Last night my wife and I met a few of my cousins at a local Pub called Merry-Arts Pub & Grill in Lakewood Ohio. We met to say goodbye to my cousin Eric who is moving to another state. Thursday night at Merry-Arts is also taco night so that was an added bonus. In all my time in Lakewood I had never been to this, the oldest pub in the city. I wish I had gone there when the pub was a refuge from our homes and work, and a place to met friends.
We sat in a large corner booth by the front window. From my seat I could see 7 televisions, not including the booth's that had small TV's. The Cleveland Indians game was on. They were finally winning so the chatter and clapping combined with the music made it even harder to talk. I hadn't expected the place to resemble a sports bar. I failed to realize that TV and loud music is everywhere we go. Aside from my cousins, my endearing memory of last night will be the noise.
I have this old school notion that the reason to get "out of the house" is to escape what is at home. Not anymore. Picture this; Mom is talking on the her cell phone, dad is watching TV and the kids are engrossed in their Game Boys. A scene of domestic bliss from any home across America? No, it's a scene from any restaurant, waiting room, or gathering place outside the physical home. The new home is wireless. We are a nation of virtual homebodies. You can walk the streets connected to your ipod or cell phone, oblivious to the world around you. You carry you comfort zone like you carry your wallet. The new definition of an outdoors man might be someone who travels around town unconnected to a cell phone, ipod, Game Boy or other electronic distraction.
On a larger scale we travel the country without looking at it. Dad drives us to our destination while his kids watch movies in the back of the van unaware of the countryside on the other side of the shatterproof glass. You get to your destination and check into your hotel where there is more TV and more movies. One of the 10 most important books I've read is "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. The subtitle is "Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business". Mr. Postman's book addresses the media onslaught of modern times, with particular attention to the power, and dangers of television, and how it's altered the way we relate to information, that is now presented as entertainment. He pulled the curtain on this aspect of our future. I will have to re-read it to see if his words foretold this ugly detour.
I remember our family trips when I was a kid and asking the age old question, "are we there yet". I remember being bored to tears driving across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I still remember those trips. They gave me a sense of my country, of the people how different their worlds were from mine. Yet we seemed to share a core essence of a place outside ourselves. I realized over the years how much I learned from those seemingly boring moments. My memories are filled with ordinary small towns, old barns, Burma Shave signs, Howard Johnson Restaurants and all the things that used to populate Route 66. What we used to experience as America. I pity a generation that will not even remember the video game or movie that occupied them as they drive across New Mexico unaware of the simple majesty. I can envision a day when each home might have a "Star Trek Holodeck", into which we program the sights and sounds of the world we missed, or the world as it is then. Actual Homebodies once again.
Goodbye Eric, we will miss you. One day we will drive down to see you, once I stock up on batteries for my MP3 player.