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Friday, October 31, 2014

3 Halloween Hates

As this era of change and tolerance sweeps the nation, there are a great many things that I have finally determined are acceptable to disclose about my personal beliefs.  The majority of these liberating revelations have been kept secret owing to my fear of reprisal and reproach – positions unpopular enough to warrant significant negative responses – and, so I kept quiet.  But through my own personal maturation and these more liberal times, I am finally read to reveal the world: I hate Halloween.  That’s right, you heard correctly – this most jovial of holidays, this celebration of costumed shenanigannery, this ode to horror and all things dark – is an occasion for me to go to bed early, turn off my phone and wait for November 1. There is no worse holiday to hate than Halloween. After all, if you hate Christmas, you’re a grinch, or a Scrooge – each quite lovable in their own way.  But hate Halloween?  Well then you an enemy of children and candy and happiness – good luck surviving that PR hit.  But those are times now past and I can finally spend October 31st dressed in grown up clothes and not making any regrettable drinking devisions.  And with my newfound freedom, I’m please to share with you three reasons I hate Halloween.

1.         Save the Women and Children.  I’m just going to come right out and say this – Halloween is a holiday primarily for women and children.  I’m not saying it’s always been that way – so please don’t send me the Wikipedia entry for Halloween (I’ve already read it) – but today’s version is decidedly immature and feminine.  I also realize this view is gender-normative, which I’m not trying to provide as an exclusive worldview, just my own.  But disclaimers notwithstanding, there seems precious few ways (if any) to maintain a measure of dignity and self-respect as a grown man during this most jovial of holidays.  First, the entire exercise is basically one big drunken game of dress up.  This alone might be enough – after all, I was never too keen on costumes, and as the years went on, the enthusiasm for the event seemed mostly generated by the women I knew (save for the men I knew that wanted to see those women dressed up).  But the fact that everyone seems keen to get themselves just a shade past New-Years-Eve-Drunk combined with wearing silly costumes makes it the sort of thing that I’m comfortable skipping.

2.         Vegas-Goggles. Living in Las Vegas gives one a very unique perspective on holidays.  Being the party capital of the world has a way of taking the “family” right out of most traditional “family” celebrations.  It also has a way of making some holiday seems extraordinarily anti-climactic.  It is nearly universally understood that American version of this is a national excuse to dress up in only your underwear and dance around with strangers.  But what the rest of the country calls “Halloween”, we call the “weekend” – or for that matter, Monday through Thursday, as well.  In fact, if there is a center of the dressing inappropriately and acting absent any regular inhibition, I’m living in it.  We don’t need an annual excuse for this sort of thing, we are the national excuse for this sort of thing.  The majority of women who visit Las Vegas have a section of their closet that they devote to clothes that they would only wear (a) on Halloween or (b) in Las Vegas.  As a result, the only reason I used to have to go out on Halloween (to ladies’ least appropriate outfit, thinly veiled as a “costume”) has now been replaced by… well, every Tuesday night. 

3.         The “New” Scary.  I can remember a time when the Thriller video gave me nightmares, and staying up way too late because I was certain that Freddy Krueger was going to kill me in my dreams.  I have always had an affinity for the horror genre – as it is one of the few truly emotionally evocative mediums left – but, the modern day horror movie is about as scary as a Jem and Holograms episode (which, looking back at it now, is a little scarier than it should be).  Most of what used to be truly scary has been replaced by over-the-top hyper-violence or just straight camp.  And the “new scary” doesn’t need darkness, the supernatural or even the macabre for effect – all you really need is the evening news.  We have become so intimately acquainted with fear these days that we’re almost numb to it.  It’s not a stretch to say that everyone is trying to scare us – especially this time of year… when we’re electing people to lead us.  Politicians are trying to scare us into not voting for the other guy (or not voting at all).  The news is trying to scare us into staying home – and watching more news.  Retailers are trying to scare us into buying things we don’t need and most of us are trying to scare each other into doing things we don’t want to do through the eponymous “fear or missing out” or “FOMO”.  I don’t need a holiday to remind me to be scared – I need a holiday from being scared.

* * *

Look, I’m not trying to diminish anyone else’s enjoyment of this popular holiday. After all, I’m enjoying the day off via Nevada Day, which I’m fairly certain was put into place to accommodate the nearly ubiquitous hangover which this city endures this time of year, and I’m (obviously) putting it to good use.  But, for anyone who’s hoping to “FOMO” me into participating – I know exactly what I’m missing, and that’s why I’m missing it.  I don’t need an excuse to act silly, I definitely don’t need to go far to see pretty girls dancing around in their underpants and I am, damn sure, not going to dress up in an “adult costume” just so that the pictures of it can end up as part of the permanent lexicon which constitutes the results of the “Google me” exercise.  As my regular readers can attest to, there is more than enough embarrassing content attached to my name, already.  So, you all have fun tonight.  Wear your costumes, drink too much and find a safe way home.  I’ll have the light off early, my regular clothes on, and will finish the night with exactly the same amount of candy in my place that I started with.  Boo, Humbug.        

Sunday, October 26, 2014

3 Aging Body Betrayals

The great tragedy of aging is the subtlety of the betrayals  Despite the portrayal, in pop culture, of age milestones as instances of sea changes in your body and mind, the reality is far more subversive and slow-moving.  Like any effective betrayal, you simply don’t see it coming.  The person in the mirror always looks familiar – until they don’t anymore.  To make matters worse, your mind is a stubborn and reminiscent bastard.  After all, identity is far more about who were were than who we’re going to be.  And you’re always the last person to realize that you’ve changed.  I expect that at some point in this long and winding road, my mind will give way to some measure of dementia and reduced cognitive capacity – but until that time, the only part of me that’s really fading is my body, and it’s almost worse than if the whole of me was disintegrating.  Because now my mind and body are in constant conflict.  Despite being in the best position to be aware and apprised of each and every physical limitation I have – my mind seems determined to imagine my physical capabilities as they were in my days of wine and cheese – when I was, at least in small measure, a superhero (or so I would have appeared to my adolescent self).  So, as a reminder to myself (because I appear to need it), here are 3 ways in which my body is betraying my mind:

1. Turn and Cough. The vast majority of physical limitations that I’ve experienced have been, at some point, recited to me by comedians, sitcoms or other columnists – but there is one that has come without any warning: the extended battle now involved in coughing. You see, coughing has always been somewhat innocuous to me – I swallow something wrong, drink something too fast or even just a random mix-up between my lungs and my gut – a few coughs later, all is well. But, nowadays, what starts as a small little hiccup becomes a full-blown emphysemic fit that is measured in quarters of hours instead of seconds. Strangers begin by offering water and end up dialing 911 without pressing “Send” – just in case you don’t pull out of it.  Worst of all, you literally have to stop whatever you’re doing and deal with your body seizing up your breathing mechanism – and by “deal with” I mean endure it helplessly and try to avoid eye contact with strangers.  I have fairly good cardio-vascular health, running 2 miles a day around 4 days a week, but nevertheless, I appear to have the esophageal health of an eighty-year-old man.  I’m scared to think what coughing will look like when I’m 60.

2.  The Morning After Pills.  There was a time when I was convinced that a good night’s sleep could cure almost any ailment.  And I was convinced of this because it was true.  I would go to bed with injuries, illnesses or just feeling a bit off and wake up like I was Clark Kent watching a Metropolis sunrise.  These days I have a strong suspicion that not only am I sleepwalking, but that I’m sleeping into the local Fight Club (please forgive my violation of Rules 1 & 2 if this is the case). This is only slightly more plausible than my original theory that someone was sneaking into my bedroom at night and kicking my ass while I sleep.  Why all this pugilistic paranoia?  Well, I’ve started waking up to a Russian Roulette of sports injuries that simply don’t have any other explanation – and I’ve now got a bottle of anti-inflammatory that I can rightfully consider a fifth food group.  I remember watching television commercials for these types of over-the-counter medications, and wondering why anyone would need to take them every day. Now I just wonder why they haven’t figured out a way to get them into my my morning coffee (can you hear me, Starbucks?).

3. Sweet Little Lies.   I’ve always felt that an essential element of anything you can rightfully call a “lie” is intent.  After all, if you didn’t mean to misinform someone, at worst you’re reckless and the real explanation is likely far less sinister.  As a result, I don’t like to think of they way my mind talks to my body as “lying” – just very well-intentioned misstating.  You see, my body is keenly aware of its current limitations – and as a testament to the wonder of this biological machine, keeps finding brilliant ways to work around them.  My mind, on the other hand, had no idea that my body has changed from say around the turn of the century (no, smartasses, the 21st century).  If I have it in my mind to run or jump, my mind sends the exact same signals to my muscles that it did fifteen years ago – expecting similar results.  Needless to say, while I am very much still capable of running and jumping, I now understand why recreational sports leagues have “age groups” and exactly why pro athletes in their 40s are rare and wondrous beings.  That said, I’m happy to weather a little disappointment if it means not “acting my age” – because I’d rather be carried off the proverbial field for the last time than to slowly skulk into the crowd.

* * *

In the years to come, I suspect that my legs will slow, my arms will shrink and my joints will begin to have more in common with an old house than a powerful engine, but that’s completely ok with me.  Like an old home, my bumps and bruises tell a story than I’m nearly incapable of telling myself, even with my most well-considered prose.  It tells of my triumphs and my defeats, my good decisions and my bad ones.  It is a story of self-destruction, but in the most beautiful and meaningful ways.  Just like the old saw told to encourage people not just to save for savings sake, you similarly don’t get to take your body with you when you “go” and you should similarly endeavor to use it in the best possible ways.  My youth may be gone, but it surely isn’t the past.  My body tells a story – one where I didn’t take shortcuts and how I did the very best with what I was given – stories of which I am immensely proud.  It tells of chances taken and failures endured.  But most importantly, it tells the most important story about me – that then, as now, I’m far too stubborn to listen to my body tell my mind what we can’t do – and that had made all the difference.