Imagine for a moment you are in a dark quiet room. Not the kind of dark where you can still make out shadows, but completely, utterly pitch black. And very, very much too quiet.
Suddenly from nowhere a barely audible sequence of familiar musical notes gradually grows louder as it continuously repeats. bum-bum, bum-bum, bum-bum, bum bum… Bum-Bum, Bum-Bum, Bum-Bum, Bum Bum… BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM, BUM BUM!!! Then out of the darkness just beyond the edge of your peripheral vision, a black and white Rod Serling steps into shadowy view.
Like in a creepy old Twilight Zone episode, join me as we travel back in time. Way, way back to a very scary place… the 1970s.
The 70s was a neato, heavy, gnarly, radical decade. Can you dig it? I knew that you could. Ah, the 70s, when the clothing was loud and flammable. Inflation, gas lines, decaying infrastructure, Watergate and near national bankruptcy. Dirty streets were lined with waterbed stores, stereo dealers and head shops.
A slightly older friend once told me it was the best time to come of age because in the short lived window Post Vietnam and Pre AIDS copious amounts of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll were definitely acceptable and readily available. I spent my formative younger school years growing up in that ‘me’ decade but I was too young and un-cool to really benefit from the permissive social mores.
What I did experience was an unparalleled freedom. Kids were not forced to responsibly grow up like the generations before: The draft, World Wars and Duck & Cover a thing of the past. Nor was there today’s intense pressure from information overload. Old school views of parenting allowed children to still play and wander unencumbered by obsessive safety precautions. The world was just starting to spin crazy fast but without computers and cellphones, you could independently ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’. Of course, knowing all the crazy-shit we got away with, is likely how all the fear-driven precautions got started.
Moving from a big-family New York world to an only-child Miami situation, during the self-indulgent Disco / Punk / Scarface era, certainly afforded me lots of opportunities to be a rebellious wild child but I was a good(ish) kid; close to the craziness but not in the thick of it. Like one High School years weekend when I told my Mom I was staying at my friend Tim’s house. I might have omitted the parts about his folks being away and the planned drinking party. Past midnight after Tim passed out, Mike and I wandered the half mile to another friend’s house while loudly singing Del Shannon’s Runaway. But like I said, I was good(ish) kid so when we got to our destination, I might have watched a friend grind up and snort lines of No-Doze when she ran out of cocaine, but I did not join her in either.
I’d love to say it was my high morals and strong scruples that helped me wade through the turpitude and temptations of the era, but like I said, I was a pretty uncool kid and had few opportunities to get in real trouble. When I did, I usually wussed out, like I was afraid to skip school for a week with my friends who snuck up to Ft Lauderdale to be extras in Caddyshack (still regret that one). Sure, Mike and I would sometimes drive around and cause some minor mischief moving around Bob’s Barricades or piling a street’s worth of garbage bags in front of a fellow student’s house but nothing real dangerous. I was not a big risk taker, although my friend Julie once dated a rich older guy that worked in one of those groovy waterbed stores, who drove me in his Lamborghini Espada at well over 100 mph blowing through a few red lights on the western end of Calle Ocho towards the Everglades.
But I have drifted very far from my point. Yes, I actually do have a point. And that point is the Twilight Zone.
Back in the mid-70s when I first got to Florida, I had no friends so I found myself watching a lot of TV. Sound Advice, a cheesy local stereo dealer, sponsored a nightly commercial-free showing of the old black and white 1960’s sci-fi show. A local ‘audiophile’ DJ, Dave Dixon, the store’s big bellied scraggly long-haired spokesperson, would clumsily introduce each episode after urging all to come down to the store to pick up a free Twilight Zone episode guide and test out the foreign named expensive tape decks, tuners and gigantic high wattage floor speakers that would certainly make you the envy of your equally materialistic braggart buddies.. Of course I could not afford any electronics beyond my cheesy Radio
Shack phonograph and dated 8-track player, but I did once stop in to get an episode guide and a signed photo of big scary Dave that I hung among the other crap over my desk.
I remember my older brother Arthur introducing me to the Twilight Zone when I was a real little kid, but I got hooked during those 1970s Miami years. I recall one episode that was supposed to take place in the not so distant future from when it was filmed in the early 60s. In the opening sequence it flashed the future date of 1977, the year I was actually watching. Their vision of what the future would be like was quite wrong but it got me wondering how different my future would be from what I was envisioning. As it turned out, all my childhood assumptions of what my life would be like, ended up nothing like my realty. I’ve experienced more than I ever expected and I’m much happier than I ever really believed I’d be.
A few months ago, when my wife was out of town, I recorded a couple of Twilight Zone episodes on our DVR. I never got around to one so after she got back, I occasionally suggested we watch it but it’s not really her thing. Finally, late one lazy Saturday night she agreed. We started the classic time travel episode A Stop at Willoughby where a man in a high-pressure job jumps off his commuter train home into his version of a simpler time and place. As it started, I wondered if my personal Willoughby would be in the 1970s when I had first seen that episode? I secretly hoped my wife would like it and maybe get hooked like I had so many years before.
Unfortunately, I cannot personally travel back in time to do things differently. Otherwise, I might have zipped back exactly a half hour because after all the buildup, I nodded off and fell asleep while we were watching it. My wife never said if she enjoyed it or not. I don’t even really know if she got all the way through it because I was a little too embarrassed to ask.
So, I think maybe I’ll keep The Twilight Zone as a Dan thing. A reminder of my past, all the changes in my life and how far I’ve come. It’s almost like I am living in a different dimension… a dimension of time… and of sound…between light and shadow, between science and superstition… BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM, BUM-BUM, BUM BUM!!!