bluetooth mics as they coordinate real-time Halo missions with strangers from across the globe. People born after 1985 aren’t aware of the countless pleasures they’ll never get to experience: the ritual of blowing the dust off the needle before dropping it softly on a slightly wobbling album just before the start of the next song; the triumph of realizing a taped penny on the needle arm would prevent it from skipping over every scratch; the delicate operation of respooling a cassette tape with a pencil after the player sucked it up.

They won’t know the luxury of lying on a shag carpet next to that enormous piece of wood furniture that housed the speakers, radio, and record player. If lucky, one was tethered to it with a thick rubber wire leading to headphones easily twice the size of the heads on which they perched.

Most importantly, they’ll never experience the sheer joy of opening a double album for the first time, getting lost in the pictures as a new world opened before us. I still remember discovering the impossible density of the Beatles’ “Red Album” with my best friend, Dave. This first half of their greatest hits package had been released years before, but it was new to us. We were hypnotized by the understated beauty of the cut apples rotating at the center of the record. In an era where even the sleeves inside the album cover had content, we passed the lyrics printed on the dust covers back and forth between us as we lay on our stomachs and blissed out to “A Hard Day’s Night.”

These were diamond moments, even though we rarely appreciated them as such at the time. Before the era when kids were over-programmed with travel soccer teams or maintaining an Instagram channel, we could conjure up a neighborhood kickball game at a moment’s notice.

I’m not claiming that kids today don’t have these moments, just that the bar for wonder has been set so high. My generation had so many opportunities to be transported, to be amazed at simple things that unrolled before us like a treasure map. In an age where children can access almost anything with the click of a button, I hope they get to forge their own diamond moments out of the coals of adolescence.

Or, at the very least, that they get to discover the transformative joy of a good Beatles tune playing in the background.

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