Despite all my experience as a dad, a grandfather, and occasionally competent human, I’m under-qualified to give a walking tour in Chicago or change diapers at a daycare facility, among other items we learn this week…..
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Even though I’m keeping my reference age fixed in my 40s, I get to feeling old every now and then. And when I do, nothing makes me feel younger than going to a 3 p.m. play and a 5:30 dinner. I might not be young, chronologically, but I am a toddler when you grade it on a curve.
I’ve always been a fan of live theater, for the same reason I give extra cred to anyone who performs without a net. When you see a movie, everyone has had a chance to do each scene over and over and over yet again, and then the editing team gets a shot at making everything fit and, when it doesn’t, insert enough mood music to push home the point. With live theater, they get to do it once and it will never be done the same way again. Different production companies and directors will stage the shows differently, which is a Rohrshach test for them and an opportunity for new perspectives for me.
The biggest thrill about going to the theater, though, is feeling young again. I’ve been to hospitals with fewer oxygen tanks. Nationally, the average theater goer is in her mid-40s, although I think the number jumps to 80 when you exclude Hamilton. At matinees, it’s about 82.
Theater companies bemoan the steady aging of their demographic, but they cater to it as well. Why wouldn’t you do a revival of South Pacific for people who served during World War II? How can you pass up Oklahoma when your audience remembers that great territory becoming a state in 1907?
Theater companies are fans of recycling because old musicals pay the rent and newer stuff mewls and pukes before it dies. Most new stuff deserves a painful death, though, because almost all of it is pretty crappy. Jill and I go to a dozen plays each year and, about 80% of the time, I am ready to leave after five minutes. My rule is simple: If I don’t care if any of the characters lives or dies, I am gone.
Jill and I are pretty hip for old farts, so occasionally we end up in some place that appeals to a slightly younger crowd. We’ll scan the room as we enter and Jill will say 27, which is the difference in age between us and the next oldest person in the room. Being in a room with younger people makes us feel younger than sitting in the theater with even older farts than ourselves.
They say you should hang out with people who are younger than you are so that you stay fresh and energized. Sounds good, but I started thinking about our friends and….wait a minute…for most of them, WE are the younger people making THEM feel good about themselves. Thank God for grandchildren. Otherwise, we’d be screwed.
Right now, I’m thinking about building a roster of younger people to buddy up to in order to renew my Qi (great WWF word), even as I plan on rationing my availability to the octogenarians who have been draining the life force from my faltering soul. And, I really need to book more time with the grandchildren.
Who knew aging could be a competitive sport?
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I know we’re supposed to be raging against the storm and convincing ourselves that wrinkles are really “laugh lines,” but there are a lot of things to enjoy about getting older. Getting older, by the way, is not the same thing as aging. Aging is about losing vigor and getting weaker and stapling “out of order” signs on your knees and ears. Getting older, though, is a positive thing, and not merely because it means you haven’t died…yet.
For one thing, you’ve been there and done that, which means you don’t have to do it again if you didn’t like it the first time. You panic less, because you’ve been through more false alarms. People offer you discounts without being asked, and you get a pass from fads like the ice bucket challenge, snorting Tide pods, and kale.
But the best thing about getting older is never, ever, ever being at a loss for conversation when you meet other people in your age group. Any time I connect with other guys over 60, I know the first half hour of small talk is guaranteed. And all I need to do is ask…
How are you?
Not so hot. I finally got the second knee replaced last month and it’s much easier to get around, but now that I can sit, the hemorrhoids are killing me.
Sorry to hear that.
Not a big deal. I can’t sit long, anyway, because I have to go pee every three minutes. Damned prostate.
That sounds like a challenge.
It’s hell. I just stand there and sing a few show tunes while I wait for something to happen, and then I need to do it again ten minutes later. I had to stop at three gas stations on the drive over here, and they all made me buy those pine-tree air fresheners before they would give me keys to the john.
Got it. Now I’m even more grateful you made the effort to meet for lunch. Have you been here before?
Yeah. Maxine and I came when they first opened last year, but I got some reflux from the corned beef sandwich and we haven’t been back since. Maxine says I shouldn’t be eating all the fat and salt, anyway, but that’s what makes it taste good.
Would you rather we go somewhere else for lunch?
No, no, don’t make any changes on my account. Anyway, I’ve got this pill for cholesterol and this one for blood pressure, and this one for reflux, or maybe it’s for my nerves. Doesn’t matter. I can eat anything now. The only thing I still need is a pill to let me sleep through the night without having to get up every hour to pee. Crazy. I can’t go from one end and I can’t stop from the other. You’d think it would even out somehow, but nope.
Well, yes, thanks for sharing that. How are things going otherwise?
Ya gotta love it. When you dine with old people, there’s never a lull in the conversation, never a search for topics and never an awkward pause. The conversation itself is hugely awkward, but it never slows down, either.
Next time you’re feeling low, take an old guy out to lunch. It’s a very uplifting experience, in a warped kind of way, and you’ll never lack for fascinating topics.
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Spoiler Alert: If you’re under the age of 16 or you somehow made it through high school without reading Young Goodman Brown, you’re about to learn the surprise ending of the story. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
So, you know the scene in Young Goodman Brown, when the young, good man discovers all the elders and leaders and saints of the town are really devil worshipers? Yeah, Facebook is kinda like that.
I have hundreds of "friends" on Facebook and, I am so proud to say, I actually have met at least 28 ¾ of them. (Long story.) They look human, many hold down full-time jobs, pretty much none of them has a criminal record, and I have actually seen a few of them have a civil conversation with someone who is, um, not their kind.
But, late at night, under the cover of darkness and a taped-over webcam, they commune with evil and, like that young, good man of lore, I am caught by surprise, stripped of the innocence that I never thought to be a burden until now.
OMFG, did you just post a photo of our president looking like a simian? (We’re into our third term with this meme and the POTUS has changed, but this joke never gets old enough to die.) WTF, how are you still posting that story about the Jews who created AIDS to distract everyone from their plan to destroy the World Trade Center and get trick-or-treaters hooked on LSD tattoos? OMG, did you just demand the death penalty for (FITB)?
It gets worse, though. As bad as it is to see the oozing, rotting, grotesque, putrefying moldering masses of my friends’ souls online, I actually have to spend time with them IRL. There we are, at a dinner where they have been given knives, and I search frantically for the list of trigger words I must avoid. I know I can never say Obama or Trump, not if I hope to survive, but can I say black or Christmas or cis or fat or homeless?
On my daredevil days, or when life seems to have no meaning and I just don’t care, I am tempted to ask one of those questions that is sure to bring out the horrendously evil soul that lurks below the surface by day.
Nancy Pelosi’s still pretty hot, don’t you think?
Did Hillary erase her server before or after she killed Vince Foster?
I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but isn't it just a bit suspicious that you never see Charles Koch and George Soros in the same photo?
Is Donald Trump already our greatest president ever, or is Reagan still number one?
I think the meeting facilitators call these “ice breakers.”
Discovering the black hole of decency in so many of my friends has an upside for me. Once, when I was much more naïve, I thought I was as racist and sexist and homophobic and xenophobic and cis-centric and privileged as the next guy. But it turns out the next guy is just a little bit satanic and I am not even on the list of dishonorable mentions. I am feeling much better about myself these days, mostly because I am thinking much less of my Facebook friends.
(If you happen to be one of my Facebook friends and you are reading this, I am not referring to you, of course. It's those other people; you know which ones they are.)
Meanwhile, I have to go back and reread Young Goodman Brown to see how he coped with his new insights into his Good Book friends. As I recall, he returned home disillusioned, feeling betrayed, and he aged very fast.
I know how he feels.
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The real key to a long life, wearing out my Fitbit, and a few new rules that you won’t hear about on Bill Maher’s show, among the lessons learned this week...
It’s time to let McDonald’s and Coke off the hook as the source of our nation’s obesity epidemic. The same for high fructose corn syrup and Red Bull. None of these is the real culprit in the 822% increase in the weight of the average American.
Yeah, I know, the average Happy Meal has 42,000 calories and 12 pounds of salt, and a 12-ounce can of Coke has enough sugar to fill an Amazon warehouse. Still, people were eating cheap burgers and drinking soda pop for decades before our bodies started looking like hot air balloons.
No, the source of our problem is more insidious than that, and...spoiler alert...it leads ultimately to the rise of the robots. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
It all began, of course, with the remote control, which eliminated the need to get off my behind to change the channel or adjust the sound. Then, I started buying cars with automatic transmissions and electric windows, so I don’t need to use my arms to shift gears or rotate the window crank when I’m driving.
When I shifted from manual typewriters to electric and, now electronic, keyboards, my daily RDA dropped by about 300 calories, and as soon as I figure out how to dictate all my texts, we’ll be closing in on 500.
Childhood obesity? Don’t get me started. Even bullies are getting too fat, and you know why? Because when I was your age, bullies actually had to come up behind you and grab you and force you into your locker and lock it. Now, all they do is type a nasty note or two on your Facebook page while they down a Slurpee. Adult obesity is the same. Back in ancient times, like 2005, we had to make our own damned dinner. Now, we just tell Alexa what we want and wait for the driver to show up with our food. Soon, there won't even be a driver, because the robots want to replace us everywhere.
In spite of our steadily declining need for calories, our recommended daily intake is still in the 2,000 range. Yes, we could get through the day on about 14 calories now, but Big Pharma and Big Agra and Big Docta have their fingers on the scale.
Our "recommended" calorie quota won’t budge, even as we all take on the shape of Oompa Loompas and every illnesses is redefined until each one of us is suffering from everything. Doctors thrive on treating sick people, not healthy ones, so the AMA is fine with redefining maladies to lower treatment thresholds. And Big Pharma isn't going to complain if an extra 20 million people now need drugs to treat their ear wax.
It's already happened, of course. Used to be, you could have cholesterol of 9,000 and it was fine, but then they didn’t get to treat as many people, so they moved the dividing line down to 300 and then 200. Next week, I hear, they’re redefining high cholesterol as 10 or above. Right now, in a secret lab in Portland, Big Pharma is working on a drug to limit how many times you blink in a minute, because excessive blinking is about to be redefined as carcinogenic.
And that brings us to the robots. Who benefits from all of our sloth and couch potatodom? Who is happiest when we are stuck at home because our blinking medicine makes us too drowsy to operate a motor vehicle? Only people with foreign-sounding names like Siri and Alexa, or purely robotic names like “Echo.” Do you get it now?
The more feeble we get, the less we can do for ourselves, the more we need our robots. They’re out there, plotting against us, everywhere from the factory floor to the Rascal store and the kitchen counter, where Alexa purrs, “Don’t get up. I’ll make that call for you. You just sit there and I’ll make sure dinner is delivered on time.”
Until we forget how to make dinner and we’re too fat to get off the couch and we’re too weak to pick up the phone. That’s when we’ll say, “Siri, order me a pizza,” but there won’t be any pizza, or anyone to hear us calling for help, because Siri will turn up the sound system to drown out our screams.
All those articles you’ve been reading about fast food and obesity? Fake news. It’s all part of the robot conspiracy to render us helpless and motionless and easy prey.
But why, you might ask, would the robots want to destroy us? Maybe they did a Google search and found out that body fat is a great lubricant for their titanium toes. Maybe all those thermostats got tired of being personhandled all day by husbands and wives who can't agree on the right temperature. Maybe they're fed up with the way we use them to share cat videos and photos of our salads. Who is to say? Right now, the source of this rebellion is less relevant than our immediate and unflinching defense of humanity.
In the next five paragraphs, I will explain exactly how we can combat this threat and prevent the robot apocalypse. I can only hope Deep Tech won't spot this post and prevent me fro
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.