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Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio

Published Tuesday, June 05, 2018 @ 12:05 PM EDT
Jun 05 2018

Many have compared 2018 to America's annus horribilis, 1968. I started that year as a 13 year ninth grader and ended it as a 14 year old tenth grader, enjoying the triumph of Apollo 8 and watching episodes of Star Trek during its original run on NBC.

But those months in between...

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In premiered, North Korea seized the Pueblo, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite said Vietnam was "mired in stalemate," Robert Kennedy entered the presidential race, Johnson said he wouldn't run, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Hair opened on Broadway, the Supreme Court ruled that burning a draft card was not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment, Andy Warhol was shot, RFK was assassinated, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia (nipping that Prague Spring nonsense in the bud), The Beatles' "Hey Jude" was released, the televised riots outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, CBS' "60 Minutes" debuted, the Boeing 747 was rolled out, the black power salute at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, Nixon was elected president, a Farmington, WV mine explosion killed 78, Elvis had his comeback special, and Apollo 8 orbited the moon.

Lots of other things happened, but these I actually remember, and clearly. Or, more precisely, as a self-absorbed teenager I remember these events because they in turn generated events which affected me personally.

Take Laugh-In. I remember watching the pilot episode with my grandmother on that Monday night in January. It was a big deal, because it meant her missing the last half of Gunsmoke and all of Here's Lucy. To my delight and astonishment, Grandma loved the show and we watched it together for years. I remember being surprised that someone as old as my grandmother would get the jokes. I was also somewhat surprised to have just realized that I am now about the age my grandmother was when Laugh-In first aired.

I remember my grandmother waking me up for summer band camp, crying and yelling "they shot Bobby! God help us!" I did trudge the ten blocks to the high school that morning, but the band director, Jerry Veeck, gave us the option of going home or staying in the band room and listening to the radio. I remember two songs on the charts that week: Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...") and Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park" ("I will take my life into my hands and I will use it; I will win the worship in their eyes, and I will lose it...")

Yet somehow, at the end of the December, I remainded optimistic. I felt, like many, that Apollo 8 had salvaged an otherwise horrific year. And we had somehow survived.

June 2018 feels a lot like June 1968. The current administration fills me with the same sense of dread I had that summer after RFK was killed. And society seems to be regressing, losing some of what we've apparently taken for granted the past half-century.

But at lot can happen in six months. Let's work so that it will happen.

Categories: 1968, 2018, Apollo 8, Hair, Laugh-In, Lyndon B. Johnson, MacArthur Park, Mrs. Robinson, Richard Harris, Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Simon and Garfunkel, The Daily KGB Report, Walter Cronkite


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