Sometimes, You Can Go Back

It seems completely bizarre that the year 1969 was 50 years ago. Half a century has passed since I was 14-years-old, growing up in my hometown of Torrance, California.

It was the year I graduated from 8th grade and made the transition to high school. I took a summer school class–P.E. of all things–so that I could spend some time on campus before going full-time in the fall.  The Beatles were still together, although they had gone all hippie and there were rumors of them not getting along. And while it was the year we finally made it to the moon, it had been a long decade. The Viet Nam War kept escalating,  a president, his brother and a civil rights leader were assassinated and people were anxious to get to a fresh new decade and move on.

 

The Levy Elementary School Class of 1969

 

While the major spotlight of the 50th anniversary of 1969 fell on the moon landing with a little bit left for Woodstock, for the 14-year-old kid growing up on 226th Street, when I recall 1969, I go straight to the Manson murders.

Remember how back in 2001 when those passenger jets crashed into the Twin Towers and it took your brain a long time to accept someone could actually do that intentionally? When Charles Manson and his followers went on their killing sprees–two separate nights, with stabbings and mutilations–it was unthinkable. That anyone could go in and butcher people like that. Who were these monsters? it resulted in news coverage that rivaled what you saw during the O.J. trial.  Being in the Los Angeles area, I remember a lot of people wondering, “Oh, my God, could we be next?”  We had made the transition from hippies representing peace and love to whacked-out psychopaths with crazed eyes that carved swastikas on their foreheads and killed people. The hippies they arrested said they were inspired by the Beatles song, “Helter Skelter.” They even left that written in blood at one of the slaughters.

In the months and years that followed, Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Squeaky Fromme, Patricia Krenwinkle, Linda Kasabian and Susan Atkins became household words. The Spahn Ranch, a former site where they filmed a lot of westerns, had been engraved in our minds as the home base of Manson and his followers.

 

All this to say, I was very aware of what happened that fateful summer and was curious how Quentin Tarantino was going to work it into his new movie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” I’m going to avoid spoilers as best I can because the strongest payoff for that movie is for you to be completely unaware of where it’s going.

For a teenager growing up in Southern California in 1969, this movie had a profound effect on me. I was two years away from a driver’s license, so if I went anywhere in a car in those days, I was a passenger. The same was true of Tarantino, so he intentionally included a lot of shots of vintage Southern California from the passengers’ point of view. To do that, he had to recreate streets, freeways, signs and traffic as it was 50 years ago. That’s where this movie became a time capsule for me. As the plot thickened, I was fixated on all the billboards, the now-defunct stores, and the bus stops with ads on them for things like TV Kids Show Host Hobo Kelly (who I had completely forgotten about) and L.A. news guy George Putnam. Everywhere I looked, I was back in the So Cal I grew up in, 50 years ago.

To be clear, this movie is not for everybody. Tarantino loves his f-bombs and extreme graphic violence so I can’t recommend it to mom. But if you allow yourself to get past that stuff, you will be treated to one amazing movie. It’s not a documentary, it’s a fairy tale. It’s not how the story ended in real life, but rather, how you wished it could have ended.

DiCaprio, Pitt, the entire cast acted their rear ends off. I’ve only seen a couple of Tarantino pictures because the cartoonish violence is often too much. But in this case, I had to restrain myself from breaking out into a standing ovation. It was that feeling you get when watching the coyote get crushed by something he intended for the roadrunner…times a hundred.

One probably shouldn’t make Oscar predictions in my current emotional state, but Leo and Brad are very deserving and I think a little gold statue is due to Mr. Tarantino, if nothing else for the fantastic time machine he created. He took me back to that unsettling summer of 1969 and made it all better.

Then again, isn’t that what fairy tales are supposed to do?

Tim Hunter

You Can Have My Spot

Some weeks I can’t wait to see what comes out of this keyboard and others, I fight the urge to pile on to the latest political unrest. It seems like there’s a new one every week and while I have thoughts on each fresh, disturbing topic, I attempt to keep most of those opinions to myself, or discuss them verbally with open-thinking people.

Oh, the occasional politically-themed blog sneaks out, but I prefer that this little corner of the Internet be more positive and uplifting. Even when I break down and dive into a politically sensitive topic, my hope is to contribute  some balance to the topic.

Not a whole lot of possible balance this week, so I’m heading to space.

Actually, I’m not.

You see, there’s been a lot of talk about going back to the moon with the 50th anniversary of the first time we were there rolling around this week.

That was an amazing time in our country. Even with a war raging on in Viet Nam, a decade-long pursuit of safely landing Americans on the lunar surface happened when I was 14-years-old. I had graduated 8th grade and was bracing myself for entering the world of high school. During the summer, I took a cross country running class to get in better shape to try out for the basketball team in the fall. I remember buying a bottle of salt tablets because that’s what the coach said would help me retain water. God knows what my blood pressure went up to.

I do remember all the hoopla surrounding the moon landing. I’m pretty sure I have the front pages of several newspapers tucked away in boxes under the house. The Law and Order candidate, Richard Nixon, was president and so much was going in the world to compete for my attention from other things like, oh, girls.

Seriously, when you’re talking 1969, you’re talking about the Manson murders, Woodstock, the first Pontiac Trans Am came out, the “Miracle Mets” and gas was 35-cents a gallon. It was a completely different world.

Receiving my 8th grad diploma from Sam Levy Elementary.

Yes, I was a proud Levy Llama.

Years later, I’ve naturally aged like a Facebook app and hear today’s explorers saying that they’re looking forward to going to the moon. If we somehow manage to make commercial travel to the moon possible in my lifetime, I think I’ll pass.

I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing, first-hand, what it’s like up there.  But there are already so many things down here that I haven’t seen or experienced yet. I only made it to Yellowstone National Park for the first time a couple of years ago thanks to my son’s wedding. They booked a venue in Montana and I was able to cross that off my bucket list.

Next month, I’ll be heading to Scotland for the very first time and among our stops, visiting the town of Wishaw where my dad was born.

You see, as far as places I’d like to visit in my lifetime, the moon probably is #2,589 on the list.

Think the flight to Australia is long? And then, to fly all the way up there just so I could look out at a bunch of rocks and craters and tell the old joke about, ‘That’s why they don’t have a restaurant up here–it lacks atmosphere.” And what happens when you’re in that space suit and you fart?  I definitely need an answer before I put one on.

Moon, I can see you just fine from here. A few of us might come your way for a visit, but I’ll pass.

To the explorer who can’t to fly there, you can have my seat.

Tim Hunter