Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thinking of Childhood and Old Age

When I think of my childhood, the first thing that comes to mind are the trips my family and I took. We would all pack into the car and take off. My dad was in charge of the driving and the music selection. The soundtrack of our road trips were mostly full of Billy Joel and Harry Chapin.

Years later, I filled my iPod with my own music, music that I like and music that I want to hear while I'm driving. But somehow Mr. Joel's and Mr. Chapin's tunes ended up in the mix. When their songs pop up on my drive, I am immediately brought back to my youth. I always sat directly behind my mom in the car and all four of us sang along to the songs... I don't think we would have ever made it to our destinations alive without those songs.

This morning one of those Harry Chapin songs came on while I was on my morning commute. Here is just a small section of the song that I heard:

"When I started this song I was still thirty-three
The age that Mozart died and sweet Jesus was set free
Keats and Shelley too soon finished, Charley Parker would be
And I fantasized some tragedy'd be soon curtailing me

Well just today I had my birthday -- I made it thirty-four
Mere mortal, not immortal, not star-crossed anymore
I've got this problem with my aging I no longer can ignore
A tame and toothless tabby can't produce a lion's roar...
I am the aged jester -- who won't gracefully retire
A clumsy clown without a net caught staggering on the high wire..."

I always thought Chapin was so much older than that. I figured he was a LOT older than 33 or 34. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I was 9 or 10 when I listened to these songs in the backseat of my parents' car and I knew Harry Chapin was already dead. People only die when their old, right?

The other thing that struck me this morning was the fact that he was MY AGE when he wrote this song. "I've got this problem with my aging that I can't ignore anymore..." He was writing about the fact that he was feeling his old-age creep up on him. He writes, "mere mortal, not immortal... am I the aged jester who won't gracefully retire?" And of course he's a singer/songwriter and I'm a teacher, but still, he is feeling the same kinds of things I'm feeling. I am no longer that bullet-proof teenager. No one is paying attention to me. I'm an old man.

Of course I'm not an old man, but I feel like an old man. I look back at who I used to be and I feel like the old guys I used to make fun of. I'll never be that lame! But yet here I am waking up before the sun, putting a shirt and tie on and dealing with rush-hour traffic. I swore I'd never do any of those things!

Harry Chapin continues a few verses later:

"And as I wander with my music through the jungles of despair
My kid will learn guitar and find his street corner somewhere
There he'll make the silence listen to the dream behind the voice
And show his minstrel Hamlet daddy that there only was one choice

Strum your guitar -- sing it kid
Just write about your feelings -- not the things you never did
Inexperience -- it once had cursed me
But your youth is no handicap -- it's what makes you thirsty, hey kid."

That last line got me: "youth... [is] what makes you thirsty..." Goddamn it. I have to hear those words while merging onto the highway?? Seriously? C'mon Mr. Chapin! What are you trying to do to me today? It's bad enough you have to mention a son (or daughter?) that is following in your footsteps. A child that will allow you to re-live your youth vicariously, but then you bring up the fact that youth isn't a handicap! Does that mean aging is a handicap? Now I feel even older than I am. Now I feel as if my youth has passed me by. Now I feel like I might as well go into an open field, curl up in a ball and just fade away. I want to still be thirsty!

Were these the thoughts that were going through my dad's mind as he drove us to our spring vacation destination? Probably not. He had two kids sitting in his backseat singing along with him. He had a job that afforded him the opportunity to take his entire family on a two week vacation every year. His wife was sitting next to him and putting up with him and loving him. And my brother and I followed in his footsteps (to an extent). We both still listen to those songs from our childhood. We both belt them out when they come on. And as much as I love these songs, they make me sad. I miss being that kid in the backseat. I miss being with my family and being free. I miss being thirsty.

I still want to be thirsty.

Monday, July 18, 2011

In the Lobby of a Theater

I was at a musical in Lockport on Saturday and I saw a kid who used to come in to Caffe Aroma when I worked there. We'll call him Randy. He worked at a local sub shop and he would trade us fries and chicken finger subs for large lattes. He used to have a crush on one of my co-workers and she kind of had a crush on him. Until she went out on a date with him.

He came up to me and asked how I was and what I was doing now that I wasn't at the caffe anymore and then I made the mistake of asking him what he has been up to:

Oh, well, you know I was into Martial Arts right? Well I was working at a studio in North Buffalo and I was on top of the world... everything was great, I was making money and feeling good and then I relapsed. I don't know why, but I did and with what I was into it takes a lot to come back from it, so I told the guy who was in charge of the karate studio and he fired me. Then I relapsed a few more times and got kicked out of my house and... so, yeah. But I've been clean for 5 months now, which is something, I guess?


Why do people feel the need to tell their ENTIRE LIFE STORY (especially when their life story is so horrible) to people in the lobby of a theater in Lockport? I felt so uncomfortable. How do you respond to that?

"Oh, well... at least you're clean"?
"That sucks dude. So do you go to the caffe anymore?"?


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

I haven't written a blog post in about a week.

Have you even noticed? Probably not. No one notices these little small-time blogs. Even my own wife hasn't noticed that it's been a while since I've written. But she's busy. Too busy to pay attention to some ramblings that I've typed up and posted on this site. Even posting the link to a blog post on twitter won't make a difference to most people.

No one cares about what you have to say, chaz.

Yeah, I know. But maybe people are too busy to read every little angst-ridden post that I write. I know I've been pretty busy myself. I started this blog at the beginning of 2011. I told myself I would write every day. I started out strong, but then things get in the way. I started a job. I took a couple classes at the local state school. I started getting lazy. And now that the summer is here, I don't even have time to relax, let alone write a blog post. The weekends get filled up pretty fast during the summer.

I am working full time and working on a theater production of "Hairspray" and possibly helping out with another theater production that is part of the Infringement Festival. I am also trying to sift through all of the books I own to see if I really need to own them all still. I'm thinking that a used bookstore might be able to use them more than me. I am trying really hard to get rid of all the junk in my life. But it's friggin' hard.

I have written over a dozen blog posts in my head over the past month or so that I never had the chance to type up or post. I had two blog post ideas after going to dinner at Merge and listening to a woman perform on stage as we ate. But that was the third week of June. SO MUCH has happened since then that I don't even remember what I was going to write about.

So you're busy. I understand busy. It's okay. I get it. Don't mind me. I'll just be sitting here waiting for you to catch up.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Memories and Chronic Nostalgia. Again.

All it took was three pictures posted on facebook and my mind went immediately back to that place and that time. I was a teenager. I was in high school. I was loving life and I was indestructible.

I've thought about the girl who posted the pictures off and on the past seventeen or so years, especially when the movie "Jurassic Park" comes on. We went to see it together when she was visiting her cousin about seventeen or so years ago.

Wow. Has it been that long? It doesn't feel that long ago. Although the person in those three pictures that is supposed to be me does look like a stranger.

Maybe not a stranger as much as someone I used to know.

I met this girl at a picnic. We swam together in Lake Erie. She came over to my house for a pool party with some of my friends. She beat me in basketball in the driveway. We went on a double date to the movies. We both fell asleep about half-way through the movie. And then she was gone. I wrote her a couple letters after she went back home, but I don't remember ever hearing back from her. Maybe she just wanted our time together to just be a summer fling. Or maybe I wrote her address wrong on the envelope.Whatever the reason, I haven't seen her since that summer. In person.

That's one of the reasons I love and hate facebook all at the same time. I get to reconnect with long lost friends, but I also get to see people that I have sad or bad or upsetting memories of. There's a lot of "what if..?" memories on my facebook.

But when I saw those pictures, I remembered her touch and her smell and what I wore when I first met her.
Chronic Nostalgia will do that to you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Leaving Town

So I'm getting ready to leave Pennsylvania and head back home. This weekend always goes by so quick. I woke up early and took a walk around Dayton, taking one more look at this town.

Dayton is the typical small farm town: the service station also sells fish bait. The corner grocery shop always has hot coffee available for ten cents (if you have it). The feed mill has everything you may need from grain for your horses to seed for your birds. And of course you never know if the old woman on the porch is silently judging you or actually happy to see you drive past.

Just outside of town is a fairly large Amish community, so we get a lot of horse and buggies coming through town. There's a love-hate relationship between the Amish and the citizens of Dayton. An Amish will work for cheaper so on one side you may get the addition put on your house for less than you expected, but Amish also take jobs away from other folks because non-Amish can't afford to survive on so low a wage.

I went and talked with friends of my cousin who were changing the oil in a tractor and pouring the sludgy dirty oil that was draining out of the rig onto a bonfire. The flames would shoot up and get hotter and brighter as they gave us the latest gossip about a few of the notorious people in town. They had plenty of almost cold canned beer to share, no questions asked.

The up-side to everyone knowing everyone in a small town like this is that just about anyone and everyone is willing to help you out if you need help. I have a hard enough time letting the car behind me let me parallel park in front of him on Elmwood Ave, let alone give me a ride to get groceries.

Is life better not knowing our neighbors? Is it better that we don't wave to each other as we pass by? Are we happier being so disconnected from everyone?
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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reunion Evening Surprise

It was a reunion just like the rest. We met at the hall and visited and waited for the late-comers and then we ate. We gossiped and chatted and laughed. We had pulled pork and baked chicken and hobo beans.

Like I said, it was a usual reunion day. After the reunion was over my cousin and I stopped at a bar to pick up beer. The laws in Pennsylvania do not allow you to buy beer at every corner store. Bars and beer distributors only. Any one is only permitted to carry out twelve beers at a time. Needless to say we made a couple trips in and out.

We went back to my cousin's house and we had a fire. We cooked hot dogs and s'mores. The kids caught fire flies. We gossiped and we laughed and the oldsters told stories of when they were younger. It was a great night.

Then, just as I fell asleep, there was a stir upstairs. Then a rapid knock. And then I heard my cousin Missy's husband say, "Mary? I think we need to go to the hospital!" Mary grabbed the appropriate supplies and the three of them headed out the door.

Missy's due date was a week ago and she was hoping that the baby would let her go to both of the reunions. She was hoping that baby would stay in her belly forever.

She had the baby five minutes after waddling into the hospital.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rural Valley

I was told that RV was both The Hood and The Sticks. To me it's neither, well maybe a bit of the latter.

Rural Valley doesn't feel like a town or a village, it feels more like a hamlet that was never finished. It's just one road that twists and curves its way along a small creek and parallel (on the most part) to route 85. There's a church and a fire station and a bank. There's a hardware store and a diner that's open for breakfast and a bed & breakfast that's been for sale for ten years.

There's no competition here. No one is going to try and open up another hardware store in Rural Valley. There's no need. And the bars are spread out just enough that they act as miniature versions of school districts: You go to the bar you can walk to. If you decide to try another bar, you'll probably end up getting in a fight or some kind of trouble.

That's just the way it is in RV.

Sitting on the stoop outside the firehall on a Friday evening provides a fairly entertaining time. First of all, you don't want anyone to see you drinking beer. It's not permitted at the fire hall. So pour it in an empty can of Mountain Dew or something. You'll see groups of girls fly by in Jeeps or trucks on their way to Charlie's, the pizza joint that also serves as the only bar in town for the "younger" (21-27 year old) crowd. You'll see lots of guys go by on Harleys and sports cars not really going anywhere, but they drive to be seen. Everyone you see will give you a wave. And you wave back, because it helps you fit it. You wave back because it makes you feel like you're a part of this place. You wave back because that's what people do down here and if you don't, everyone will know you're just visiting.

And Rural Valley doesn't take kindly to visitors.
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