I’ll Be There For You

There were eight of them on Thursday night, although 15 years ago there would have been more. In her high school years, my daughter’s sanctuary from the chaos at home was found among her friends.

A former high school teacher of mine told me many times over the years that when I became a parent, I should make sure my kids get involved in music; they meet and make better friends, he said, and I see no reason that doesn’t hold up.

It did with Beth, at any rate. I could probably name a dozen of them still, mostly orchestra friends who were constantly around, throwing themselves grownup-style parties on New Year’s Eve and just generally engaging with life as a team.

They moved on, as we do, scattered around various universities in different parts of the country and world, although quite a few re-settled back in Seattle after exploring. And they never lost contact, because they grew up in a world where that was hard to do.

A lot of them traveled to Santa Fe for her wedding in 2009, and while her trips back home have been less frequent in recent years, when she comes there always seems to be at least a night when whoever is around and available will meet up, share adult beverages and company.

Three of them showed up at the condo Beth and family have been staying at this week downtown, a few blocks from Benaroya Hall, where Cameron is performing with Roomful of Teeth and the Seattle Symphony. They brought food and wine, prepping for opening night while grandparents gratefully played grandparents, all four having graduated from the same high school on the same night in 2003, three now married and the fourth in a long-term relationship. Which makes eight, which is what I meant, but I’m thinking of the picture, really.

I saw it on Facebook, posted by one of the group, as they walked uphill after the performance, side by side. With half-closed eyes, they could be arm in arm, looking exactly as they were, old friends and newer ones, all grown up, still throwing parties after all these years, and eventually I figured it out.

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Wallow Week

A new column is up, pivoting off some thoughts I posted earlier on this blog, maybe a little more confessional:

And I don’t like to sing in choirs all that much anyway. It’s not a skill set I feel comfortable with, trying to follow a bass line that is counterpoint to the tenor part while the sopranos sing the melody and the altos have something with like 13 flats (the key of P, I think). I’m lost a lot, and embarrassed and sometimes humiliated, always humbled. I’m just not very good.

I so very much wanted to add something about David Bowie.

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I’ve had a lot of reviews over the years following performances. I can’t remember a bad one, although lots of disappointing ones, meaning that I was mentioned in passing despite having a major role. Which is sort of bad, but stage reviews have never been that serious. It’s one person’s opinion (and believe it or not, opinions can vary), while an actor spends a couple of hours in front of a few hundred people. They will give you a review in real time.

But feedback matters, or it should. If I wasn’t interested in how someone who sees or hears or reads something I’ve created feels about it, then it’s all about self expression and personal catharsis and it’s bad. Probably. At least I’d rather avoid that. Although I can’t and don’t expect to hear back from thousands of readers, not me, not in my situation. They read it, but few feel compelled to comment, and I don’t blame them. It’s not a big deal; as I said, at worst a mild disappointment. You try your best and move on.

This piece here, though, from a Minneapolis paper/site/mag/something, is really a remarkable analysis of Winning Dad. How does one best deal with a family member or friend who is homophobic? Or, for that matter, holds opinions you feel are despicable and vile, even if you love and generally admire this person? It’s at the heart of the film, in case you were unaware.

But it also holds a nice personal review for me. Very nice. By far the nicest thing anyone has ever said about something I’ve done, and probably by far the nicest anyone ever will. How do you link to something like that without it being a giant brag?

Like this, I guess. The point is, as nice as it was to read, it doesn’t change my mind on myself or the film. I don’t see what someone else sees; I catch mostly the bad things, the mistakes, the choices that were off. I accept that I can’t be objective, but I have no illusion that anyone else is either. So it was just nice. I’m not framing it or anything.

Because that sort of thing needs to be done by professionals. Framing is sort of an art form. I’ll just hire someone.

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This is Wallow Week, I guess, as we spend as much time with Bix as possible. We picked them up at the airport, way past his bedtime by their Texas clocks, and he was happy and hasn’t really stopped that. Beth spoke at Seattle Pacific University yesterday to a class of music students, lecturing from an arts management perspective, so we kept an eye on the little guy until I snuck out and caught a bit of Beth’s talk. It was excellent, no surprise, even though public speaking is not something she necessarily does on a regular basis. She knows of what she spoke. I just felt weirdly out of time, catching glimpses of the 7-year-old for a few seconds before she reverted to a 31-year-old woman who easily belongs where she is.

And tonight we watch Bix again, while Beth and some local friends all attend the opening of Roomful of Teeth’s performance with the Seattle Symphony (we go on Saturday night). I imagine we’ll see The Jungle Book a couple of times, and I’ll take lots of pictures.

Did I say pictures?

JK reading to Bix

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The Visit

My son-in-law is now apparently safe and sound in his swanky (my daughter’s word) downtown Seattle condo, awaiting the rest of his family, who arrive tonight. In the meantime, I’m looking all over the place for my grandparent instruction manual. I found the one for the dishwasher, so it’s not been a waste of time, but I’m feeling a little at loose ends.

So I bought Bix a snake, a stuffed, long, fun snake* to add to his menagerie and easy to pack for home. It should arrive tomorrow, and tonight will be goofy and exhausting enough. The snake can wait.

But that’s all I could think of. I’m used to dropping into his life, showing up every few months and reintroducing myself, understanding all this time that I’m operating under the assumption my occasional presence, pictures, and FaceTime chats will form some sort of lasting bond, some autonomic response in his brain chemistry, some dumping of serotonin or dopamine or endorphins in his developing mind. I want him to know what I mean before he reaches the point that he knows who I am.

Although he’s pretty much there by now, and here’s hoping this week closes the deal. I’m ready for this relationship.

Except I’m not because, as I say, I lost the instructions.

There are actually parenting instructions, of course. You can read books and listen to pediatricians, and if you’re prepared to keep grains of salt on hand you can heed the advice of other parents, including yours. Just be aware that a lot of time has passed, and in the first few years of life the days blur well past the possibilities of retention. Your mother may have good information to share, but you’re better off if she’s already been a grandmother. Closer in time to actual baby wrangling is better, I think.

But grandparenting? That’s supposed to be easy. You just enjoy. You read books over and over, you watch “Babe” a million times until you don’t even like bacon anymore, you spend a lot of time remembering what it’s like to crawl on the floor and learning what that feels like at a different age than the last time. But easy.

And it is, or as easy as 2-year-olds can be, which I understand does not really align with “easy.” But I’m a grandparent, that’s the whole point; I did the hard stuff with his mother. Now it’s time for just fun.

I waited for his mother, though, waited impatiently for her to get old enough to have real conversations with me, and Bixie is getting close, so I search for my instructions. Surely someone has a few nuggets of advice out there for long-distance grandparents who wish to maintain solid and loving relationships with their descendants.

And I swear: If I don’t find one, I’m writing it. Because it’s important. Stuffed snakes are only a start.

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*Bix does not read this blog. I think.

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The Universe Is Listening

 

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I was thinking of the Golden Record, the selection of earth sounds sent out on Voyager in the 1970s, now spinning in interstellar space, 40,000 years away from the nearest star system. It’s gonna be a while before someone listens.

It occurred to me, although it’s a little late, that they could have just used some “Roomful of Teeth” recordings. Right there is our humanity, powered by our diaphragms and imaginations.

Our trip down to Portland was wet, chilly, and stunning. I sat behind a group of community college and Marylhurst University choir members, and after RFOT’s first piece I watched these young people try to manually close their jaws and shake their heads. They will never be this good.

Except for a few, as my wife pointed out. So it was an evening of incredulousness and possibilities, all rolled into a symphony of human voices. I’ve listened to everything they’ve produced, as soon as the first singles start showing up, but this was my first chance to see them live, and with all eight original members (they have the occasional sub; these are professional singers who sometimes have conflicts).

We stayed at the Lakeshore Inn on Lake Oswego, a curious hotel that is part low-rentish and part stunning, with every room having a balcony and view of the lake. It’s also a short walk to any number of shops and restaurants. We were pleased.

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And we’re fans, puhleese. My son-in-law is a member, a dominant force in this octet, the anchor to amazing voices who produce music unheard before, and I say that with a straight face. Unheard.

They perform this week with the Seattle Symphony, singing Berio’s Sinfonia, a rarely performed piece that seems a nice fit for RFOT, although they usually perform specific material written for them. Ergo our trip to Lake Oswego, to hear some classic teeth. We were not disappointed.

And my son-in-law arrives in Seattle tonight, and my daughter and grandson on Tuesday night, housed in a condo downtown in which I plan on spending a lot of time, along with seeing the concert Saturday night.

But it would have been nice to know that these amazing musicians were floating out in space, waiting for the universe to hear us, to know us, to understand that we are humans not because we make smart phones and wage war, but because we sing.

rfot

 

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Do Not Go Gently

When we moved to Seattle in 1983, dreams in our pockets and maybe some quarters and dimes, we obviously had priorities. A place to live. Jobs. Trying not to smother a young marriage in its crib with the trauma and drama of moving far away from family two months after our wedding. Priorities.

Eventually, though, my wife would need a vocal coach. Dreams in pockets, etc. And during her second Seattle production, just playing a small part in a production of “The King and I,” she got a name.

It turned out that we would move, following learning of our impending parenthood, to an apartment just two blocks from this teacher’s studio. Her name was Roberta, and it was a long relationship. My wife presided over the funeral service of Roberta’s lovely husband, Woody. Beth grew up as a presence in that studio during her mother’s lessons, and eventually had a few of her own with Roberta.

What I remember sharply, though, is the day, very early on, when Roberta came by our place to pick up JK for something. A concert or recital or something; who remembers? I just know that she drove a red Corvette, and we marveled at her youth and energy. She was, like, at least 60.

And she’d see her pupil do some amazing things over the years, trust me. Amazing.

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Roberta is still with us, but you can do the math. Macular degeneration, some dementia, and just being 90-plus has left her, as I understand, well cared for and of course loved, and apparently comfortable. Her pictures surround my wife’s piano where she does her own vocal coaching now, the decades aligned in frames.

You could also do some math, if you’ve paid attention, or enough to guess, but no guessing needed. My wife is 60 years old. Nearly 61. She weaned herself off a successful career to go to seminary, and began teaching. She eventually stopped performing much at all, certainly not professionally, for a couple of seasons with a women’s choir just to do that but mostly no.

I could, I suppose, go into some speculation (with some knowledge) about how it feels to have empty pockets, to wring out that metaphor. How one spends a life on stage, a star, a standing-O kind of career that she deliberately kept small and local, only venturing (I think) to Nevada and Canada outside of the greater Seattle area. She did some commercials. Lots of operas and cabaret shows and musicals and recitals with symphonies. It was the Julie Kae Show, and then it stopped. She made the decision, but still.

But still. It would be too easy to project my own empty-pocket feelings here.

I’ll just note that last Sunday afternoon, she performed in a faculty recital at Seattle Pacific University, where she teaches. I’m pretty sure they’ve managed to get the roof back on by now, but she knocked it off.

And while I got decent recordings from my phone, surreptitiously placed on my knee when she sang, I’m waiting for the official recording to come up. Bound to be better. But yeah. There was a missing roof at some point, I’m almost positive.

I listen to my recordings. I listen to my wife intelligently and knowledgably remark on the aging voice, and how much work she still needs to do in order to get back in shape for singing. But singing? I think that might not quite be over yet.

In fact, I don’t hear the aging voice. I hear the 20-something voice, just the way I first heard it, a long time ago and far, far away. So I don’t think this is over.

For any of us, in fact. She’s definitely unique, but then aren’t we all. And with all my musing lately on coming to terms with my own irrelevance and the inevitable march toward senescence, there’s hope to be found in a person I live with. In both of them, really. And maybe, a little, in the mirror.

But mostly I picture that silver-haired 60-year-old in the red ‘vette, opening our young eyes to possibilities, and all these calendar pages have only proven the point. You’re not as old as you feel; we all feel old sometimes. You’re not as old as you act, or else I can think of a lot of people who have questions to answer.

You’re as old as you sing, maybe. And now I know who taught me that.

And who taught her.

 

(Julie Kae singing in 1987. Not a big difference.)

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In Defense Of Simple Stories

(Note: To regular readers of this blog, some of this is familiar. That’s because it’s this week’s column, which I’m posting here instead of linking because print newspapers have to mess around with paragraphs. Paragraphs are the first to go when it comes to making a certain amount of words fit in a certain space. Actually, they don’t go so much as come. Need to scoot things down a little? Make a new paragraph. I understand the reason, but this week seemed a little awkward to me. I write in rhythm, or at least it feels that way, and the odd spacing didn’t look right.)

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“Write it!” they said in unison. Or maybe one of them said it and the other nodded. It wasn’t a big moment.

And it wasn’t a big deal. The world would continue to turn, regardless. It was just a casual comment by me about a particular subject, and how I’ve been considering putting my feelings into words.

They understood the impulse. I’ve met these two guys for coffee many times over the past years, initially the three of us having little in common except for words and notions that rattled around in our brains, eventually working their way into a newspaper column or articles.

We’re familiar with false relevancy, then, the fantasy that our brilliant ideas will spark debate and new ways of looking at old concepts. And we’re not alone in this, even with a byline.

And it’s way worse now, because we are actually irrelevant. Not in every case, and not necessarily permanently, but we’re all now men of a certain age. None of us is really that certain, either.

We just know that our days for making a difference are in the past, mostly. There are plenty of examples of people older than we are who’ve written surprise best-sellers, or invented something brilliant, or made a scientific discovery; trust me, this is part of the fantasy. There’s always a chance.

The odds are long, though, and the idea of anything I do or say making a difference in the life of a random 30-year-old feels unrealistic. This is the nature of life; the time comes when it’s appropriate to step out of the way and give the next generation a shot.

We tend to be a realistic group. We see the future, and we’re not there. We’re sitting inside, drinking coffee, hoping nobody asks us to lift anything heavy. We know who and where we are.

There’s no bitterness in us, in other words, or none that I see, and I know of what I speak. I see this kind of aging animosity all the time. I’ve recently had a couple of experiences with rudeness or at least inexplicable, antisocial behavior by a couple of older men I know, completely out of line and blown out of proportion.

This is the real fear, then. Not losing relevance, which none of us really ever had anyway. No, the fear is that we won’t pay attention until it’s too late. Until we’ve become coots.

You know. The good old days were great (they weren’t), the kids today are disrespectful or ambitionless or the victims of too many trophies for just showing up (this last one will be hung around the collective necks of an entire generation, whose idea it never was anyway, and the effect of which from what I can see was, as a reasonable person might expect, is nonexistent). Coots set their worldview in concrete, and God forbid your car tire touches their front lawn. God forbid.

Which is why I was maybe reluctant to write this. I fight a never-ending battle against coothood.

But, as I told my coffee mates, my wife and I saw a movie a few months ago. It was a spontaneous decision, but it looked like a simple, light-hearted comedy with a couple of big stars whom we both liked. Reviews were mostly decent, even if critics acknowledged that this was what it was, something insignificant in a landscape of light sabers and dystopia. Something, maybe, irrelevant.

And we loved it. There was no tension, no blood, no explosions. There were predictable developments that we didn’t predict, because we just enjoyed watching good actors seem to enjoy themselves telling a simple, warm, socially interesting and surprisingly funny film. Considering the lack of light sabers.

I shared this story with my buddies, but mostly my frustration at reading some of the year-end lists of films and the highlights and lowlights. The movie I enjoyed so much was barely mentioned, but when it was there was a slight quality of snark, at disdain for such a predictable comedy, well beneath the talents of its stars.

It wasn’t the kind of movie I expected to get an Academy Award nomination. I just thought it would be a pleasant reminder that there were, in fact, small and simple movies that told a story, made us smile with recognition, and sent us home just a little happier, no looking over our shoulders for zombies.

I’m not pining for the movies of the good old days. First, they haven’t gone anywhere; I can watch “Casablanca” anytime I wish. Second, there are some amazing films being made now, both highly technical achievements and some small and lovely. A lot by Wes Anderson.

I’m just beginning to think there might be a market for simple films, essential stories of everyday problems, failures and successes. No blood oaths, no dismembered limbs, no warping of space and time. There was only a mildly suggestive chair massage, and an in-office romance that was refreshingly age appropriate.

The movie was made. It seemed to do well, and make some money. Maybe they’ll be more.

And maybe I’ve escaped coot status. I’m still going to be slipping on the 3D glasses and watching the CGI magic of the 21st century, dinosaurs or Death Stars. I just sometimes, maybe, want to just see something that makes me feel better about the world.

Rent “The Intern.” Tell me you didn’t smile. Tell me you don’t want to see it again.

I’ll be waiting here with my coffee, wallowing in my irrelevance. Go ahead and crank up the music and drive on my lawn, it’s cool.

the-intern

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Onward

I’m sort of pleasantly surprised that following the Seahawks’ loss at Carolina, I immediately dialed back my interest in wasting hours watching football players. It was like the end of Breaking Bad; loved it, but relieved to see it end, just so I could stop thinking about it.

And I’ve stopped thinking about football, so good.

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I rarely think about politics, other than to be entertained by this amazing campaign season so far. So different, so many types, so much energy in different ways. Some not so nice, but that happens. Otherwise, no. Nothing to add.

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What has been on mind recently is, to be as simple about it as I can, that I’m going to die. Sooner than later.

Not anytime soon, one hopes. Although the men in my family aren’t exactly making me hopeful. I can outlive my longest-living grandfather in 16 years. I’m going to try that.

I’m mostly just talking about imperatives, priorities, reassessing. For one thing, I’ve noticed this firming up of a distinct lack of desire to interact with unpleasant and rude people. Just not that interested, even if we’re friends or used to be. Completely uninterested. Not enough time.

And the fact that my grandson, Bix, is 2-1/4 now (in Seattle next week!), and my mother has yet to meet him. We’ve discussed various options, but it’s tricky. She lives in a small town in north-central Arizona, and Bixie is in Austin. Mom isn’t crazy about traveling these days, particularly alone, and I don’t blame her.

This all, then, came together in a burst of I’m broke anyway planning. Next month, then, I fly to Phoenix, meet Mom and her car that she bought in 2003 and has maybe 30,000 miles on it, and drive us to Austin, stopping the first night in Las Cruces, New Mexico and then driving on in. Stay a few days, reverse.

How cool is that? A road trip with my mom, able to talk, see some (admittedly ugly) west Texas landscape, see some stunning hill country a bit closer, and then an even more stunning little boy. The anticipation is running high.

For several reasons, really. The visit, long overdue, is primary. Of course. But the change, the travel, the family, the socialization, the empty road stretching out from El Paso to Austin…I’m thinking this will be good for me. And good is needed. Change is needed.

So change, if temporary, is what I’m getting. And a road trip never hurt anyone.*

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*Generally speaking. There are probably examples to the contrary.

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The G-Word

“Write it!” They said it nearly in unison, these two guys, both writers and newspaper guys, as we shared a long overdue hour at Starbuck’s yesterday.

I’d just tossed out a subject that had been on my mind, and how I was tempted to write about it. They obviously agreed.

That’s not all they said, though.

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The operative word was “gaunt.” As in, “You look gaunt.” Let’s just allow that to sit for a bit.

It’s a tricky thing, talking about weight and fat and body image and so on, and particularly if you’re a guy. Dudes aren’t supposed to have body image issues, although of course they do. We just get a cultural hall pass. A woman, at least someone younger than 80, is given some leeway as she ages in terms of weight. I mean, good grief. There are enough changes; one more shouldn’t be unexpected.

My very own wife, one of those annoying people who seem to be supercharged, could eat like a horse and hope one day to gain a few pounds so she could top 110. Seriously. At 5’5, too.

And then around age 50 she started gaining a little. Nothing serious, and when it started to annoy her, particularly in terms of clothes, she changed a few things in her diet and has been slowly dropping those extra pounds. About 15 or so by now, in fact, which is pretty impressive considering she was really at a perfectly acceptable weight. You know. Clothes matter.

But she probably knows, even if she doesn’t particularly care in her personal case, that this leeway of which I speak is kind of small. Like, 5 pounds. Gain 5 pounds if you’re a woman, and you’re over, say, 40, and our culture will give you a break. After that, it becomes a “She’s starting to let herself go” scenario.

And the leeway for men is about 50 pounds. So, advantage us.

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Look: Not only, given the above, is it sort of obnoxious for an aging man to gripe about weight, but I’ve done it forever. When I was younger, it was obviously vanity. As I got into my 30s, though, suddenly (relatively, but really only 2-3 years) I gained 80 pounds. Dunno. I had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, apparently.

The rest of the story has been told endlessly, so no. Went on a mission when I was 49, dropped a bunch of weight, kept it off. A few years later, it crept up under a stressful situation that lasted the better part of 2011. Not in a big way. About 10 pounds, really.

But they hung on, because who really cares? I was fit, I exercised every day, my cholesterol and blood sugar and liver functions and all other lab values were just fine, if not extra fine. Not a big deal. I could live hanging around 195 pounds for the rest of my life. Even a bit higher. What’s a little flab on the old obliques when everything else is old, too?

And then my wife changed her eating ways, and of course my grandson and his strict diabetic diet were always on my mind, so I tried to limit my sugar and tone down what sweet tooth I had. I also tended to stay away from those stray carbs that I love, like pizza and breaded chicken. Just cut back a little. If I lost 10 pounds, cool. But I was just trying to eat better. As I said, nothing wrong with 195. Which is where I was in June.

Sure, if I hit what I imagined my ideal weight, 175 pounds, that would be great. But it wasn’t really a goal. The willingness wasn’t exactly there.

The weight dropped anyway, though, because I couldn’t figure out what to replace all those undesirable calories with. Lots of them in ice cream, for example. Haven’t had ice cream in a long time.

And last week was stressful, trouble sleeping, lots of work stuff, and still I stepped on the scale every day. And every day it hung right around 157 or 158 pounds.

If you’re 40 pounds overweight, then dropping it slowly, a pound or so a week on average, sounds like a positive thing. If you’re maybe 10 pounds overweight – and that’s questionable and only a statistic, not real life – then an additional 30 might raise some questions.

Might even involve the word “gaunt.”

So I took it seriously.

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I was relieved, when I asked around, that no one else thought I was gaunt. Only my daughter said, mmm, maybe marginal. If I were a marathoner, no question. But really, I’m just a guy who doesn’t eat enough. Who doesn’t want to be gaunt.

I took the week off, then. I found some favorite foods (well, no ice cream; too sweet now) and indulged. I took it easy, not much exercise. I relaxed, slept great, and feel fantastic. I got a tune-up, maybe.

We all have weight issues, don’t we? Male or female, and particularly as we age. We’re Americans, and we live in a country where calories grow on the shelves of every store. Even hardware stores. It’s crazy.

So you don’t want to hear this. I don’t really want to write it, except for the strangeness of having to watch my weight carefully, having crept close to 300 pounds nearly a decade ago. I want to avoid problems. Vanity is still there, but it’s mostly comfort now, and clothes. Nice to have clothes that fit.

And if gaunt is a problem, I can fix that. Which is probably the most obnoxious thing I could write, out of all of this. Unless you’re one of those chronically lean people that we all secretly hate, you don’t want to hear about a guy who needs to gain some weight.

I gotta tell you, though. It beats the alternative.

And that thing they wanted me to write? It’s coming. Nothing about weight.

Comparison

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The World Turns

Memory has been on a my mind for a long time. I read the latest science and studies, always curious as to what I will remember and, more often, what I won’t. So let’s hear it for oversharing. It helps recall.

In this sense, the oversharing isn’t so much about personal confessions (there are some of those; I’m sort of an expert now) as it is daily trivia, the challenge always being to make it interesting.

If that’s your goal. I have no idea what your goal is, if you choose to expound online in blogs or social media. There are probably a bunch of personal reasons this is important.

As I’ve said before, I’m pretty skeptical about memory. An except from this week’s column:

If we live long enough, we can break memories. Scientists say so.

This doesn’t sound right. Something memorable happens. We tell the story a million times, because we were there and we saw it with our own eyes. A million times.

It turns out, though, that we’ve been telling the story to ourselves, too. And each time we do, we polish it up a little, sand down the edges, tidy up the loose ends, until, sometimes, a memory will get unmoored.

We take it out to look at fondly and suddenly realize it’s become pliable. We can spin it around on its axis, see it from different angles and points of view.

If we’re honest about the whole thing, then, we know that memories manipulated in such a cinematic way aren’t really memories. They might have a basis in truth, and might even be rough approximations of reality, but we can’t promise anything.

Memory gets more important as my personal chronology and demographic status move up. Which is part of the reason I track so many things now, write notes, don’t trust my short- or long-term memory for complete truth.

Truth, or perspective or rationalization or maybe just The Right Path have all been on my mind, too. My truth.

Which is, given my fascination (and theories, totally anecdotal and extrapolated and obviously not particularly scientific, given that this amateur statistical analysis has only a few subjects) with the way my particular generation, or cohort, is dealing with age.

Because age happens. You don’t have to get old (another subject), but no one escapes aging, even the ones who try hard. That said, with the help of all this expanded voyeurism, I see some signs. Most of them not good, at least economically. Jobs are being added at tremendous levels, Washington State was recently labeled the best economy in the country. We didn’t suffer nearly as much as other parts of the country, for reasons we could debate or maybe just luck.

But greed permeates our system, as it always has. The American Revolution wasn’t about tariffs and taxes and noble Enlightenment goals of an egalitarian society; that would come later, pulled from philosophy and Thomas Jefferson’s writing, solidified by Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in the Federalist Papers, mostly written by Hamilton (much better writer), to urge ratification of the Constitution and a turn away from the Articles of Confederation, which was only a start. Better stuff in that document.

No, careful study of early American moves toward independence shows a pretty simple vision: No taxation without representation, but we don’t need representation, we know what we’re doing. Leave us alone to acquire land and wealth. You can’t really stop an idea.

And my cohort, as I’ve said before, got lucky. We escaped the excesses and attitudes of our older Boomer brothers and sisters, spared their overhanging stress about heading toward Southeast Asia and possibly getting killed, and just built on their history and accepted that times they were a changin’.

Baby Boomers. Historically identified as a post-war phenomenon, this huge demographic bump extends from 1946 until 1964, which is unwieldy and encourages us to toss out generalities. Bill Clinton is a baby boomer. So am I, and Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

Bill Clinton is 69, like Bowie and Rickman. So is Cher.

Colbert is 51, Stewart 52. Obama pushing 55. I’m 57. Pick a historical or cultural temporal community to live in, and I’m going on a limb and suggest that these two groups have had radically different experiences.

Another difference: Early boomers, given their headstart, started producing babies in the latter 60s and 1970s. This would be Generation X.

Late boomers, as I, became parents of Millennials, born from the early 1980s up until well into the 1990s, the successor (in a larger way) to the Baby Boomers. They are the biggest generation. Quite possibly the greatest, too; they’re young, and I’m not ruling anything out, but they have to live in the world they were given. Next move is to change it.

And they are very different. I sincerely hope that Hillary Clinton has noticed that she is playing the practiced and skillful presidential candidate and few are excited on the young side, although I imagine she’ll win the nomination. I also imagine she’ll easily win, regardless of the massive flow of Millennials to Bernie Sanders, which I understand but also has a feel of fanboydom, since I’ve been listening to Sanders for years now, long before most people had ever heard his name. Only a disappointing turn-out by this generation could throw a money wrench into her plans.

I still think Clinton (or Sanders) will win, only because the most palatable Republican candidates have no chance, and we’re left with the total assholes (although Trump is running an unusual and possibly masterful campaign; he has his finger on something).

Barring some Clintonesque secrets in the closet, which I really doubt, I trust Mr. Sanders’ integrity. I agree almost totally with his vision of what the country could look like if we were more equal, if all the money wasn’t held by a tiny portion of our population, and they seem none to eager to redistribute.

It’s old news that the highest tax bracket was 90% back in the most prosperous time in our country (the Eisenhower presidency, in the 1950s), possibly equaled or close to the 1990s (Clinton), when the tax rates were lower but bumped a bit. Nowhere near to as close to the 1950 rate, but we’re sort of missing the point.

And the point of that high taxation was not to just rob rich people, many of whom have just worked hard and grown a successful business, or at least picked the right job and took advantage. I wish I had done this. The idea is to encourage successful businesses, faced with extremely high taxes, to plow back their profits into the business. And many of them did, and the middle-class exploded, and besides the high taxes didn’t kick in until after a few millions dollars of annual income. In the 1950s. People were still getting wealthy. There just wasn’t the inequality we see today.

I don’t have a solution. But I know a lot of young people, and I trust they’ll find one. And it may shock you.

reverse_aging

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I Heard The News Today, Oh Boy

In 2007, which appears to be nine years ago, a younger friend urged me to check out Facebook. So I did.

In those innocent days, I allowed FB access to my contact list to see if any of them were also checking it out. And Facebook does what companies will do, we now know, when you give them personal information: They use it.

So the software went ahead without asking and sent friend requests out on my behalf. Not a huge deal in 2007, but annoying. Some of those people I probably wouldn’t have asked. A lot were people I was working with at the time, people who had to spend a lot of time online and so were the perfect recipients, if you brush by the fact that none of us knew anything about what was coming.

On the other hand, some of us had been using the online world as a social interaction substitute for a while. We just didn’t call it social media. Or SM. Or s/m. It gets tricky.

But that was then and this is now. We’re all electronic socialites in 2016; it’s just a matter of degree.

—————

Yesterday was unexpected. I’ve been thinking of it as The Day The Internet Cried or something equally obnoxious.

Because, I think, David Bowie had been around nearly my entire life. Actually my entire life, since he was 11 years older than I am, but Space Oddity came out in 1969 (when I was, in fact, 11). It’s a year that’s been on my mind all week, although for different and not important reasons right now.

I just was unaware of his influence on the next generation. I don’t mind my ignorance; I was joyous in a very sad way that his career and life were so powerfully felt. I just didn’t know and now I do. It was pretty awesome, if again in a sad way.

And part of it probably is that the younger people I know are mostly musicians or other artists, and so it wouldn’t strike me as strange to hear that they grew up in the Bowieverse. I just didn’t know the rest.

—————

So 1969 was the moon landing as well as Space Oddity, and those are not unlinked, but it was personal space I was thinking of, not outer. I was 11 years old, in the sixth grade, and that was the year I went to the Phoenix Coliseum to see the Suns play the Bucks. A group of us (boys) wandered around before the game, and I had the pretty awesome experience of seeing Lew Alcindor, all 7’2” of him, walk right by me. He’d already converted to Islam while in college, and it would be another year before he legally changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he was already special.

So it was that, thinking of celebrity encounters, remembering the same feeling over 20 years later when I’d walk by Ken Griffey, Jr. in the airport. Something about sport celebrities brings out the boy.

Griffey was born in 1969, by the way. On a day Alcindor and the Bucks played the Seattle Supersonics, in fact. One has to work to tie all of this together, you know. It’s not for amateurs.

I faintly remember the music of 1969 (which wouldn’t have included Oddity; it wouldn’t be released in the U.S. for a few years, just the U.K.). It was a weird mixture of novelty and new stuff, with musical theater getting in on the act (e.g., Hair) and one genuine breakout band at least (Creedance Clearwater Revival). Elvis was still around, as were The Beatles, if barely. The Stones, Rolling and of the Sly Family variety, were making music. It was a long time ago.

I think The Carpenters also broke through that year, but I’m too lazy to do the research.

Still, it seems remarkable now that Bowie, at age 22, was already looking forward. And to who was waiting for him. The stars do look different today.

stars

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