When my father was younger, he used to drive into the city on Sundays for church. And after church, he’d drive to the mall to see a movie at the discount theater. The theater was his way of wasting a few hours of his lonely Sundays. He’s always admitted he sat through a lot of crap for a $2 ticket, but there was only one movie so bad he had to walk out.
Last Saturday I met up with my friend Joe. Earlier in the week he’d turned 79. We met at the thrift store. We looked around for a while. There were a lot of used crock pots and coffee machines. I got a George W. Bush and Dick Cheney coffee mug for 50 cents. I bought it as a gag to myself. I went home and washed it and had some coffee in it the next morning. But the coffee tasted funny – tasted soapy. So I scrubbed and rinsed it real good again – especially the rinsing – and poured some fresh coffee in, but it still tasted off. So I poured some coffee from the same pot into a different cup – a tried-and-true AC/DC mug and it tasted just fine. So I dunno. I’m gonna write it off as some sort of psychological effect.
Anyway, after the thrift store, I was saying goodbye to Joe. He said at almost 80 he’d seen a lot but shit is really getting strange. Stranger than he’d ever seen it in his 79 years. He said people were really fucked up, thinking all kinds of stupid things and accepting all sorts of obvious and blatantly hypocritical stuff. He said he was almost glad to be so old, since the clown show would be over for him pretty soon.
I knew how he felt. And later I got to thinking, for me, at almost 50, most of the best stuff is gone. Discovering an awesome new band will never feel the same as it did at 18. Shit, I’ll never be as excited about any band as I was back then, period. And I’ll never fuck anywhere near as good again as I did in my 20’s. For the sake of everyone involved, I should probably just give up on the whole notion of fucking ever again. That would be the most ethical and least embarrassing thing to do. And buying a new car, no matter how luxurious, is never gonna feel like the big deal of the first new one. I may find new love again or re-find it with the one I’ve loved the most – but either way it’ll never be close to what it was with her in the beginning. And Lemmy and Eddie VH are gone and soon enough Angus will be right behind them with nobody around to fill their shoes. Or maybe there are, but the culture’s for young people, not old popcorn farts like me and Joe. I’ve heard it’s intentional – that popular culture is supposed to pass us by since it aims at hooking the younger folks – hooking them hard when they’re young so when they’re 50 they’ll still be buying AC/DC mugs and shirts and tickets for 200 bucks a pop. And, as a young man, all those causes I searched for and searched in all seem to have panned out to be the same things – lost causes – all of them. And careers have proven themselves to be glorified jobs, and you’re being conned by somebody – maybe even yourself – if you imagine otherwise. And that most, but not all, people aren’t that special. That the most wonderful and special things about the few that are wonderful or special is when they turn out to be something better than whiny, self-absorbed pricks. Yeah, there’s some good ones. I’m not that cynical or nihilistic. There’s some, like a kid’s Christmas gift of socks, which disappoints, but at least it’s better than coal. Or a ho-hum science kit that’s better than nothing to a kid that really needs a drum set. And nowadays a few beers leaves me feeling good for a spell, but the after effect ends up outweighing the benefit. And nothing else is ever going to be as good as professional wrestling was to a naïve kid before it all got exposed as nothing but a show.
So shit……..it’s dismal to think there’s so little left. But at least there’ll always be The Soft Bulletin, existing somewhere the same way it was released in 1999. And the lovely young gals – though well out of reach – lovely regardless of changing styles and fashions and still there to be admired from a healthy distance. And there will always be dogs licking their balls as reminders of the way things are. And at least there’ll good weather sometimes.
All that’s tough enough to admit and accept, while on top of it there’s been this other big reveal of all our festering fucking idiocy. What a fucking jackpot – this utterly dismaying climax to the big show. This uncomfortably binding mass-idiocy that both me and Joe felt like a pair of ill-fitting boots. An idiocy I see through the biased eyes of my political inclinations. The idiocy that distracts the idiots from consideration of any legitimacy in causes they may not understand, while blinding them to the idiocy of their own causes as well. Counter-causes these fools scapegoat because they take the slightest effort to try to understand. Fools distracted from any consideration – any degree of critical thinking – by the idiocy of a conspiracy of a worldwide web of child organ harvesting. Or distracted by some other senselessness in a senseless world. The nonsense and senselessness of the world making them utterly senseless and nonsensical too. Some of these fools are my neighbors. My family. People I went to school with. People I work with who are raising children. The guy in black with his biker wallet stocking shelves at night. The guys in front, behind and beside you at a game who you high-fived at a home team touchdown or home run. It’s not something abstract. It’s terrifying, if you let it be. And though it’s always seemed the stuff or dreams or nightmares or ridicule, it no longer is.
And I must understand, just like me, the ones these fools disagree with – the ones rioting and looting and burning – to them their adversaries are as much the idiots as the Dollar Tree patriots and conspiracy goofballs are to me. And it’s probably best – though inconvenient to admit and understand – that just because one group of fools got to the finish line first, it doesn’t mean the other group isn’t far behind – straddling some tipping point with bloated, gurgling bowels ready to shit their beds too. Just waiting for the whole house of cards to crumble too. And, looking at it as objectively as possible – and according to whatever adage about “begetting” you want – they’re just as primed and ready for just as much lunacy and hypocrisy as their adversaries. And why not since we’re all cut from the same goddamned cloth? And you gotta admit it all. Otherwise you’re a coward. You gotta have the fortitude to admit what you know, even when the reveal is gonna cause you fear and anxiety and dismay. Otherwise you’re just a child hiding under his covers of ideologies and fairy tales of heroes and villains. Hiding under the covers waiting for Gary Cooper with his badge and revolvers to save the day. But there ain’t no Marshall Kane and our villains are mostly as made up as they are in the script of High Noon. No. Sadly, there are no heroes. There’s only the loose nuts of the townsfolk that are you and me and everybody else.
It’s exhausting. And utterly dreadful to know this is who and what we are. It’s exhausting and utterly dreadful to understand this is what’s left. It wasn’t easy but it was at least reasonable to pretend – for all my life leading up to this – we might be better. At least the delusion made for more restful nights. It helped future planning seem and feel more worthwhile. It’s become exhausting and dreadful to have to accept what we are. And it’s exhausting and dreadful to know so few things are every gonna be as good as they once were. It’s not sappy sentimentality. It’s not sappy nostalgia. It’s just the way things are.
It’s exhausting and it makes me think about quitting. It makes me feel like I’ve had enough. It makes me wanna walk out of that theater – just like my father – cause, even though he’d seen a lot of stupid shit in that discount, second-run theater – Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny, even at only $2, was just too much.
Yeah. My father. A lonely, sometimes bitter man. But at least he had something to do. Somewhere to go. Usually. Predictably. Until that Sunday afternoon when the theater let him down too.