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Saturday, February 19, 2011


The temperature has touched and almost touched 60 all week. Refreshing to go to the mailbox without having to put on shoes with grips on the bottoms and a coat and hat. How long has it been since I went out the door to go to the mailbox without acting like WC Fields at the North Pole? Open the door. Somebody throws a bucket of Ivory Snow soap flakes in my face and I say, "Ain't fit fer man ner beast." From that time, the 1920s, the red hot mama herself, the female Al Jolson came to mind today in Selma's from seeing her on the Ed Sullivan Show in the early 1950s when she was a grandmotherly old woman, Sophie Tucker. What a stitch.

At the bar in Selma's, talking with Tim, another one of the regulars in there almost daily, Sophie Tucker came to mind talking about WC Fields just after some kids had left, telling him about a little girl telling Fields in a movie she had 20 dollars in her bank and he tried to take it away from her. Sophie came to mind and I even remembered her name. It was there on the shelf with a picture of her standing in the curve of the grand piano on the Ed Sullivan show, an old woman in glitzy evening gown singing some saucy song only a younger woman should be singing, doing it just right. I said in awe, "I haven't thought of Sophie Tucker in fifty years." He said, "TJ, my parents aren't fifty years old."

These are the kinds f laughs we have at Selma's, whoever it is, whatever we're talking about. Lots of generation gaps between a 1960 hs grad and a 2011 hs grad. When you get down to you either make the grade or you don't, it's the same. But looking at the pop music from Brenda Lee to Lady Gaga and everything between, I have no idea where the young kids in pop culture are coming from. It's too big a world to try to learn at this time of my life when it's an exercise of mind to try to remember anything. Learning is about remembering, so it's useless to even make the attempt. Sometimes I'll look at a high school guy with earrings, dead eyes, hair dyed black sticking out in several directions, tattoos, pierced lower lip, the hip look for how many years (?), lots of black, posing as Mr Latest Thang, and I'm seeing his fashion all the way back to mid 1970s, wondering why he's still doing the Johnny Thunders look. Punk style has been going on 35+ years.

When I see kids like that looking at me funny, I know that their garb is consciously meant to be in-your-face to white-haired people. They get their kicks seeing old people look disgusted when they see them. As far as I know, I don't look at them any different from someone looking like an LL Bean model with the sleeves of his sweater draped over his shoulders and hanging down in front, ordering a triple espresso. It's the same thing to me. Style. We have a lot of style subcultures in America and I get a kick out of seeing them. There is one girl who looks at me like she's waiting to hear what kind of remark I might say about her appearance, like I care. She wears cool tshirts, but has bad hair. Even bad punk. She needs to cut it short with nose-hair scissors and dye it coca-cola truck red, but her mother would kill her. I asked her what her tshirt said one day, knowing it was the name of a band I'd never heard of, but I couldn't read it without gaping like I was drooling over her boobs. She said, "It's a band." I'm thinking: like, duh. I asked, "What's the name of the band?" She told me and that was that. Of course, you've never heard of them, they're new. Where have you been?

The cult of the new. The entire 20th century of art and style has all been about the new, the latest, the now. It's hilarious to me that I've lived these 68 years in the cult of the new, driven by it, just like everyone around me, and get taken by a 17 yr old for not knowing about the new, because the new is so dazzlingly new to her. It's not for me to pop her bubble and tell her that her style is a bit retro, quite a bit retro. It's as old as her parents. It's not for me to even have an opinion about it. It's her style statement, like my long sleeved shirt that doubles as a light jacket is my style statement. I'm the one with the LL Bean look, though not the polished catalog model look. I'm the faded, wrinkled, frayed look. The "How could that old turd know anything about fashion?" look. He doesn't. Never has.

It's fun going about in the world as an old fart. Nobody thinks they need to impress me, like I wouldn't get it if they attempted. I'm outside the hierarchy of success, not on the ladder, so no one supposes I can be used for influence. I don't command respect. I don't command anything. The only reason anyone would notice me would be if they already knew me. I don't look like anyone you'd want to know. Perhaps that is my style, to look like someone you wouldn't be drawn to know on sight. Just another Joe taking up space. He's never had a face lift and it's starting to sag like wet clay, and he likes that.

I look in the mirror and see a retired country singer burned out. It's the kind of face that's really ugly on tv. Looks like a late-nite used car salesman advertising his own car lot every five minutes during movies like Alien Outlaw, in a polyester plaid suit with bellbottoms. The guy that drives the ratty looking car, whose gut hangs over his belt, always unshaven, and always ready to laugh. Doesn't enjoy knowing a lot of people superficially; prefers to know a few well. Remembers the first time the Rolling Stones were on tv when he was playing bridge in one room with his X-in-laws and the tv was playing in the other room. Could hear it, but couldn't see it. I wasn't "dummy" so I couldn't leave the table. Saw it half a century later on YouTube.


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