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Urban Druid: “The Good Old Days”

Fancying myself as someone who follows through… I am forcing myself to sit and type something for February.  A sort of stream of consciousness… short and sweet. Major decisions weigh heavy and added to it… I’ve not been feeling well lately.


“The Greatest Generation” in World War II

… Overheard an older gentleman on the train coming home tonight…talking about “the kids today” or “the youth of America”.  I can recall members of “the greatest generation” doing that when I was growing up.  They were really hard on us.

Now “Baby Boomers” are the older generation and it is our turn to gripe.

In fact, I was listening to Geraldo Rivera whining about young people and how he couldn’t stand the way they walk around with their pants hanging below their asses…

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand it either. The difference is that I remember being young once.  Hey… not for nothin’ Geraldo…but I remember as a boy when you played in a Bronx charity basketball game alongside the late Harry Chapin.  Your hair was down to your shoulders and older men (World War II vets) sat behind me talking about your looking like a girl.  You were probably late 20s at the time.  I promised myself as a child, after hearing adults raging about hippies with long hair and huge Afros and girls going braless in halter tops and ragged jeans with holes in them… and that horrible horrible Rock music…that I would never do that when I grew up. That I would defend the young and allow them to be young. Even if I loathed their ways.

People talk about the good old days and how back in the day they didn’t have to lock their doors.  All of my life I’ve taken that with a grain of salt.  Example:

Almost one century before 9/11 there was a train derailment at 14th Street Union Square. People were killed.  Others staggered out of subway cars into the tunnel and were electrocuted by the 3rd rail.  Immediately following the accident people rushed into the subway from the street level, stripping the dead of their valuables and cutting off fingers for rings etc.  After 9/11, while I’d heard rumors about city workers packing the trunks of their cars with fresh work boots meant for recovery workers at Ground Zero, it’s hardly as cruel.

suicide hall

Suicide Hall (New York Herald 1899)

The good old days?  When places like John McGuirk’s Suicide Hall existed.   Houston Street and Bowery?  A tavern so depressing people would commit suicide there?  Circa 1900.  Imagine that today?

… What would have happened if there was News 24/7 when the Mongols were invading Europe?  Could you imagine?  It would make Isis look like the Cub Scouts.  You can bet the mortgage the Europeans had their doors locked.

I’m an optimist.  If there was a deadly derailment at Union Square today I just don’t see the same thing happening.  There were many good things about the old world, but in many ways the world is better today.  I was right next door to the Towers on 9/11 and I saw people come together.  I’ll never forget the feeling… proud to be human.

I’m cranky this month.  Please bear with me.

The point is they keep telling us that the world is worse than ever… don’t buy into it.  Don’t believe them.  I see acts of kindness every day.  Yes, there’s the bad, but that’s always been the case.  Even in the good old days… When people “didn’t need to lock their doors.”

Kevin Patrick Dowling

Kevin Patrick Dowling is a native New Yorker living amongst the masses. Observing from the trenches. A former sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, who had cut his teeth in the brutal 1970s Bronx. Currently working on a novel, he is an actor and playwright. A former stagehand, bookie, restaurant manager, construction worker, security officer.

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1 Response

  1. Great piece as usual! I love to read your stories – brings back memories…

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