Joe Pisani (opinion): Is that nostalgia, or just poor memory?

A look back at the “good old days.”

A look back at the “good old days.”

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Ann, who turned 95 this year, teaches exercise classes at the senior center and goes to church every day. Her secret to a long happy life is simple — exercise, laughter, faith, optimism and golf.

She recently gave me copies of “Good Old Days,” the magazine that “remembers the best.” With the way things are going in America, she thought I should read about what it used to be like.

In one issue, the editor said it was a pure joy to immerse herself “in the world of promoting this nation’s good old days, when a handshake was all you needed to seal a deal, and neighbors knew and helped neighbors without expecting anything in return.”

Once I started reading the stories, I couldn’t stop. Was life really that good in yesteryear, or are our memories processed through rose-colored bifocals? Maybe we’re programmed to forget the bad and exaggerate the good.

To be clear, I’m not one of those grumpy guys who goes around constantly talking about “the good old days.” I was partying too much during the good old days, which is why I can’t remember them.

I’m actually one of those grumpy guys who goes around constantly complaining about “the bad days” we’re living through. Even though newscasters and columnists keep insisting these are the best of times, they look more like the worst of times, which leads me to believe they’re probably smoking too much legalized marijuana.

I did my own unscientific analysis, and here are my conclusions: In the good old days, people didn’t attack one another mercilessly on social media. In the good old days, they couldn’t afford to eat steak because they didn’t have enough money. Now, they have money, but can’t afford to eat steak because it costs too much.

In the good old days, your kids went outside to play, and you didn’t see them until dinner. Now, they’re in the house all day, chained to a 27-inch monitor, playing violent video games such as Mortal Kombat and Call of Duty.

In the good old days, people ate fresh produce and were healthier and happier. In the good old days, they spent time in church, temple and mosque instead of at the casino or getting angry watching MSNBC and Fox News. In the good old days, journalists were more concerned about fair reporting than spouting their opinions on Twitter. In the good old days, you put your money in a passbook savings account at your local bank and got 4 percent interest.

In the good old days, kids bought pot from their friends and didn’t have to pay tax. Now, the government taxes you for what it once sent you to jail for. In the good old days you went to the corner bar for a few beers and free marriage counseling from the bartender. Now, you have to pay a marriage counselor, and you don’t even get a beer. In the good old days, people either drove a Ford or a Chevrolet. Now, we have 14 types of cars, but there are no cars to buy.

In the good old days, we had presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower who spent their time playing golf instead of messing up the country ... and we were happier. In the good old days, they invented Social Security, which is such a great thing there won’t be any left for future generations.

I’m worried that my kids and grandkids won’t have any good old days to look back on. Sometimes I try to imagine what the Millennial version of the good old days will be, so let’s take the Elon Musk time machine to 2050:

“Hey, bro, remember the good old days when gas was only $6 a gallon. Yeah man, bring back those days. I’d drive to the corner store for scratchers and a can of Red Bull. And cigs were only $14 a pack. Gosh I miss those days!”

“Remember the good old days when college only cost $75,000 a year? It was such a bargain I should have been a plumber.”

“Yeah, bring back those happy times.”

“And how about spring break in Miami Beach? It didn’t look the same after we left. Is that place still standing?”

The truth about the bona fide good old days is that life wasn’t easy. It was hard, but people had values and compassion and integrity, and those are things you can’t buy or legislate. To make sure our kids and grandkids have good old days to remember, we need to do a few simple things.

 We have to turn off social media and TV.

 We have to start caring about our neighbor even when there’s nothing in it for us.

 Politicians need to spend more time on the golf course.

Now that I think about it, we all should spend more time on the golf course ... even if we don’t play golf.

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at