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"But look at the many accomplishments that we baby boomers can point to: "Saturday Night Live," the New Age movement, call waiting."---Dave Barry

 

 

 

 

"There was one murder per week in this community, so you'd think that, under the law of averages, the law-enforcement authorities, led by District Attorney Hamiliton Burger, would at least occasionally arrest a guilty person. But they never did."---Dave Barry

 

 

 

 

"The badness of a movie is directly proportional to the number of helicopters in it."---Dave Barry

Dave Barry Turns 50: A Review

 If you need a gift for a friend turning 50, you can't go wrong with Dave Barry Turns 50, a book that kept me grinning through all 219 pages. Born in 1947, syndicated columnist Barry is one of the first baby boomers, and his book is mostly about growing up in the '50s, '60s, and early '70s.

Barry says that despite our whininess and self-absorption, the baby boom generation has many accomplishments. "Our parents' generation overcame the Great Depression, won World War II, and went on to build the greatest and most powerful nation this planet has ever seen," he writes. "But look at the many accomplishments that we baby boomers can point to: "Saturday Night Live," the New Age movement, call waiting."

Like most older boomers, Barry remembers the early days of the atomic arms race and the nationally mandated nuclear-attack drills, "wherein the teachers had us kids practice protecting ourselves by crouching under our desks, which were apparently made out of some kind of atomic-bomb-proof wood."

Barry says that he and a friend contributed to the national preparedness by assembling their own nuclear survival kit complete with flashlights and candy bars. "We waited for several days, but the attack (you never could trust the Russians) failed to come, so we went ahead and ate the candy bars."

Some of Barry's best memories are of the TV shows of the era, including "The Lone Ranger" ("who we kids thought for years was the Long Ranger, and who was a good guy even though he wore a mask"), "Hopalong Cassidy" ("who was a good guy even though he wore a black outfit"), and "Lassie." According to Barry, "Lassie" was the story about a brilliant dog living with the world's stupidest farm family. "These people were so stupid that they hardly ever left the house. They just sat around the kitchen all day, looking out the window and wondering: 'How come all the neighbors have crops?'"

If Lassie's family was moronic, Barry says that Perry Mason's peers were more so. "There was one murder per week in this community, so you'd think that, under the law of averages, the law-enforcement authorities, led by District Attorney Hamiliton Burger, would at least occasionally arrest a guilty person. But they never did."

No account of the baby boom's youth would be complete without discussing its music, and Barry highlights both musical groups and their individual songs. "Louie Louie," he says, "was the song with the lyrics that nobody understood but everybody, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was convinced were dirty." On the other hand, "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris has a drum solo "that to this day touches the musical soul of all true Boomers, who sometimes play it with their hands on their office desks when their doors are closed and their co-workers think they're in there planning corporate strategy."

Barry's book includes more than nostalgia. There's a chapter detailing his alternative to joining AARP, some tips on staying young (Barry says that Rip Van Winkle taught us a valuable principle: one doesn't age as long as they are sleeping), and a list of 25 things he says he has learned in his 50 years. Among my favorites are: "The badness of a movie is directly proportional to the number of helicopters in it" (No. 1), "A penny saved is worthless" (No. 6), and "Your friends love you anyway" (No. 24).

Dave Barry Turns 50 is published by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York.

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