“They Amplified the Joy of Living”
Sean Penn said recently that the Beatles amplified the joy of living. His declaration at the 50th anniversary of their Ed Sullivan Show debut rattled me. It was an insight into something that puzzled me for a long time. Why was I stuck in the ‘60s?
It’s not like I’m an old hippie living in the past. I’m a reasonably happy adult who made appropriate decisions and lived a good life. I’m content. Why then are the 60s such a draw?
I went to college in the ‘60s in Boston where I learned useful things like crushing a Colt 45 can against my forehead without cracking my skull. Dorm life was wild and unruly. It was a rowdy school, noisy, cluttered, and chaotic — a marked departure from my strict parochial school years.
Once I got used to the rhythm of the school, I embraced it. I liked my newfound freedom, began to think for myself and welcomed new ideas. I learned about Evolution, a concept that was probably verboten in high school. I learned about loss on November 22, 1963.
In 1964, the Beatles arrived to take away our tears. They wrote silly little love songs and cheered us up. They amped up the joy.
On Sundays, we ate at Ken’s Deli in Copley Square or went to the North End for Italian food. I worked part-time at Brigham’s Ice Cream Parlor where I waited on Bob Dylan. When I was not studying, I haunted museums or window-shopped on artsy Newberry Street. I bought Youth Dew, my favorite perfume, at Bonwit Teller’s, the only thing I could afford at that posh store. I ordered coffee in the Copley Plaza lobby and pretended that I belonged. I dined at Anthony’s Pier 4 where I caught a glimpse of Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway filming The Thomas Crown Affair. I watched sailboats glide along the Charles River and attended concerts at the Esplanade, made famous by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.
I wangled a fake ID to get into the The Rathskellar, where I danced on tables to the music of Barry & The Remains, Boston’s version of The Beatles. I spent leisurely afternoons at Boston Common and the Public Gardens. I had the time of my life.
I graduated and took a job with a textbook publishing firm. I wore dresses to work, along with hats, gloves, heels and hose. Did I mention girdles? We secretaries never minded getting coffee for our bosses, or running their errands. It was part of the job. I was living the Mad Men life!
I adored the old apartments with soaring ceilings and crown molding. It was on Beacon Hill, with my commune of friends, that I took refuge from the threat of The Boston Strangler. It was on Phillips Street, in an apartment coined the House of the Rising Sun, that I fell madly in love.
We had no televisions, no IPhones, no tablets, no computers, no YouTube, no Instagram, no Facebook. We conversed face to face. We had no need for electronic intervention, except for phonographs that played our beloved Stones, Beatles, or Dylan.
In the summer, we slathered our bodies with baby oil and iodine and sunbathed on the roofs. Sometimes we went to the Cape in caravans and bunked in whatever cottage we could, swam, got sunburned, and ate fried clams from white cardboard boxes.
Why am I hooked on the 60s? They amplified the joy of living.