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Nostalgia for times I never knew: California in the 50’s

I remember redwood trees, bumper cars and wolverines
The ocean’s Trident submarines
Lemons, limes and tangerines
I remember this

I don’t think Michael Stipe was actually around in California in the 1950s, but the more things change, the more they stay the same: the song (from Green, 1988) is redolent of how I imagine the Golden State in the space age: T-birds on the Pacific Highway, redwood forests against the azure sea, the fair on the Santa Monica pier. Impossibly good looking teenagers, the first generation of such, doing innocent, teenagery things.

I remember traffic jams, motor boys and girls with tans
Nearly was and almost rans
I remember this

If I was there then, I’d drive a massive car. Like, really huge, with fins and a bench seat in the front. I’d drive it out of my suburb to the woods (they’d be something like the woods in North By Northwest, perhaps), or to the beach, or to my friends’ parents’ mansion.

I recall that you were there
Golden smile and shining hair
I recall it wasn’t fair, recollect it wasn’t fair
Remembering it wasn’t fair outside

I’d live in blissful ignorance of the threat of nuclear holocaust, with that slightly manic denial of something that’s so awful the mind can’t take it in. I’d go on in that post-war bubble of happiness, ignoring the scary things and the things that make folk worried, and remember only the American dream.

I remember this defense, progress fails pacific sense
All those sweet conspiracies
I remember all these things
I remember traffic jams, motor boys and girls with tans
Nearly was and almost rans
I remember this

Maybe when I grew up I’d go work at a prestigious campus university, one where the camera pans around me as if I were in A Beautiful Mind and I could where my blazer and striped tie and solve massive physics problems that will simultaneously destroy the reds under the bed, and put a man on the American moon. After that I could be recruited by NASA, or stay on as a professor, or better still, be singled out by the CIA to join The Company, and solve all the worlds ills that way.

History is made

History is made to seem unfair

I guess it’s another nostalgia like that of the British Empire or, as Lemmy once commented, the glory days of Nazi Germany. After WW2, America was on top of the world and was the first superpower – Britain had faded, Europe was becoming like Middle Earth: its time was over for the really cool one but when you were in the centre of the dream, it must have been amazing.

R.E.M. – I Remember California


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