June 13, 2016

George Bilgere

BOOMERS

Look, here’s a photograph, black and white,
of my parents at their favorite restaurant,
Ruggeri’s, on the Hill in St. Louis, and it’s
1956. My mother in a cocktail dress and pearls,
my father in his jacket and tie, what choice
did he or any man have in those days,
and on the table is, of course, an ashtray and drinks
and the remnants of maybe spaghetti pomodoro
and garlic bread and some of that good rigatoni.
 
And you’re thinking, okay, what’s the point? Because
you happen to have more or less exactly the same photo
of your mother and father out on the town one night,
only it was 1957 and the place was called Maury’s
in New York City and your mother was a blonde,
not a brunette, but the image has exactly the same, Hey,
we’re still here in the late fifties, enjoying our Manhattans
and dinner at our favorite place, we’re still young, not to mention
alive, we like Ike, the Yanks are in first place,
and no one’s even mentioned divorce yet kind of look
so popular in those days.

And my point here is, everyone has this photo tucked away
in a box in a bureau somewhere, and now and then
you need to take it out and look at it
earnestly and reflectively, because he’s coming
across the room right now, the photographer
with his big funny-looking old camera with the flash bulb,
and your wife is already smiling and hiding her cigarette,
you look up from your steak, it’s your turn
to be in the bureau.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016

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George Bilgere: “We graying baby boomers have something today’s millennials never will: a shoebox (or two, or three) of old black and white family photos. There’s mom and dad when they were young. There’s that almost forgotten trip to the Grand Canyon. And there’s a shot of a bunch of old people you can no longer identify. And among these relics of an ancient past are several shots of your parents having a fancy dinner somewhere. Back in the ’50s the nicer restaurants hired a photographer who would go table to table, asking if you wanted to memorialize your night out on the town. ‘Boomers’ takes a look back at this charming custom, now lost in the mists of time (and cell phone photography).” (website)