Unplug

unplugI have been thinking that I should be making an effort to unplug from the electronic portion of my world one day a week. Rarely having complete peace from it, unless the power is out, I think probably I should just create a day to unplug. Not be away from people or from doing anything, but just away from electronics. This is challenging, because generally the power is on wherever I am and within 10-feet I am next to something like a phone or t.v. or radio or car or whatever. Yesterday I took a day off from writing, I didn’t have some glaring thought trying to get out of my head so I decided it was good to not sit at my computer, but I didn’t do much else to unplug from the electronic world. That must be all bad.

As a kid it was no problem to go outside and ride my bike until the sun set. There wasn’t a Walkman yet to listen to music (it would take a few years), although there were tape cassette players (but I had no tapes), and we still had record players and the radio and even the eight track tape player. Cell phones and pagers were not around (it would be a few years for those as well), but yes we had corded phones, even a few with a rotary dial… and then there was our old small 12″ t.v. that was black and white until it fell over and we replaced it with one that was color (still 12″). I remember rabbit ears on the t.v., and the dial to change stations numbered 2 through 13 and U. We were not able to afford an HBO cable box and it would be a decade before we would have a VCR or that I would get my Coleco Vision although I had always wanted an Atari game system instead (couldn’t afford that though). There were not iPods, tablets or laptops, Wii’s, Play Station’s, MP3 players. Computers were IBM 8088’s and we didn’t have one of those either (those belonged to the business world). Well, we didn’t even have a typewriter. It would be almost 15 years before I would get one that also had a slot for a 3″ Floppy Disk (even that was newer than the outdated floppy disk)… but even that was junior college… before that there weren’t CD’s for music (just records and tapes and records were being phased out for cassettes)… or DVD players or even movies on DVD or CD (no, movies were on VHS tapes… but that would be almost ten years away).

That was when kids played [yes me], yes…physically went outside and played. We made forts, went swimming, made slip-n-slides on the lawn during heat waves, maybe someone would have a trampoline, we ran about playing games, rode our bikes, roller skated before they made inline skates or roller blades. As a teenager we still had a roller rink we could go to, we could go ice skating still (those things are gone now)… Unless someone had some money and owned a VCR and recorded movies off of t.v. you would go to the movie theater or a Drive-In to see a movie (unless your family had the HBO cable box, there wasn’t yet premium cable channels available for t.v. or pay-per-view unless you stayed in a hotel) . There wasn’t an internet… you couldn’t google directions or images or information. Encyclopedia sets were a dream of something we could never afford to have, but wished I had had. There was a Yellow Pages phone book, news papers, and pay phones. There were magazines like Time, National Geographic, Sunset and the weekly t.v. guide and Reader’s Digest. If we needed to ask directions, we stopped at the gas station or asked the operator for a listing… for fun we could dial pop-corn and get the time. That is even gone.

It was exciting to get mail, an actual letter with a stamp on it addressed to yours truly… or a card even. Going to the mall was fun, even that replaced fields of orange orchards. When I would visit a friend on weekends, sometimes I would be there on a  Sunday and would go to church with her… I remember walking through walnut orchards that are all gone now. We walked everywhere, I mean everywhere. I always walked to and from school, and really my only complaint was the books I carried. In middle school, no joke, I walked 3-1/2 miles each way over rolling hills carrying 35-40 pounds of books (uphill both ways is a true statement). That didn’t change that much in high school either. I can’t even comfortably carry that much weight across the room, but I can still walk the distance although somewhat winded. Now a days each kid goes in their parents car to school, and a small portion take the bus or some other public transportation. Attached of course to their phones and tablets and iPods and Social Media and the internet that is. Kids text each each other rarely looking away from their phone, even when sitting down with their friend that might be right next to them.

There was not  Social Media when I was a kid other than the tabloid rag at the super market that would have headlines like “I gave birth to my alien baby and lived”… not kidding, I remember the alien photo and I don’t think there was a Photo Shop program so imagine that image. Five years later they would have Tiger Beat which I guess is the kids tabloid, and the evolution of Magazines with their own headlines and Photo Shopped Covers. There was the 5 o’clock news that was news, not anything to do with celebrity things that happen. There were sitcoms, most of them pretty bad, but some stuck with us. There were not reality shows, there were some events, but even sports wasn’t the show it is today. T.V. was very not exciting, other than what came on at 8pm, or something live unfolding and maybe the Warner Bros Bugs Bunny Cartoons on the weekend, and perhaps the reruns of the black and white Shirley Temple movies that would come on right after. It would take five more years to see the after school specials (made for kids movies that would come on right when school was out at 3 p.m., and afternoon cartoons from our well known comic books… It would be five years before these changes came about… about that time they also started doing the Walt Disney hosted Sunday night movies). But until then, if you didn’t have a Cable box to get premium channels you weren’t seeing much… but the shows that stuck with me… Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, Dukes of Hazard to name a few.

The sounds of the ice cream truck would draw out a swarm of every kid in the neighborhood. People still had dinner at the table, going in a drive through was something we might do on a weekend once or twice a month if there was someplace to go… like the beach. Yes, we went there to swim in the ocean from time to time. I remember being able to pick up shells and sand dollars as a child off of Pacifica’s beach front (those days are gone, no shells to be found there now). A treat like an apple pie was something I might find in my lunch box on Friday’s at school. Soda was not something we stocked in the fridge unless we were going to go someplace and were planning on packing a picnic lunch. Sliced watermelon was a treat… spitting seeds as far as we could was fun. Bottled water was never bought (we didn’t even stock it for emergencies being here in California)… we drank water from the tap, or there was juice from frozen. I remember being excited about jiffy pop and the Swanson’s t.v. dinner trays that were aluminum foil trays filled with pearl potatoes and gravy, peas, Salisbury steak and this berry cobbler. It of course was the beginning of the prepackaged food we get in abundance now, but it was something that was novel and fun as a kid. It was that attraction to new inventions, especially gadgets that was encouraging us to disconnect from people and the Earth.

Reading a book, meant reading an actual book, not a version of it for “dummies” or downloading it on a Kindle to hammer your eyes with intense light. Water parks, Great America (now Six Flags), later Marine World (also now Six Flags), and special trips to Disney Land were big trips, aside from camping which sometimes involved inner-tubing it down the river, or driving across the country on Summer Vacation (my mother was terrified of planes)… those were big things that I had to earn. So I wasn’t out breaking in to houses or feeding my crack habit.

There wasn’t crack or meth, even pot was something some folks did, but not everywhere it is today (it died down a bit after the 60’s). There was Heroin and Cocaine but if that was going on I think that was really for people that still went disco dancing at night clubs and that was their scene (left over from the 70’s), unless the usual reasons that people would take that… but really the taking of and thievery of prescription medications was not at an all time high. Even that stemmed from something someone couldn’t process or some issue that spiraled out of control in their life.  Thankfully I was not an adult then and those days were passed by the time I became a teenager. For the most part people had keg parties, maybe smoked pot or cigarettes but those actually doing any kind of harder drugs were not the majority.

The drugs and manor of partying would change as they continue to do so even today, but I have to say things are so very different. It’s like someone hit the fast forward button and never hit stop or pause and the rewind is broken. All the gadgets and worldly new things that come out increases our infliction on the world. I could keep going, but really what I was trying to get at was… it was completely normal to not be connected to something electronic as a kid and now it is very difficult to be away from it. In that process I have disconnected from the Earth itself. I think the world has.

All other living things on this planet, find their place and fulfill a need and connect to the Earth… humans do not do this. We strive to disconnect from the Earth and we do nothing as a species to fill a need… not collectively anyway. The only thing we fill is our ego, and we do that poorly on a good day. So, I must find a way to disconnect from things that do not benefit the Earth and I figure that means I start with one day a week not connecting to electronics… try and center myself and reconnect with my world… unplug.