Notes, observations, and subdued rants about aging without complaints about the metric system, young people, or liver spots.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. This universal truth was originally scrawled by Piltdown Man, unearthed at Olduvai Gorge, and attributed to Hammurabi. I remember it every time I receive a mailer to come for a free dinner and coincidentally hear about a wonderful investment opportunity. I suspect a conspiracy between my local pharmacist, AARP, and my subscription to a daily print newspaper. I have been profiled. They know the Internet for my crowd is unreliable, so it is a four color foldout in the U.S. mail. They may be selling funeral plots, bit coins, eternal life through cryogenics, or space travel but
I rip up the brochures because they think I am an idiot. The glossy invitation invariably features the juicy steak and potatoes I could be enjoying next Tuesday evening. Am I living in a hovel eating cat food? If so I do not have the money to “secure my children’s future”. Granted I am a vegetarian, but a giant picture of the dinner is supposed to entice me to invite the little woman out for a high class evening of sophisticated conversation and haute cuisine. (Mother, put your teeth in we are going to motor off in our Olds Cutlass to sit in an overly air conditioned Days Inn in Temecula with 300 other rubes and learn the secret of biorhythmic investing).
Aging has made me more sympathetic to the Civil Rights Movement and the horrors of segregation. It is not that I have become wiser and more mature, I just need to go to the bathroom more urgently, unexpectedly, and frequently. What do a local hardware store, a Jiffy Lube, and a mom and pop grocery have in common? They each require pleading, cajoling, and groveling to allow a civilian to use their facilities. Often I am directed to a latrine too far and I need to clarify the importance of my request. It is then I imagine a sliver of what it must have been like to be black and the target of Jim Crow laws.
I am waiting for the day with impatience and dread when I care if a kid cuts across my lawn. Are the Woodstock going, free lovin’, frisbee playing peaceniks I went to college with now sitting in folding chairs in their front yards with a hose just waiting for a young miscreant to attempt a slingshot ollie over their azaleas?
The big reveal may never come. I guess this is a very sad one. Many classmates, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances have been born again or found inner peace thru Transactional Analysis, Krishna, EST, Scientology, Bikram yoga, Reflexology, or selling Amway, In my younger day well meaning folks (mistakenly as it turns out) saw me as a seeker. They urged me to read, experience, and be in the moment. I grudgingly agreed to attended mind expanding, grounding, enlightening ceremonies, lectures, and services as long as there was no cost, I could keep my shoes on, and it didn’t conflict with Hill Street Blues (Thursday at 9:00 PM).
My host would say, “Oh Tom, give it half a chance.” Invariably that is what I give it. I am grateful, solicitous and genuinely interested on the way there. I have a natural curiosity and I am good at asking questions and making people feel comfortable. I tell myself not to be judgmental just let the experience wash over me. If I am not converted, be an anthropologist and don’t poke holes. This is the gist of my self-talk.
I fail to disclose that I am very irreverent and the more somber the occasion the more likely my cynical black humor will emerge. I am responsible, but almost powerless over it. I have to look behind the curtain and see the wizard. Every time I forget that I see comic potential in serious situations. When my poop detector goes off, I will seek out an audience, a fellow infidel and convulse them in wicked concealed laughter. Modesty aside, I am hysterically funny. My “true believer” sponsors are mortified and the ride home is excruciating despite taking place at great speed with the wife screaming “faster” through clenched teeth. There are no second dates. JoAnne (the editor) will not accompany me and when I return home she gives me a credulous look that says, Didn’t you know you would do this?” “I knew you would do this, you simply can not control yourself!”
Tom H. Cook has signed on at least long enough to see the current president living in a Winnebago with his fourth wife Candi, hawking Ginzu knives at the Minnesota State Fair.