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Speltin’ cross the Mersey

I just looked into a mirror of sorts, and the reflected image is incredibly disturbing.

As a result, I am agitated and, as a notorious self medicator, I am well into a fourth glass of a nice southern Rhone blend.

It’s not doing a lot of good.

I made a critical mistake. I wandered out of my “office”— a corner room in a damp basement — and I waddled over to the “entertainment area,” another corner of that same damp basement.

The “entertainment area” features a TV that rests on my “media center” — a particleboard cart with a missing wheel, its surfaces covered with a cheesy vinyl veneer that looks, in dim light, kind of like walnut. Below the TV rests a 15-year-old VCR. On top of the tape player is a DVD player. On top of the DVD machine is a satellite receiver. The cords from the three devices dangle haphazardly, running to the TV and to an overloaded, outdated, Bosnian-made surge protector placed on the damp floor below. (One lightning strike on the electrical system anywhere within a mile radius, and the whole works is toast.)

Approximately six feet away from the center is a ratty couch. It used to be eight feet distant, until failing eyesight required closer proximity. I still can’t read any lettering on the screen. I tried sitting four feet away, and that didn’t help. If I get closer than that, the radiation will drill a hole through my forehead into my pineal gland and that will be that. Irradiate the third eye, and you’re finished.

So, I lounge six feet away from the set, content to regard any lettering as a calligraphic nicety — a Cy Twomblyesque addition to the blurry moving images that scoot helter-skelter about the screen.

I switch on the tube and flip around for a while — the Food Network, the Travel Channel, a channel featuring “pro” poker players (a sport, you say?). Finally, I land on a Denver PBS channel.

Dear lord, what a mistake.

It’s there I find the mirror, the source of the image that produces this crushing depression.

I’m confronted by a PBS fund-raiser, titled something like “The British Invasion,” or “My Music.”

The moment I hear the first notes of music, my higher brain tells me to turn the channel, stat! But, something primal, way down in the reptilian brain stem — perhaps the same thing that leads me to stare at auto crashes and crime scene photos — demands I watch, and listen.

What I hear is, in a word, horrible.

A croaking, weak-voiced rendition of a Gerry and the Pacemakers’ tune from the early ’60s — “Ferry Cross the Mersey.”

It was awful then, it remains awful today. But, the gruesome experience is magnified by the fact the vocalist is Gerry Marsden — the same geek who sang the song way back when. Only now, he’s old.

It’s pathetic. There he is, balding, the few hairs remaining on his head combed over and gray. He has two or three chins and his teeth appear to be badly capped. His voice cracks, its quality thin, reedy. Come to think of it, it was always thin and reedy, so I can’t hold that against him, but he and the others on stage — most as decrepit as he — seem to be reveling in the moment, transported back in time, blithely unaware of their condition or that of the performance.

To make matters more hideous, the camera then pans to audience members. They too have multiple chins, and flapping folds of flesh beneath their bare, wrinkly upper arms. I know this, because they are waving their liver-spotted hands in the air, back and forth. They smile those god-awful, middle-class denture smiles; they are ecstatic, lost as they are in “their music.”

Heart of Darkness?

You bet, Mr. K.

The horror, the horror.


Because they … is me.

Not in the sense that I share their fabricated joy in the third-rate music. The crap they are playing on this program is vile, regardless of the decade, and only a botox-loaded geek would want to hear it. Anyone who pretends to enjoy this drivel should be taken out back of the barn and whipped.

Not to say there wasn’t some mighty fine music made back in the ’60s — a decade the importance of which has been exaggerated beyond all belief — but these Pacemakers (how appropriate, eh — pacemaker?) are nearly bereft of talent, as were most of their vinyl-borne colleagues at the time.

And yet, this clot of diapered idiots assembled for the taping of the show is transported at the mention of The Dave Clark Five and Herman and the Hermits (its lead singer possessed of the worse dental array in modern show biz, not to mention a catalogue of some of the dumbest songs ever written).

I am irate, because, like it or not, I am one of this despicable crew. I know this: I Googled all the British Invasion second-tier bands and, checking the site hit counts, found myself in the company of millions of other info seekers. We’re Baby Boomers all — a largely reprehensible, self-centered lot, convinced our mere existence is a monumental fact — a malformed puppy passing through the proverbial cultural python, and just about to be deposited as a stinking liability in our descendents’ social litter box.

The Baby Boomers and our infantile delusions should be put out to pasture ASAP. (Or is that AARP?)

I want to draw a warm bath, and open a vein.

Once the cheap veneer, much like that on my “media center,” is stripped from us, our prime significance is that we are the first large group of ordinary (emphasis on ordinary) folk endowed through no doing of their own with the idea that the essentials of existence are a given — the first large social group, propped up by unprecedented prosperity, there to exist with the notion of entitlement writ large. The first group of individuals able, in significant numbers, to live past middle age and retain the illusion of viability and vitality. With greed as the fuel and debt as a given, blind to the potential crippling effect of our self-indulgent bent.

It’s done wonders for us, hasn’t it? And, to our credit (no pun intended), we passed this attitude down to the next generation.

We are, in reality, a severe liability, a narcissistic herd that has produced, what? We have ridden a wave created by our parents who, burdened by their own delusions (triumph over evil, deserved prosperity, the “Greatest Generation”) failed to make us clean our rooms and take out the trash.

Instead, they let us listen to crap like Gerry and the Pacemakers and allowed us believe it was equal to Mozart.

Doubt what I say?

Tune to PBS. Open your eyes. These simpletons in the auditorium are swaying back and forth and beaming at each other as they raft on a river of cheap sentiment, accompanied by Chad and Jeremy! It is sentiment that takes us back to a period of gross indulgence, to a disconnected, carefree, presumptuous teenhood.

And many of us, flush with the desperation that comes of vanity, are now exhibiting supreme cowardice — retreating on the diet and drink front, working feverishly to avoid the Big D, the inevitable end, the trip off the cliff, the hole in the ground. Working hard to maintain the magical World of Me.

It’s done wonders for us, hasn’t it?

I think about this, and I get even more depressed.

What a dismal crew: robed in tissue-thin sentiment when the world is upside down; glorifying the mundane, drawing the blinds on a universe fraught with turmoil and suffering, sitting in our living rooms watching feebed-out hack rock and rollers and making no significant sacrifices while young men and women are at war. In the midst of economic collapse, we worry most about our personal fortunes, putting our concern for our money ahead of worry about little things like climate change, mass migration in the face of famine, sagging educational systems, gross social inequalities, the demise of the middle class, a culture in decline. Our myopia and our self-centered lifestyles are shameful.

A fact, no doubt, that will not be lost on those who are asked to pick up the tab for Social Security during the next 20 years or so. And to face the fact that their consumption-mad predecessors allowed a nation to slip to second-class status.

“Ferry cross the Mersey …”

I am melting down into a cynical puddle. I, too, need a diaper.

No, I need food. Vanity be damned. I admit it: I am a narcissist. Feed me, while others starve. Save me!

OK, I’ll make at least one sacrifice. Instead of tenderloin, give me spelt.

It’s a gesture.

And, why not a hearty spelt salad, since spelt is all that will be left once the damage done by this pernicious generation is fully realized.

I’ll take a cup or so of spelt kernels and put them in a pan with four cups or so of water and a pinch of salt. I’ll bring the mix to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer the mess for about 45 minutes.

Mmmm. Good, so far.

I’ll drain the spelt and cool it in a large bowl.

Then, it’s just a matter of what to add to this chewy, prison camp-like delight in order to round it into shape. A vinaigrette with smushed garlic, minced shallot extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, a smidge of country Dijon and some lemon juice. Halved grape tomatoes, chopped parsley, chopped basil, some oil-cured olives, some chunks of feta cheese. Any leftover cooked, green peas or asparagus in the house? Toss ’em in.

Mix everything with the spelt.

Eat. And while we chew, remember the good old days.

We ain’t ferrying cross the Mersey again.