As I wandered into a greasy spoon and took a seat at the counter, Iwas contemplating, as the Stones sang, what a drag it is gettingold. A waitress standing a few feet away, unmoored from customersat the moment, sang along to an Elvis Presley song from the Fiftiesplaying on the jukebox. As I listened, I realized she knew everyword.
The waitress was about 20. Elvis had been dead more years than shehad been alive. How, I wondered, did she know the wordsto an Elvis song? And not to just any Elvis song, but one from theFifties?
I don't know the words to, say, a Count Basie song. Okay, CountBasie songs don't have words. The point is that this girl - and,yes, she seemed to me just that, a girl - was extraordinarilyfamiliar with a song that was so ancient as to be practicallyBiblical. (And Elvis begot The Beatles, and The Beatles begot theEnglish Invasion, and the English Invasion begot hair bands, andhair bands begot punk, and punk begot grunge, and grunge begotthrash-metal-indie-ska-hip-hop.) At 20, I did not possess the sameeffortless knowledge of my parents' music.
We started chatting. "I love classic rock," she said. "LedZeppelin. All that stuff. Everybody in my generation really likesthat stuff."
The next day, I stopped to check out a poster sale. The posterstaped to the outside walls, presumably to entice customers, weren'tof anything having to do with the current generation. One was ofMuhammad Ali glowering over a flat-on-his-back Sonny Liston.Another was of Jim Morrison. A third depicted Jimi Hendrix coaxingfire from his guitar. The only poster remotely related to currenttimes showed Kurt Cobain in performance.
What, I wondered, am I to make of this?
Is there a generation gap or isn't there?