Monday, June 27, 2011

It's bad to be old.

Most people are afraid of old people.

First, the term “old people” is politically incorrect according to most standards. It’s rude and carries a You’re Inferior weight with it. Secondly, what makes it politically incorrect is that most people believe “old” reflects a person’s age…and apparently it’s bad to be old.

I would deduce most people of an older age have a wealth of knowledge in one way or another. Maybe they had a lifetime career and are practically an expert at something. Maybe they spent the better part of three decades raising children. Most likely they have had an abundance of human experiences and that’s definitely worth something.

Some older people are also resentful, angry, not nurturing, and selfish. Just like any age group – there’s going to be bad apples.

Old people have locked their keys in the car. They’ve fallen down stairs. They’ve been drunk beyond comprehension. They’ve hated a movie. They’ve had their heart broken. They’ve been lost. They’ve had doubt. Just like you.

But despite their inherent human knowledge, older people tend to be pitied and feared. It’s like we’re worried about you. We can’t trust you. You look old and frail and that’s all you’ll ever be. You probably won’t remember stuff and you’re sickly. You drive slow, too.

I’ll tell you what the problem is – old people are misunderstood.

In one week I had two experiences with “old people” that are worth talking about.

The first occurred as I was riding on a form of public transit and there wasn’t enough room to scratch yourself if you had to. I imagine it would be similar to the Tickle-Me-Elmo crowd circa 1996. I saw two young ladies, probably 19 or 20ish, manage their way into two of the only open seats. True to form, they pulled out their smart phones and started tapping away.

I was standing next to two old people, a couple – probably in their late 70s. The man was fine in his sardine-like predicament and it was obvious he was along for the ride like everyone else. The woman, however, looked very weak, and tired, and like she could very well fall over on the next turn.

I looked at the ladies. I looked at the old couple.

I was embarrassed for my age group. It isn’t the old people that should be pitied, it is the screen-obsessed teens and twenty-somethings that should be ashamed. I understand this was only one tram, in one city, and isn’t enough to make a general statement. It’s not enough to say “all twenty year olds are unaware” – I would be debasing my own argument if I did.

Regardless of any developing stereotypes, I was mad. I was mad at them for not giving their seats to the old people. I was mad at them for not seeing. For not thinking. There’s a reason why themes of thoughtfulness (and its lacking) have become commonplace to my blog. Most of the human race’s shortcomings can be faulted to lack of thoughtfulness. This couple is old, ok, that doesn’t mean anything is WRONG, it just means their old bones could use a seat more than your young bones.

The second encounter occurred as I was standing at the bar at a local pub. As I waited for my microbrew someone tapped me on the shoulder.

I turned to see a man who was probably witness to the invention of the wheel, and he was trying to hand me something. He smiled at me with his gray eyes and opened his fingers to reveal a chocolate gold coin resting in his palm.

I was gracious and took the coin. I thanked him. Then I watched as his entire face lit up, as if he had waited five years for someone just to look at him. He told me I was pretty and to watch out for myself. He was charming in that creepy sense that comes across as an older person talks in whispers and you never really hear what they’re saying. I smiled and nodded. He wasn’t meaning any harm, he just wanted someone to talk to. He was flirting a little, and didn’t get my body language hints, but that’s not unique to old people, is it? He’s a person too, like anyone else, who experiences loneliness and friendship and awkwardness regardless of age.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was too much of a chicken shit smart to eat the chocolate coin.)

It’s wrong to call them old. “Old” isn’t age at all – it’s a state of mind.

One of my grandmothers is 75. She likes to drink strong margaritas while winning fistfuls of money at the race track. She likes to travel and wraps every Christmas present with lots of ribbon and an ornament (-am I practicing writing her online dating profile? Maybe.). She has a thirst for life that is unmatched by most of the people I have ever met. When someone meets my grandmother, some version of this conversation ensues:

Other person: “Your grandmother is nuts awesome! How old IS she?”

Me: “75.”

Other person: “You’re KIDDING.”

Me: “Absolutely not. Born in 1936.”

Other person: “She doesn’t seem THAT OLD.”

That’s right. The woman was born before the Beatles were the Beatles. Before the moon landing. Before hippies. Before WWII. The woman’s been around.

Yet the last word I would use to describe her is “old.” Age is a number and nothing more. Not all 14 year olds are naïve and not all 80 year olds are senile.

I also have a couple of friends (who could very well be reading this and I give my apologies in advance), and these friends are in their late 20s…and are convinced they have a foot in the grave. They don’t want to go out for a drink, they don’t want to be spontaneous, and they don’t want to do a lot of things because they claim they’re “too old.”

Again, I tell you, “Old” isn’t age at all – it’s a state of mind.

The next time you see an old person, I ask you not to reduce their existence to being “frail” and a population that has nothing to contribute. They’re like you. They’re like me. They’re hopeful. Flawed. Human. Just like anyone else…except they get sweet discounts everywhere they go. Jerks.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What the movies have taught me

There is nothing in the world more magical than sitting in a giant room, with a hundred strangers, digging your hand into a greasy bag of I-Could-Have-Made-A-Car-Payment-With-This priced popcorn…and the lights dim. Voices turn to whispers. And a screen fitted with felt curtains comes to life.

The movie theater is the one place I go to get lost. Everything else falls away and for two hours I let one story alone captivate me.

NOTE: Just because a movie captivates me doesn’t mean it’s good. Captivation is also a feeling coupled with disbelief and Holy Shit.

Back to the point – movies are magical. It could be the story of a wrongly convicted murderer escaping from prison, a semi-mentally-emotionally-constipated man who is a coincidental witness to every major historical event of the last three decades, the story of robots and Decepticons, or about a rogue archeologist fighting his own fight against the Nazis. You can witness reflections of your own life or instances so unrealistic you choke on your Junior Mints.

Realistic and convincing plot or not…you can learn from the movies. Every weekend dozens of motion pictures make their way to projection screens around the world and it would be foolish to think we can’t take away some of their knowledge.

Five things the movies have taught me and you (whether you know it or not):

#1 Ten steps to perform CPR.

Step 1. Person falls unconscious is rescued from drowning.
Step 2. Yell “NO!!!” three of four times.
Step 3. Slap the unconscious person.
Step 4. Hover your ear over their mouth to listen for breath sounds, but be sure to pant loud enough so you really can’t hear anything.
Step 5. Stiffen your arms and perform six uneven compressions, most likely breaking some of their ribs.
Step 6. Blow air into their mouth – plugging their nose is optional.
Step 7. Shout insults at the person. “You son of a bitch!”
Step 8. Threaten the individual. “I swear to God if you die on me..!!!”
Step 9. Collapse over their body, crying.
Step 10. Tears rolling down your face, all is finally silent…then….Gurgle! Cough cough! It’s a miracle! The person heaves out a mouthful of water and is alive!

#2 Women have no center of gravity.

Women fall down. A lot. All the time.

Women fall down because they’re in love. Because they’re wrong. Because they’re sad. Because they’re pregnant. Because someone died. Because they’re walking in the street. Because they’re funny. Because they saw a cute guy in a restaurant. Because they see someone they know. Because they’re in a wedding. Because they’re late to a work meeting. Because it’s Christmas. Because it’s New Year. Because they’re eavesdropping.

#3 Life if full of montages.

You can have a complete life evolution in thirty seconds. Kinda like my blog. Kinda.

#4 You should be working in an advertising agency.

The only people worth caring about work for advertising agencies. You can’t be in a romantic comedy fall in love unless you work in advertising. You can’t be witty. You can’t get good tickets to the Lakers game. You’re nothing. NOTHING.

#5 Everyone talks in their sleep.

People don’t groan and make strange sleep noises – never ever ever. We all talk in perfect conversations and are likely to confess our love and reveal horrible secrets about our pasts in our sleep. Beware.

These are only a few of the things the movies have taught me. I fully plan to continue to add to this list.

…what have the movies taught YOU?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where did you sit on the bus?

Everyone is different. This is not a novel concept – we are all unique individuals and no two people are the same. Like snowflakes. It’s precious. Then take a look at societies, cultures, beliefs, and customs – each of them suggesting the group defines the individual.

Here we are, you are an individual, you are a group, you have your values and ethics that make you who you are and shape how you perceive the world. But…how did it all start? What is the genesis? How did you become you?

We can spat about nature versus nurture if you like. We are either a product of genetics or a product of the environment in which we are raised. We can quote philosophers and psychologists. We can look at brain function and personality tests.

Naturally, I have a much simpler solution.

The answer to how we socially evolve, adapt to the real world, and adopt certain customs isn’t found in religious text, the scientist’s lab, or in the psychologist’s questionnaire.

Each person can be defined by where they sat on the school bus.

The U.S. Educational system can’t give us much, but it can give us insight into the complexities and psychological profiles of every member of this society as exemplified by one’s seat on the school bus.

Imagine you’re there. On that sidewalk. Waiting for that bus. Enduring any and all weather and puberty. Here it comes. The school bus. The doors squeal open. You pick up your short legs to clear those three steep steps. One. Two. Three. You pass the trusty bus driver (who is probably the only constant in your life, i.e. the bus and its driver). You look out into a cesspool of smells, attitudes and societal rank.

Where you sit determines how you will contribute to society in adulthood.

At the front of the bus are the bottom feeders…you know who you are. You spend most of your time staring at the bus driver through the huge mirror hanging above the windshield. You fight rumors of being a booger eater (rumors that are most likely true, admit it). You have a collection of some sort, whether it was pet rocks in 70s, slap bracelets in the 80s, or pogs in the 90s. The front row dwellers are typically socially and emotionally behind the rest of the crowd that looms in a thick haze of seat-taking competitors just beyond the second row.

The front of the bus produces one of two types of people: (1) either the creepy person who hangs over the slushy machine at the gas station, or (2) someone who works alone, performing complex research – like studying the reproductive behaviors of a prehistoric plant species discovered in the middle of nowhere. It’s one or the other – take your pick.

After the bottom feeders, in rows 3-7ish were the people who happened to make one other friend on the bus, and they clung together while enduring an anxious ride to school. If you were in this second group, your nighttime prayers consisted of, “please let so-and-so be on the bus tomorrow so I don’t have to sit by myself.” All the while this second group will listen to the commotion coming from the back of the bus, longing to join that distant laughter but simultaneously being petrified of it.

This second group is by far the most tame and well behaved on the entire bus. They are generally not risk takers and are more resistant to peer pressure, consequently passing on initial opportunities to drink for the first time. The second row also lays claim to teacher’s pets. Being more calm in nature, this second grouping will provide the world with more doctors and upper management types. It’s a good place to be.

The next, third, group on the bus are the kids that are lucky enough to be talked to ONCE by a kid who “sits in the back.” The third group consists of desperate creatures, eager for attention and acceptance from their “back of the bus” leaders. They want to be the center of attention, but always fall short. They are the wing man of the popular circuit – popular only by association and not enough clout to socially carry themselves alone.

Members of this group will be the first to sit with their legs in the middle of the aisle to send a poignant message: I’m willing to get yelled at by the bus driver over the intercom to show how brave I am. These kids also repeat rapid fist-and-arm motions to every truck driver in hopes the sound of their horn will lead to more recognition from the kids in the back.

In adulthood, these people become the “one-uppers.” They feel they have something to prove and seek to one-up you in any scenario. Whether it’s their car, their company softball team, or their brand of coffee – it’s better than yours and they want you to know it. Their professions associate with a degree of risk, whether they express their risk physically in the police force or army, or financially, by adventuring in their own business or real estate.

The last and most coveted group on the school bus: the kids who sit in “the back.” This highly competitive section will soon yield the “popular” kids during the middle-high school transition. The back seating arrangement is home to the best yo-momma jokes, the worst smells, where you learn about sex, about getting drunk (someone’s older brother and so on). First kisses can also be claimed in the back. It is certainly an education unmatched by any other.

There are two routes in life for the back-seaters. They will either use their popularity, influence, and drive as a springboard for the future, becoming leaders or significant figures in the workforce. Or, they will succumb to the temptations coupled with their rank…becoming the partiers, the seven year college students, and beer pong masters of the universe.

The number one occupation arising from the back seat kids is ironically enough: Teachers. You think your son/daughter’s second grade teacher is sweet, attentive, and an upright person. Here’s the truth for you…most teachers were the biggest, partying, raging alcoholics in their college days. Here the two sides of the coin collide – they can hold their liquor and still channel their social talents into something notable.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Or you become a writer with an affinity for bourbon and Joni Mitchell who creates anecdotal stories about society at large.)

Of all the kids in the back of the bus, there is one who stands alone as the source of control, and is the singular voice in which all kids obey. That single seat. In the last row. The person in this seat is filled with ambition, knows their power, but only executes it when needed. This kid could just as likely become a convict or President. It’s a fact of life.

For those of you that did not have to ride the bus to school this is unfamiliar territory. Chances are, however, at one point you went on a field trip and had a taste of just how competitive the seating market is. You probably suffered your first panic attack during this instance. That’s understandable.

The years spent riding the bus are the most character building years of one’s life. If you were picked up and dropped off, everyday, worry-free, care-free, by your parental guardian…you are the most naïve of all. But it’s not technically your fault. You don’t know any better – you’re naïve that way, and you have hard lessons to learn ahead of you. Instead of discovering the truth about social justice at an early age, you struggle with your rose-colored lenses for several years. There’s no way around it.

The societal constructs of the America are made obvious by school bus placement. Forget the IQ tests and the personality tests. Once a year, assign one person to take a clipboard onto a bus, and write down the name of kid, and their seat number, and let that be that. There is no better gauge than witnessing a kid put their status as a human being in jeopardy every time that sliding door opens, the steep steps are climbed, and the first glance is taken onto a sea of humility and doubt.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Too Far moment of the day: Angel Pee

“Too Far” moments are regular occurrences in my life. It’s a joke, comment, story, or reference that causes one to express an immediate reaction - Too Far.

Today’s Too Far moment happened when the LOML asked me how they make Ranger beer taste so good. Here is the conversation:

LOML: (takes a big drink of Ranger IPA) “ do they make Ranger taste so good?”

Me: (very perky and excited) “It’s a highly unique process. Angels swoop out of the sky and pee on the beer liquids during the fermenting process. That’s the goodness that you taste. Angel Pee.”

LOML: (only looks of sheer dumbfounded-ness)

Too far.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Too much to think about

Our minds are full of crap. Too full.

I’ll tell you how I know.

When I get ready in the morning I brush my teeth. (I hope you do, too.) There I go - toothpaste, water, not always in that order.

I start brushing for about ten seconds before it mind falls into this unstoppable stream of consciousness.

“I should turn off the coffee pot...Oh the trash stinks, I’m going to take that out...I need to check my email first...Ugh, I need to find my flipflops...I better not forget to put a stamp on that birthday card...”

Next thing I know I have spent nine minutes doing odd tasks around the house with a toothbrush dangling from my mouth. It isn’t until I’m fishing stamps out of the drawer before I realize I was supposed to be brushing my teeth.

Did I even really brush my teeth? Or did I just walk about chewing on a toothbrush until my mouth filled with foam? I had more than one cavity during my last visit to the dentist. Your guess is as good as mine.

I refer to this phenomenon as mind clutter, and it happens all the time.

You go to put your jacket away in the closet and before you know it you’re doing dishes and calling your friend to tell her about that thing you heard about and start marinating the chicken for tomorrow night and looking up directions to that new restaurant because you didn’t buy the discount GPS and you have to write out directions like an old-school schmuck but you have to check groupon deals first incase you can score some discount dance classes and...wait, why am I wearing my jacket?

We multitask while we multitask.

The funny part, (and by funny I mean sad), is that technology has been evolving to provide us with more convenience. On a scale of one to Justin Bieber, we climbed away from kerosene lamps and horse buggies to microchips and frozen pizza at an ultra-Bieber pace.

Think of laundry. Could you imagine having to make time for pumping water and washboards? We throw everything in the machine and pray for the day when someone thinks of a way to fold the laundry for us. How about building a fire to cook? A FIRE. Try lighting a fire in your fireplace without an accelerant and let’s see just how much time you have to spare.

We have our cell phones and emails, combustion engines and online ticketing. In our search for convenience we’ve kept piling more tasks onto our plate. Our minds race in a million directions and before you know it, it’s 11pm and you’re suppose to lay down long enough to sleep??? Yeah, right.

Between the carpool schedules, the complicated appetizer you promised to make for that party on Friday, having to get the oil changed and planning that vacation you were supposed to take two years ago...

...when do you stop to breathe?

We get so caught up in our own worlds, we forget about the world in which we exist.

When was the last time you looked at the stars and remembered just how magnificent the night is?

When was the last time you were grateful you knew how to read, and remembered the millions of children who will never hold a book?

When was the last time you felt the shoes on your feet, and forgot about the fashion statement and realized just how lucky you are?

When was the last time you bashed and argued about the government, the President, and appreciated being able to have a voice?

Sometimes I catch myself - like when I brush my teeth - and I realize just how caught up I am in the Hectic Insignificant Pace and What Does It Matter?

I hope you can read this and find some truth. I hope you are able to reach through the chaos and mile-a-minute nature of everyday and enjoy the little things. The starry skies and political jokes.

Our minds are full of crap. Too full. We are so busy trying to fit everything in we forget to live.

I wish I knew the remedy…because next week there will be another iAwesome thing out and everyone will again forget about the problems of the world. There is so much mind clutter I’m not sure how we’ll ever catch up and “fit” everything in we’re supposed to fit in.

Is there an app for brushing your teeth? I could use that.