Saturday, July 20, 2013

the answer man

The two kids in line behind me at the supermarket, who kept crowding up as if they wanted to pass me, were a girl of perhaps 14 and a boy of 12. Their dad, standing behind them, was forties-ish. As we waited in the checkout line, the kids began entertaining themselves by posing queries about the celebrities of past and present mentioned on the headline literature festooning the racks. They knew who Johnny Depp is, but the fun began when the girl asked, "Dad, who's John Denver?" I suffered a little vertiginous shock, having never previously consciously dealt with anyone's need to ask that question - but however vivid he still seems to me, it's now been nearly 16 years since he ran out of gas over Monterey Bay, which is almost certainly before she was born - while dad gave a basic and fairly succinct answer, which was enough to enable the boy, with perhaps a better recall of MOR oldies radio than his sister, to dredge up from memory one of his song titles, which, alas, was "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."

Then, prompted by a tabloid cover, the kids asked, "Who's O.J.?" Oh boy. I gave quiet thanks I wasn't the person who had to answer this one. Dad competently outlined that lurid disaster, and then the kids, perhaps motivated by the past tense grammar of the previous answer, asked the follow-up, "How did John Denver die?" (An odd question to ask, actually. Would you ask, How did Cory Monteith die?) And dad described that differently lurid disaster, in less succinct terms than I would.

The next question was, "Who's Katharine Hepburn?" but by then my purchases were being rung up.

1 comment:

  1. Young people never know who was big in pop culture 2 or 3 decades before they were born, unless they come from an unusual background or are interested in history. I was born in 1947; if you had asked me, about 1962 let's say, when I was 15, who Helen Morgan or John Barrymore was, I would've been just as ignorant. Of course, that doesn't stop me from being gobsmacked every time I hear some teen say, "Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?"