Philly’s boomer roll call is pretty damned awesome: Judy Wicks and Dick Hayne, who started Urban Outfitters here in 1970. Piazza at Schmidts developer Bart Blatstein. Local NAACP president Jerry Mondesire. Mural Arts founder Jane Golden. Consig-liere extraordinaire David L. Cohen. First female Philly Bar Association chair Deborah Willig. Journalists Buzz Bissinger, Mark Bowden and Richard Ben Cramer. Drexel prez John Fry, Penn prez Amy Gutmann and Temple prez Ann Weaver Hart. Hoops coaches Fran Dunphy, Jay Wright and Phil Martelli. Black activist Michael Coard. Center City District founder Paul Levy, who cleaned up all that litter. Best booster Meryl Levitz. These aren’t smiley-face people. They’re movers and shakers — dreamers who get things done.
AS A FORMER HIPPIE, I have grave doubts about relinquishing Philly’s future to a generation that’s decided women should pretend not to have pubic hair and spends big bucks to perpetuate that illusion. It’s also hard for me to imagine how those who come after us will accomplish anything when they’re always running off to the gym. Still, my peers and I are trying to be gracious about handing over the reins.
We’re sorry we didn’t leave our room as tidy as Gen Xers would like — that we didn’t bust the city unions, or “fix” Social Security, or make the schools all shiny and new. Now that it’s their turn, the Xers will find out: Problems are hard! Life is confusing! Sometimes you have to compromise! But they’re like younger siblings, blaming us for having come before them, so sure that if we’d just go away to college, they’d have Mom and Dad all to themselves and things would be grand. Okay, then. You guys go ahead and take over. We’re tired, anyway — tired from having changed the world.
We did, you know. We took the stark button-down black-and-white world we were born into and Kodachromed it, tie-dyed it, made it a rainbow of races and genders and candy-colored Spandex bike shorts. You think our force lay in numbers, but you’re wrong. It lay in the vision we had. You can’t comprehend that, because you’re so low-key, so small-scale, so It’s about intimacy. No. It’s not. Thomas Jefferson had it right: It’s about happiness.
If you’ve ever had an honest conversation with your mom or dad, you have us to thank for it. If you get time off from work to take care of a new baby or a sick relative, you’re welcome for that. Getting a tax rebate for making your house more energy-efficient? Bike lanes, pocket parks, hate-crime laws, legalized pot, death-penalty moratoriums, organic food, space telescopes, genome-decoding — don’t you see what we were doing? We were taking the American dream to the max, pushing to its limits the pursuit of freaking happiness.