Lileks: Back to the '70s? Ayyyy, sit on it

·4 min read

I think I got the second-shot blahs. I felt dull and fuzzy. For a while, I thought it might be existential despair, but that usually doesn't come with minor muscular aches. My shoulders were sore, and that makes a person recap the previous day to see if there's a good reason for it. Did I hang two pails full of rocks on the end of a sturdy branch and run up and down the stairs, training for my comeback match against a young up-and-coming fighter? I did not. Well, not yesterday.

The best word to describe it: malaise. Once I realized that was the best word, I wondered whether it could be due to gas lines, Mideast unrest or the return of inflation. As someone who came of age in the '70s, and immediately regretted it, I associate these things with Jimmy Carter's famous speech. He said the country suffered from malaise, which sounded like a bad sandwich spread. It wasn't a popular speech. It's one thing to be depressed, and another to be French depressed.

Some people think the '70s will be repeated. Nah. Consider the popular show "Happy Days," a product of the Fun Decade's nostalgia boom. The show began in 1974. It was set in 1955. A gap of 19 years. A modern version would be set in 2002. From the perspective of 1974, the mores and folkways of the '50s teens was like Greek history, but 2002 seems like part of the long smear of stuff we're still experiencing. "Wow, look at those teens in 2002, with their ... music, and much slower internet."

If we're going to redo the '70s, there are some things we need to avoid:

• Shag. For a few years, the floors of American homes were slathered in brownish/reddish/orangish synthetic fibers, probably made from petroleum. (It never occurred to anyone that we had a gas shortage because we were using all the oil for ugly carpet.) People put the stuff everywhere, including the stairs; if Ronald Reagan hadn't banned it by executive order in 1980, it would have gone up the walls and on the ceiling. It would have been like kudzu; interior designers would have insisted on shag that was taller and thicker, until it came up to your knees and no one could make it through the living room without hiring someone to go ahead of them with a machete.

• Wood-grained plastic. If I may repeat myself again: The only thing wood-grained plastic is good for is covering the coffin of the person who invented wood-grained plastic. Somehow it made things more "natural," but a cheap plastic Mr. Coffee with a wood-grained front did not fool anyone. "Oh, is that one of those oaken Mr. Coffees I've heard about? The ones hewed from the core of old-growth trees?" No one ever said that.

• The hair. The '70s is the only decade of the 20th century in which everyone was uglier, except for Farrah Fawcett. The height of '70s hair fashion for high school guys was a wedge that covered the forehead, perhaps to hide the volcanic dermatologic eruptions of adolescence. Girls were required to have a center part, feather everything and make sure their hair smelled of Wella Balsam.

• The clothing. At the height of the polyester era, your pants terminated in a flare that had the circumference of the Liberty Bell. In the winter, snow would get into the inch-deep cuffs; the bottom would get wet from dragging on the ground, and the sodden mass would swing back and forth as you walked. Oh, you also were wearing chunky-clunky shoes with a crepe sole high enough to give you a nosebleed if you stood on tiptoe.

I cannot stress this enough: Everyone looked ridiculous, except for Farrah Fawcett.

Of course, history never repeats itself exactly. Even in the gas shortage days, I don't recall people filling up garbage bags with gasoline. Last week I saw pictures of car trunks filled with gas-laden bags, and it looked as if someone's been tasked with drug-testing elephants.

Anyway, I did a telemedicine visit to check out my symptoms, and it wasn't malaise. The doctor suspected ennui, which in some cases can turn into weltschmerz. It wasn't the vaccine after all. It was all in my head.

Odd, since I got the shot in my arm.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks