Degrees of Marlo Thomas
By Wade Rouse
yes, yes -- WHAT! -- you have reached the Rouses -- yes, and we
are not physically in our home, sir, at this point in time. Speak
-- WHAT! -- into the correct end of your phone, and we will decipher
your message when we are able, yes, thank you, sir [extended silence
my dad's voice yelling, "Hang up the goddamn phone, Geraldine!"
more silence and then my mom saying, "WHAT!" before dropping
the phone on the floor and hanging up.]"
parents only recently acquired a computer, a retread my father found,
I believe, from a friend of a friend who owns a garbage dump. I
am firmly convinced it is one of the very first computers ever made.
My dad says he got it "for a steal".
monitor is nearly as big as Sputnik, and the tower looks like a
nuclear cooling plant. On the mammoth plastic frame surrounding
the screen, it says simply:
The New Computer!
begs many questions, first and foremost: When was "low radiation"
ever a big selling point for computers?
I see this thing in The China Syndrome?" I asked my
dad the first time I saw it.
a damn good 'puter, hon!" my dad exclaimed. "Let me boot'er
up for ya."
minutes later, a dim green glow emanated from the center of the
screen. When it finally warmed up, my dad began to check his e-mail.
As he began to open a forwarded joke from a friend, the computer
froze. "Damn viruses!" my dad exclaimed. "Happens
all the time. If an e-mail says 1K I can open it, if it says 2K
or higher I can't. I guess it's still that Y2K virus. I'll have
to get 'er checked out."
prefer to write my parents letters.
Pong? It was the very first TV video game. It was like a slow-motion
game of ping-pong, and I wanted it more than anything in the world.
on TV?" my father said, when I begged him for Pong. "You
have a TV to watch, not to play on. That's why they make Light Brights.
This will never catch on. It's like the Edsel."
years running to arcades, to play Frogger and Centipede and Pac-Man.
No, it never seemed to catch on, according to my dad, who once said
that "John Madden had dug his career grave by putting his name
all over those stupid football games."
father buys his trucks without, what he calls, "any bells or
whistles". This means his trucks come without power steering,
power windows, and only AM Radio.
don't need CD players or FM, or XM, or whatever they call it. You
can find everything you need on AM," my dad says. "Sports,
news, weather, and Helen Reddy."
are meant for driving," my dad says. "But nobody looks
under the hood anymore. They only care how the car looks to everyone
my father was right about society's fascination with outward appearances,
in a deeper and more meaningful way than he probably even realized.
So, as I continued to try and figure out my friend's daughter's
iPod, I checked under my own hood. Who did I want to be? Was my
mid-life crisis just a sign of my own shallow self-absorption with
society? Today's generation is too often focused on what's outside,
and not what's inside. We want the coolest and the latest. We want
the prettiest and the best. Nothing is ever good enough anymore.
I buy iMacs like breath mints. We trade cars more quickly than I
used to trade baseball cards.
all this for just about a second, before asking my friend's daughter
to help me set up my first MySpace page -- ASAP. We started by organizing
the editorial and design, and then she began showing me how to acquire
friends, the secret of MySpace.
we searched, I was stunned to discover that it wasn't just kids
on MySpace. In fact, everything on MySpace, it seemed, involved
"Six Degrees of Marlo Thomas." Every single MySpace user
seemed connected to her or other stars from my youth, like Morgan
Fairchild and Pia Zadora and Raquel Welch. All were blogging and
chatting and sending their latest news.
like, Marlo Thomas?" my daughter's friend asked me. "And
why would you want her as your MySpace friend?"
she was kind of the Hilary Duff of my time," I tried to explain.
cool," she said, staring at an old photo of That Girl.
"At least she's like, you know, trying. That's what counts."
that's when I knew my mid-life crisis had been averted: If you wanna
hang with the young people, you at least have to try and play their
game, be it Pong or MySpace.
Marlo Thomas accepted me as her new MySpace friend. I smiled, knowing
neither of us had given up yet, and probably never would.
version for easy reading
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