It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was a youngster. Now that I have all sorts of Facebook friends from as far back as my days in Jackson Heights, even before my teens, I’m constantly reminded that even my very earliest days seem quite recent in my memory. I also spend quite a lot of time with my niece and nephews. Bridget recently turned seventeen, Sam recently turned twenty one and Michael will be twenty six next month. That strikes me as quite an eye opener. It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was that young. I don’t really mind the passage of time and can even get used to the kids’ constantly rubbing it in. Perhaps you could say I tend passively to ignore how old I really am. A few years ago I told my parents that I could understand that twenty years was a long time, but that I couldn’t understand that the 1990′s were a long time ago, even though we were living in the 1990′s twenty years ago. Thanks to my lifelong obsession with the humanities. I understand well that time is divided into both objective time and subjective duration. Man has to deal, in one way or another, with units of time ranging from Grateful Dead time to the New York minute, depending upon his circumstances. I still think of myself as being young, though I realize quite well that it’s now a crock. All I have to do is to meet a former classmate or teacher of mine, or anyone else I knew a significantly long time ago. My appearance has changed, though I’m still recognizably the same as I was in days of yore. I sort of live in the past in certain ways. I should like to think that I shall soon be quite a very interesting old timer, the kind who knows how to tell legitimate stories about the past, and to compare and to contrast then and now, but not in a creepy way. It’s all a question of facing up to the inevitable. I’ve never liked that as-young-as-you-feel crap. I’ve also never been able to stand when characters such as Willard Scott refer to fans of his as a hundred and four years young, or anything like that. When someone pretends that old people can be young in some way he denies the legitimate goodness, beauty and worthiness of both age and youth. When that happens no one wins and everyone loses.
So far I’ve only been to eleven of the fifty states in this country. I have seen New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Illinois and Michigan. If I could have my way I should like to see the other thirty nine. There are so many exceptionally interesting sights to see in this country. Assuming that money and time are not obstacles I could put my G.P.S. into my car, set it for whatever destinations life may have in store for me, and keep right on traveling. I could visit my cousin Vinnie in North Carolina and my cousin the Ronald in the State of Washington. Since I should have to get to everyplace by way of a car, I should have to miss out on only Hawaii. Unfortunately I’ve always dreaded cold weather, so I’d better plan on spending as much time as possible in the warmer states, reserving all those cold climates for times of the year during which they can be the least damaging to my well being and sanity. If it doesn’t have to be entirely land based-assuming I’d be allowed to fly a bit first in order to get started-then I should like to see Hawaii and Europe. I’ve always wanted to see all the historical hot spots over in Europe. The Carmelites have quite a history over there, especially in France, Italy, Spain and Ireland. The United States’ history only goes back to the seventeenth century. Europe’s history, though, goes way back to much earlier times. I’ve always been quite smitten with the early days of western culture and civilization. As everyone knows, western civilization is far superior to any other. By finding out about all its roots, at their very source, I could have quite an exceptionally interesting time and satisfy my intellectual curiosity.
I haven’t had a best friend since I was a kid. When I was a kid in Jackson Heights my best friend was Earl. Then when we first moved to Lindenhurst, around the time I turned twelve years old, my best friend was Jimmy. His family moved eventually so that left me without a best friend permanently. They’re both now on my Facebook friend list. Each one has a birthday on Halloween. It’s a very nice idea for someone to be able to have a friend whom he can always count upon, and whom he can even refer to specifically as his very best friend. I’ve never liked the idea of a BFF though, not because I don’t think someone should have a best friend. It’s simply because I consider it quite a seriously annoying trite catch phrase. Maybe the reason for my not having a best friend in so extremely long a time is that I’ve always been entirely too distinctive a character to qualify for one. A best friend is quite an interesting character. It would be nice if each of us could count on someone to play Norton to his Ralph, or Oscar to his Felix. I know I don’t lack a best friend because of a deliberate decision. It’s merely dumb luck that has dealt me such an unfortunate blow.
Although Julius, after having worked at the Susquehanna Hat Company for more than fifteen years, was already accustomed to their annual business trips in Wilkes Barre, they were still always quite an annoying chore for him. Early on Saturday morning he got up so he could have the easiest possible time making the three hour long drive through Routes 80, 115 and 81. Having gotten to his hotel room on Route 315 a bit early, he thought he’d take a joy ride through River Road and enjoy the local scenery. When he got to the small borough of Hilldale, he couldn’t help noticing an inexplicably enchanting small candy store on one of the side streets. Once he went inside he met Lydia and Delfina, the two eccentric old sisters who ran the establishment. At first they just struck him as nothing more than a couple of entirely harmless spinsters, perhaps relics of a bygone era. Somehow, though, the pair ended up having quite an enduring impact upon him. Their speech, mannerisms, and attire were like nothing he’d ever before seen or heard of. The atmosphere of the store was evocative of some long-ago, faraway land. Eventually he went home to Lindenhurst. Thursday, his first day home, found him significantly more tired and moody than anyone could have possibly predicted. There was something very different about him after the long business trip. Ethel, his girlfriend, and Ralph, his best friend, tried to talk to him but neither could figure him out. He explained that the work-related meetings he was supposed to attend went exactly as normally and typically as he could have expected. There was simply something unbelievable about those oddball sisters though. Since his having arrived home, he couldn’t stop thinking of them day and night, often staring helplessly at some faraway fixed point in space. He would often break out in an icy cold sweat for no known reason. “Hey Ethel,” asked Ralph, “You don’t believe in any such a thing as a gypsy curse, do you?” She just rolled her eyes, unable to figure anything out. It took them quite a few weeks to help him recuperate from his traumatic experience. Since then they’ve all been understandably terrified even to presume to talk about it.
It’s always been quite so very easy for anyone, after he’s gotten to know me for only an extremely short time, to figure out that my taste in all things pop cultural are old. My niece and nephews are quite young, though, so thanks to them, it is my lot in life to be constantly bombarded with all manner of references to current developments on the musical scene. I don’t ever bother to pay enough attention to any of their songs, though, to be able to recognize any of them as the definitive song of the summer of 2014. As everyone knows, the Beatles, and the music of the 1960′s in general, have always been been my very favorites. Having been born in 1959, I’m too young for that era, but living vicariously has always struck me as quite a really hep way to go. This summer I have really going on quite a Yardbirds binge. People my age usually think of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck as soloists, and Jimmy Page as part of Led Zeppelin. During the 1960′s, though, each of them got a turn as a member of this really important blues band. Unfortunately I have no idea of how to narrow my choice down to any one and only specific song of theirs that embodies this summer for me. I’ve been listening to so many real classics. I’ve ended up picking on “Never Mind”. It’s always been a favorite of mine. Musically I’m spending this summer as I’ve spent all my lifetime, dwelling on the really hep stuff and keeping an irrevocably bygone era alive. I should hope that two decades from now, I can still handle it all.
When I was a kid all I knew about being an adult was that adults go to work instead of school and that most of them are married with children. That’s the general rule. Of course jobs are hard to find. I’ve never been lucky enough to meet a nice girl and get married so naturally I have no kids. Being an adult means no one makes any excuses for me anymore. That’s not entirely true though. Occasionally someone will try to humor me a bit but it’s always with the assumption that it’s officially not supposed to be that way. People indulge the very young because a kid is still a work in progress. As a kid, even though I never have liked change, I could always count on being more capable of dealing with it. The older someone gets, though, the more deeply ingrained all his habits become inevitably. The average kid may think he gets to have significantly fewer restrictions on his behavior once he’s grown up. Unfortunately the rules, for an adult’s life, are still in force. They’re just different. Adult life is no better or worse than being a kid. I should like to think I have a bit more maturity and somewhat more of a sense of responsibility because of all the experiences I’ve been subjected to over the years. Unlike my young days, I can no longer be fooled into thinking I can trust someone if I can’t really trust him. I know understand that liberalism is absolutely and without question mankind’s single ultimate evil. Little did I know, as a kid, that this would turn out to be so important a problem. There are quite a lot of distinctions between young me and adult me. It’s like what Dostoyevsky referred to as having eaten the apple. There’s never any possibility of turning back. I have quite a different understanding now of the passage of time than I did back then. My physical appearance hasn’t changed significantly. Everyone I knew in my very early days still recognizes me when he sees me for the first time as an adult. I should like to think my general personality and outlook on life have undergone the same kinds of changes. There’s a lot more mandatory self-regulation now, and I don’t necessarily get too much of it right. Crying still happens occasionally. Coffee and liquor are quite enjoyable. Those are drinks that are symbolic rites of passage into adulthood. I still read kids’ stories but I now understand the point of them. There’s even a C.S. Lewis line about how no kids’ story is really good unless it’s good for adults too. Adulthood is filled with disillusionment, disappointment, pain and dull ordinary chores and realities. It must serve some kind of a purpose though because it happens, at least chronologically, to one and all who remain among the living long enough.
Mabel and Harriet were out of town for the weekend so Mitt and Keef took advantage by visiting their favorite Oriental restaurant. It was pure torture for their cholesterol but it was their only weakness. “The ladies had better not find out,” Mitt sighed. “Ooh hubba hubba, the elixir of happy happy joy joy!” Keef exclaimed, ogling the mustards and sauces. They knew they were headed for trouble but couldn’t resist. Hey you may be too good for the fork people,” the owner told them, “but at least they know when to stop pushing their luck.”
Mitt and Keef are the oldest and very best of friends. They’ve known each other since they were little kids in Lindenhurst, even before they were old enough to be in school. Over the course of their virtually lifelong friendship, they’ve had all sorts of adventures together, both good and bad. They’re now middle aged husbands, and fathers of teenagers. One Friday night their wives, Mabel and Harriet, nagged them into going to bed extra early so they could get up before sunrise the next morning to weed their gardens. Bright and early on Saturday they went outside to get started on their assigned chore. A couple of hours had passed quietly without any notable incident in Keef’s yard. Eventually they got to Mitt’s yard. After about fifteen minutes Keef stumbled upon quite a find. It was an obviously old key, made in some obscure anachronistic style. Eventually they went inside Mitt’s house and casually mentioned it to their dumbfounded wives. Mabel’s jaw dropped in amazement. Little did they know how truly distinctive a find this was. She was quite knowledgeable about antiques, having grown up with them. The key he found while weeding in the garden was clearly an antique. They all knew quite well that neither couple could possibly afford such an obscenely expensive luxury. They assumed that someone must have somehow dropped it there. Perhaps a visiting friend or neighbor was the victim of some mistake. After quite a lot of entirely harmless daydreaming, the dumbfounded foursome came to a decision. They understood quite well that they couldn’t keep it. They asked friends about it and were quite careful to put ads into the South Bay and Penny Saver, the local newspapers, trying to find its lawful owner. Of course they all whined incessantly, ruing the ultimate moment of truth when they would have to part permanently with this mysteriously enchanting artifact . It seemed somehow to have possessed quite an overwhelming charm for them. If nothing else it was a major change of pace for the quartet, considering how uneventful their circumstances usually were. Every time a phone rang, they cringed, knowing that it was only a matter of time before their distinctive adventure would inevitably have to pass. Eventually the key’s rightful owner showed up. He was a friend who had absent mindedly dropped it at a recent party one night a few weeks before. At least now that the suspense was all over, they could all calm down and relax. For a short time they lived vicariously in a world of adventure and luxury. Once it all ended, though, it would be time for yet another succession of dull ordinary mundane chores.