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.

Gods Of Old!

gods

Although old is a relative term, generally, old people never get anything and (some would say) deserve even less.  Children annoy them, teenagers avoid them and adults talk to them in that voice we reserve for pets.  Their stories are long, their habits are confusing and they play way too much “Remember When.”  However, old people have it over everybody else on the planet because they have their own set of gods!  These gods and goddesses, like the pantheon of Valhalla or Olympus, govern all aspects of “older” life.  They appear to us slowly as we tack on the years.  They slyly watch as we slowly trade in our tequila for iced tea, push-up bras for baggy sweatshirts, stiletto heels for comfortable shoes and muscle cars for minivans.  And by the time we’ve replaced vodka shots with a glass of wine and clubbing with crossword puzzles, they have our fate firmly in their hands.  These gods should not be ignored because we’re all going to have to deal with them one day.

Cutonya – The goddess of beautiful grandchildren.  With one glance, she turns any grandchild into the cutest, funniest, most talented little kid on the planet.

Kwikus – This is the god who manipulates the calendar so that days, weeks and seasons magically disappear, and suddenly it’s Christmas– again.

Noxia — This is the god who finds joints and muscles we never knew we had and torments them with annoying little aches and pains.  This is punishment for all the times we were mean, thoughtless and rude when we were younger.  Get used to it!

Poof — The goddess of the unexpected fart.

Scritch – The god of the inappropriate itch.

Folus — The god of aggressive nose hair.

Wat – The god of selective hearing.  This god saves us from all the stuff we didn’t really want to hear in the first place.

Notagin — This is the most helpful of the gods.  He’s the one who protects us from all evil.  He keeps track of our experiences and steers us away from making the same stupid mistakes we made when we were kids.  We should never overlook Notagin, because old people who do, end up giving all their money to Nigerian princes or greedy grandchildren who have no honour.

Myosotia – Sometimes called the Goddess What’s-Her-Name, she takes proper names and puts them just out of reach.  She also hides small objects like keys in the very place we left them.  Oddly enough, Myosotia doesn’t bother with memories that are 20, 30 and even 40 years old — which remain crystal clear.

Metamorpho – This god transforms professional people like doctors, lawyers, accountants, police officers and even judges and politicians into children – who get younger and younger every year.

Kilomornow and his twin sister Saggeth – These two tricksters love practical jokes like shrinking clothes that hang in the closet, adding extra numbers to bathroom scales, distorting mirrors and moving body parts just a little lower to the ground.

But mostly, old people’s lives are governed by the Queen of the Gods:

Idonkare – The most powerful goddess of all, Idonkare spends her time lounging around with her indolent lover, Sowat, playing backgammon and eating nachos, yet her power is so awesome that merely invoking her name brings harmony and comfort to the universe.  For example:

“Looks like you lawn is gettin’ a little long there, Herb.”
“Idonkare!”

Or:

“It’s the trendiest restaurant in town and I’ve got reservations!”
“Idonkare!”

And, of course:

“Grandma, nobody wears a Hawaiian shirt and Lederhosen!”
“Idonkare!”