One day recently I wandered, as usual, into a time warp and met 2004 me for coffee. He was happy to see that I still drink coffee so compulsively. He reminded me of what life was like back then, with all its good and bad news. I told him about what was up ahead of him. He was happy to see that I’m still a lay Carmelite. I tried to explain to him that I still have all the same staunchly conservative ideas now as then, but that by now, they’re more fully developed. I gave him the impression that turning fifty didn’t seem to carry with it any major milestones, that the passage of time would, in many ways, leave me neither in better nor worse shape. I explained to him that both my parents died last year and that that left me with quite a few major irrevocable changes in my circumstances. Having lived for much of the past decade in northeastern Pennsylvania gave me some insights into what life in a radically different environment was like. The internet, of course, was quite a major topic of conversation. My younger persona was quite happy to hear of all the advances that were to transpire during the time between then and now. He got a kick out of all the things people have been doing with sites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and all the others. He was so happy to know that I’ve been able to keep in touch with all my oldest friends from school for so long. Most certainly, he was quite disgusted when I told him about everyone’s having a cell phone these days. He reminded me of the days when my cousins and I were on the Knights of Columbus’ bowling league, with the Wantagh council and recommended that I get involved in something like that again. He also reminded me that since my anxiety, temper and migraines have mostly subsided into virtual obsolescence, I should by now be hepper than ever.
Although I understand that it’s not such a good idea to play games with reality, If I could have a choice between slowing down an event that passes by too fast, or speeding up something that goes by too slowly, I should very much rather speed up the slow circumstances. Things tend to pass exceptionally slowly when they’re difficult to accept. Boring tasks, illness, pain and fear are all quite notorious for lingering. By speeding things up somewhat under those circumstances, even though painful things would still hurt, and difficult circumstances wouldn’t get any easier, at least I could count on their seeming not to linger to such an unbearable degree. It might be nice to let all the enjoyable things feel as if they last forever , but since I’d only be able to make one such change, the smarter one would be the one that would reduce tension and frustration.
Over the course of my lifetime I’ve always been a bit of a square, never trusting the new and unknown. I usually tell people that it all started around my twelfth birthday when I was forced to move to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights. That was my first confrontation with significant change. I’ve always been resistant to change though. The Beatles have been my favorite band for as long as I can even remember. I have always astonished people with my lack of interest in new pop cultural milestones. Politics, of course, is entirely too important a priority to allow novelty to become a significant factor. I’ve always seriously suspected that the most controlling people use the supposed need for change-always, conveniently, change of their choosing-as a way of winning people over to their side. I’m quite happy the way I am and see no need to be on the vanguard of a new experience. It doesn’t pay to bother to go too crazy for new experiences. Everything new and fresh inevitably soon becomes old and stale anyway. If someone becomes too attached to the new for its own sake, he then goes through his lifetime perpetually frustrated.
I think I’ve always been somewhat good at accepting negative criticism, though my patience has its limits. Unfortunately if someone confronts me with something that strikes me as exceptionally difficult to handle I tend to feel quite self conscious and to resist the need to attempt to get things straightened out. My lifelong resistance to difficult change has always worked against me. Brutal honesty is objectively much more important than taking entirely too tactful an approach to things. The older I get the more capable I am of dealing with negative criticism as long as it’s fair. I virtually always assume that the complaints I get are based upon an entirely neutral objective assessment of the circumstances. I try always to treat others entirely appropriately. In return I also fully expect to be treated the same way. Although there are all sorts of things happening inside me that seem desperately to want to prevent the free and unfettered acceptance of negative feedback, I can understand that it’s an unavoidably necessary part of getting things done. Alas all reproofs can’t be gentle for fear of hurt feelings. When it’s legitimate it must never be understood as an ad hominem attack. I just try always to suck it up and to get it over with.
I’ve always enjoyed exceptionally warm weather and dreaded the several months of the year when it’s cold. Autumn is, to a certain extent, quite an exceptionally nice experience for me though. At first, when all the leaves start changing colors and orange and black seem to be everywhere, it’s such a fine feeling. I have many decades’ worth of nice memories of Halloween, especially when I was a kid, and Thanksgiving, most significantly when I used always to spend it with cousins in western New York. I remember during my very young days, as far back as Jackson Heights, the weather on Halloween was usually so bitter cold that I was forced to explain to people that somewhere under my fifty layers of heavy clothes was a costume, and that I really was dressed as either the Green Hornet or some other then-current character. Thanksgiving in North Tonawanda, during the 1980’s, was also frequently bitter cold. November can often be exceptionally rainy. Once the full brunt of autumn settles in, though, it then becomes quite a seriously nasty depressing time for me. The miserable weather and dark gloomy atmosphere have always struck me as exceptionally frustrating, and are also quite an intense metaphor, for me, of the dark side of life. My mother died during the last week of September and my father died during the first week of November so that adds yet another dark property to the fall. When I was a kid autumn brought with it the beginning of the school year, that was always welcome, but as an adult I can count on no such milestone to keep things interesting. Walt Whitman’s poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” from “Leaves Of Grass”, specifically references the ninth month as a symbol of birth. September, the ninth month, is when fall begins. For me it represents all the good and bad that life has to give. Change has never been easy for me. The positive and negative aspects of fall perfectly reflect the good and bad things in life.
If I were ever to receive the ability to foretell the future, on the condition that each time I use it I shall lose an entire day of my life, I might just as well take advantage of it. Of course considering how intense the consequences of my actions would be I should only be willing to employ it under absolutely the direst of all possible circumstances. Since no one can possibly foretell the day of his death anyway, I should take quite a casual attitude toward that provision of the deal. Exactly how could such a thing possibly be put into practice? It would be understandable if I could say with certitude that I’m going to die on some certain specific day. Then I could simply subtract a day from that and be ready for it. Who could possibly be in charge of calculating such an obscure thing? First and foremost I should have to predict the day of my death. Would that be possible? If that’s not one of the things I could foresee then the rest is just irrelevant. Of course there’s also the question of the moral ramifications of such a thing. Wouldn’t that be cheating? The future is hidden from mankind for a very good reason. Why should I try to tamper with it? All sorts of questions of the true nature of freedom would come into play. Unlike the liberal totalitarians I should very much let reality take its course. Every time someone opens Pandora’s box it leads to nothing but extremely big trouble with irrevocable consequences.
When I was still only a youngster, still obligated to go to school, I’d always so thoroughly enjoyed it. Although, of course, it meant having to put a stop to all the uninterrupted enjoyment of summer, going back to school in September was always quite an interesting experience. The only time I truly let it bother me a little was at the beginning of the seventh grade, when, having moved from Jackson Heights to Lindenhurst, I was forced to spend two weeks in Copiague Junior High School, after which I went to O.L.P.H. in Lindenhurst for the rest of my time in grammar school. That was only because they were both new to me. Now that I’m an adult man, my feelings toward the end of the summer each year ultimately amount to mere passive resignation. Imo’ve always been quite smitten with symbolism and autumn and winter always abound with it. The last few months of each year always bring with them cold weather and dark gloomy skies. For a while autumn is quite nice. I’ve always quite enjoyed Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was especially nice when I was in the habit of visiting my cousins in North Tonawanda. Eventually, though, the last few months of the year turn into a seemingly endless succession of mandatory concessions to all sorts of inevitable trouble. My mother died last September and my father died last November so from now on those times will also have quite a particularly sad twist to them.
If I were to wake up tomorrow morning and to find out that I have somehow aged a decade from out of nowhere, I should have to start making some very significant changes to my approach to health care. The older someone gets the more careful he has to be about all matters relating his diet and exercise. The grey hair and wrinkles will force me into quite a major adjustment too. I shall also have to take a closer look at the reality of death because the more time that passes by the closer the ultimate moment of truth inevitably gets. Assuming this odd stroke of fate will have happened to me, I should be forced to make up quite an interesting story to explain it all to my contemporaries. Maybe I could even start wearing old-man clothes and affecting old-man speech patterns, habits and mannerisms. Since no real time will have lapsed, I shall have missed out on an entire decade’s worth of stories to tell and experiences to capitalize on. Knowing my imagination, with its tendency to go into all sorts of offbeat directions, I shall have quite a time pondering all the wild twists and turns that I shall be subjected to. Since, throughout my lifetime, I’ve always been so knowledgeable about the 1960’s I could take advantage of the twist of fate by blending in with people who are a decade older than I. It would be quite an interesting experience to be able to see who notices that there is something awfully wrong with my particular circumstances. Because of my advanced years I could feel quite free to make inappropriate remarks, to engage in inappropriate behavior and to flirt with really pretty young girls. So far I still get into quite an awful lot of trouble for things like that, but since I’ll be so old everyone will be happy to humor the harmless old guy.
Unfortunately I didn’t respond to the prompt that asked what day 211 would be like. My parents both died last autumn so I’ve been subjected to quite a few very significant changes this year. It’s turned out to be quite a nice uneventful year for me though in most respects. I’ve been having quite a nice time getting used to life in Long Beach. Nothing has gone especially wrong for me. I’ve always had a hard time adjusting to change anyway. I’ve been meeting new people here and figuring out how to find my way around. The people at St. Mary of the Isle and the nearby Coffee Nut Cafe have been getting used to having me around by now. It gets me quite crazy but I’ve been able to handle it. Sometimes I go to the beach or at least walk toward its general direction. I make sure I go to Mass most days during the week. I can’t stand cold weather here but I can’t stand cold weather in general anyway. Now that it’s warm and sunny out I’ve truly been having the time of my life. My feet hurt quite a lot though so I have one very minor complaint that seems not to have any kind of a solution.