What Millennials think of the Bridge Generation at Lux Lounge.

What Millennials think of the Bridge Generation at Lux Lounge.

Outside Lux Lounge on South Avenue

I have often felt those of us who came of age in the 80’s had it good.  With the free spirited 70’s still in the air and not yet feeling the pressures of a globalizing and digitalizing world, we were a charmed generation. On “The Bridge Generation:” Born 1960-1980

acid trip-Scott

see reference to acid trip with Amy Carter

Particularly so, college did not leave us burdened with debt.  Tuition — even at Brown University where I went — was relatively low and had not yet made its staggeringly expensive rise well past the rate of inflation.

Not fully in the pre-professional grip, we felt freer to study what we pleased — at Brown that meant just about anything — and at least several years of experimentation and bohemianism after graduation was par for the course.

My first jobs  were running an elevator in the school cafeteria, working in a liquor store, hawking credit cards in student unions all over southern New England and a stint with the Providence Business News as a freelancer.  Doing things like my one and only acid trip in 1987 with President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, in her neo commune.

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on my first post-college job, running an elevator in the university cafeteria, Brown Daily Herald, March 10. 1986

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a Providence Business News article about the Cumberland, RI Zen Center where Wendy and Scott meditated, and from which Scott escaped. 8/87 See Says who you can’t get rich being a writer

Wendy spent a couple of years as a singer in Portuguese bars off Gano Street in East Providence.

Wendy Maland. 366 Hope St, Providence, RI May 1989 See Says who you can’t get rich being a writer

Scott lived in the Zen Center in Cumberland, RI before he was kicked out for a violation involving sandals and a watch.

David Kramer (left) and Scott Cannon, With Scott (right), Providence, circa 1987 See Says who you can’t get rich being a writer

Sarah shuttled back and forth between the old Soviet Union working as a translator, sometimes for Gorby.

Sarah Lum, Brown University, Spanish House, 1985 From Help Josué and enjoy his art

My best friend Josue (in photo) painted murals for the city of Providence. Ever unbounded, Josue later got a Ph.D. in Anthropology, researched and wrote a book on machismo in Mexico City, revived his artistic career in Brooklyn, and is now writing a treatise on money.

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Liber Brunensis, 1986 Josué Ramirez and myself. See Help Josué and enjoy his art

To empirically gauge my hypothesis that in the 80’s we lived freer, wilder and marched to the beat of our own drums more than people today, I went to Lux Lounge on 666 South Avenue for “Back to the Future” 80’s Dance Night.  I have been to Lux before.  For the dubious, impromptu orchestrated poetry slam On the Road. Destination Little Bohemia in the South Wedge.

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Ben Frasier (with glasses), DJ at 80’s Night

Lux itself is really an intergenerational mélange. Not an ideal venue for uncovering stark generational divides: analog vs. digital, landlines vs. smartphones.  As I listened and observed, media narratives labeling, dating, and marking off Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials collapsed.  At Lux, people are very much on the same bridge together.

A few generalized impressions did come forth. First, I was heartened that almost everyone thought we had more fun in the 80’s (summed up by one Millennial as the epoch of Big Hair). Looser and more laid back. Maybe even love was freer. “Cocaine” was often the first word invoked. Several people noted that old yearbooks and faded photo albums (at RIT, supposedly a “dry” campus in the 80’s, every dorm room seemed to have its own wet bar) pictured college life in the 80’s as one long 4 or 5 or 6 year party. Check!  Today, prescription drugs thrive; often taken, as someone said, to get homework done. The epoch of Adderall.

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(left to right) Katie, Stacey, and Corinne who said they love the 80’s and the current generation is “screwed.”

Long term economic trends distinguishing 1985 — the date of Back to the Future  hovering as a time capsule backdrop as Wednesday is movie night at Lux — and today were frequently mentioned.  Several people said the the 80’s were still a relatively golden era economically; the big dip of the early 90’s yet to come. The middle class not yet so battered down.  Jobs still plentiful. College grads did not have to compete in a full-fledged global market place. As one Millennial woman said, people in other countries are pretty smart and we know it. When I came of age, outsourcing of middle class jobs barely existed.

Then came the Great Recession of 2008, described by one victim as a punch below the belt. College grads — already burdened with debt — found a barren job market and faced with new pressures to constantly re-invent, re-educate, re-credential themselves in an economy where they might work in 5-7 careers some of which don’t even exist today. Majoring in English and Semiotics and aimlessly drifting in pseudo self discovery between Zen Centers, Portuguese bars and Leningrad seem like a luxury.

At first, my Bridge Generation conceit held firm. I liked the fact that a Millennial said popular culture today is really derived from the 80’s.  However, as Millennials reminded me of then and now, my lens shifted. Remember, we had Reagan and AIDS and nuclear winters a push of the button away. People today are on the whole better educated. And the most important advances of feminism then still on the horizon. And, as was frequently repeated, today society is much, much more open and tolerant about sexual and gender orientation. Many made convincing cases that the Information Age is a Golden age where you can research and even master many fields and disciplines independently or in online collaborations.  As I took photos, I was reminded twice that I can see them instantaneously.

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Amber (pictured at top), an RIT senior from Los Angeles majoring in Imaging Science, explained how she felt the generation today, especially by virtue of digital technology, is really more open, exploratory and creative.  Connecting and communing with the globe; making their own markets and jobs. At the age when I was offering credit cards and free M & M’s in the cafeteria at Wheaton College, Millennials were doing start ups limited only by their imagination. But at least we had more fun.

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Obligatory nocturnal picture of Phallus Chair when at Lux [Photo by H.K., a woman of mystery. And for those who witnessed that evening, a bit of an outlaw. More very soon from H.K.]

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Bridge Generation Sheriff captures wild Millennial outside Lux

On reason why Lux  is an outlier when it comes to sociological inquiry into generational labels are the artists who gather there. I met six or seven artists, mostly painters (and a philosophy major fellow traveler who teaches a course in logic at Nazareth) who plan to pursue their calling to the end despite financial or career hardships.  As they talked about their passions, it could be any generation: Paris in the 1890’s, Harlem in the 1920’s, Greenwich Village in the 1950’s. Marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Finally, when the 8o’s music came on full blast, I had that Proustian wave of memory, transported back to my beloved Rhode Island (where the Talking Heads started).

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red bridge

“The Red Bridge” Providence, RI

London Calling from the edge of the abandoned, permanently erect red Seekonk Bridge perched part way over the Providence River where in the now boarded up tunnel in the woods behind bands used to play at cage parties and generations found themselves not far from daybreak on the precipice seeing visions. London Calling

We can dance, we can dance if we want to all night on the tables with pitchers of Narragansett at the now gone Rhode Island School Design’s Tap Room underneath a giant statue of an interpreted Buddha because art is long and life is short.We can dance if we want to

Tainted love not once but twice on the ladder leading up to the Organ Room at Sayles Hall (see below and poem)Tainted Love/Where did our love go

POSTRICIPT

I ordered a Brown University shirt for the occasion. But it did not make it from China in time. Hence, an addendum at end with caption, Living in the past?

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Living in the past? [Photo: André Spinard]

Later that year, Writer's and Books had an 80's night. This time I wore the shirt.

Later that year, Writer’s and Books had an 80’s night. This time I wore the shirt.

 

dean car

Christmas, 1987. With our staff photographer, d.t. Of my friends, d.t. was amongst the first to cross the Bridge. The photo did brought back bittersweet memories. d.t.’s beloved red car was stolen when he worked in NYC

Sometime in the 80s at our annual Holiday street football game. (l-r) Andre Marquis, Steve Shapiro, Phil Ghyzel, David Kramer.

Sometime in the 80s at our annual Holiday street football game. (l-r) Andre Marquis, Steve Shapiro, Phil Ghyzel, David Kramer. Phil, Andre and Dean went to RPI.

ON THE ALL CAMPUS DANCE

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72 Meeting Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 1986 From A THIRTY YEAR PROPHECY

                                  A Thirty Year Old Prophesy

Caressing the still visible pinkish line with its sixteen stitches,
For thirty years he imagined telling the story to great effect over wine at tables for two.

Slyly he recounted how he had taken a Brown girl inside Sayles Hall. Coaxing her upward,
Climbing a ladder to a musty, nearly dark alcove, sweater breached and bra unhinged.
Suggesting the math classrooms downstairs would be more amenable to their purposes.
The fall, the nail, the glass, the blood. The air cast, the sixteen stitches.

No doubt the gay organist who used the alcove placed a curse.
Because later he would take a RISD girl to the scene of the crime.
This time the organist was booming fugues from the Phantom of the Opera.
Chastened, he offered she go down first.
The fall, the nail, the glass, the blood. The air cast, the seventeen stitches.
Needless to say, the wound was fatal to our budding romance.

sayles

Sayles Hall, Brown University

He always ended, squinting, that one Campus Dance he planned to take a woman
Back to the second floor of Sayles Hall when on the steps below the window at midnight
The Jabberwocks sang Ever True to Brown.
There and then he would propose.

Who knows, it might be a stranger he had just met. An old love back for Reunion Weekend.
It might be you. Curses don’t last forever.

                                * * * *

In the afternoon before the Dance, those not wanting to overpay for their liquor
Tape bottles of Tanqueray and Old Bombay underneath their assigned tables.
By 10:30, the bottles are empty and the revelers are back in line paying double prices.
The clear skies above Providence keeping its celestial promise for an evening.
Ever the same twelve thousand people Under the Elms.
Rows of Japanese lanterns making the Green look like a colonial outpost.
The Big Band announcing that happy days are here again.
Dancers dancing as if it were 1955 or 1965 or 1975 or 1985.
Kisses melting time.

                               * * * *

Said to be comfortable in his bachelorhood, they had met at the University track one June day.
She was young. Improbably young. Only 28.
They had made love in a Narragansett beach house as the Beavertail Lighthouse
Sent continual beacons of light through the window whose rhythm matched their own.

beavertail

Beavertail Lighthouse, Jamestown, Rhode Island

Somehow he sweet talked her into the Reunion and Dance.
She found his old story clichéd and obvious.
And she was from Manhattan and to her it was just another crowded affair.
And it might rain. And they would have to stay in dorms.

Fifteen minutes before the Jabberwocks were to begin, he went into Sayles alone.
Seeing her in the crowd, tipsily flirting with a circle
Of Class of ‘65ers, he beckoned.
Smiling, laughing, waving back, she returned to the conversation
With a man wearing a hat shaped like the head of a Brown bear
That made him look like a fool.

Commencement1p

Campus Dance 2015 Shortly after the Senior Sing at midnight, Brown lit up the sky over the East Side with the final 250th anniversary celebration. Alas, I was not there. Not back since 2002.

Later back in the Wriston Quad dorm she admitted
She had more fun than expected. The old guys were a hoot when drunk.
Was that him waving? It was dark and hard to see.
Too bad her train left so soon and she couldn’t stay the whole weekend.

About The Author

dkramer3@naz.edu

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY and Lake Affect Magazine.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.

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