The DNA of a dying medium | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Jun 20, 2017

My 27-year-old son has developed interesting musical tastes, although probably not in the way you’re thinking.

We’ve all been there and done that, for any number of reasons. Our tastes tend to line up with our cultural awareness, and our culture is always young. And our musical tastes often are inspired and driven by our differences, particularly our differences with other generations.

Not so much these days, I think. I’ve spent some time in local venues lately, listening to 20-somethings play their music. It sounds a lot like my music, or music from my era, just with a fresh and occasionally novel take on it.

I’m not married to my era, either. I look back at popular music in the 1970s, for example, and while I can drum up nostalgia, I’m not all that impressed with my teenage tastes. Which makes my current situation confusing, because my adult son has become fascinated by this.

I’ve actually caught him listening to the Eagles. More than once. Enough said, then.

It’s a little disconcerting to listen to him listen, when the sound leaking out of his ear buds is essentially a playlist from a Top 40 AM radio station in 1974. I’m a little intrigued by his affection, but I can’t help feeling as though this makes me a bad father.

There’s nothing like music, though, to inspire an old guy to bore a young one. It takes me back, and apparently I feel compelled to take everyone back with me. A stray song can provoke a monologue on making two bucks an hour (glad to get it) and paying less than half of that for a gallon of gas. No wonder he keeps the ear buds in.

It’s this sense of spontaneous time travel, renegotiating the past through future eyes, that’s eventually led me to understand something that should have been obvious before now: I remember things that you don’t.

Not necessarily you. We may all be in the same boat, given the demographics involved in newspaper publishing, but it’s still shocking to realize that the trivial details I’ve collected over my life are now, in fact, trivia. Even the faint memories of big events, and I spent my childhood living through several pretty big events, feel like the back pages of an unremarkable history textbook.

There were approximately 3 billion people on the planet when I was born, and 4 billion by the time I was 15. It’s estimated that we hit 7.5 billion last April, and there are no signs of stopping. And most of these people have no memory of life 40 years ago.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” is usually attributed to philosopher George Santayana, who also said, “History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory.” I can’t remember much about 1974, not really, and most of what I do is, again, pretty trivial.

But I remember August of that year pretty well, and now I have an assist.

Watergate is in the news these days, a comparison to current events that I take with a very large grain of salt. It’s the baseline for presidential bad behavior, and it added a suffix to political scandal, but the devil is in the details, always.

See, I remember Watergate. I was interested in journalism and fascinated by current events, so I spent a couple of summers watching televised hearings and wondering what was going to happen. I remember all of this, if faintly.

But I knew it was important. On August 7, 1974, two weeks after my 16th birthday, three Republican leaders met with President Nixon to tell him that his wavering support in Congress had stopped wavering. It had ceased to exist.

Two of those leaders (Sen. Barry Goldwater and Rep. John Rhodes) were from my state of Arizona, and the headline in the Phoenix Gazette revealed a scoop: “Nixon Resignation Expected.” It was pretty easy to guess their sources.

And since it was a scoop, I saved the paper, stuck it in a box and never threw it away. I kept a few more of those over the years, moments in history that felt worth saving, and the other day I found them.

The Bicentennial in 1976. The murder of John Lennon in 1980. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the crumbling of the Soviet Union, the deaths of presidents: All of this is preserved with fading ink and fragile paper, artifacts I can hold and read.

I don’t mourn the eventual demise of printed newspapers. News and history are both a couple of clicks away, and journalists and historians aren’t going anywhere. If the image of a kid casually tossing a rolled-up newspaper onto a lawn sprinkler feels anachronistic, it’s because we’ve moved on. Just toss me a link, kid. I’ll figure it out on my own.

But feeling history with my fingers? Turning the crackling pages slowly, laughing at the ads, confused by dated references? I don’t think people save newspapers anymore, and I think that’s a shame.

And if this sounds like a stereotypical old guy, yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, maybe. Or maybe I’m just yelling. Maybe I don’t like the Eagles. And maybe I want someone to toss a newspaper on that lawn, just in case I might want to keep it, if only to remind me of what I’ve forgotten after all these years.

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