In the 1960s, the Post‘s humor series, “The Human Comedy,” focused on broad social issues and generational divides for its surreal and satirical slant. “An Antacid Trip with the Tweeny-Boppers” was Roger Price’s 1967 sendup of the hippie generation. This new installment imagines a millennium twist.
After some lessons in vocabulary, I felt confident in attempting communication with the Millennials. As a member of the Homeowning Generation, I educated myself in twentysomething slang by following every cast member of HBO’s Silicon Valley on Twitter.
Us Baby Boomers had our own hip lingo. We called money bread. The Millennials call it avocado. If we had a categorized interest or scene, it was our bag, and the younger generation calls this dietary restrictions. One of the most controversial new words is fleek. This is a caustic curse word you might have heard before, as in: “Tanner! The fleeking landlord is outside! Hide the fleeking dogs! Fleek!”
But one verb has continuously confounded me: adulting. Is it the opposite of kidding? A new parlor game? Some kind of Most-Dangerous-Game-style hunt of geriatrics?
I had to get to the bottom of this newly popular expression, so I went to a place that was sure to be crawling with Millennials: a tech startup.
The Naming Convention was bleeding-edge B2B crowdfunded lean startup, which, as far as I could tell, meant they kept a bottle of 20-year-old Scotch in the first aid kit. The Naming Convention recently launched an app to generate names for other tech startups, like Boostspace and Upkick. I arrived at their storefront around midnight since I was told the full-time freelance consultants there work nine to five (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.). Joey, the founder, greeted me at the door and let me in. The office was a combination of deteriorating brick walls and chrome with a seven-foot cactus in the center of the room.
Joey wore a houndstooth jacket over a plaid shirt, and he showed me around the space. A handful of employees were spread around the room sitting in swings fastened to the ceiling and working on touchscreen tablets. Now that I think of it, were they working?
“The swings are made of repurposed bamboo and sustainable hemp,” Joey said. One worker was pouring barley wine into a collectible Smurfs glass from a tap in the wall.
“Joey, it’s all very nice,” I said, “but I need to ask you something.”
“I know — you want to know about ‘adulting.’”
Just then, his electronic watch spoke out in a feminine voice about an appointment.
“Thank you Aurora,” he said.
“Who is Aurora?” I asked.
“My watch. Listen, we have a team-building cycling session right now — Aurora, remind me to check Daleyza in the morning.”
“Is Daleyza your phone?” I asked.
“No, that’s my daughter. I’m busy right now, but why don’t you join my partner and me for brunch tomorrow?” He strapped on a vintage bike helmet.
“What is brunch?”
“It’s like church with champagne.”
The next day I met Joey and his partner, Stephanie, at their favorite brunch restaurant, Poached Modern. They each ordered papaya-infused Bellinis with shots of mezcal, so I followed suit. After several more drinks, I wondered if brunch usually included eating.
“You’re both adults, right?” I asked.
“Well, sure,” Stephanie answered.
“Are you adulting right now? Is this adulting?”
“No, no, no, this isn’t adulting; this is brunch,” Joey said. “Adulting is, like, important tasks, things you have to do that you don’t want to do.”
“Um, not really.” Joey looked around. “Aurora, can you explain adulting?”
Joey’s watch lit up: “Adulting, verb, achieving common responsibilities daily, such as banking, scheduling doctors’ appointments, and personal hygiene — ”
“And changing the oil in your hybrid car!” said Stephanie.
“And tying a tie,” chimed in Joey.
“Those are just normal, everyday undertakings! You have a name for things like that?” I screamed. They sat flustered, staring down at their Bellinis. “Well — I — I just mean maybe you don’t need to do that stuff at all. Why should the Man tell you what to do anyway?”
“You mean we don’t need to file our taxes?” said Joey.
“Or move out of my parents’ basement?” added Stephanie.
I started, “That’s probably — ”
“Thank you for joining us for brunch,” Joey interrupted, “but we’ve got to go now.”
“We’re going to Uber to the store to buy some really potent marijuana, then we’re going to watch old John Wayne movies ironically,” Stephanie said.
They walked out, leaving me to pay the bill. Damned Millennials. What can you expect from a crop of people still on their parents’ cell phone plans? A generation taught that each individual is a special star destined for their own incomparable fate? Why aren’t Millennials jaded like us?
The waiter delivered the check on a Spode tray with a little more attitude than was necessary. I wheezed. “Fleek! I don’t have that kind of avocado!”
In the 1960s, the Post‘s humor series, “The Human Comedy,” focused on broad social issues and generational divides for its surreal and satirical slant. The creator of Mad Libs and Droodles, Roger Price, wrote this installment of the humor series that was published on November 18, 1967. His “Antacid Trip” journeys through the jive and psychedelics of the younger generation as a not-so-silent member of the Silent Generation.
I guess I should have been prepared, because my friends had been avoiding me for months. Charley, who was 40, and Lyle, who was 41, were always polite when I phoned, but scene-wise we weren’t making it. And real teenagers like Gloria and Harry, who were only 36, cut me dead on the street. But I had absolutely no premonition of disaster when I went into the Discodelic Record Shoppe that day.
“Hey, man,” I said to the clerk, “groove me in with the latest Sonny and Cher album.”
The clerk, like, just looked at me. And then he asked to see my driver’s license.
“Sorry, Work-a-Daddy,” he sneered. “We can’t sell to anybody over 45. Unless you make it with a doctor’s prescription.”
I pulled my Day-Glo forage cap over my eyes and slunk away, convinced my world was ended. I was no longer a swinger; I was too old for the Frug and too young for Medicare. There was nothing left for me but to cut off my tight trousers, give my Humphrey Bogart posters to the Salvation Army and resign myself to endless nights of Gomer Pyle, Johnny Carson and reruns of Bonanza.
But someone up there must dig me, because that very afternoon I ran into Biggy Poindexter.
Biggy had been three years ahead of me in high school, so I knew he must be at least 50. “Hey, Chief,” he yelled at me. “Long time no see.”
Biggy was wearing a triple-breasted red blazer, bifocal shades, a green homburg and bell-bottom trousers. He carried an orange dispatch case, and three large buttons were pinned to his lapels. They read: TWEENY POWER, DON’T TRUST ANYBODY OVER 70 and CHICKEN INSPECTOR.
He sensed my unhappiness immediately. “Hey, how come the long puss, Chief?” he shouted. “I bet you got those old over-the-hill blues, huh?”
I smiled wanly. “That’s about it, Biggy,” I said.
“Gol ding it!” Biggy slapped me on the back. “That’s nowheresville in spades. Us Tweenys got to keep our chins up.”
“Tweeny-Boppers,” Biggy said. “Us kids between forty-five and sixty. After all, Chief, it’s our world. Over eighty-six percent of Americans are under sixty.”
I’d never thought of it like that. I felt a surge of confidence. Maybe I wasn’t really all washed-up.
“Listen,” Biggy yelled. “What you need, Old Buddy, is a trip! Come on, you and me’s gonna mosey pronto over to the Cat’s Pajamas — that’s this hang-out we Tweenies have at the Sheraton-Hilton.”
On the way Biggy explained the basic Tweeny-Bopper philosophy.” We figure those old geezers like Einstein and Eisenhower and Carl Sandburg, they loused everything up and left us this rotten world, but that’s their problem. We do our own thing, you know, and take care of each other, and to hell with the Establishment. What we say is, ‘Tune Out, Turn Over and Drop Everything! — ”
“What do you do for kicks?” I asked.
“Well, like in the daytime we hang around the American Stock Exchange buying and selling two-dollar electronics stocks. Last week we staged a protest march against Federal Trade Commission brutality. Or we go surfing, when the surf is up. I just got myself a brand-new twenty-eight-foot board, with seats, handrails and a crew of three.”
“Solid. What about the night life, Biggy?”
“Well, we may make the scene-orooty at this Tweeny discotheque and dance the Shlump — that’s a dance that you can do sitting down.
“We even have nude parties,” Biggy went on. “They work out pretty well except for one thing. We can never get any girls to come. But the girls would just interfere with the seven-card-stud games anyway.”
At this point Biggy, who had been waving his arms about excitedly, accidentally bumped into a tall bearded boy with hair down to his shoulders.
“Cool it, Papa Brown Shoes,” the boy said. He extended a wilted plastic flower toward Biggy. “Love,” he said. “Love, man.”
“Wrong, Chief,” Biggy hollered. He reached in his pocket, produced a $20 bill and waved it. “Cash,” he said. “Cash, Old Buddy.”
As the boy snatched at the bill, Biggy struck his wrist sharply with a steel ruler, which he evidently carried for this purpose, and moved on. “Town’s getting overrun with squares,” he muttered.
The Cat’s Pajamas was a large, dimly lighted room on the first floor of the Sheraton-Hilton. On the walls were photoposters of Pat Nixon, H.L. Hunt and Hildegarde. A large sign said: MAKE MONEY — NOT WAR. About 20 other Tweeny-Boppers were seated in red-leather booths around the wall, many in advanced stages of torpor.
We had a huge dinner — shrimp cocktail, steak, baked potato, salad, mince pie and brandy. As we lighted up cigars after the meal, Biggy glanced quickly around the room and snapped open the locks on his dispatch case. He took out a polyethylene bag containing about a quarter pound of pure white powder. “You ready for the triporoony, Chief?” he asked.
I nodded eagerly, my sinuses clogging in anticipation. This was It.
“Yessirree Bob, it’s Tripsville time,” Biggy grinned, and carefully measured three heaping spoonfuls of the powder into each of our water glasses. “Uncut stuff,” he said. “Pure NaHCO3. I got it from a druggist in Grosse Pointe.” He held up his glass. “Chug-a-lug, Old Buddy.”
Nervously I drank the water containing the white powder. It had a familiar taste.
“Best damn bicarbonate of soda you can get,” Biggy said, smacking his lips.
Following Biggy’s example. I leaned back in the booth and relaxed. Slowly a feeling of peace began to creep over me. All colors and sounds seemed muted and indistinct. The world suddenly seemed a happy, pleasant place. I remember asking Biggy, before he started snoring, if the other Tweenies in the room were all taking trips.
“You betcher boots,” he muttered. “Every last one of ‘em. They’re all Antacid Heads.”
From that moment on my life was changed. Through Biggy I became a member of the Tweeny-Bopper underground. Every night we Turn On, usually with bicarb, but sometimes with more exotic stomach-expanding drugs such as Bisodol or Alka-Seltzer.
I know that old fogies say we’re nothing but irresponsible kooks, but when I walk down the street with my yellow homburg, my bell-bottom Bermuda shorts and my neon briefcase, I know I’m a member of the Great Society.
The only thing that bothers me are my children. Since I became a Tweeny they’ve started getting crew cuts and wearing neckties, and they take three baths a day. I guess that’s what they mean when they talk about the Generation Gap.