Sunday, June 23, 2002

Nostalgia alert

Baby boom strikes TV, cars

        We may be tubby and going to Botox parties, but by gosh we baby boomers can take pride in the fact that we have nice wheels. Familiar wheels. Wheels like the ones we drove when we didn't have to wear seat belts, when our fathers still thought that the most dangerous thing about a car was its back seat.

        We like being in our peak earning years, but we love remembering how it felt to be young. Sir Paul is 60 and married to somebody who could be our daughter, but we remember when we could applaud him wildly without the threat of flogging ourselves to death with our own upper arms.

        And we'd like to be reminded of those days as often as possible. Vintage VW Beetles were hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Clumsy to drive with no pickup, they were Mr. Toad's Wild Ride on the highway. But most boomers either had a Bug or wanted one. So now, we can buy a new one with air conditioning, a heater that works, leather seats and a price tag about 2,000 percent more than the 1949 model.

Muscle cars

        Boomers don't care. We stood in line when PT Cruisers first came out, paying thousands of dollars over sticker price. Because these sedans look like Dad's car.

        Detroit noticed.

        The 2003 Mercury Marauder will be arriving at dealerships this month. USA Today called it “an evil-looking, asphalt-wrinkling sex machine” meant to remind us of the muscle cars of the early 1960s — not incidentally just about the time the first round of boomers were getting their driver's licenses.

        New/old GTOs, Thunderbirds, Nissan Z cars all are headed to market. We are going to get the cars of our youth. Updated, of course. AC. Sound systems. Seat belts. Hey, we're not fanatics. We may be shopping for memories, but we like our creature comforts.

        Getting our attention is almost as good as hitting the lottery, because we buy in vast quantities. My generation of 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964 is old enough to be wistful about the past and flush enough to try to get it back.

        You know you qualify “if you've begun to wonder why your gums recede, if you have Tums in your pocket and Mylanta in your drawer, and you have your proctologist's phone number on speed dial,” according to Mary-Lou Wiseman, who has chronicled the boomer coming of age for several women's magazines.

        “After the age of 30, the brain loses about 100,000 neurons a day,” she told me on a trip to Cincinnati a few years ago. “These nerve cells tend to take the car keys with them and leave important things behind, like the words and music to the "Mickey Mouse Club Song.'”

        Once we find those car keys, there's nothing we like better than climbing behind the wheel and turning on the oldies station — celebrating the things we can remember. This fall, “new” television series will include The Twilight Zone, Family Affair and Dragnet. More than 7.8 million viewers tuned in every week to see Ozzy Osbourne. Of course, that was on MTV. Boomers probably were not among his biggest fans.

        When our fan belt is slipping, we'd rather not know.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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