Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

The mayor of Carrollton, Georgia banned a forty year old play. I swear, this is the thing I find so weird about America right now. I know, when I was a teenager, even twenty years ago seemed like forever. I can remember babysitting for our neighbors and they had a People magazine devoted to the twentieth anniversary of Woodstock and all of the acts seemed so much in the past. And I say that as a huge fan of The Doors. It just seemed so long ago, like the soundtrack to the concerns of my parents’ generation.

And then, I got into even older music and I spent a lot of time delighting in how such-and-such is “just as relevant today.” But of coarse, that “just” is supposed to say something about an act of reclamation–speaking to the reality that most people don’t still view it as relevant, but in fact view it as a kind of soundtrack to the concerns of generations even further back than our parents.

And now, shoot, a lot of acts I love spent a lot of time mining those old veins for things that can still be relevant.

But, to switch metaphors, if we view history as a huge afghan, my experience has always been that you get to a point where the directions read “Now go back and pick up that old yarn again and start working the stitches with it.” And, voila, the dusky rose of a 1890s Nevada brothel gets brought back as the hot color on a bridesmaid’s dress and then let fall again and then brought back as the go-to-color on every goddamn building in Nashville.

Did something happen in the 70s that stopped things from moving into the past? Honestly. I feel like I remember a time when things happened “long ago” and people who were a little bit older laughed because someday I would know that my “long ago” wasn’t actually that long ago. Still, though, I feel like there was still an acknowledgment that things were in the past, that their moment could have come and gone.

And yet, here we are in 2011 and someone is banning The Rocky Horror Show? It’s literally 40 years old. And yet, it’s as if the Mayor doesn’t ever perceive a time when that yarn was dropped and, possibly, picked back up. For him, that play has contemporaneous power to offend. Fresh power to offend.

I wonder if it’s part of what Faulkner said about the past–blah blah blah not even past. Or if this is something different. Are we constipated by history in a way different from how history has usually worked? Were there other moments of historical constipation? Ha ha ha. Maybe that’s the dark ages? Just a build-up of time that all feels contemporary?

I think it’s unusual, but I don’t think it’s without precedent. After all, there’s a lot of good conjecture that the Norse Gods lived in a muddle of time, where everything was happening and had happened and will happen all at once. Loki has already betrayed them and still laughs at the table. Balder is already dead and still woos women. In this theory, this makes the gods more omniscient than us and the ones who work hardest to get the best perspective on the mess the most omniscient.

But it’s also what makes humans’ role in the universe somewhat unique (sharing it only with the elves)–that, since we experience time as linear, we can change the future.

Still, it suggests that, if some beings live in a realm where, to continue our crocheting metaphor, time is a tangle they can’t unravel, with things that happen at one point 100 years ago lying to the right of things that happened thirty seconds ago, time does tangle. Possibly even sometimes for us.

This, to me, feels like such a time, like we are in some knot that keeps us still experiencing everything from the 70s until now as “the same time”.

I mean, listen to this:

And ask yourself if you can imagine us in five years sitting around listening to a country song this powerful about the day Kurt Cobain died? About old grunge folks?

I think not, not because those things aren’t worthy of nostalgia or mawkish “I miss my youth” tributes. But because we had already stopped moving on when those things came along. There can be no nostalgia because they never ceased to be contemporary.

Stuck in the past used to be a thing. I worry now we’re weirdly stuck in the present.