City Lights: Looking back — and ahead — to the '60s

The thought hit me the other day, about the time the news broke of former Monkee Davy Jones' death, that I might live to see the '60s.

Those would be the next '60s, of course. When the year 2060 hits, if I am still around, I will be 81, not an uncommon age nowadays, and life expectancy is increasing.

By that time, will the phrase "the '60s" still have the resonance it does now?

A few outliers aside, everyone who lived through the age of Abbie Hoffman and the Merry Pranksters will have passed on by then. The gift shops in Haight-Ashbury may have retired their Summer of Love memorabilia, and a sleek new shopping center may stand in Woodstock's location.

The passing of Jones, which inspired my twenty- and thirty-something colleagues to share Monkee memories around the newsroom, served as a reminder that no modern American decade has remained hip longer. As a reporter, I can barely go a month without encountering it. Just recently, I covered a Beatles and Rolling Stones revue at the Academy for the Performing Arts; do New Kids on the Block and Hootie & the Blowfish still command the same awe among teens?

The other week, I met a Huntington Beach resident who hopes to start a new version of the Golden Bear, the famous club that hosted a slew of folkies and rockers before it fell to the wrecking ball in 1986. If Surf City resurrected the Golden Bear, I predict that it would be a smash hit — not least among those who attended the old one and their children who listened wide-eyed to tales of seeing Bob Dylan from the front row.

Proof positive: Three years ago, the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort assembled a show of Sixties veterans and dubbed it the Golden Bear Reunion Concert. Our reporter, Britney Barnes, who was born long after the curtain fell on 1969, raved in her review about hearing Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek play "Light My Fire."

"I keep hearing 'everyone has a Golden Bear story,' and now I do too," she wrote in closing.

The words "the '60s" conjure up an entire world and an entire narrative — one of taboos smashed, youth empowered and tradition-defying art created. The era so dominates our bookstores, radios and magazine racks that it can seem more vivid, even more recent, than the Reagan and Clinton years.

That vibe can't last forever, though. As the 20th century's most mythic decade turns half a century old, it's poignant — and unavoidable — to reflect that it was one '60s decade out of many, and many more to come.

When the next one arrives, the last one may seem positively antiquated. Since the revolutions of feminism, be-ins and civil rights, we've experienced other revolutions: of computers, of social media, of technology that have altered the very way we start and conduct relationships.

In hindsight, the iPhone may prove to have changed everyday life as much as birth control pills and "The Feminine Mystique."

I can't predict what the world will be like in 48 years, but I can dream. Teenagers will marvel at their grandparents' stories about the first days of texting. "Friend" will be entrenched in the language as a verb. Meanwhile, "Daydream Believer" will exist for posterity on some speck of digital memory — and if anyone cues it up, it's still bound to be a beautiful song.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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