Friday, 25 July 2014

Getting Any Younger...

Hello Friends.

There's a funny quirk with two gay bars in this city, which is that one sits on top of the other. The top has a bigger bar, pool tables, places to sit, and tv screens projecting images of hot dudes. The bottom features a dance floor, a smaller bar, dance music, and real-life hot dudes. In terms of which bar attracts which crowd, the tops are older, the bottoms younger (and if there's a joke there, I don't know what it is).

I bring up this homosexual geography because I visited these two bars in one the other weekend preferred the ease of the top to the pain of the bottom. The top bar has an ATM and so required a cursory visit, where I was approached by two (2!) older men on two occasions and complimented! One of them said, "Don't listen to what anyone says, I think you have a nice body!" in a compliment so expertly backhanded he should play in Wimbledon. Once I got to the bottom, though, with its dancefloor, poor lighting, and young clientele, I was completely ignored. One guy did say, "Hey hon?" but then added, "You need to move, you're blocking the bar." Blocking the bar. Like I'm a beached whale. Like walking around  me to get to the bar would require a GPS and a tranquilizer gun.

The point is, though the compliments were nice, I felt too young to be among the older gays, yet I also felt way too old to be with the 18 year olds (18 is the drinking age here) that populated the dancefloor. Really, I suppose I should have taken up residency on the stairs or something, but the point is moot since I don't go to any bars very often anyway and was only there this particular night because a celebration at a friend's house moved to the bar.

I have no desire to be any younger than I presently am. If you're only as old as you feel, I've been a divorced father of two since I was 17. But sometimes I wonder if I'm not shuffling too quickly toward the retirement home.

Dream: Stop acting my age.

Goal: Unachievable. I talked about this a few weeks ago and took the opposite point of view, which is probably the correct one. I'm a big boy now with big boy responsibilities and his own bus pass that says Adult. There's something so sad about someone clinging desperately to their youth, especially when they still have so much life left (despite my whining, I'm only 31 and haven't even been to Dallas yet!). But there are a few things I wish I could get back from my younger days.

Plan: Seek to avoid these small but significant indicators of just how old I am.

Hangovers. I finally know what we talk about when we talk about hangovers. I'd always thought I had suffered them in my younger days-- that persistent headache that only seems to go away with eggs, bacon, and a post-breakfast nap. How foolish I was to think that was the extent of it. After this ill-advised club night, I was out of commission for the entire next day except to shiver, moan, replenish fluids, throw up, and replenish those fluids. The thing is, I didn't even drink that much, but I completely ignored my patented "Pace and Replace" system (copyright Big City James Industries, 2014). No matter what I drink, I tend to have a drink, wait at least a half hour, and drink an equal to greater amount of water per beverage. Failsafe. Yes, I pee all night, but I am more or less daisy fresh the next day. Going from a party to a club didn't find me drinking much more, but I was drinking so fast and barely watering. Bars are often accused of watering down the drinks like it's a bad thing, but in my case, it's preferable.

Back problems. What the hell, spine? I can't believe years of hunching over a computer desk and walking around in ill-fitting shoes has caught up with me. Now I have to do core-strengthening exercises (spoiler alert: I have a softer core than Showcase at 10 pm when we were kids, remember that? Sometimes boobs?) and sleep with a firm pillow.

Works of fiction. I've always been a reader, and assumed the great works I consumed as a youngster would always maintain their stellar reputations. Most have, but I recently discovered after a half-hearted re-read that On The Road really speaks to you if you're young and an asshole. Similarly, I used to so admire The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield, with his hatred of phonies and his brazen disregard for authority, and now I can sympathize, certainly, but I pity him more than anything. When he buys that record for his sister, and on the way home it breaks (a scene that held no resonance for me as a younger reader), I am completely heartbroken. His one unselfish action, his clumsy gesture of love to the only person who understands him, and he can't even get that right. Unlike On The Road, Catcher still reads great for me, but in a completely different way.

Music. What is music? What is turn down for what? What is Ariana Grande if not a drink order?

I can't sit down after standing a long time without going, "Ohhhhh!" I can't interact with a baby without going, "Awww!"

The news. I don't know if this speaks to greater emotionally maturity or its exact opposite because the news is harder to watch now. The Israeli/Palestine conflict is really murky to me, I can't claim to understand the particulars, but I feel a responsibility to watch and learn what I can. Hearing about kids dying in accidents or cops shooting an unarmed citizen make me feel as if like I have to make a donation or sign a petition or tell a friend. I wonder, is that "we are all global neighbours" maturity kicking in, or "the world revolves around me!" narcissism?

Friends. I forgive more, and expect less, and am somehow just as fulfilled. As a younger person, I expected friends a fill voids in my life that were really my ducks that I needed to put in a row. An unreturned phone call or canceled plans were always taken personally and catalogued for future ammunition. Now, friends matter less and more at the same time. I don't need to surround myself with company every day or join the party every weekend to feel like my friends are important to me. They are a precious resource and the older I get, the more I realize making new friends isn't always as simple as pulling up a chair to a conversation you weren't invited to join.

If I seem preoccupied with getting older, it's because everyone around me is doing the same thing, yet some people get the raw deal of suddenly and cruelly being taken out of the rotation. There has been a recent string of acquaintances, former contemporaries and classmates, who are suddenly gone. I can't claim to have known them intimately, but it's weird to know that I'll never have the chance. To think that someone you saw every day is someone you'll never see again is truly humbling, and in a terrible way. None of us is owed anything, not even time, so best to take the compliments, enjoy your bottoms and tops, and never block the bar.

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