Stuff I Know

When you’ve travelled around the sun as many times as I have, you get a feeling for the universe and how things work.  It’s mostly a series of experiments (successful and otherwise) that lead to experience.  (Which is simply years of watching certain experiments go bust.)  The result, however, is an unfailing intuition – sort of an informed insight.  Basically, you know what’s actually going on — even though it seems as if everybody around you is caught up in something completely different.  Here are a few examples.

The world is always in a mess – The natural state of our planet is agitation.  There’s always somebody trying to be a dick to the rest of us.  (I’m looking at you, Vladimir.)  The problem is we tend to think this is the first and worst time it’s ever happened.  Nope!  It’s been going on since Lucy went for a walk in Ethiopia, 3 million years ago — so get used to it. 

There’s always a group of people who think they have the inside track to Enlightenment – Over the years, we’ve called them Puritans, Victorians, Christians, Communists, The Taliban, Jehovah’s Witnesses and, most recently, “Woke” – but their message is always the same: “We don’t give a shit about the truth: do it our way.”

You can’t legislate an idea – No matter how many times you make it illegal, people are still going to love and hate who they want to.  They’re going to get angry, cry, lie, cheat and probably eat too much when the opportunity presents itself.  Fundamentally, humans are governed by the laws of Mother Nature, not the wet dreams of lawyers.  Elected officials, tyrants and kings need to concentrate on the structure of society — not restructuring its soul.

And speaking of which:

This, too, shall pass – I remember a time when LSD was legal and being gay was a prison sentence.  Go figure!  But every generation (including mine) believes they have finally reached the pinnacle of human understanding and THEIR values will last until the end of – well – the end of everything.  Guess again!  Two hundred years ago, humans had no idea that dinosaurs, vitamins and germs existed.  Take a minute to imagine what we’ll know two hundred years from now!  Now, take another minute to realize what kind of beetle-browed barbarians we really are.

And finally:

Like it or not — the true road to enlightenment is warm socks, good sex and comfortable underwear.  

The Time When!

Whether you’re 25, 46, 71 or only 15, some days you wake up and just feel old.  You look at the world and realize today is not the day to play because the game of life has gotten too damn complicated.  You remember a simpler time when things were straightforward and you knew all the rules.  A time when the days were long and bright and the nights romantic.  I time when – well, you get the idea – a time when it didn’t seem like an endless fight just to be alive.  Don’t get me wrong: I have no desire to turn back the clock.  The good old days are a myth propagated by grumpy old people who can’t figure out why they aren’t cool anymore.  (Maybe it’s cuz they use words like cool?)  However, on a bright autumn morning when the coffee’s really good and there’s jam for the toast, there’s nothing wrong with being nostalgic.

Here are a few things, from a more elegant age, that I remember.

When people dressed up for important events like wedding, funerals and court appearances.  Women wore their breasts inside their clothes, and men looked like they’d taken a bath – recently.

The days when you could see the pictures in an art gallery and not the backs of a bunch of cell phones and the half faces of morons taking selfies.

When the lyrics to popular songs didn’t prominently feature body parts, sexual positions, robbery, obscenities, weapons or murder — and you could actually sing them to children.

A time when people didn’t scold each other for the sport of it.

A time when young people had all the questions, not all the answers.

The sweet satisfaction of slamming the phone down in some asshole’s ear.

The days when the relationship between men and women was not adversarial.

Irony, satire and wit.

When you could order coffee without reciting the recipe, and you got to drink it out of a real cup.

A time when ladies and gentlemen acted that way.

Lunches that didn’t come wrapped in paper and look like they’d been run over by a truck.

When gluten wasn’t the scariest thing on the planet.

A time when you could ride public transportation without being forced to listen to somebody else’s one-sided telephone conversation – 7 or 8 times.

When the truth was not a moveable feast.

A time when transgender was real and not just trending on Twitter.

When people could disagree like reasonable human beings not rabid animals.

A time when Hallowe’en was for kids and adults had better things to do than hijack a child’s harmless fun to further their social/political agenda.

The days before Jell-o Journalism (I’m looking at you, Oprah Winfrey) when reporting the news was an honourable profession.   

A time when cheating in professional sports was retail, not wholesale, and the people who did it weren’t stupid enough to get caught.

And finally:

The days when you weren’t constantly looking over your shoulder for a politically correct ambush.

Your Inner Child Knows Best

There’s a slippery slope that happens in this life, and it doesn’t end unless you find yourself chasing the garbage man down the alley in nothing but your Buzz Lightyear boxers and a beltless bathrobe.  You might do this ‘cause it’s important; that trash is going to smell like dead hobbits the day after tomorrow.  And you may even rationalize it by saying, “That trash is going to smell like dead hobbits the day after tomorrow.”  But, you still know you’ve just stepped through the looking glass.  What was once an intimate detail, known only to your mother and a few significant others, is now available to the general viewing public.  More importantly, you hope none of your neighbours caught your Batman imitation on their cell phones.

We don’t all end up on Pinterest as “Meanwhile at WalMart” memes — but we could.  There’s a charming little voice in everybody’s inner adult that whispers “What the hell?  It’s only the Drive-thru.  This shirt’s good enough.”  So we grab the keys instead of listening to our inner child, who would scold us into, at the very least, changing our underwear.  (I was nearly 10 before I realized clean underwear didn’t actually prevent traffic accidents.)  It’s that same voice that urges us to wear pink with plaid and refuses to part with the UCLA T-shirt that was printed when Zorro was a boy.  We all have it.  Our parents warned us about it, but all of us still listen.  Bad mistake!

Back in the day, mostly mom (and sometimes dad) taught us that going out in public was a sacred trust.  People were looking at us, and we needed to show some respect.  Neat was important, but clean was essential.  As we got older, that sage bit of advice translated into sex, straight up and down.  You need to look your best because nobody is going to sleep with a slob.  Unfortunately, adulthood and cohabitation dulls the echoes of our parents, and more and more we end up relying on our own resources.

At first, it’s okay.  We dress for work, go out with our friends, flirt with the cashiers at the grocery store and leave our private face at home where it belongs.  However, eventually, those sweatpants are just too damn comfy not to get trotted out to mow the lawn.  But that’s okay too: we’re in our own yard, they’re clean, and they still kinda fit in the crotch.  Besides, they cover up that extra 10 lbs that’s been hanging around all summer.  Oops!  This is where it gets problematical.

As we get older, we tend to spread in all directions.  Clothes just aren’t as friendly as they were back when we were twenty.  And this is when our inner adult comes calling.  “Hey, buddy!  You’re a grown man.  You pay taxes.  You have a mortgage and a Mercedes.  You haven’t eaten liver or lima beans in 12 years!  If you want to wear socks with sandals, screw the hippie who says you can’t!”  And we listen.  But the socks with sandals (or your personal equivalent) are just the thin edge of the wedge.  Pretty soon, it’s only work, weddings and funerals that get a tie.  Family functions are all informal, and those sweatpants that kinda fit – question mark — have migrated from the back yard to the shopping mall.  It’s unavoidable.

The thing to remember, if you don’t want to end up dressing like Robin Williams in The Fisher King, is that your inner adult is a spoiled brat.  He thinks that whatever he says goes, and he pouts if he doesn’t get his own way.  You’re far better off to listen to your common-sense child, who’s very aware of what not to wear.  The parents explained it to him.

My point is that, as we get older, we all dress for comfort, not for speed, but you don’t get any points for running amok.  Therefore, it’s best to cool your jets or you’ll end up as the Flying Dutchman of the Internet, repinned and reposted as The Old Man in the Leopard-skin Leotard.