"Tomorrow in the Past" by Dan Godston (Thursday, August 6)
You see a picture. Why should it move you, an image
of something in a world that has no direct connection with anything
you have ever experienced, why should that move you? Visions
of the future—a future that will never be what we thought it was.
A crystal hovers over train tracks, a crystal sky-straddling
between a locomotive and a horse. How fast is that crystal moving?
Photomural and crystal designed by Xanti Schawinsky, with Marcel Breuer
and Walter Gropius, competition for the Pennsylvania
World’s Fair Pavilion of 1938. A year later, the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Cigarettes and multi-cultural metrosexuals, of course. Take a centipede-
like bus to your destination. That would be almost 15 years
before Buckminster Fuller and Walter O’Malley’s nosedived
talk about putting a dome over the Brooklyn Dodgers stadium.
We’re not even talking about a post-WWII kitchen appliance-
buying frenzy yet, the myth of the open road on high powered wheels,
or Nixon getting in Khrushchev’s grill in front of a stove—
but part of the stage being set for that. What were the tomorrows
that were promised way back when? Fastforward to yesterday,
tomorrow not far behind. As we beeline to the future in 1938,
the year of my parents’ birth, the year Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel
first inked Superman, the year of the Pennsylvania World’s Fair,
and the crystal hovering in the sky, what kind of innocence and purity
was there then—real or imagined? What kind of nostalgia
could there be or have been, during a year before one was born,
in a time before cell phones, twitter, instant messaging,
pick your quintessential image that you think typifies our epoch,
our zeitgeist, our Weltanschauung, but there was that crystal in the sky,
and it wasn’t a cult ploy, it was a crystal floating in the sky, in a photomural.