March 12, 2008

Teen Angst

While teaching my English class the other day, my students and I were having a warm-up conversation, and one of our “conversation starters” was, “If you could visit any historical period, which one would you choose?”
Now, this is one of my favorite ideas. I kind of hope and/or believe that when you die, you get to go to any place or any time in history, going through a sort of “Greatest Hits of Universal Existence Bonus Round,” as a reward for living a good life. That’d be interesting on quite a few levels. You could get front row seats for the Big Bang, chat with Jesus over a cup of coffee and a game of backgammon, heckle the slaves (or UFOs) building the pyramids, shoot the shit and chase skirt with Ben Franklin, take a dump on Hitler’s pillow while he’s out giving a speech, and you could even sit in a tree in Dallas and say, “Oh, so that’s who shot Kennedy!” At the same time, though, I have a feeling that if there’s a heaven and an afterlife, it’s probably got unimaginable concepts pulled straight from the mind of God and stretched out through the cosmos of creation and un-creation; basically, if you DO get a one-on-one with God after you die, He could probably show you things that’ll make riding on the Mayflower seem as significant as a fart from a squashed cockroach.
So, where am I going with this? It’s a roundabout way of bringing up the topic of Kids These Days. See, I was thinking that one historical period that I might like to see would be the Colorado of the 1500s. It would be long before the Europeans had made it west, and there might not yet have even been Indians in the area around Fort Collins, the city where I grew up. I would like to go there out of curiosity, mainly to see what the land looked like before anyone began living there. But then it occurred to me: The Future Fort Collins of 1501 would probably have nice views, but it would be really, really boring. That made me remember how, when we were teenagers, we always complained about how boring things were in our town, and deridingly dubbed it “Fort Fun” due to its lack of mental stimuli targeted at the teenage crowd.
The more I began to think about this, though, the more I realized that this is a fairly universal theme, and I notice it even more now that I live in Berlín. Berlín is a small, small, small coffee town that makes Fort Collins seem so glamorous and interesting by comparison that you’d think Metropolis had crashed into New York City. But the common thread is that as I drive home from work on Friday nights at about 11:00 pm, I pass various groupings of kids on the side of the winding, foggy roads. Strangely enough, I can never figure out how they even get to Berlín, because it’s generally a group of about five or six kids standing in a circle around a single guy hunched over the handles of a motorcycle. You’ll see about three or four such groups every weekend night. As far as I can tell, they just stand there and talk, while maybe ingesting some substance. Who knows, and who cares?
But then there’s this: I know that not all of these kids are from Berlín. I know this first of all, because it’s demographically impossible, and second of all, because some grown-ups that currently live in San Ramón have told me that when they were teenagers they used to come up to Berlín to hang out on the side of the road and chat. The conclusion: Berlín might be boring and as mentally stimulating for teenagers as a movie featuring Elizabeth Taylor, but judging by the crowds of budding hillrods hanging out on its curvy roads at night, it’s still better than San Ramón. For me, this idea is both profoundly unsettling and deeply comforting at the same time. Unsettling, because I’m no longer one of those teenagers, so I know that one day those little fuckers might stray onto my lawn, and I’ll have to chase them away while wearing my Technicolor Dreamcoat Robe. Comforting, because now in comparison the Fort Collins of my youth doesn’t seem as boring as the Berlín of today.
My conclusion? I still don’t know if you get an all-expenses paid trip through the cosmos of history when you die. But I’ll bet if you do, as you find yourself piloting the Millennium Falcon on its final descent towards the construction site of the Egyptian pyramids, you’ll glance to the side and probably notice a group of bored teenagers from Alexandria hanging around on the outskirts of Giza. And you’ll see that they’re smoking cigarettes and forming a circle around a guy hunched over the reigns of a dusty camel.

The kids are alright, but they're certainly bored.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do remember finding something productive to do in Fort Fun while we were in high school. If I remember correctly... You, Cristi, me...a super-cool Elvira type wig, cowboy hat, a wheelbarrow, Marie's Pet Grooming on College and Taco Bell. Maybe Cristi has the pictures:) Hope you guys are doing well! Congrats on the marraige. -LaRita Mireles

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's marriage. I can't spell:)

Dustin Colburn said...

Dude...remember the hot tub? In made Fort Fun into Fort "Steamin' Hot" Fun...