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Baby boomers still looking for daylight

Memories: Baby boomers still looking for daylight


January 18, 2003
Special to the Sentinel

I lost my oldest, best friend recently. Not in the literal sense, but he
packed up his new Brazilian bride and his longboard and moved to
South America.
I know that he is only a plane ticket or e-mail away, but I canít help
but have this feeling I will never see him again.
We baby boomers have taken a few hits lately, and we donít seem to
be handling middle-age too well. We have been accused of being
whiny and self-absorbed, outraged that the aging process is slowly
robbing us of our vitality and ultimately our freedom. Perhaps.
As fate would have it, our generation changed some of the rules, and
the í60s while now enjoying a groundswell of nostalgia was a
time of upheaval and angst.
The social fabric was torn asunder by Vietnam, the struggle for civil
rights and political assassinations. The Establishment was in for an
awakening, courtesy of Generation Boomer, and I suspect that we will
be vocal until we are gone.
Roger and I grew up in the middle-class suburbs not far from that
hotbed of political activism, Berkeley. Often we would cut our high
school classes and ride our motorcycles over to hang out with
students and hippies on Telegraph Avenue.
At first it was purely for the entertainment value. But eventually we
were caught up in the riots at Peopleís Park, as well as several
student demonstrations against the war at the gates of the
We would flee the encroaching police lines, take some tear gas, and
still be home in time for dinner.
We drew on the energy, ever young and naive; and while our fun
seemed endless, there existed a grim undercurrent.
Soon we were draft age, holding our breath as some of our friends
headed off to an unpopular war in Southeast Asia.
1970 was a long year, with both of our lottery numbers painfully close
to the call-up line. The Ohio National Guard shot students to death on
campus, and the United States resumed bombing North Vietnam with
a vengeance.
Edgy and distracted, Roger and I decided to leave college and move
to a place we had both been familiar with since adolescence: Santa
We pulled into town with an old van, a vintage truck, our collective
surfing gear, minimal cash and no job prospects.
We managed to rent an apartment near the San Lorenzo River mouth
(an epic winter for waves there), and eventually landed jobs at the
old Down Towner Restaurant on Cathcart Street.
Pacific Avenue had evolved into a garden mall, and the carnival
atmosphere was alive. What hadnít come yet was some of the
mean-spirited, anti-social behavior that we all lament now.
The old Catalyst, located in the St. George Hotel, was the premiere
bohemian gathering spot downtown.
Other than a series of mass murders, which riveted the community,
Santa Cruz in the í70s was a perfect place to be. Housing was
affordable, traffic rarely a concern, and street gangs non-existent.
The town was a mosaic of laid-back diversity.
The years passed, and Roger and I followed each other from job to
job: custodians, restaurant workers, jewelry makers, gas station
attendants, mill workers.
Our only real requirement was a job that gave us a few hours of
daylight to catch a low tide.
By the í80s, Roger was married with kids. He had found the Lord, and
pursued a degree in theology.
I was well on my way with a career in law enforcement, and neither
of us surfed quite as often.
We were maturing almost as conservative as the Reagan years
themselves (a momentary lapse on my part).
What contact we had became sporadic, as time moved relentlessly
onward. Ultimately, it was only that soul connection we had known
since childhood that withstood its ravages.
Even so, I was stunned to learn he was moving out of the country.
The news begged me to examine not only how far we had come, but
in what direction I would go from here.
While no expert on growing old, I have come to recognize my arrival
at a personal, as well as generational, crossroads. The baby boomers
are inching toward the conclusion of their productive lives, and a
certain urgency is setting in.
That activism that burned so bright in the í60s is still aflame among
us, and there is much still to do.
Rogerís goal is to establish five missions in Brazil in as many years, in
addition to becoming fluent in Portuguese.
I would be happy to accomplish a bit more writing, and maybe some
volunteer work here and there. Come to think of it, I might even visit
I remember someone telling me of an old Indian lore shortly after I
moved here so long ago. It says that if a person sleeps three
consecutive nights beneath the Santa Cruz Mountains, he or she will
always return here.
I hope thatís true. But if itís not, I want to say to my old friend
Roger: farewell, fellow traveler.
And to those of my generation, I would urge a revisit to those
passions from another time, for we are finally in the unique position of
being influential.
Be it outrage at social injustice or planning a bake sale at our
childrenís school, we can still step up to the plate. After all, slipping
off quietly into the night just would not be our style.
Barry Wallace is a deputy with the county Sheriffís Office


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