Hanging On To The Old Ways

Sentimentality has somehow become a part of my DNA, I think. It’s a curious
symbiotic process that can be easily disproved by medical science, yet has
a definite power, mostly emotional, though sometimes, I think, even physical.
Physical in the sense of hearing the engine of a muscle car roar and the hairs
on my arm go straight up… physical in the sense that every so often the
hearing of a sweet old song from way back in the dark ages will bring tears…
physical in the sense of smelling the heady fragrance of sagebrush and pine
after a summer rain in Montana, and in that moment knowing exactly who
and where I am.

Then there are the times I curse the monotone monotony of the new music,
curse the tone-deaf teenagers who are whining it out, curse the silent electric
cars that back out of the parking lot and almost hit me because I didn’t hear
them coming. And I curse the changes that brought our country to this sorry
state of current events.

Boo hoo, Steve, but everything changes… things we expect to change, things
we are shocked and surprised at when they change. The optimist will tell us
that change is basically what keeps life interesting, while the pessimist insists
that much change is brutal, even evil… that change is a built-in difficulty
we have to deal with all our lives, that it’s a curse we can’t disconnect from.

I tend to believe that most change is uncomfortable for us, yet we often come
to be grateful for it after the fact. Strange, huh? And that would suggest that
perhaps we don’t know everything, or at least don’t know what’s good for us
in the long haul.

One of the beautiful benefits of becoming older is the realization that most
events and happenings in our lives that seemed negative and unwanted
turned out to have good, sometimes wonderful results we couldn’t have
possibly foreseen. For me, that knowledge makes it easier to forge ahead,
mostly blindly, into uncharted waters, knowing that there is probably a
silver lining lurking behind that cloud somewhere.

That knowledge, that positive spin on the unknown of future events, still
doesn’t keep me from wanting to hold on to many of my old ways, and
old loves. And lest you misunderstand my meaning of “old loves,” let me
assure you that it refers to my old truck, my love of old dirt roads, my
enduring preference for live music, ’60’s jazz and airports before TSA.
I still care more for planes with propellers, cars & trucks with big V-8’s
in them, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Wally and The Beaver, you
get the idea. Much of all that is simply sentimental, but some of it is
cultural, what I was brought up with, what was of value to me when I
was younger. Don’t we all still have those preferences for times gone by
when our lives were good, were simpler, and everything seemed to be
working for us?

The very idea of a driverless car is, to me, a horrendous idea. There are
so many wrong elements in the whole concept that it boggles my mind.
Driving, for much of the free world, is the cheapest therapy one can have…
a chance to see something new, think things over, get a handle on one’s
latest difficulty… all for the price of a tank of gas. Mario Andretti once said,
“When they finally come out with driverless cars, I don’t even want to be
If it’s good enough for Mario, it’s good enough for me.

When we get older, the view of the history of our lives changes. I now see
my first 40 years as “the comfort zone,” the times when I was completely
at ease with life and my surroundings, mostly because they were familiar,
and I was growing with them. From then on, however, changes seemed
to become less subtle and quicker, slowly separating much of the world
from itself and me. “New and different” stopped becoming exciting and
began being a challenge, or a nuisance, at the very least. And only now
do I understand that the changes that today brings are uncomfortable
to me, mostly because 40 years is a long time to live in the comfort zone.
It was easy to get used to, and sometimes difficult to now let go of.

So naturally I don’t like much of the newness, the differentness and the
strangeness that change has brought us over the years. Do I love my cell
phone, with its myriad bells and whistles that we suddenly can’t do without?
Hell yes I do! Especially the GPS! As we all say at one point or another,
“Don’t know how we lived without it…” But do I love Lady Ga Ga? No.
Sure she’s talented, sure she’s a star, but she’s not, nor will she ever be,
even close to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson or Nat King Cole.Not to me,
anyway. The old masters are my comfort zone, the big bands I grew up with,
the beautiful tunes that came out of Tin Pan Alley, the timeless music of the
great Broadway plays of the ’30’s and ’40’s… George Gershwin, Rogers
and Hart, Rogers and Hammerstein… their music absolutely enchants
me to this day, as nothing newer than the Beatles or Earth, Wind and Fire
can. My enduring loves are emotional, cultural, time-based figments of
life that came to define my tastes in music, in people, in perception of
quality. And in that, I yam what I yam, as Popeye used to exclaim.
“Wait, what? Tin Pan Alley? And who the hell is Popeye??”
You had to be there, kid.

Steve Hulse

One Reply to “Hanging On To The Old Ways”

  1. Steve. I enjoyed this piece about looking back at the past. I also don’t do well with change. I agree with your views on the new music – however, I am reminded of my teenage years when I was wild about Elvis and my father was not a fan. He built radios as a hobby, and so knew how to make sure our radios couldn’t get the rock and roll station. I was so bummed!
    Keep writing – hugs from SA

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