A baby boomer’s debut memoir places the author’s experiences within the context of broader cultural and world events, all from an unabashedly liberal viewpoint.
Caplan, grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, was born in 1949 and grew up—and still lives—in Wallingford, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford. “I was born here, all right, but I am hardly what you would call a Connecticut Yankee. My family and I are over 220 years too late to America for that distinction,” he writes, setting the pleasantly edgy linguistic tone of the narrative. His 1950s and ’60s childhood was a happy one. Prep school at the Blair Academy in New Jersey was followed by Antioch College in Ohio, where Caplan went on to enjoy the indulgences that readers often associate with boomer counterculture—plenty of music, sex, and drugs. (“I know lots of people who cannot run for president. Too many people saw us roll, smoke, inhale, sniff, or swallow something—often, and with gusto.”) He intended to travel and be a writer but returned to Wallingford to help his mother when his father died in the winter of 1974. Caplan whiplashes back and forth in time. One moment he is in the present, talking with his dog Clio, and the next paragraph, he’s decades in the past. Even when reflecting on earlier events, he doesn’t always stick to a sequential timeline. The stream-of-memory retrospective can be confusing. Intriguing Americana tidbits are tucked into family history: for example, Caplan describes how midcentury suppliers of larger independent supermarkets like the one his father owned “dropped off” individual railroad cars “in the railroad yards of small towns and big cities....Then they sent the key to the locked boxcars to the owner of the supermarket.” And well-known factoids are presented with Caplan’s unique style of juxtaposition: “In 1970, Colin Powell was a soldier in Vietnam. He was thirty-three years old. Dick Cheney was twenty-nine. During the Vietnam War, Dick Cheney received five deferments from military service.” Still, this remains an enjoyable, free-wheeling review of the life of a boomer.
An engaging read enhanced by wit and a passion for social justice.