Friday, December 30, 2011

Where You'll Be Spending the Rest of Your Life

Windsor McCay, from Mr. Door Trees' site

As we approach the last of 2011, my thoughts seem to turn toward my old nemesis- the Future. Long- time L by L readers may recall my fixation with the Future, because it never seemed to arrive!

Here are some links: and

And now, on the eve of 2012, the year the Mayans supposedly predicted would be the planet's final one, I just keep thinking about the Future that never was, and how close we came to it.

I'm not talking about the total lack of anti- gravity belts; or cities in the clouds, or under glass domes, or on other planets (glass domes again, I guess.) Nor am I talking about controlling the weather, robot servants, and pills that turn into full plates of food! Rocket cars, highways made of clear, plexi- glassed tubed tunnels that never have traffic jams. Utopian societies w/ tunics that have space-age fins on the shoulders. Invisibility rays!

Well, you get the idea.

I'm talking about some things we used to have that can serve to remind us that the future was once right around the corner:

1. We went to the moon and played golf
I don't play golf, but if I were on the moon, I'd be happy to give it a few swings! The point being, of course, that instead of only one astronaut, all of us, by now, should be able to go to the moon and do some anti- gravity putting. In a glass- domed city. But we're not! And why not?

2. Monorails in department stores
My wife used to celebrate Xmas in Philadelphia, visiting her grandparents, and recalls riding in a monorail (hanging?- I'll have to ask) around Wanamaker's department store. This part of the future probably got litigated out of existence, a fate I imagine that curtailed a lot of the future.

<--- The Santa Land monorail, Meir and Frank's in Portland, Oregon, similar to the one in Wanamaker's.

3. Blimps and dirigibles
Oh, the humanity! Well before the explosion of the Hindenburg, blimps were a valid form of mass transportation. Unfortunately, prior to WWII, blimps were filled with highly flammable hydrogen, instead of stable but hard- to- find helium. Nowadays the only blimps we see are advertising blimps, a la the Goodyear Blimp (which, by the way, I rode in one time!)
Imagine this: it's a beautiful fall day, the leaves are changing and you and your honey decide to view the Skyline Drive from the air. You go to the nearby mooring station and take an elevator or escalator to the entrance floor where your Skyline Blimp is tethered, buy a ticket, maybe $2.00 tops, and rise quietly and majestically over the city to the Skyline Drive, your mouths full of "Oohs!" and Aahs!"

The more I think of it, the more the current view of the computer- dominated future seems physically static. Video games have replaced an actual reality, unfortunately. Virtual reality is seemingly without consequence, or so it may seem, and all the thought that would have gone into the time machine has gone into some current video game.

4. Contacting the Spirit world
Seem farfetched?
Not so! Back at the turn of the 20th century, huge amounts of people were confident that we could communicate with the dead. The Spiritualism movement was not unlike a religion, much like, say, Scientology today or the worship of angels as the benign messengers of Deities.
It wasn't until Houdini devoted much of the final years of his career to exposing mediums as frauds that the movement began to die out.
Actually it may be coming back. With the proliferation of television shows about Paranormal phenomena, I wouldn't be surprised if the movement makes a comeback. However, no one has patented a working communicating device that can reach the netherworld, wherever and whatever that may entail.
Strange when you think about it, isn't it? All those particons, and radio waves and we still can't drop a line to our nearest deceased and find out how they're doing? Vatican cover- up, anyone?

5. Anything Buckminster Fuller invented
For a smart guy, Buckminster Fuller seems woefully under- represented in our current future. Ever been inside a geodesic dome (answer: not since the late '60's)? A folding house? Driven an aerodynamically designed car? No? Not surprised. Very few have. But it all existed. And it looked cool too: a huge qualification of the future that also got ignored. How cool- looking is an IPad? It's an iPhone tray, for chrissakes! TV dinners looked cooler, especially on the box.

5. PF Flyers
Okay, so they weren't really shoes that could enhance your anti-gravity abilities, but at least they were thinking about it.

6. Anything in a Max Fleischer cartoon.

7. Backyard Roller Coasters
I knew of a kid in Chevy Chase MD whose dad had built him a roller coaster in their backyard. Johnny Koehler and I snuck in once and actually played on it, but the dad caught us and threw us out.

8. Personal rocket packs and
9. Floating cars
They had 'em, I saw 'em- where are they now? Expedia has one, but, like the blimps, their usage seems limited to advertising.

10. All of these:
and many, many more!

Let's not abandon our Steampunk vision of the future, please! Life is just morbidly dull and virtual enough as it is.

Long Live the Future- where you'll be spending the rest of your life!


OldMrBill said...

Those were fantastic! Thanks, Bret.

paul said...

This is a most happifying, humorous, and needed post in our physical world.
Classic Littlehales essay, and I luv it!
(Just returned from being involved in a quite traditional wedding in a regional Southern city. Boy, did I need this post -- and didn't yet have it -- just to get through.)

William Littlehales said...

"Today will soon enough become tomorrow, and spent wisely, will then become a yesterday to remember." WTL