I love twenty-somethings. I like the energy. I like how everything is new to them. I like the fact that they drive people my age nuts, even though they are a helluva lot more pleasant than we ever were. I love thirty-somethings. They’re not jaded yet. Forty-somethings can be irritating the way forty-somethings are always irritating–that’s the age when people are at their most bitter and depressed and are still under the illusion that they are hipper than thirty-somethings. People my own age can be pretty obnoxious but then we were obnoxious when we were twenty-, thirty- and forty-somethings, too. What was rebellion then is just orneriness now. And hip seventy- and eighty-somethings are cool beyond words, a delight, and the hip among them long got over worrying about the threat of twenty-somethings. Wisdom comes with all those decades behind you. Then poof, you’re gone and it’s gone. That’s life, the man said, that’s what all the people say.
For several years I used to have my record collection–maybe a thousand albums–in random order. Anarchy, I figured. It would drive people nuts at parties. Where’s the Stones? Oh they’re in there somewhere. Though they weren’t, I’d hidden them. And the Ramones. Was sick to death of hearing them at parties. But it was fun to watch the wasted party goers flipping past all these obscure LPs trying to find them. We had parties every week back then, loud obnoxious parties–I would hate living next door to that me now–and every week there was some poor sucker crouched over in a leather jacket looking for the Ramones. Finally I put the Stones and Ramones way at the back in the corner behind hundreds of other records and if anyone had patience enough to paw through the whole pile they’d find them. No one did for weeks. Not even The Panther, who loved the Stones more than life itself and hated Robin Trower (but that’s another story). Then one day while I was chatting up Pat Todd’s girlfriend someone yanked something weird and irritating I had playing off the turntable with a terrible screech. There was dead air for just a few seconds, and then duh duh, duh duh duh da. Brown Sugar. Egad. The whole roomed moaned and The Panther turned and smiled.
My wife made me alphabetize the records soon afterward. The punks were pleased. Anarchy is best left a theory, apparently.
Getting new carpeting in the bedroom tomorrow and moving out the loose objects lying about. Found the book I took with me when we drove Fyl to the hospital about 2 am on August 8, 2008. A highly regarded novel by a Glen Duncan called Death of An Ordinary Man. I had gotten up to the tenth page when she died. I looked on in stunned silence. Her lips were a vivid blue. Her eyes stared. Her skin a pallid white. They managed to revive her after a few minutes, a whole century’s worth of a few minutes, and her lips turned red, her eyes closed, her skin flushed crimson with fever. I remember sitting down again after an hour or so and opening the book. They’d had Lois cremated, the paragraph began. I distinctly remember thinking that I couldn’t read this just then, put the book aside and never did reopen it. Until just now, nearly a decade later, when I found it in a stack of books on the nightstand. I flipped it open to the bookmarked page, read that they’d had Lois cremated and closed the book again. Maybe later. Now I sit here staring at the words I’d just written, trying to forget.
I once got paid to write slogans for funny buttons. This was decades ago. Those stupid funny buttons you used to see? This company made most of them. A bunch of them had my funny sayings on them. Somewhere there’s a list of maybe a hundred one liners I dashed off and mailed to them, each ten words or less. They picked a bunch of them. The only one I can remember was all those shitty movies and he still gets a stamp? Their focus group (seriously, a funny button focus group) loved that one. I rolled my eyes. Sometime later I was at a club talking to a lady. She was gorgeous. A nerdy little guy walked by wearing that button. It was dayglo green and the line looked even dumber on a button than it did on paper. That’s so stupid, the lady said. I decided not to tell her I had written it. Still, the pay was $25 a button (nearly $50 in today’s money) which means, per word, it was the best paying writing gig I ever had.
It was a helluva decade, my fifties, some of the greatest ups in my life and some of the scariest lows. As it wore on, epilepsy inevitably began to dominate, the damage of a lifetime, and memory evaporated, and executive functions, and finally the ability to hold a job and even write articles. If you’re epileptic you know it’s gonna happen, you just hope it waits till later, much later, but it happens early, too early. Hell, it was giving me huge problems in my late forties, just when my life’s ups were becoming so up. I just hid it well, so I could keep working and getting writing gigs and not look like a spaced out fuck up. One of those.
But the real downside is the financial cost. You have no idea how expensive epilepsy is. Between the cost of medication and finance charges incurred taking out loans to buy the damn medicine–I couldn’t function without it, couldn’t drive, would be scary–it has cost us $40,000 in three years. And that was just for the medicine. Figure in the loss of income this past five years and the total cost gets into the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. She’s already disabled. Still, we went from being a successful hard working middle class couple, completely self-made, to having little more than a roof over our heads and epilepsy incurred debts that suck up every loose penny. And you can’t get disability for epilepsy unless it is incredibly severe…and I’m not, I’ve just got a lifetime of damage that leaves me about as useful as a burnt out computer. You can’t get any assistance at all. No relief on utilities. No nothing. It’s just like being a normal person, except I can’t work.
So we enter our sixties flat broke but with a roof over our head. Rent control is such a blessing. But otherwise we have no idea what will happen next. The last decade was a series of surprises. You get fatalistic. I never was before. I am now. You just expect the worst and when it comes you shrug and deal with it, if you can. Though neither of us have the brain capacity anymore to deal with much of it. We just blink and wonder what to do.
Still, she just came back from the store with a steak and a six pack of beer and a bouquet of freshly picked flowers from the hillside, and there’s a mess of vegetables of all kinds from SuperKing and we’re going to have one helluva birthday feast. Life is good. I mean life is fucked up, even doomed, but it’s good, and we both take it a day at a time and stop and smell the roses.
April 5th is a way cool birthday—Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Melvyn Douglas, Gregory Peck, Walter Huston, Lord Buckley, Frank Gorshin, Roger Corman, a bunch of other people, and me. It’s a way cool death day too—Douglas MacArthur, Chiang Kai-shek, Howard Hughes, Brian Donlevy, Alan Ginsberg, Charlton Heston, Kurt Cobain, Saul Bellow, a bunch of other people and not me. Yet, anyway.
Today on LinkedIn. My mosaic of Slash using broken tile, he said, exclamation point.
Great work, a pretty lady responded, exclamation point exclamation point.
And actually it was, if you like that sort of thing.
Millionaires and billionaires and industrialists and Elon Musk use LinkedIn, but I never see them. I see mosaics of Slash, cheesecake profile photos, jazz saxophonists, unemployed bloggers and studies proving that sisters-in-law did indeed make seven thousand dollars a week working from home. Exclamation point exclamation point exclamation point.
There is no social media sadder than LinkedIn.