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forty years ago

The Moody Blues played Radio City Music Hall tonight. Even though it was the day of a good friend’s funeral I went. It was an introspective time and, I felt, appropriate music.

Forty years ago, in 1969, I was in high school — Standard 9 as I knew it, Grade 11 as they call it now. My daughter Bo has just finished her Junior year too. It’s hard to see the similarities in our respective lives. I was fifteen going on sixteen, riding my motorbike to school (yes, I know, I should have been sixteen to drive it legally). She is seventeen going on eighteen and has her drivers license.

Her life seems secure at home and headed to college in the near future.

Mine was uncertain, I was already living on my own, would do my obligatory military service after matriculating and then, hopefully, on to varsity. Yes, yes and no. South African apartheid politics got in the way of a degree. Discouraged by the Army and thwarted by my father I didn’t go to University. True, I might have become a liberal radical and be put away for my ideals, and for a while I was left feeling guilty that I didn’t. At the time, however, I was pretty happy with my lot in life and certainly not intimidated by my prospects. Eventually I assuaged any guilt of being a privileged white by working on reviving the Namibian after it was fire bombed by Die Wit Wolve and also working for The Windhoek Observer, New Nation, Sunday World and Sowetan newspapers.

The music I enjoyed in those years included The Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Cream and Creedence. The science and technological excitement of a moon landing and the free-for-all Woodstock festival ramped up the exuberance of that year of big changes for me: 1969, forty years ago.

I turned sixteen in late 1969, living in South Africa — as can be seen from my apartheid era ID Card. ’69 Was also the year in which the forerunner of the internet was invented at a UCLA lab — although I didn’t know about it back then and it only reached me in South Africa thirty years later in 1996.

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