My life is one gimmick after another. I don’t mean this in the negative sense of the word. I’m not talking about “a devious aspect or feature offered up so that you’ll purchase something.” No, I’m talking about the more classic form of gimmick: “a novel or ingenious device, something that is supposed to attract attention.” In short, schtick.
You can use schtick if you like, but I prefer gimmick. I just got used to the word back when I was first learning to be an entertainer. It all started with the band my brothers and I had. We mostly played novelty songs, you know, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor and My Boomerang Won’t Come Back.
Yes, pretty gimmicky. Downright schtick, actually. Like all gimmicks, I knew early on that this style of schtick wasn’t my schtick. As soon as I could figure out how to unravel my sad little life, I left it all behind in what became know as “The Renton Years.”
By then, of course, I had found the Seafair Pirates. The old timers in the group were gimmicks personified. The master of all gimmicks was Weaver Dial, a guileful rogue if ever there was one. I could finish this entire RobZerrvation talking about his gimmicks alone, but I will give you just one. Famously, Weaver had a really long striped sock. At the top, he sewed the clasp of a small woman’s coin purse. When it came time to pay for a drink, he would reach deep down into his seabag, pull out the sock, unroll it ever so slowly down the bar, labor to unclasp the clasp and reach way down to the bottom. This took him so long that the bartender usually just said with a smile, “Forget it, it’s on me.”
I fell in love with gimmicks. One of my favorites was Spike the Wonder Dog, a battery-operated dog with an eye patch and earring. He would bark, then sit down in the street. I knew his actions, so I could make it look like I was commanding him. “Sick ’em!” I would yell, and off the dog went. When he sat down, I would remonstrate him loudly, then wag my finger. As I did, I would stealthily slip my finger into his mouth and act like he had bitten me, running down the road, trying to shake him loose.
Yeah, cheap schtick. But it sure made people laugh, almost as much as my Kid Catcher and my radio control shark, which is hilarious to see in action. It’s an inflatable shark, mind you. On a bright orange car. Yet still, the kids jump and run when it heads their way.
That’s the beauty of good schtick. As a performance artist, a well executed gimmick is as good as a top hat and a dozen rabbits to pull from it. The crowd, young or old, in a park or half drunk at a bar, loves it universally.
Over the years, I have had many gimmicks. Some have stayed with me forever, like the 24 Hour Marriages and Mark the Shark. Others have come and gone. I still have Bob the Mobster Lobster that I can tie onto my buttocks. Every time a kid points out that it’s following me, I run faster. For some reason, I simply can’t get away from it. (Cue the laughter now.)
I’ve also met Mom over the years. I met her most recently in Edmonds. She’s always unaware that her “son” is about to walk up to her yelling, “MOM!!! Why did you leave me in the Kmart parking lot!? Look what’s become of me!? I’m a pirate (with pathetic, mock dread and sadness).”
I used to worry that if I shared my gimmicks with others, they would steal them. A few have tried. Famously, a fellow mate tried to do the Kid Catcher gimmick. The net he used ended up wrapped around his legs and the kids yanked on it, dropped him to the ground and caught themselves a pirate.
Not quite the way it’s supposed to work. That’s usually the case though. The beauty of a gimmick is that it has to be performed. Without the performance, it’s just static stuff that may not make a lick of sense to the person who sees it.
I’ve always been blessed with that ability to see things that aren’t there. I like to think it’s because I always misunderstand the world around me. I misinterpret what I see.
Thank God. While others see an innocent ponytail scrunchy, I see a five minute improvisation about the Tidy Bowl man and his missing life ring. If nothing’s around, I can simply say the word “Cocoon,” and go off on a Scottish accent tilt-a-whirl that will have people projecting beer from their snot boxes.
I can’t seem to stop either. I have several reduxes of past gimmicks; one is the fencing sword that looks like it runs through someone when you poke them with it. It’s still in the undone pile. The shark was much easier. A quick trip to eBay and Amazon and all that was left was to blow hard and charge some batteries. Wait, that sounds a bit dirty.
And then there’s the desire I had one day to save some pirate’s mortal soul. I will admit this inspiration came from dear Paisley, a pirate I knew in Tampa who would dress as a nun and perform last rites, reading random scripture from the Bible while offering up communion Nilla Wafers.
About a month ago, I thought I could improve on that a bit. Sure enough, Amazon has cases of communion wafers and grape juice so that I can save sinners wherever I go. I still have to figure out how to substitute cheap wine for the grape juice though.
When I do, you’ll find me in a bar, tossing over one of these kits whenever it appears someone is about to stray. Too much lust in their heart – communion kit and a quick smack on the forehead to absolve them of their sinful ways. Too much drink – a communion kit, a smack on the forehead to absolve them of their sin and prompt removal of further temptation, which I will pour unselfishly into my tankard.
I know. I just can’t help myself. Gimmicks are everywhere in this world of ours. But I have come to learn that a gimmick has to speak to you; it has to be yours and yours alone.
Originally, Weaver tried to give me an old piece of wood with a rope on it. The schtick (and everyone can play right along here) – that I was “walking the plank.” Groan. Weaver could have made it work though. He could make anything work. I let him walk the plank in the end. It wasn’t me. But he did give me an appreciation for the magic of performance art, one where anything and anyone, can become part of the act.
In the Emerald City, ordering up a party cup of Communion wafers from the Lowest-Price-Christian store on Amazon,
My revisionist thinking would like to believe my generation was better than the current one masking as America’s youth. Of course, I don’t really have to be revisionist, because we had parents who would just as soon smack us across the phase in public than watch us act like neanderthals.
Manners were beaten into us, literally. Wolf down your food at dinner and you were likely to get a dog dish for a plate the next night. Treat someone with disrespect and we’d be treated to a bar of soap in your mouth. Throw a tantrum in public and you’d wish to god your life would end right then and there once your mom said, “just wait until I get you home, mister!”
Today, we indulge our children to the point where they are just a step or two up from neanderthals. I really do think that neyoungerthals is a fitting term for these little monsters, for it would be far more fitting for them to live in caves than in our own homes, or even in our own communities.
I’m sure that sociologists and behaviorists will be studying these little sh**s for generations to come. It’s as if we simply gave up as parents and gave all our kids carte blanche to be self-indulgent, prepubescent little pukes.
I’m sure the germ of this regression lies in those kooks who thought we should give everyone participation trophies for sports, even though a team finished dead last. We piled self-entitlement upon self-entitlement and stroked egos when we should have been dealing out a healthy dose of reality therapy. We have created our own monsters, all because we wanted them to feel good about whoever they were rather than helping them transition into a world filled with often harsh realities.
Of course, it didn’t help that we jumped on the PC bandwagon at the same time. Yes, we do need to be sensitive about the labels we use, but now the neyoungerthals have taken it to a new level, bandying about -ists like there’s no tomorrow.
Everyone seems to be an -ist in our world these days- leftist, racist, apologist, ageist – hell, I can’t even keep track of all the -ists out there these days. It’s like a second language to the neyoungerthals though. Every post on Facebook, every text, every word spoken in school seems to have an angle to it. You can’t even be honest with someone close to you now as you’ll be labeled an -ist, then end up chastised, shunned, beaten and finally, Unfriended.
Yes, Unfriended. This seems to be a big thing to people these days. I don’t think it is to my generation. I have been unfriended many times and in a few instances it took me months to notice. No wonder they weren’t returning my phone calls.
I get it. Admittedly, it used to be simpler in the olden days. We didn’t have all this new-fangled technology where our lives could be posted and paraded 24 hours a day online for all our “friends” to see.
Back in the day, people were more decent about it. They would simply talk about you behind your back and spread rumors on the playground or around the water cooler. Word spread at a snail’s pace about your -ist behavior; so slow, in fact, that people forgot all about it over a long Memorial or Labor Day weekend.
Still, that doesn’t explain the neyoungerthal problem we’re facing. These folks seem to be absolutely clueless about that little thing called life. Oh, sure. There are exceptions. I hear these amazing stories about other’s children who have managed to get a decent job and even move out.
But then I see those terrifying stories about children, neyoungerthals, living with their parents until they are 34. I think they just want to outlast you, hoping you’ll leave the house and maybe even the car in the driveway to them in your will when you finally find a way to get them out of your lives, even if it meant dying.
They just don’t seem to be evolving as quickly as we did back in the day. Sure, we were still kind of infantile when we were in our late teens and even early 20s. Maybe that’s because we didn’t get awards for just showing up for things. We didn’t get a cap and gown or graduation ceremony at the end of kindergarten. Or elementary school. Or middle school. Or…
No, we got one cap and gown. It took us 18 years to get it. Our parents expected it. We earned it. We didn’t get all get a trophy just for showing up to class. We had to get good grades, because if we didn’t, our parents would give us a good paddling or at the very least, take the keys away to the only car the family had.
Today, kids are getting a Mercedes when they turn 18. A used one, granted. But still, a Mercedes, just for turning 18. Me? I got nothing memorable when I turned 18. I did, however, get a Sears electric typewriter as a graduation present. I still can remember that it cost $256.00.
I’m not even sure that covers a month’s insurance premium on the Mercedes these days.
And we wonder why all our kids are turning out as neyoungerthals. We give them trophies for making their first poopy, a cap and gown for making it through preschool, a Mercedes for their birthday and we cap it all off by paying for their college education.
We have created our own monsters. We have set our own evolution back a hundred years or more, churning out a new generation of useless children, children who are supposed to be our future leaders.
It’s days like this that I feel blessed to be on the waning days of life here on this rock. I don’t have to endure another 50 or 60 years of the neyoungerthals and their misplaced entitlement. I get to check out of this crazy place sooner than later. I only hope I get a trophy when it’s time.
In the Emerald City, wondering what we hath wrought, spoiled children, rotten to the core,
While I don’t pretend to have a solution to every malady, or worse, tragedy striking our fair land these days, I do think that this loner culture of ours may be due in part to the fact that we don’t have drinking buddies like we used to.
You know the type. Your drinking buddy. That guy or gal who has absolutely no other life, someone you can call at 6 and by 6:30 they are on the stool next to you at your favorite watering hole.
We seem to have fewer of these in our lives these days. I certainly have had my share over the years: Buckwheat, Big Nick, Animal, Waterrat come to mind. These were my go-tos: people I could call up while on a moment’s notice and they’d beat a path to the bar without a second thought. They had no need to cancel other plans because they probably didn’t have any to begin with.
That’s not to say they didn’t have a life. They just knew their priorities and one of them was to keep their drinking buddy, me, in check.
Under the influence of certain alcoholic substances, we would come up with seemingly endless fiendish plans of foolishness. It could be an overtly called out decision to take the party to the beach in a snowstorm in January or fly to Cayman Brac at the behest of a very drunken female co-pilot. It could be the idea to go home with a lovely lass, only to get the hell out of their when her boyfriend arrived home unexpectedly. Or, after a questionable night of flirtatious tom foolery, waking up next to someone who looks a lot like Mister Ed.
This has all happened to me at one time or another, largely because my drinking buddy had neglected his sacred duties to keep me out of trouble or because he actually convinced me that it was indeed a great idea.
More often than not, though, my drinking buddy was able to correct my often false logic while under the influence. I would say something that seemed sane and he would quickly chime in that I must have been ‘freakin’ nuts’ to think that.
These ‘freakin’ nuts’ moments over the years have kept me from voting for a total loser for president, buying that car that I was sure was a steal (and it probably was stolen), or hitting on a comely lass who was way out of my league.
Yes, my various drinking companions have kept me from making some potentially fatal errors in my life, all because of their inebriated, but sage, advice.
The door swings both ways, of course. I have famously stopped my drinking buddy from making the same errors in his life. At various times I have called him to task, called him on the carpet and called him the next morning to see if he was still alive. I have done so much of this work that I consider myself a Certified Drinking Companion.
This is not an easy certification to acquire. It takes years of study followed by years of practice, followed by more years of being tested night in and night out. It is an arduous process that few can successfully undertake, let alone master.
But I have persevered, even against all odds. I have even managed to weather the dark years when my drinking buddy insisted that we frequent a yuppie bar or a new trendy hot spot. This is not a place to do your best drinking buddy work by any means.
No, you need a dive bar to fully engage in the work. These are the working man bars that open at 7 a.m. and run a tab behind the bar in chicken scratches for the regulars. They are the place that have any beer you like on tap, as long as it Bud, Bud Light, PBR and Rainier.
As a Certified Drinking Companion I would knowingly walk up to the taps and point to the one that I wanted without uttering a word. This was so I could drink all night long without slurring my order and getting cut off. Instead, the pints just kept arriving, as if by magic. My drinking buddy would do the same in our time tested ritual of trying to drink each other under the table, a slightly more civilized version of a dog hiking his leg to mark his alpha status.
Eventually, the crazy ideas would strike and we would consider, reject or ridicule each one as they spilled into the room from our booze-soaked minds. Most of the big ideas never made it past this string of reminiscences, wishful thinkings, bold ideas and stupid thoughts.
A few, however, were spoken into the world and stuck to the walls of our collective brains. From there, they were brought to life, all the implausible angles worked out, the illogical assumptions properly justified and the unworkable details ironed out.
Time for action. Well, time for thinking about action at least. Being that these brilliant ideas struck us around the same time as last call, we couldn’t act on most of them in the moment.
Instead, we would shake on the plan in the parking lot before we wove our respective ways home. We would agree to get a good night’s sleep on it and when we awoke, we would bound into action.
This is where the drinking buddy is key. Waking in the morning, more often than not we didn’t recall the plan at all. If it emerged from the haze, we’d eventually call our drinking buddy and make the vaguest of pleasantries. If he never mentioned the “plan,” we would hang up, thankful that we didn’t have to go through with it. But if he did remember the plan, we’d either tell him that he was freakin’ nuts for thinking about it in the first place and remind him that we tried to talk him out of it the night before. Still we would congratulate him for the boldness of “his” ill-conceived plan and go to our list of alternate drinking buddies for the next adventure later that night.
Thanks to our drinking buddy, the world remained safe from our crazy plans for another day, even longer if we went with an alternate.
In the Emerald City, currently accepting applicants for the next Certified Drinking Companions workshops,
The soulless armchair quarterbacks are at it again. At a time when we should be opening our hearts and questioning who we are becoming as a society, the meme merchants and soulless pundits are on the ball, seeking to drive even more wedges into our fractured society.
It’s not that America hasn’t been fractured for decades. Democracy is messy stuff. We all seem to have a pair of dice with no pips etched in them. Yes, that’s what the dots are actually called, pips.
Every time something happens in this country, we roll the dice and come up with some crazy combinations.
As we all know, a tremendous tragedy happened last Saturday night in Orlando. Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children and parents died at the hands of a terrorist.
Rather than grieve or even offer our condolences, those with an agenda have wasted no time in pushing those agendas off on us. There are the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun factions, the Islamaphobes, homophobes and the Bible beaters. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a cause for what is nothing more than a tragedy and violent act against humanity.
Yet, rather than all come together as one, we suck up the pablum of the media and special interest groups, of the politicians seeking our votes, and of the 1% who seek to divide us.
And we seem to suck it up so willingly. On Facebook, the posts go on and on. I’m not going to dignify any of them here. And I’m not going to give you some pop culture analysis of what was the cause of this latest act of violence in our society.
I will say, however, that we must begin to question who we are as citizens of this great land. Each of these acts of violence seems to be bigger and more horrific than the last. Our hearts bled as small children were shot down in Sandy Hook. We all looked for the exits when we first returned to the movie theater after that shooting. And now 49 are dead and countless wounded at an Orlando nightclub.
Why? I’m not sure we will ever know. Yes, there will be the inevitable ties to extremists in the Middle East somewhere. We will hear from his ex-wife or girlfriend. We will hear from co-workers who never trusted him. We will try to slap labels on him and his cause because it’s easier than doing any real soul searching.
We will share sound bites and memes: Get rid of the guns. Make it harder to buy guns. Put more money into mental health treatments. Ban Muslims. Build a wall.
Yes, the easy answers. We love easy. Because the hard answers take too much work, and worse, it requires us to look at ourselves individually and our society as a whole Tough stuff, like coming to grips with our own lack of civility or humanity. Our lack of compassion and empathy. Our readiness to turn away from someone in need rather than spend a minute or two to be of service.
We are becoming a nation of silos. We don’t need a wall because we’re already building them ourselves. We ignore the homeless man on the street. We don’t wave back at our neighbors. We flip the guy off next to us for cutting us off. We have a complete meltdown because our fast food order was wrong. We short the overworked waitress because she forgot to bring us a spoon. The list goes on and on…
We are becoming a nation of Me’s, not We’s.
We live increasingly in fear of our own shadows. We look upon others with suspect rather than curiosity. We blame everyone else for our problems but never ourselves. We complain about the world as being too PC when really, we just want to justify our own ethnocentrisms and racist leanings because it’s easier to that than change.
And the 1% is laughing all the way to the bank. For as long as we turn on each other, we can’t turn on them.
I sometimes think that smartphones were created by the 1% to keep us at bay. I see it all the time. Young and old alike, buried in their screens, oblivious to the world around them, consumed by the false world they created inside that little box.
There, they can find solace. They can friend others who have the same beliefs and unfriend those who don’t share their limited views of the world. They can be politically incorrect. They can sink into a soulless world that agrees with them completely, no matter how whacked their world really is.
And we wonder why people commit such atrocious acts. It’s so easy to do when you’ve lost your own humanity as well as compassion, empathy and love. Somewhere along the way, something goes horribly wrong. These people lose all hope. They lose touch with reality. Their hearts fill with hate instead. And once that happens, violence against others simply becomes an extension of the hate they have for who they are and who they have become. They have nothing to lose, so they act out in their hatred.
Again, I’m not trying to serve up solutions from the cheap seats. I don’t pretend to have the answers. But I can see some basic truths.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we just rejected all the pablum being served up by politicians, the media and organizations who have something to gain by keeping us divided. I can’t help but think that if we just reached out to one another instead of distancing ourselves further in these moments of trial and tribulation, that we could find away to stay a “united” states instead of a “divided” states.
Only time will tell. I for one plan to practice acts of civility more mindfully going forward. I have never had anyone lash out at me because I was too kind, thoughtful or respectful. In fact, I have experienced just the opposite. It’s not the answer, but a start. And while I can’t change the world, I can change how I interact with it and how I respond to it.
In the Emerald City, thinking about my own role in this wonderful republic of ours,
I drove off without my headphones this morning. Yes, I was Internet-less, at least the Internet I use when I ride the bus each morning and afternoon to and from work. It’s used defensively, to keep homeless people from asking for money, tourists from asking directions, and seat mates from conversing with me about anything.
It’s not that I can’t live with the Internet. I mean, I only use my phone during my daily commutes as a glorified Walkman, either listening to Pandora or the 4,500 other songs I have on iTunes.
Since my career requires a lot of editing skills, I’ve edited the Internet down over the years. This amuses me to no end, as I watch the Millennials surf endlessly, watching pointless YouTube videos, sharing their mundane lives on Instagram or Snapchat, or posting selfies and viewing endless clips of cat’s licking their ass and their friends being drunk.
I really don’t have time for all that nonsense. It’s not that I didn’t do the same at one point. Back in the day, I mean back, back in the day, I hung out around the hot tub on AOL, listening to clips of Jimmy Buffett music and splashing sound effects.
It was a total waste of time, a lot of time. This was back in the days of the 2400 baud modem, back when the computer was hooked up to a phone line. Primitive, I know. And the music and sounds took forever to load up and play. It was painful on so many levels.
Yes, I have been on the Internet since 1996. I am pretty sure that I reached the end of it somewhere around 2010. I even remember when it happened. I was sitting in my office, scrolling through links when I reached a screen that said, “The End.”
Nowadays, my surfing is pretty limited: Pandora, Facebook, The Seattle Times, CNN, Google News, Mental Floss, Google Maps and Search, and… well, that’s abut it, really.
As I said, I reached the end of the Internet and found that there’s really not much there to hold my attention.
Yes, this from a content creator.
I think that’s part of the problem. I have pretty high expectations for content. I can’t stand poorly produced content, whether it’s a video or a blog. And let’s face it, there’s a lot of crap out there that only serves to keep you distracted from the fact that we have complete idiots running for President and the fact that the Internet is largely a complete waste of time.
I just don’t have that much time these days. So, I have filters. Really good filters. I know what I need as far as input. I don’t really need more. My head can only hold so much stuff and as each day passes, there is less free space available.
I am definitely not Johnny Five. Remember him? Or it? The robot in Short Circuit, the one who kept saying, “Need input. More input.”
I already have plenty, thank you. Sure, I could always use more, but these days I am filling the nooks and crannies in my brain, not entire wings of the library.
Johnny Five would have loved the Internet. He poured through the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in something like two minutes on the show. He could probably get to the end of the Internet in a half hour.
It took me 14 years, but I’m no Johnny Five, though I wish I had a laser guided weapon mounted on my shoulder when there’s gridlock in the afternoon commute.
I’m really glad that I developed filters at an early age. I’m not quite sure how it happened or why, but I have a pretty good sense of what is important, what is needed and most important, what is not.
I like to tell myself that this mastery of filtering occurred back in the day when a computer hard drive was an enormous 40 megs. Geez, I have Word files that are larger than 40 megs. But that was all we had to work with back then, and while it seemed like an amazing amount of space at the time, it was only amazing because we had to be diligent in filtering content, getting rid of everything we didn’t absolutely need.
Yes, writing requires solid editing skills as well, but unless you’re writing to a specific word count, a few extra words here and there don’t really matter. It’s not like the old analog days of writing stories for newspapers, where even the headline had to have a space count (you can put more i’s in a line than you can m’s).
So I’m not sure that the writing thing is where the good editing skills came from.
Not that it really matters. I am just glad I was blessed with this skill set in the first place. I think we should all have such mastery of filtering. We’d save so much time. We wouldn’t be like the guy next to me on the bus who just watched little snippets of his friends doing insipid things. An entire 40 minutes watching stuff that doesn’t improve his station in life or the quality of his existence. It’s just non-filtered nonsense.
Me? Without music this morning I went old school. I read a book. A real book. With pages and a spine and cover. It wasn’t on my iPad or my phone. It was full on tactile. Non-fiction, as they almost always are. Remember, I’m filling nooks and crannies these days. I still need to filter so fiction is mostly out.
In some ways, I long for the pre-Internet world. We used to actually look at things around us. They would inspire us to create, to be original, to think out of the box. Now we just stare into the box, watching our friends pour a bucket of water on themselves while the world outside passes us by.
There’s no beauty in a Snapchat or even a Tweet. It’s just clutter. And like the clutter in our closets, it begs to be filtered, sorted, stored or erased. It’s the nature of the beast, this need to filter out stuff we don’t need. Except RobZerrvations, of course.
In the Emerald City, wondering if I need to have my filter changed,
Let me start by saying I am a dog lover. I have been all my life. I have owned five wonderful dogs in this lifetime, or should I say, they owned me. Barney was such a great companion that he saw me through the tragic death of my brother. The other saw me through that other tragedy that took me to Florida. Jasper kept me high and dry even on the darkest days down there, right up until his passing.
He was and is irreplaceable and I don’t know if I will ever be able to have another dog.
That’s O.K. though. I still love my friend’s dogs and even dogs I come across in public, such as area parks.
I do not, however, love dogs who invade public spaces. Somewhere along the way, in the last several years as far as I can tell, dog owners seem to think their dogs are actually children, best buddies or dates. They take them everywhere with them.
Not a week goes by that I don’t see one of these damninals in a store around here. Sure, I get that you bring your dog with you to Petco. It’s a pet store. They even encourage it. But a home improvement store? Are you freakin’ kidding me?
Not one dog, mind you. Five in a recent visit. These are not service dogs. Some are at best mutts. They are poorly trained and they certainly don’t look like they are having any fun going through the aisles of Home Depot.
It really ticks me off. I’d rather you bring your three screaming kids with you than bring your dog along to shop for paint, flooring or lumber.
I would have never brought Jasper with me to the hardware or fabric store. First, he would have stressed out and crapped in a very liquidious way, up and down every single aisle of the store. You’d hear a constant drone over the P.A.: “Clean Up in Aisle 5, no 6, no 7.”
Perhaps more important, Jasper knew that he was a dog. Oh sure, he’d have a pork chop for dinner with me from time to time, but when it came to shopping, Jasper knew that he should stay home. It was, after all, his territory, his domain. He was the most comfortable there. The smaller the space, in fact, the better, right down to the bathroom at times. But never a kennel. The “Boo-Box” was punishment so he would never go there voluntarily.
Jasper was happy at home. He knew his place. He knew that rides in cars most often meant a trip to the vet, a ride he dreaded. Other times, he may end up at the doggy hotel for an extended stay, but on at least one occasion, the car ride meant the loss of his nuts, so cars were never a favorite of his.
He also knew that stores could be dangerous. Especially hardware stores. Obviously, these supposed responsible pet owners have never seen me with a cart in a home improvement store. I have dumped entire loads of lumber onto the floor and I’m not talking about wimpy trim pieces. I’m talking 4x4s. A Chihuahua wouldn’t stand a chance. A momentary squeal, then silence. Even a Great Dane would have walked out with a limp after passing me and my carts overloaded with attempted home improvements.
Some stores have begun to tackle this issue. I was in a store last week that had a sign that said, “Service dogs only.” Now we’re getting somewhere. In one swoop they eliminated service cats, lizards and guinea pigs. Service dogs only.
I was more than a little pleased. But not one aisle into the store, there was a young woman with her dog. I really wanted to say “stupid” dog but as I said, I’m a dog lover. I don’t want to impose the owner’s traits on the dog. It’s not fair.
I assume these are the same people who have decided that it’s O.K. to talk on the phone while on the bus trip downtown. Banalities flow like wine. If I were to silence the music streaming through my headphones, I would most likely hear them talking about their dog and how they went on this lovely weekend trip to the local Home Depot together where everyone had an ass-sniffing good time.
It’s a shame they won’t let me take a load of 4x4s onto the bus with me. Maybe I could accidentally dump it on them there and take them out of my own misery.
Dogs certainly have their place. I love them in a park. I even like them in some restaurants. Famously, there was a dog in Key West that would walk into this one bar and jump right on the stool next to me. The bartender would dutifully bring him a short glass of milk, which he would lap up and then head off for parts unknown.
I’m sure it wasn’t to a home improvement store. He didn’t seem the type.
I can hear the chorus of exceptionalists right now, saying, “but, but, my dog is different. He needs to be with me!”
Does he? Or do you need him more? Perhaps you’re projecting your own needs to have a companion onto your dog. Perhaps you just need to get laid, or at least go out on a date with a two-footed friend. Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Here’s what I recommend. Next time you need to go to the home improvement store, take someone with you. Go shopping with a human and leave the dog at home. Both of you will be happier. You will have someone to help load the lumber or settle on a paint color. Your dog will have the extra time he needs to lick his balls clean on your carpet.
Believe me, he will really appreciate the extra two hours you’ve given him back to do some really thorough ball licking. And your back will thank you because you’ll finally have someone with you at the hardware store who can help you load your truck to the gills with potentially dog-maiming home improvements.
In the Emerald City, no longer on a tight leash and thankful for that fact.
I live a pretty fabulous life. We all do, really. We get to wake up every morning (God willing) and roam about this fabulous little blue ball in the cosmos. Best of all, unlike a lot of things on this planet, even other living things, we actually know we are alive.
All in all, it’s pretty cool. Yes, the world moves along at a pretty fast clip, at least to us. But trees? They have a complete different perspective. They don’t watch CNN or follow TMZ. They just go about their day, taking in our poison and churning out fresh air.
The events in their lives – the fires, the droughts, the lightning strikes – all move by at a snail’s pace. It’s recorded little by little in their rings, but unless you chop them down, you will never know what they’ve seen during their extremely long lives (talking firs here, not wimpy palms).
As such, I would suppose that a tree looks at its days much differently than we do. They see the passage of days as mere seconds. Events are just a blink. And one event isn’t more jarring than the last. Surviving a wildfire, a lightening strike or a drought is all the same to the tree. It’s just events that happen with the passage of time, some significant, others less so.
I tend to see life with this same perspective. Last week, Prince died. The whole world of social media could do nothing more than post endless tributes to his passing, as if he were the Messiah or something.
Now, I’m not here to judge how others grieve. I can just speak to my own journey. Sure, he was a great musician, maybe even a brilliant one. Only time can tell. I know he marked a time in all our lives and his passing means we lost something of our youth, of our innocence.
I’ve written about all this before, of course. Within our lifetime, all the greats will pass, and with any luck, we will all still be around to note their passing. If not, then we’ve already succumbed to the inevitable end we all face someday.
We aren’t as lucky as trees. We don’t get hundreds of years to gain perspective about the passage of time. We merely flit from one event to another in a panic, believing that our experience is somehow unique and that nothing like this has happened before in the annals of time.
I’m sure the passing of Jimmy Dorsey or Clark Gable was huge to my mom’s generation. Certainly, the passing of Elvis would have been very, very sad. But, as fate would have it, Jon beat Elvis to the Pearly Gates by five years, so for all I know, he still thinks Elvis is alive.
The irony of it all, or perhaps the poetic justice, is that these events are such first world events that they seem laughable to me at times. I admit, that while the passing of Prince was both untimely and tragic, other more important events in my life were affecting my perspective.
You see, The Seattle Times posted a story the day before about another tragedy, one of homeless children in the county I live in. These children don’t have time to think about Prince. They are too busy trying to figure out how to come of age while facing one of the most tragic situations in our nation – homelessness.
Imagine trying to go to school facing the requisite caste system, the bullying and the additional feelings of inadequacy because your family is living hand to mouth. Often, you take refuge in a car, or sleep on a family member’s couch (known as couch surfing, by the way). You can’t invite your friends over after school because you have no place they can go.
I have become somewhat consumed with the thought of what I can do to help. I have been homeless myself. I have faced the demon first hand. What’s more, I was on public assistance when I was in my middle and high school years, so I feel deeply about the issue.
And then Prince died. Sorry, but while sad, it wasn’t as sad as the thought of these kids having nowhere to call home. It just wasn’t worth my time to wallow in the pity, as I was considering the magnitude of this third world problem that should never be an issue in this land of plenty.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. When you’re unemployed, when someone in your family was just diagnosed with cancer, when you’re trying to sweep the muck out of your flooded Houston home or trying to find shelter after a tornado wiped out the farm, there’s not a lot of time to spend on pop culture passings.
Facebook, in many respects, only makes us more self-indulgent, almost to the point of narcissism. We seem so consumed by its many distractions that we are losing touch with the real world around us. People, Americans, are starving. Children are sleeping in cars. Crazies are running the country. The wealthy are raping all of us, and all we want to do is post the results of the quiz about which Game of Thrones we would be.
Don’t get me wrong. I love pop culture. I love everyday distractions. But there are times when real life gets in the way and, unfortunately, this was one of those weeks. I would apologize for it all but quick frankly, we should all think more about what’s going on in the world around us and spend a little less time contemplating what is really inevitable for all of us – our eventual untimely passing.
Until that day comes, we can focus on life rather than death, and through our donations of time, money, love or simply the gift of our company, we can perhaps affect the world around us, rather than living in its glorified, nostalgic past.
In the Emerald City, thinking about how lucky I am to be able to still be able to do something while I’m here,
My birthday is once again on the horizon. This one will be a milestone of sorts. First, I will have outlived my father by a year as the Grim Reaper didn’t bother to stop by to say an eternal hello. Second, it will be my birth year. If you know what year I was born, saw off the first two numbers and you’ll know how old I am. This only happens once in your life, so it’s kind of cool.
It is also a bit vexing. As you grow older, you run the risk of becoming a bit of an old fogey. That means you’re old-fashioned, a stick-in-the-mud, not willing to change.
I don’t want to be an old fogey. My father most certainly was. Somewhere along the songline that was his life, he got off the bus and stayed in a comfy little place in the past. A place where World War II was the best memories to be had and country and western music played on the radio. It was a simpler time, one without all those long haired hippies, rock ‘n’ roll and crazy liberal ideas.
My mother, for her part, stayed on the bus. She kept riding it for more than 20 years, before she too found a comfortable place to stay, one that didn’t have the likes of Beyonce, LBGTWXYZ equality and hipsters.
Me? I continue to move on down the road, though I admit that I have lost a step or two. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I don’t pay attention as much to pop culture as I used to. Part of this is due to time constraints and part of this is due to the fact that I simply don’t care much who is sleeping with whom in Hollywood or who got the most views on YouTube last week.
That’s not to say I am becoming a fogey. I still stay up on things, I’m just not the voracious consumer I used to be. I still listen to top 10 sometimes, just to see what that latest styles are in music. I know what’s hot in the fashion world and I still watch some TV shows that months later become “the” show to watch.
Yet, I still don’t get hipsters. Sorry gents, those beards would have made me crazy. Yes, I had a beard back in the day. What guy didn’t? But we didn’t yearn to self-identify with a particular strata of society and think we were cooler than anyone else. We just grew a beard because we wanted to see if we could.
Most of us quickly found that they are a total pain to deal with. It’s just easier to shave in the morning instead of spending hours snipping, trimming and primping. Plus, we don’t have to endure the embarrassment of finding Ritz Cracker crumbs from that night we passed out in bed – when we’re out on a date!
But back to being a fogey. I think it’s a natural inclination. I see it in some of the people I know. Those older than me often find computers frustrating. Some of them – wait for it – still have landlines in their homes. They hopped off the bus somewhere back down the road and decided that was enough. They were good right where they were. No need to continue to explore the world.
I respect that, to a point. I still don’t get the longing for the good old days thing, which while old, were never as rosy as we would like to portray them. Yes, it’s easy to slip into that fondness for a simpler past. When we were kids things did seem simpler, but only because our parents handled all the worries about the world, bills, house payments and savings. Our biggest decision of the day was whether we’d dig a hole or hop on our Stingray.
The world is still just as complex as it always has been. Things change, of course, as they should, but I find it hard to reconcile wanting to retreat into the optimized past than live in the often messy present.
The world is a danged amazing place if you take the time to be in it. If you’re brave enough, you jump on one of the horses on the outer edge of life’s carousel, the ones that not only go round-and-round, but up and down as well. The world flies by in a blur, but it’s absolutely exhilarating.
I can even accept it if you want to take a break, sitting on one of the benches that just go round and round, but not up and down. But to stand outside on the sidelines, just to watch things roll by? What the hell are people thinking?
When this happens, you know you’re just one step away from the grave. Security and safety have replaced your sense for adventure. You’re afraid to jump back on the horse, so you just stand there, living life as a spectator.
Quite frankly, it may just be time to pull the old plug. That way, you can be assured that the world around you won’t change anymore. You can choose your place and time and call it good. Check out of the old Living Life Hotel or jump off the bus and call it good. A life lived, but not necessarily a life lived well.
If you aren’t so quick to join the Daisy Pushers Club, then maybe you should ask why you’ve chosen to live in a rut. What made you stop enjoying life? What made you stop greeting the stranger next to you, preferring to wonder instead if he might be wearing a bomb? What made you fear life instead of love it, with all its quirks, dips and turns and ups and down?
If you want to live life as an old fogey, yearn for the halcyon days gone by, come to fear your own shadow, then go for it. Retreat into the walls of your safe little world and leave the rest of us alone.
And above all, don’t expect me to join you in your old fogeyism. I’m still out there writing checks I’ll never be able to cash and pushing the limits, albeit within slightly smaller boundaries than I had when I was 12 years old. Slighty, ever so slightly.
In the Emerald City, turning down my free tickets to the Old Fogey Hayride to Hell,
The last of my children is about to become a man. Well, kinda sorta. While he will be turning 18 in May, as all us old farts know that doesn’t make you a man or an adult. It’s simply another baby step into adulthood, steps we keep taking the rest of our lives.
In my own RobZerrvations, I seem to think the current generation wants to grow up far faster than we did. We were pretty happy living at home with our parents. In my case, my mom still made dinner for me and even did my laundry, largely because she thought – in her wonderful sexist way – that a man hasn’t the intelligence to figure out how to do laundry properly. Given my history of ruining clothes to this day, I think she was on to something.
But kids today, geez, they turn 18 and want to be all grown up. It seems to be another entitlement, like they somehow earned the right to be an equal of every grown up they come across.
Of course, this is nonsense. First, at this age, you’re writing checks you can never cash. You’re bouncing them left as right as you pinball your way through the early days of “adulthood.” You have all the courage in the world, but none of the sense and certainly none of the experience.
As I said, I get to watch this play out regularly in my world. To be fair, Parker is pretty good with living at home and following the rules. He knows he has a really good deal, a deal so good that I am sure that at some point down the road, I am going to have to change all the locks in the house to make sure he eventually goes out on his own.
I do have empathy for these birds trying to leave the nest. As adults, we can see them running right for the plate glass door that they just can’t see (or refuse to see), no matter how hard you try to warn them that it’s right there. Being naive and somewhat invincible, they believe that things will somehow be different for them, that they will be able to walk right through it without a single shard of glass getting stuck in their ass.
I admit, this can be pretty amusing, if only for the fact that I walked through literally hundreds of these plate glass doors in my time and have come through it scarred, but still alive.
That to me is a miracle. But it’s not a miracle that is unique to me as we’ve all done famously stupid things in our lives and managed to either get through them or find a way to heal in their aftermath.
I must say that walking away from my meddling family’s lives 35 years ago was pretty shortsighted. But I was young and naive. I didn’t understand the consequences of being that young bull in the china shop. For 35 years now, my family hasn’t spoken to me, except to tell me my mom was dead. My mother, for her part, didn’t speak to me for seven years of those 35, though we mended that fence long ago, something I am extremely thankful for.
And here I thought I was so grown up back then. Sure, I was 23 but I was still very much a child. I didn’t have a shred of adult in me. Small wonder I fell apart in a young marriage that included a child, because I was still a child myself.
But I survived it. I’ve survived everything thrown at me. Good and bad decisions I have made myself, as well as decisions made for me by others that were often completely against my will. Some good came out of it, some bad did, too.
What I found was that the bad didn’t last, largely because I never let it. While I could rightfully be soured on love and relationships, I put all that bad behind me and moved on and have a terrific relationship now. I finally have a pretty cool house that I actually feel is home, something I’ve longed to have. I have a nice job, great friends, and just in this moment as I write this, nothing bad on the horizon – at least nothing that I know of.
Sure, the tides could change tomorrow in this regard. Life is a series of yin and yang, of ups and downs, and goods and bads.
When you’re at that precipice of adulthood, the 18 to 22 range, every bad thing that happens or could happen is held up in a magnifying glass. Everything is magnified way beyond the weight it should have in your life. You are either on top of the world or life sucks. There’s no in between because really, as far as being an adult, you’re still taking baby steps.
I for one am glad that none of the truly bad stuff happened when I was young. I couldn’t have handled half the stuff I have had to handle in my adult life back then. I would easily have pulled the plug by now.
But thankfully, all this stuff just made me more resilient. The old saw that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger is true in many respects. But when you’re young, you don’t understand that life is a long journey, one marked by many setbacks, challenges and an occasional victory lap.
I only wish we could get our kids to see that. But if they did, they would probably never make it to true adulthood, because looking down that rabbit hole isn’t for the young because it’s downright scary down there. There are monsters out there that they can’t even imagine – mortgages, bill collectors, bankruptcy, divorce and, of course, the prospect of your own mortality – that would scare the living crap out of them.
Be thankful young’uns that you still have your parents to save you from the monsters and shelter you from the storm. Some of us didn’t get that luxury, and yet, we managed to survive it all anyway and finally become adults by earning it, not demanding it.
Just north of the Emerald City, slaying dragons with sword in hand,
I have lots of opinions. I know. Big surprise! Many of them are shared right here, in RobZerrvations. Others are far more personal, and yet, far more plentiful. It’s about ordinary, day-to-day stuff mostly, about raising children, updating the house, surviving our workaday world. As I said, pretty mundane stuff and not much to write home about, or at least to write about here.
But I learned yesterday that some of this stuff is actually quite useful, at least to Kat. She is the benefactor/victim of my punditry, depending on whether it is fit for consumption or whether it needs to be aged a bit longer or tossed as being past its use date.
Yes, it’s definitely food for thought. These little nuggets are usually fairly consumable, if of questionable taste at times. An observation here, an anecdote there, sprinkled liberally with asides and at times, even innuendo.
There’s never an attempt to force feed this food for thought. Kat’s her own woman and definitely has a mind of her own. And she has given me plenty of digestible tidbits in return about my own life and parental skills, or should I say, attempts to be parental.
The good stuff is ready right then and there. It’s served completely baked, ready to apply to any situation. Love that when it happens, but I readily admit that it is something of a rarity.
Most of the time it could use a little aging and I can see Kat put it into the refrigerator in her mind, or if it’s not going to spoil any time soon, it must go in her pantry-brain instead.
There it lives until it’s needed, either as a standalone food for thought, or as an ingredient for the bigger picture, one where several foods are tossed together in a mental salad.
These ingredients don’t all come from me, of course. As I said, Kat has a mind of her own and she has lots of stuff in the refrigerbrainer already. Some of that stuff could have been there for years or even decades. Some are probably leftovers; others are probably food for thought she thought needed a bit more aging.
That’s where a lot of my own food for thought goes, into various levels of storage in that brain of hers.
But there are times when something will come out of my mouth and she decides it needs to go right into the microwave because it needs to be used right now. I love those moments, but I can’t help but wonder if I served it up as ready to consume. Maybe it too could use a little more time in the ol’ refrigerbrainer.
Such is food for thought. While I’d like to think that all my pearls of wisdom are useful, I know that some will never go down easily. Sometimes I speak total nonsense, other times, vagaries. Some are ready for the disposal from the get-go.
It’s at these times that I think back to a routine that George Carlin did about the refrigerator and how his wife would ask if he was going to eat something in the fridge or if she should just throw it out. His musing was that he was being asked to have something that was just a step away from becoming garbage. During another part of the routine, he talked about those things in the refrigerator that slowly become something else entirely. Where it used to be a leftover, it has since pulled away from the sides of the container and turned an unsettling shade of blue-green. Instead of throwing it away, he would just put it back in the fridge.
That’s how I feel about my own food for thought sometimes. A lot of it never leaves my own refrigerbrainer. It just gets moved into the back some place where I really don’t have to think about it. Occasionally I happen upon it, and wondered why I ever tucked it away to begin with. It was already pulling away from the sides when I put it in there. No one would want to consume that, no matter how hungry they were for an opinion, anyone’s opinion.
I certainly know Kat has that part of her brain. I give her what I really think is terrific food for thought and it just ends up in the back of her refrigerbrainer. I know it will never see the light of day, so I’m not really sure she took that particular food for thought to heart. Maybe she was just being kind.
No, wait! Kat is never that way. She is a terribly genuine. If it wasn’t fit to consume, she’d just give it back to me and tell me to keep it.
I guess I can’t blame her. I’m sure there’s lots in her refrigerbrainer already. It goes with the territory as we grow older. We only have so much space in there, even if we have one of those swanky models with double doors and a freezer down below. Eventually, the thing fills up and we have to be more careful about the leftovers others give us in the guise of being food for thought.
It can be an acquired taste, to be sure. And a lot of my food for thought has been sitting around for a really long time. Me? I’ve acquired a taste for it. Yes, it’s a little stale and perhaps past its prime, but I can still muscle it down the old gullet, now and again.
As for Kat’s own food for thought? I’ve really found that it agrees with me. It’s always served up with a ton of love and is seasoned generally with a lifetime of experience that is never distasteful. These gems can be few and far between, however, because unlike me, her food for thought is gourmet, cooked to order fare, not the fast food slop I serve up in my own place.
In the Emerald City, getting hungry after writing this,