Monday, January 21, 2008

the coolness of me, and generation why?

Pay It Forward- “I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

I signed up to do this on Amy's blog. Now, if there are three people reading my blog who are willing to take part in this Pay It Forward, comment on this post and I'll send you something handmade! In turn, post the above info on your blog and we'll keep this thing going.

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Over the weekend, I ditched the husband and kids for a bit and hung out with some of my cousins. They're college students now, ten years younger than I am, and we took a trip to Thayer Street in Providence. For those not in the know, Thayer Street is the place for all the cool Brown and RISD students. It's lined with funky, independent stores, and usually packed with young, hip, artsy types. In good weather, there are all kinds of musicians on the sidewalks with their instruments, and there are always tons of dreadlocked hippies floating around. During high school and college, I loved shopping on Thayer Street; not as much for the stores (although there are some good ones) as for the atmosphere. There are all kinds of people there and I always liked how five minutes on that street could make me feel wicked cool and simultaneously not cool enough.

It's been awhile since my last visit, and I was a little disappointed to see many of my old favorite independent stores were gone (and replaced with quite a few big-name ones). No matter, though, surely the vibe was the same, and so the cousins and I trekked on. We visited store after store, mostly just browsing. The bead store, the Army/Navy Surplus store, the candy shop, the funky toy store, the second-hand clothes shops, the Birkenstock store. We hit them all. It was at the bead store that I began to sense a change in Thayer Street. For some reason, I wasn't getting as much enjoyment from window shopping there as I had in the past. A decade ago I could (and frequently did) spend hours on Thayer Street and maybe visit two or three stores. Now, ten minutes into the bead store and I was getting impatient. I wanted the kids to hurry up; I wanted to go to a different store. I wasn't buying anything at that particular shop and I saw no reason to stay. Sure, some of the girls were buying jewelry, but I really thought they should just hurry up and pick out the dern beads already. I mean, twenty minutes looking at beads? Come on. They're nice, but they're not yarn or anything. Finally we left, and I was glad. I felt sure, now that we were out of that silly store, that the familiar feeling of fitting in that I had always previously experienced there would take over and I would enjoy myself. This was, after all, Thayer Street. The place for cool people. And I am nothing if not cool.

So, we went into store after store after store, and in each one I grew impatient after a time. It slowly dawned on me that, yes, Thayer Street had changed. There were more chain stores and fewer independent ones. There were many stores with wireless internet and most people were sporting ipods. But something else had changed, too. I had. I was no longer a young, hip college student with lofty, peaceful ideals and while I'd still like to end global warming and "make a difference," I know I have too many commitments and responsibilities now to take off and join The Peace Corps. My "rebellion" is limited to cloth diapers and a pin that says "I read banned books" on my knitting bag. I've become "real" and I don't really fit in with the young 'uns anymore.

After a quick look in a few stores, I was ready to go home. This of course depressed me, but I stuck it out and tried to act like I was having a great time. On the way back to our car (something like 18 hours later), I saw an advertisement on a telephone pole for free guitar lessons. Immediately, I thought of a book I've been reading. The book was originally published in the late '60s and it talks about a free college that was running at that time in one hip city or another. The way it worked was, anyone who had a talent could offer to teach it, and anyone who wanted to learn anything that was being offered could just go. No money involved, no "establishment" to deal with. Just you teach me, I'll teach you. (A philosophy, I thought, that was quite appropriate on a street full of pink-haired mohawked college kids who at least looked like they were ready to "fight the man.") I brought this subject up with my cousins, explaining how the school worked and the philosophy behind it. Then, I asked why things like that don't happen anymore. I was wondering when society had changed so much, from the free-love and peaceful idealism of the '60s to, well, now. Someone brushed it off with a "That's because we're living in a crazy world." "NO!" I replied emphatically, "That's not a good enough reason!" I was all set to launch into a lengthy diatribe about how things should change, and they could change, but it was up to them, their generation, to set things right. Before I could get up much steam, though, one of the girls said "I wish I was a child of the '60s." Thoughts went racing through my head- "Yes! She gets it! She understands how the people then were at least trying to do something! Maybe I'm too old for Thayer Street and maybe my generation is quickly losing it's opportunity to change the world, but that's okay as long as someone from the next generation understands! There's still hope for a better tomorrow!" Then my cousin continued, "My hair's so straight. It would have looked so good then."

I wonder why the world is the way it is? I may just have my answer.