August 11, 2007

Nostalgia and Environment

A series of events, both in the past and future, are on my mind this morning. Yesterday, I came into contact with a friend from high school, after many years, more than a decade perhaps. I searched her name (gotta love the google) and found her easily (hi Amie!). My post the other day about some friends and I meeting a guy who was singing Billy Bragg in Ann Arbor prompted me to do the search. Its very odd for me, because I am not in contact with anyone from high school at all. In fact, I am not even in contact with anyone from college on a regular basis. Part of me finds that kinda sad, and I am a bit envious that Chuck is still in touch with not only college friends, but also friends from his youth. So I am wondering why I am like this, and why I have not sought the contact of old friends all these years.

I guess a part of me is always looking forward, and not looking back. I have always frowned upon the thought of Nostalgia. An upcoming event here in metro Detroit is the perfect example of why I have issues with it. Next weekend (when we will be out of town for GenCon, yay!) is the Woodward Dream Cruise. I will not provide a link, I don't want to look supportive in any way. The Dream Cruise as I see it, is a bunch of baby boomers mostly, who bring out their gas guzzling old classic and muscle cars, and "cruise" the huge drag of 3-4 lanes of Woodward Avenue, a major road connecting Detroit to the suburbs, for miles and miles. I put "cruise" in quotes because it apparently is not really a moving event, there are so many cars that just ends up as a giant parking lot of running cars, going nowhere. It is a very "Motor City" event.

(random picture of the tire landmark that I found on Flickr, a piece of our local landscape)

And unfortunately, I just don't understand it. I know that people spend lots of time and money working on their classic cars, and there is pride in that craft. And that this event probably brings a lot of money to our area, which is much needed. And a lot of people enjoy it as a family event for all ages, and a way to remember the 50s and 60s...the young/teen years of many of the participants.

But the environmental irresponsibility of the whole thing (which is officially only one day but ends up overflowing for several days un-officially) is just more than I can bear, and I think it is why I just don't want to be here in this city anymore. It just seems so incredibly excessive to me. I hate having the car running while one of us runs into a store for 5 minutes, let alone running a big monster car for a whole weekend. And then I think about US reliance on oil in the world and the green house effect and other issues... the whole thing just brings up so many social and political frustration. I will not even go into detail about how I wouldn't be able to get to the post office, or Trader Joes, or even the damn hospital...because traffic for 4-5 days is a mess in this area as a result. That's just the personal inconvenience, not the big picture. It really is a good thing we will be out of town for it!

Perhaps I am being too harsh about nostalgia. Maybe I am only annoyed by someone else's nostalgia. Because I love things from my youth too! I love 80's music, I love the TV shows and the games and products I grew up with. What if we all end up nostalgic for our youth, and the generations before and after us look at us and roll their eyes the same way I do when I see classic cars and hear the Beach Boys? I may have to accept that I have a skewed vision of the past.

Then again, maybe I am not alone in disliking this particular nostalgic event though. For the last few years, the Sierra Club has been organizing a Green Cruise right before the Dream Cruise. Its a more conscious raising sort of parade celebrating more environmentally progressive forms of transportation. I would love to be able to attend today, but I don't know we can break away from work :( It looks a lot more fun to's a video of last year's, with a cute song that sounds like it may be Cyndi Lauper (whose quirk 80's tunes I am, of course, a bit nostalgic about...oh the irony!)

So can one look at their past and learn and grow from it, and incorporate it into their lives in a new way, without being unrealistic and over- idealistically nostalgic?


  1. I think that there is virtue in both reflecting upon the past objectively and feeling longing for past events. You know the old cliche, "If you cannot learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it."

    Nostalia breaks down into, "nostos" which means "homecoming" or "returning home" and algos, which means "pain, grief, or distress". I think, for better or for worse, that pain is one of the expressions of humanity. I think it's only nature to miss your original element. The one where you felt your most complete as a fearless youngster. But who knows?

  2. Yes upon further reflection, I think I am nostalgic not so much for the days of my carefree youth. Certainly not for the awkwardness of high school.

    Lately I have been missing the creative days of college, even though they were difficult, they were filled with days of inspiiration, creativity, and conceptualization.

    Lately I have been feeling pretty stagnant in just maintaining my work, and have not been growing creatively. So perhaps therein lies the issue.

    I am still peeved by classic cars and Beach Boys music, though...I don't think realizing my own nostalgia will change that!