Generation ‖ Gap: Old School

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Old folks: for most youngin’ American Millenials, the eldest demographic tends to have a polarizing effect....we love them or we can't stand 'em. Never mind our baby boomer parents, most of whom are tuned in enough to understand things like The Internet, to be motivated by the materialism of The American Dream of their heydey, to be much more like ourselves than we tend to realizeour grandparents' generation (I’m talkin’ 75 years +) are the real “dinosaurs.” While it may seem I’m about to generalize old people, this is hardly the case...I shall discuss what Millenials can learn from their grandparents’ generation.
I’m currently living with an 80-year old family friend who has been kind enough to house me in his superbly located LA home. This family friend does not represent the norm of “old school all-American.” He is Hawaiian-American, widowed, and he grew up in the shadow of World War II as a Japanese-American in Hawaii (a cultural/locational relic of America's dark, oppressive past).
.During this transitional phase of my life, Harry has given me a roof over my head, food (he is an amazing cook!), and a location from which to launch my career without the added stress of rent, living with friends, etc. I had Cable installed the first week that I moved in, I have a key to the front door, and I even have my own parking spot in the driveway.

I may love vintage aesthetics, but the life I am living here is not immersed so much in nostalgic Americana as it is in nostalgic mindset and customs. Having spent the previous 8 months living with my parents, I found myself estranged and frustrated by sharing my space with them. I'm not saying I wasn't respectful but I wasn't a guest; living in a homestay demands a certain level of respect. And this is something I surely think young people (the DGAF generation) could learn. 
Observing how Harry lives day-to-day as an 80 year old is oddly inspiring...he wakes early, enjoys King's Hawaiian bread with the LA Times for breakfast, watches TV (lots of NHK Japanese cooking shows), tracks his finances/bills, hangs out in his backyard garden, watches more TV, cooks, and cleans. It's a simple albeit satisfying life, less easily distracted by the realm of technology like me, my parents, and anyone reading this...each task is done with care, thought, and routine. 

Having lived in a homestay with 70 year olds in Moscow when I studied abroad in summer 2013, I spent that time in much the same way I spend my time now living in Los Angeles. I am taken care of but lead a separate life dictated by society: jobs, money, technology, friends, and the city. As much as I am able to nest in my room, I am living in someone else's "world"-the walls have a certain lived-in feeling and smell unfamiliar to my technology-trained senses. Generations grew up here, passed through here, even passed away here. It's not an eerie ambience, but rather respectful of the past. 
Old people can teach us about some valuable lessons about lifestyle that no app, online media, nor time spent researching information can compare to. It's easy to forget "real life" exists but old people have lived IRL their entire lives. In terms of lifestyle, oldies know a lot about the following:
  • saving money; 
Harry is one of the few souls still out there who coupons. When he goes to the grocery store, he knows what he likes: he looks for deals--he buys products because they're ON SALE, not because they're trendy, they're a quick fix, or because he is told by others that he needs them. He likes what he eats yet is still saves money and materials. Like my Russian Бабушка (babushka) дедушка (dedushka) in Moscow, Harry saves his plastic bags and stores his food in Tupperware. He doesn't waste his food, and he rarely eats out. He doesn't need to try that new brunch spot because online media told him to; nor does he need to buy those overpriced kale chips. He is practical but lives his own truth: he knows what he needs.  
  • cooking and cleaning with less technology; 
I got used to having no dishwasher in college, but having spent the last 8 months in the comforts of my technologically-enhanced parents' home, I sorta forgot the pleasures of doing the dishes. I mean this with full sincerity; dish-washing reminds me that food is indeed a process of creating, consuming, disassembling, and purifying. Harry also does not have a modern microwave and his oven is dysfunctional. None of this is a problem; it's certainly taught me to adapt my culinary habits, but it's a reminder of how we lived without technology. Think about it: iceboxes weren't used that long ago. You know what they say: eat how your grandmother did. 
  • a different way of viewing the world;
An optical illusion: this is yogurt and jam, not an egg.
Whether it's food, a method of cleaning, or simply a household habit, Harry has taught me new (yet really, such antiquated) tips n' tricks he employs in his day to day night. From his love for kimchi to his favorite television programs, he views the world through much different lenses than I do. It's never bad to have a fresh (...or old-fashioned) perspective. 
  • a fulfilled life
I know plenty of young people embrace environmentalism, homesteading, and the like, but I can't compare an urban environment to a real backyard garden, or having spent your childhood "in the wild" (Harry often talks about what it was like growing up in Hawaii). For some reason, urban "hipsters," "hippies," even those who seek a Pinterest-perfect "organic" pastoral life outside of the city, feel fabricated to me. Yes, I'm a blogger-I suppose I'm not one to talk. To each his own, but the bottom line that I associate with Harry's penchant for gardening is that he recognizes the Earth and more importantly, his time spent here. There's also a certain level of respect. He lives well but he knows that life doesn't last forever. He's seen the times change, loved ones pass, his own environment and "place" in the world transform...coincidentally enough, my Russian "grandparents" also loved gardening. I'll end this on a cliche note: 
life's a garden-dig it. 
 xo  SFB