There’s an old Steely Dan song that begins, “I would love to tour the southland in a traveling minstrel show.”
Word was that Donald Fagen hated touring, and this was his way of putting it. Not sure. Fagen once said the song, “Pretzel Logic,” was about time traveling.
Every time I hear it (which is a lot) I drift back to all the things I’d have loved to do, and would still love to do, if I got a chance to do a little time traveling.
Fagen wanted to meet Napoleon. Well, not to be a highbrow or anything, but if I could pick one figure from the vast resources of history to meet and have a conversation with, it would be Ludwig van Beethoven. I’m a music guy and his influence over music is immense. My music teacher in college said Beethoven invented jazz because of all the syncopation in his symphonies and other works.
I agree, but that isn’t the point. I’d have had a thousand questions for him, the most important being how could he write such music when he was deaf?
So, rather than bore people with New Year’s predictions, like everybody else, I’ll share some of the items on my time-travel bucket list.
For example, I’ve watched my share of those PBS retrospectives from the early 1960s and the doo-wop bands always fascinate me. I think it would be a real blast to be a backup singer in a doo-wop band.
How hard could it be? You learn some harmony, and a few basic dance steps, and voila! You can do this well into your 70s and 80s, judging by how easily these old guys dance around on those shows.
Switching gears, I’d have given anything to have been in the stands at Yankee Stadium when Babe Ruth was in his prime. I can’t imagine anyone who would have been more fun to watch. Just to see one of those 714 home runs sail out of the park …
Staying with baseball, every time I read about the Brooklyn Dodgers I wish I’d been to Ebbets Field just once. I’d like to think I’d have cheered for Jackie Robinson from the get-go. The 1950s really were the golden era of the sport — especially in New York, with Willie, Mickey and The Duke.
I dislike war, and was happy that the draft was discontinued before I ever had to worry about Vietnam. Still, to have been in Gettysburg in 1863 for the turning point in the Civil War … seeing it now is eerie. You can envision everything that happened 150 years ago. Maybe that’s why there are all those ghost tours.
When I saw Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” I ignored all the gore and focused on the images of an old hotel whose past came to life in Jack Torrance’s fertile imagination.
Going back to those days, probably in the 1920s, and perhaps even meeting Jay Gatsby (crossing fictional references here), would be cool. Life just seemed to be one big cocktail party, didn’t it?
How about reliving the year 1967, one of the most pivotal years in boomer history — only this time being slightly more aware of what was going on.
I’d have found time to get to Fenway Park more often and fully partake in the most meaningful season in the history of Boston baseball. And I’d have appreciated “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” even more than I did. And oh, for one more of those exquisite jelly doughnuts at the Trading Post in Hampton Beach, N.H.
One of the books I had to read that summer before I entered high school was “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Was Captain Bligh really that cruel? Or was the mutiny just a case of lazy sailors who only wanted to stay behind in Tahiti? Only one way to find out for sure.
I’d have paid my own way to London to meet Charles Dickens. Thankfully I only had to take the subway to Boston University to hear John Irving speak. Is it possible “Garp” is 41 years old?
I’d have wanted to be on the Titanic right up until the time it sank, though I haven’t the slightest idea how I’d have pulled that off.
How about being on the set of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and asking Kubrick what-all he was trying to convey? Or maybe I’d ask Alfred Hitchcock why, after the birds menaced a community for two hours, they just stood there and let the family they’d been tormenting get away?
I’d ask Harper Lee (“To Kill a Mockingbird”), not just about her thoughts on racism in America, but also what it was like growing up with Truman Capote.
I’d have wanted to be there to scream at Lincoln to stay home; plead with JFK not to go to Dallas; warn Bobby Kennedy not to use the kitchen as a shortcut; and beg Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to get off the balcony.
Alas, as Donald Fagen said, “those days are gone forever, over a long time ago.”