Signposts Of Life

The “Life is a journey” cliché has been done to death — but it’s there and I’m lazy, so what the hell!  People say life is a journey, and it is — but it’s not a straight-and-narrow, or a super highway or even a twisty backroad to heaven.  It’s a wilderness, and we poor mortals are forced to navigate it the best way we know how.  That’s why our more than benevolent society gives us signposts.  These are big, simple, well-lit markers that we can clearly see as we’re speeding along at 200 KPH, going – uh – wherever it is we’re all going.

When we’re babies, the first signpost we get is “NO!”  This keeps us away from dangerous stuff, disgusting stuff and stuff we really shouldn’t put in our mouth.  Easy!  But it doesn’t take us long to discover that some “no’s” are more important than others.  For example, when we ignore, “No, don’t pull kitty’s tail!” we end up with lacerations. However, “No, don’t throw your food on the floor.” Is nothing serious.  (After all, cleanup is not our problem.)

From there, the signposts get a little trickier.  Sure “Play nice!” is relatively easy, but “Share!” comes with a double-edged sword.  There isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t run into the “share” conundrum.  Meanwhile, this is when we realize that — even though the world is full of signposts — some people don’t feel any obligation to observe them.  It’s a hard lesson when we’ve “shared” our cupcake with Sally, but Sally has decided to keep her cookies to herself.

Then the signposts start coming faster, and they’re a lot more complicated.  We learn there are certain words that are off limits, even though they’re surprisingly fun to say and actually quite common during times of parental stress.  We also learn “Don’t lie!”  This is a biggie.  However, it comes with a number of caveats that aren’t always obvious to the untrained eye.  For example, Uncle Jake’s Special Spaghetti Sauce might honestly taste like dirt, but if you say so there will be consequences.  Here’s where we find out that even though the path is always clearly marked, on occasion, life is a lot easier if we simply look the other way.

Teenage years are full of signposts that are basically contradictory.  “You’re young: have fun!” is diametrically opposed to “You need to study, or you’ll end up a crack whore like your cousin Jerry.”  Plus, we’re starting to get the feeling that some signposts are deliberately misleading.  Some, like “Algebra is important!” are there to keep us on the path whether we like it or not, and others, like “YOLO,” are trying to lure you into the weeds.  Then there’s the uber dangerous “Ahh, come on!  It’ll be fun!” which can go either way.  Follow this one too far and you could end up either hosting multi-level marketing seminars in your living room or sittin’ in an alley somewhere, smokin’ crack with your cousin Jerry.  It can happen!  Luckily, most of us manage to get through the 12-to-20 labyrinth and come out the other side as Adults.  And here’s where things settle down a bit.

As adults, we all see life’s signposts, and we all kinda know which direction we’re going.  Plus, even though we sometimes don’t admit it, we all know where the edge of the path is.  Mainly because, at some point in our lives, we’ve screwed up and found ourselves stumbling around in the weeds.  It’s not very pleasant.  That’s why, even though “Love thy neighbour” doesn’t apply to Fang, the 24/7 Death Metal music freak down the street, we don’t go down there and beat him over the head with his sub-woofer.  That’s off the path, over the hill and down the other side.  And we know if we go out there, there’s always a chance we won’t find our way back.  So, from time to time, we might covet our neighbour’s wife and her ass, and maybe even her riding lawnmower but we don’t do anything about it.  We just glance up at the signpost, look at the snarl of brambles and thorns and weeds beyond it, and roll over and go back to sleep. 

Summer 2020

I may have mentioned in these pages that I’m not very fond of summer.  As my least favourite season, I’ve even been known to complain about it.  Plus, every year around Labour Day, I jump the gun and start singing the praises of autumn.  And – well – this year isn’t going to be any different, except … I have a confession to make.  The summer of 2020 hasn’t been all that bad.  That’s right, the worst summer this planet has seen since Marvin the Mongolian brought his pet rats to Genoa in 1347, was actually not as godawful as originally advertised.  Hold it!  Before you start gathering the torches and pitchforks, hear me out!  Here are a few reasons why, even though the Summer 2020 isn’t anything I ever want to do again, it was certainly better than expected.

We’re learning social distancing

1 – People kept their clothes on.  Normally, summers are awash with untethered flesh, wiggling and jiggling and … “Oh, God! My Eyes!”  I don’t know what happened, but somehow a lot of us started channeling our inner dignity.   

2 – We discovered what the word “brave” really means, and it’s got nothing to do with some celebrity playing victim on Twitter for twenty minutes.

3 – And speaking of celebrities, wasn’t it cool when they all shut up and went home?

4 – There were more regular people on the streets — walking, running, riding their bikes — and even though they kept their distance, they were friendly.  Neighbours waved to each other, asked how things were going and called each other by their first names.  (I didn’t even know the guy down the street had a name.)

5 – There was, on occasion, quiet.  The parks and beaches and backyards weren’t constantly haunch to paunch with obnoxious crowds of loudmouths, cremating their meat to the 4,000 decimal beat of a heart/lung machine that somebody once mistakenly called “music.”

6 – It didn’t feel quite so hot without those penis envy motorcycles roaring through the afternoon like recently castrated lions.

7 – Zoom

8 – Professional sports didn’t show up until later, so we didn’t have to endure an endless, meaningless, boring parade of nobody-cares-who-wins baseball games.

9 – We all began finding out how much junk we’ve accumulated over the years, and not just useless household junk — emotional junk, lifestyle junk, ideas junk, even people junk.  Last spring our world got ambushed and a bunch of stuff changed, so most of us have spent the summer — consciously or unconsciously — reassessing what’s important in our lives and what’s just junk.

And because of that:

10 – Even though it might not feel good right now, the best thing to happen this summer is a lot of people started thinking about, talking about and trying to do something about things that actually matter.

More Stuff I — UH — Dislike

hate

Last week, I mentioned that hate was strictly verboten in the 21st Century.  I was only half kidding.  Think about it!  These days, about the only thing you can hate with any certainty is Hitler.  And if we keep going along this path, someday/someone/somewhere is going to start talking about child abuse and poverty, and even Adolf might get off the hook.  Personally, I think in the future, we’re going to have to buy a license to hate, and only rich people will be able to afford it.  But until then, here are a few more things I – uh – dislike very, very much.

The New Normal – One more “New Normal” and I’m going to scream!  Normal happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  When I was a kid, it was “normal” to write letters to your friends — with a pen — on paper.  Since then, we’ve been through at least three “new normals,” and — like it or don’t — there are a bunch more to come.  Get used to it!

People who use “for” and “of” when they should be using “about.” — English is a precise language because we have a bunch of prepositions that do a specific job — and they’re not interchangeable.  Jack just farted.  If you are embarrassed “for” him, it means you feel sorry he accidently made a social faux pas.  If you are embarrassed “about” him, it means he’s a jerk.  And if you are embarrassed “of” him, you’re talking gibberish – go home!

Covid Excuses – “Hello!  Your call is important to us.  However, due to Covid-19, even though we’re still the same lazy bastards we always were, you can’t bitch about it.  Have a nice day!”

Age is embarrassing — Our world is awash with instructions, coaching, counselling and good old-fashioned unwanted advice about everything from surviving puberty to buying a better divorce.  However, once you hit about 60, it’s as if you just caught a disease that’s not socially acceptable — and everybody wants to avoid the subject.

“Well, you didn’t hear this from me, but I heard Marvin got 61.”
“OMG!”
”Yeah, last week.  But I don’t think they’ve told the children yet.”
“Are you sure?  I was just talking to him.  He didn’t look any different.”
“Elsie told me in strictest confidence — you know — it’s not something you just blab around the neighbourhood.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but the poor thing!  She must be so worried.  They say 61 is contagious.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that too, but it’s not like you can just go ask somebody.  I mean really … that’s – well – you know.”
“Yeah, I know.  Elsie was awfully brave telling you.  I feel so sorry for her.  Have the aches and pains started?”
“She didn’t say, and I wasn’t about to ask, but she kinda hinted that he’s been watching Wheel of Fortune.
“Oh!  That’s so-o-o bad!  You know, I’ve never told anybody this, but my parents had 61 – both of them.”
“That’s terrible.  You’d think they’d have discovered a cure by now.”

“Sorry!” – In the 21st century, this is the universal “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.  If Jack the Ripper were alive today, all he’d have to do is go on Instagram or Twitter and say he is sorry, and he’d be back on the street in a week.

Doom Scrolling – You can’t get away from it.  Every website on the planet is busy telling us just how screwed we really are.  They all want a piece of the action.  Even the Facebook kittens are wearing masks!  It’s like living in a Michael Moore documentary.

And finally:

Covid Conspiracies – Human history is a litany of stupidity, and the last few decades have produced some serious gold medals in the Idiot Olympics.  So the rhetorical question has got to be: where did all these Covid supervillains come from?  It beggars the imagination that the same people who’ve never understood basic economics, can’t agree on Climate Change and haven’t been able to figure out who’s been doing what to whom in the Middle East for over 70 years, are now somehow manipulating a pandemic to control the planet.  Puh-lease!  Maybe it’s just that the Flat Earth Society has contacted Elvis on Venus from an ancient Mayan transmitter.  He will return to Earth at the Denver Airport as The Leader Of The New World Order, and they will do battle with the Illuminati and the Freemasons in a three-way fight to force mind control facemasks on an unsuspecting public.

Now that sounds legit!