ON THE AVENUES: Bunker mentalities, bunker abnormalities; bunker dreams, bunker screams.


Ian Anderson wasn’t waiting for Altamont to bring the 1960s flower-power era of peace and love to a close. His band Jethro Tull’s single “Living in the Past” was released in May of 1969, while the disastrous Rolling Stones show in California didn’t occur until December.

Lyrically it was a bit of a rejection of the swinging fashion of that post-Beatles, slightly hippy idealistic period,” Anderson told Mojo. “There were a lot of people talking pompously about love and peace and revolution and, you know, people then as now were quick to jump up and scream and shout, but they’re not actually really quite sure what they’re stamping their feet about.”

Happy and I’m smiling
Walk a mile to drink your water
You know I’d love to love you
And above you there’s no other

We’ll go walking out
While others shout of war’s disaster
Oh, we won’t give in
Let’s go living in the past

Once I used to join in
Every boy and girl was my friend
Now there’s revolution, but they don’t know
What they’re fighting

Let us close our eyes
Outside their lives go on much faster
Oh, we won’t give in
We’ll keep living in the past

Oh, we won’t give in
Let’s go living in the past

Oh no, no we won’t give in
Let’s go living in the past

To be truthful, “Living in the Past” isn’t a favorite song of mine, although it’s hard not to at least appreciate the wit behind a pop ditty with a 5/4 time signature.

As it pertains to the general sentiment of living in the past, there are at least two ways of looking at it. Living in the past might imply harmful obliviousness to the present, in the pejorative sense of one who cannot function owing to obsessive veneration of what’s dead and gone.

Conversely, the condition of living in the past might be more benign, perhaps even constructive; the sort of optional reverie with an on-off switch that allows a guy to take a trip down memory lane without waking to find the rose-colored glasses welded permanently to his head.

Such is my state of mind lately.

I forever strive to avoid being the sort of old white male who regards high school or college as the acme of his life. At the same time, there is a strong urge in my cosmos to relive youthful travels, and to contemplate how they played out — or, with the luxury of a few hours to waste, what might have been. For instance, I wish I’d been into bicycling in the 1980s.

The COVID-19 kinda-sorta quarantine has produced plenty of hours appropriate for principled time-wasting of this magnitude, and I’ve been happy to use them to continue my ongoing project of digitizing long-ago travel slides. With the viewing of these images, most of them unseen for decades, living briefly in the past almost is inevitable, and I’ve given in to the urge.

It transpired five years ago during my period of post-NABC redundancy that I finally completed a fairly detailed written narrative of the 1985 trip, my first overseas journey. This was published over a period of months at the since-mothballed Potable Curmudgeon blog, and it also came about prior to the digitalization era.

This means I probably missed a few things. Consequently, now that all the 1985 photos are at my disposal, I’ll be revising and reposting this narrative, with visuals, here at NA Confidential. I’ve not decided exactly which day(s) of the week will be devoted to the series, so stay tuned.

While the 1985 remix project unspools, I’ll be diving into the banker’s boxes filled with detritus from the 1991-92 stay in Slovakia (I taught English at the university hospital there), and composing a narrative about those months abroad — with photos, which I’m scanning right now.

In short, an hour or two a day of living in the past, then returning reluctantly to the present mass breakdown of human reason, otherwise known as the pandemic: covidiot, covidiocracy, covidiocy … covoodoo, covid-cuckoo?

Those Louisville-area restaurateurs and bar owners who believe they’ll be back i the thick of it in a few weeks — of course not even the Shadow knows how long it really might be — have started dipping tentative toes into the murky, swirling waters and asking their customers via social media what the future looks like.

How can bricks ‘n’ mortar restaurants and bars help make diners and drinkers feel safe while dining and drinking on-premise, as opposed to cruising a drive-through window or utilizing curbside carry-out?

The answers have been instructive.

A good number of respondents want limited seating, perhaps by reservation only, and lots of spacing between tables.

Masks, gloves and PPE for staff would be great, and maybe a designated person to run food orders who isn’t the same server touching pens, body parts and credit cards.

And isn’t it time you paid these people a living wage? After all, they’ll be unionizing, anyway, unless Trump unleashes the peaceful militias on them.

From an owner’s perspective, these visions combine to suggest half the customers, twice the employees, a larger payroll, higher post-pandemic food costs reflecting new regulations all the way up the food chain, and renewed criticism by rigged bots on detested Yelp if the cost of any single menu item is raised a buck.

To be fair, many other diners and drinkers have been supportive without reservation or any conditions whatever, repeating a variation of this: “Just unlock the doors, and we’ll be back as before.”

It’s a very good idea for restaurateurs and business owners to be canvassing folks this way. There’s going to be a lot to learn, and two-way communications are a must.

As a long-term employee of the food and drink sector, a chronic worrier and a semi-professional cynic, it seems unlikely to me the hoped-for-return to normality will be normal at all. Adaptation is being thrust upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not.

Here are three (of many) obvious challenges:

1. Consumer expectations and the cost of implementing them, and not merely as these costs pertain to money. There’ll be psychological ramifications. For all of us in the hospitality industry, Yogi Berra’s perverse maxim always has been our business model’s objective (paraphrasing): That joint is so crowded that no one goes there any longer.

How will Yogi’s observation fare in the post-COVID world? 

2. The time frame for the re-instituting of temporarily suspended regulatory regimes, especially as they pertain to carryout alcoholic beverages, but also in matters like parking (for curbside) and other “wartime” statutory relaxations. More to the point, if things worked fine while these were relaxed, is there even a valid case to be made for tightening them yet again, or might this be the long-awaited opportunity to purge the book of useless rules?

I know the correct answer, and am utterly pessimistic it will be implemented.

3. For those operators in New Albany, retail as well as food service, struggling for the remainder of 2020 to cope with all the other obstacles to rebuilding, trying their best to get their groove back, surprise! The 800lb Sherman Minton construction disruptions are waiting to crush them for the second time … in less than a year.

If COVID-19 doesn’t disable enough independent local businesses, INDOT is standing by, eager for someone to hold its beer.

A parting thought.

Maybe it’s the relative silence, but just the same it’s been a while since I’ve heard so many engines revving, gears shifting and tires screeching. As other cities close their streets to automobiles to facilitate outdoor social distancing during the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that New Albany’s streets are reverting to their previous wilderness state of high-speed, pass-through, dangerous raceways.

What I’ve noticed about life in this time of pandemic is that for the majority, stress and uncertainty don’t guide us to cool, analytical thinking about revolution, reinvention or reexamination.

Rather, they merely enhance the defaults already wired into 350 million noggins. If in January you regarded 40 mph as a proper speed for Spring Street, you’re now traveling closer to 50. If you waited for the light by blocking the crosswalk, you’re now halfway into the intersection. If you used your turn signal once in a blue moon — well, you catch my drift.

The coronavirus continues to act as an amazing societal truth serum, extracting stupidity, weakness, cupidity and avarice with a degree of precision seldom seen in our lifetimes.

Understandably, living in the past becomes a steadily more appealing option when the present is frustrating and the future unclear, but I know there’s no choice in the matter, and one simply mustn’t remain in the Great Before.

I’ll be back in Deaf Gahan’s Na Na Land as soon as the 1991 scanning’s finished … can you keep a light on for me?

Recent columns:

April 9: ON THE AVENUES: #VoteEwwNoMatterWho, or when being realistic means being radical.

April 2: ON THE AVENUES: Pandemic, pornographic, pecksniffian. Just three random words until the booze kicks in.

March 26: ON THE AVENUES: It’s a tad premature to sing the healing game.

March 19: ON THE AVENUES: If it’s a war, then the food service biz needs to be issued a few weapons. We need improvisation and flexibility to survive the shutdown.