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Saturday, December 26, 2009

DANCING IN THE DARK

chiaroscuro




I saw today that I've truly become an old turd. A cranky one at that. The young are conceptually far, far away. Like J Alfred Prufrock, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. And I do. They don't make pants short enough for my legs, 29 inch inseam. 30 is as short as they make them. There are some 29s around, but you have to search for them, like 14" chrome wheels. I roll the bottoms of my trousers. I'm so far outside the realm of fashion, it doesn't matter what I look like, as long as I don't try to look good. That's when I really fail. At this time in my life, I wear cheap clothes and not a great variety. I think I make an effort to look bad. The saying, clothes make the man, is so true I tend to go counter to it, because it's so boring.




When I'm in town dressed up, people who drive Cadillacs see me and speak. People driving pickups don't see me. When I dress bad, the people in Cadillacs don't see me and the people in pickups do. Alleghany is a dress down place. I like shoes that are well made and fit well. I get them from LLBean at half price sale. Jr once made a remark about me wearing LLBean shoes, like that's being uppity. When I told him I got them for half price, then he thought it clever of me. It's not like wearing the bottoms of my trousers rolled attracts attention. It deflects attention. I wear white socks too. The white socks say: not a climber. The rolled trouser legs say: too old to know anything about fashion. Together they say: too boring---leave him alone---he's too wierd, a nerd that never figured out how to be cool, beyond listening to Patti Smith.




I grow old. I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. This morning I came face to face with the fact that I've become an old turd. I don't care anything about being around young people any more. By young, I mean under about 25. I understand why men of my grandparents' generation used to moan and groan about the young kids today. I swore to myself I'd never get like that. Then one day I noticed the sound of skateboard wheels on pavement made my skin crawl. Kids. Today a similar such experience with a guy 19 or 20 I don't know. He was subbing at the radio station for Sue today.
When I tried to communicate with him, it never worked. He'd attempted to drive his car up the ice driveway to the station that had never been cleared of the snow, which melted and froze last night into solid ice. He got half way and then slid over into the deep snow and couldn't get out. I caught myself thinking, anybody with eyes can look up that driveway and see it can't be done without 4-wheel and maybe chains too. I parked down by the road. I huffed and puffed inside about how do the young live? How do they survive everyday life? How come they don't just drop down holes like in Mario Brothers nintendo? I was on a roll in my mind about the younger generation. Having a ball being right.




I was a little in awe that this guy was able to turn the station on and can operate it and knows how to turn it off. I went on in my mind seeing the young consumed by pop culture, post-literate, unable to do anything practical like work a wrench. On and on I went, having a good time in the righteous indignation of knowing I'm right. When it was good, and I was full of my own rightness, I looked at myself at 19. Could I have gone into a small town radio station, turned it on in the morning, went on air and played music and commercials, tell the weather, and all that. Could I have done that? No. That one was easy to answer. I could not have. I looked at him and he changed before my eyes into somebody who can do something I could not have done at his age. I'd say he made better grades in school than I did too. First time I drove in snow I made a bigger mess than he did. I managed a 360 degree circle in a major artery in Wichita, Kansas, without intending to. Like a ride at the fair. Sit in the seat, hang on while the seat compartment turns all the way around in a circle. Once traction is lost, where we'll stop nobody knows.




When I was 19, it's a shame how retarded I was. Shy like you wouldn't believe. Self esteem dragging bottom. Knowledge: C average. Intelligence: C average. I didn't know how to connect with The World. There came a time when another day in the house with the parents, gaskets would start to blow and steam would spew in great white clouds. I needed an apartment of my own, needed to start making my own decisions. Alas, I didn't have any experience with decisions. They were all made for me, evidently because I wouldn't make the right decision. And I wouldn't. From the time I left the nest and learned flight by necessity to the time that I came to embrace making decisions as something to be done consciously, paying attention, was a great many years. Great many. Early decisions I made in that zone between leaving home and finding my way were desperately costly decisions that cost a very great deal for a very long time.




Years and years of making decisions that didn't benefit my life at all. M&M's film 8MILE is a story of his life in that time. It's quite a good film too. My experience in that time of my life wasn't nearly so dramatic. The story it made I'd have a hard time signing my name to. Did I really do that? Did I really buy that? Was I that full of shit? Yes, yes, yes. It was the worst time of my life. It lasted about 5 years, from 18 to 23. By age 23 I had settled the major obligations I was born to, beginning the first steps of a life of self-examination that led to the major realization at age 33 that God indeed is, and once I saw that, everything was new. My parachute landed me in Air Bellows Gap in the back yard of Tom Pruitt, God's first gift to me in this new world of the way things used to be.




All the way along, I've told myself never to get to a place where I start sentences, The kids today. I can make up all kinds of stuff to say about them, and none of it would fit. Stuff out of my mind, because I don't know any of the 'kids today.' I don't know what they're like. I've noticed we speak different languages, though use the same dictionaries. I remember 19 and people with white hair being the other side of a zone there's no communication across. I was as inarticulate then as I see people of that age now. When I get going on the kids now, it always calms me down when I look at myself at that age, entering the unknown with hesitation, but no choice.




Some I've known have gone through their lost years too, got some understanding and came out the other end whole. Some are working on PhDs in medicine, biology and chemistry. I couldn't have done that and especially at UCalBerkeley. If I'd applied there, my application wouldn't have even been looked at. It would go straight to the stack to be returned with a form letter of rejection. These 3 youngsters I know, children of my friends I've seen grow up, when I say I can't communicate with them, I mean I don't have the intelligence or knowledge to understand what they're saying when they tell me what they're studying, like molecular biology.




The kids today it turns out are like the kids of always. Some are achievers, some are slackers; some have considerable inate intelligence and some do not. Like Dickens wrote, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The kids today range from the best to the worst and everything in between, just like when I was a kid, when my grandparents were kids, when King David was a kid. The older people don't have any idea what the kids have going on in their minds, same as the kids don't know what the older people have in their minds.




In my teens, I was incapable of conversation with anyone not my age. Incapable of conversation. Incapable. Couldn't do nothin. Didn't know nothin. Could pass tests and that's about it. Knew all the words to Little Richard's and Chuck Berry's songs. They were my poetry. I saw Uncle John with bald-headed Sally, he saw Aunt Mary comin and he duck back in the alley. I'm in no position to judge the kids today, because whatever I come to, it will be nonsense.




Each one is an individual, just like all the old people are individuals. Kids today, those two words are essentially meaningless in the way they're used, making conclusions with nothing to go by but guesses. Now that I've become an old turd, if I haven't been for quite some time, I still can't let myself get away with believing there's any validity to generalizations about people I know nothing of. It's getting by the best we can, whoever we are, a kid today, tomorrow, yesterday, whenever. And a crabby old turd today, tomorrow, and yesterday too.



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