Hard Boiled Character

I’m very much a child of the Sixties. I was born at the beginning of the decade that brought to a point of confluence such disparate events and ideas and people as space exploration and spaced-out hippies, the Beatles and the Batmobile, suburban composting and the Cold War. Every one of those might be said to have had at least a little influence on aspects of my self and my character, but one of those I particularly remember from preteen days is that the very little I knew of the politics of the day was that my classmates and I were trained in school drills to dive under our desks and cover our heads with our arms as protection against The Bomb. Because we all know that there’s nothing better than skinny little kid arms and a plywood desk to save us from nuclear holocaust.

A corollary of this perhaps, is that even as a shrimp I could recognize the futility and insane ridiculousness of what the world’s Superpowers liked to tell us was inevitable and what, conversely, was going to stave off such things, so I preferred to play the 60s’ iteration of the 50s’ cowboys-and-Indians, that being a game that, as far as I’ve been able to discern, was all about galloping around on invisible horses, making a lot of noise, chasing each other, and brandishing toy guns in ways that would’ve cleared the Old West in an instant by accidental and ‘friendly’ fire had they been loaded. Our upgrade for the sixties was Spies, because as it was utterly clear no politicians in ours or any other country was going to be sensible and deal in saving self and planet by means of either successfully waging a visible war or, even more remotely, by learning to sit at table and negotiate anything like Peace.

So we played Spies, the cowboys-and-Indians or Us vs. Them variant that swapped invisible pinto ponies and buckskins for invisible (or better yet, pedal car) sleek, speedy autos with magnificent tail fins, the ten-gallon hats for fedoras and the chases across the Western plains for slinking around our own houses to peer Unseen into the windows—the ones we could reach—and spying on our own parents who stood in for Commies. And only if we were really lucky maybe really were Communists, though I knew no one who would have said so openly in suburban America in those days. In point of fact, I had no goal of catching anything other than perhaps a glimpse of where Mom kept a box of candy hidden, and certainly no wish to fire my terrifyingly realistic plastic squirt gun at anyone with anything other than a zip of icy cold water, but it was all Terribly Exciting.digital illustrationThat, however, was pretty much the pinnacle of my career as anything racy or dangerous, and I’m quite content with that. But the memory of how thrilling the entirely artificial and manufactured world of child’s play was still charms me, and I still kind of like to revisit the image of self-as-desperado with a laugh and, yes, a tip of my broad-brimmed hat.

10 thoughts on “Hard Boiled Character

  1. I am a product of the fifties and I do remember Cowboys and Indians but we also played Army…..but not yet under much influence of the cold war….I got carried away digging out an old peach tree stump for my dad, probably a creative way to keep a 10 year old boy out of trouble. I dug a deep fort for me and my buddies to play in. It did become a topic concerning “bomb shelters” – I asked Dad if I could make the hole big enough for a bomb shelter…yes, those were some interesting times and interesting how children process the world around them.

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