Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Gen X Chronicles: Part Three - The East Side of The Berlin Wall

I had thought that the entire Berlin wall was in a million tiny pieces.  I'd seen fragments of the wall that could fit in your hand that friends had bought or received as gifts - gray cement with remnants of graffiti on one side - like too many puzzle pieces to ever be put back together.  Watching the news as the people broke those pieces away with pick axes, hammers, chisels, and even bare human hands  was one of the most important historical memories in my Generation X youth.  Until recently, I didn't realize there are enormous slabs of the Berlin Wall in different parts of the world as monuments to history.  One of these places is in Simi Valley, CA. 

When I look at the east side of this wall in all of its bleakness, I cannot help but think of how this is just one of a billion different walls that humans have created for each other over time.  Throughout history, people and institutions have spent a lot of time trying to hold things in, or keep things out.  These walls are created when you feel that any move you make will be judged unfairly.   They are created when someone does something to make everyone else live in fear.  They  are created when someone tells you that you cannot do something or that you are not good enough, or that or that your perceptions are not credible or that you are not allowed to believe what you believe.

Irina Ratushinska, a Russian Orthodox Christian writer, found herself in a Soviet labor camp for her ideas and beliefs.  As a prisoner, Irina carved her poetry into bars of soap, and memorized the words until she washed them away.  These words became books that were published later when she gained her freedom. 

So, reader, have you truly found your voice?

Does some wall hold you back?  If some bar of soap or scrap of paper is near you, you can start writing now, you can start planning now.  If some laptop or stack of books is near you, you can start researching now.  Get ready now to speak the truth - when the walls come crumbling down, your story will be told - nothing, and no one will stop you.

"Gray is the color of hope."  

                                                                                         -Irina Ratushinska

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Gen X Chronicles: Part Two - Gen X Christmas Trees

At the Reagan Museum in Simi Valley, CA, I got a chance to photograph a seasonal exhibit of Christmas trees - each one a representation of events and pop culture through each decade over the past century.  I took pictures of the trees representing the decades that have had the most relevance to Generation X....

The 1970s tree: includes references to Sesame Street, disco, attempts at peace, Star Wars, Jaws....

The 1980s tree includes: E.T., Pac Man, a new presidential administration, the Cabbage Patch Kid, Nintendo, MTV....  

The 1990s tree includes: AOL, the Simpsons, cordless phones, globalization, Furby, Cheers' 200th episode?

The 2000s tree: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, energy issues/hybrid cars, raising the flag at Ground Zero...

A lot has happened these past few decades....

Merry Christmas, X. 

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas (Christmas trees by Reagan Museum volunteers) 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Gen X Chronicles: Part One - The World We Grew Up In

I recently had a chance to visit the Reagan Museum in Simi Valley, CA.  Another name this museum could go by is "The Gen X Chronicles."  There was so much to photograph and write about here, I decided to turn it into a series.  For the better part of a decade during the formative years of Gen X, Reagan was the U.S. president, and this museum documents the things that happened during those years.  These are the events that had a huge impact on the collective psyche of Gen X.   

There is an area of the museum that has a collage of photos of the era when Reagan came into office as President, along with words that described the issues of the time: shortages, gas lines, job issues, unfair taxes, frustration....

For us, there were no golden years.

The Olympics are so important to kids - all our hopes and dreams became manifest in the amazing abilities of athletes we looked up to.  Except for when it got cancelled.  This might have been when the Cold War became more painfully real to kids who could not yet understand it. 

Stagflation: when the inflation rate is high, economics are slow and jobs are few.  An image of an empty factory with the windows busted out.  The purpose of the "Morning in America"  campaign was to address all these troubling issues, but honestly, I don't really remember it ever feeling like a new day. 

This has been a tough existence.

These are just a few images of what was happening in the news in the formative years of Gen X.  As we grew up and became more aware of the world in which we live in, all of this was weighing on our minds along with many other things. 

Unemployment, layoffs, plant closures, double digit inflation.  This is all part of what caused Gen X to become a nomadic generation from childhood.  I remember one year of elementary school when I watched most of my friends move away one by one because their parents had lost their jobs.  Then it was time for me to move away, too, and be the new kid yet again at another school. 

Watching these and other news images as the world distentegrated caused much of the anti-establishment and hypervigilance that became part of us.  The hardest thing about looking at these images is that many of these issues are still a reality.  The recessions we witnessed in our childhoods is now the Great Recession we must deal with as adults.  I saw the Gen X kids on the news picketing and holding up poster board signs demanding their parents' jobs back.  Now I watch them on the news standing in unemployment lines, worrying about how to feed their own kids. 

Got a Gen Xer in your life who tries not to be negative, but often assumes the worst will happen?

Cut them some slack. 

People become who they are for a reason.


(c) 2012 Photos and writing by Chloe/original images from the Reagan Museum.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Battle Born

The Killers often get compared to U2 or to Springsteen.  Both of these influences surface in their music, along with other 80s sounds that even sometimes sound a bit like an old Atari game.   Bono said he thinks The Killers will be the next biggest/best band in the world. He also said he would give a copy of the Hot Fuss album to the Pope to demonstrate that rock music is not evil.   A lot of the band's lyrics are wrought with true struggle, biblical imagery, a candidness about the broken down state of ourselves and the world, and a very intelligent sense of humor - all lyrics that I feel only a Gen Xer could write. 

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer, is a Mormon and was born at the tail end of the Gen X window.  All the other members are Gen X as well.  At one point when Brandon saw Oasis play at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas where he lives, he realized his calling was to be in a band. 

We saw the Killers live in Portland on Dec 5th for the Battle Born Tour for an incredible show. 

A shower of metallic confetti rains down on Portlanders at the Rose Garden Arena.

Up agains the wall
There's something dying on the street
When they knock you down
You're gonna get back on your feet
No you can't stop now


Come on show your face
Come on give us one more spark
So we'll start a fire
Unless we fall into the dark
And you can't stop now - no you can't stop now

- From "Battle Born"

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas- all rights reserved