They are a resilient lot, these kids of ours. They live in lockdown, and still they joke
Remember when life wasn’t quite so moody? Remember when November was resonant and filled with all your cozy hopes?
Still is, you know.
The biggest fear from election week was that the cities would go up in flames, or there would be standoffs between tanks and protesters. I was leery of the nut jobs on both sides.
Businesses boarded up the cafes and stores, as they do in banana republics. The media was highly partisan, as in revolutionary times. The election proved a cliffhanger, with questions about the count.
Welcome to Bolivia. Where’s my cigar and bandolier?
As one wit put it, it was the worst week in the history of weeks. Let me just say that the Electoral College remains – as intended — an incomprehensible safeguard against pure democracy. Long as I live, I’ll never quite understand it. It also has a pretty lousy football team.
As of this writing, none of my biggest election week fears came true, as to be expected. A pal joked the other day that 99% of the things he worried about never happened – “so it’s working!” he said.
I get his point, but my goal is to worry less, not more…to avoid a sense of blanket dread, which I think is a good definition of anxiety: blanket dread. It’s a neurotic’s favorite soup.
Age gifts you something quite vital – the wisdom to know when to worry. To realize that a general sense of fretfulness is a gigantic waste of time.
As adults, we are the sum total of a lot of factors, which is what makes life such a wonderful ride. Where we come from, how our parents behaved, whether we were lucky in love – or jinxed.
Did you have a dog growing up? Did your teachers care? Were they wise, or just smart? Were there role models? Who made you laugh? No one? Everyone?
Quick, name a stand-up comedian. Where once there were great comics left and right, from Groucho to Letterman, I now have to scrape my brain to think of an amazing comic. Only Sarah Silverman jumps to mind. Maybe Kimmel. After that, a vast desert.
Group-think scrubs away a lot of humor. Social media is a snide, blasting-hot shooting gallery, staffed by bullies. Political correctness remains the enemy of free thought. Where’s George Carlin when you really need him?
“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity,” Carlin once quipped of war.
It is the humorless who scare me the most. Humorless people are a little insane, and humorless societies are not really societies at all.
You can have an economy and a political system, without really having a society. In a society, people speak freely to each other, and when there’s an epidemic people pull together to wipe it out.
Not only do we not have a society right now, we have political parties that are 10 different things. I suppose all democracies are hot messes, but ours? We are Ariana Grande after a Percocet and a bathtub full of Costco Champagne.
If I had it to do all over again, I think I’d be a teacher.
In high school, I had a math teacher who might’ve been a Nazi war criminal. Starting 10 minutes before class, I’d get a knot in my gut.
This teacher’s head was the size of a Buick; she wore upholstery instead of clothes. She barked a Bavarian bark.
Her class was like the Battle of Narva. The ratta-tat-tat way she wrote on the chalkboard sounded like machine-gun fire. The only thing it lacked was paratroopers bursting through the ceiling.
Everything this teacher did was harsh—her glare, her language. Sure, I liked her well enough. Learned a little trig. She was different, but she cared.
In English, I had Mr. Gordon, an entirely different person. Mr. Gordon taught on his tip-toes, with joy in his eyes, as if in that moment in the classroom with 30 insolent teen-agers, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
Such glory in that, such lasting power, such a good and worthwhile life.
If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d be Mr. Gordon, the ultimate stand-up, a spirited god in the eyes of young people seeking a smidgeon of candor and hope.
Great teachers plant the first seeds of a functional society.
Speaking of teens, the other night, we had a small dinner for some of Smartacus’ teammates, outdoors, with masks and cheeseburgers and milkshakes.
I mean, what else do you need besides masks and milkshakes?
I watched my son Smartacus and his fellow ballplayers wiggle in their chairs, goof with each other, laugh.
They are a resilient lot, these kids. They live in lockdown, and still they joke. What they lack in comedians, they find on TikTok, spending hours a day watching silly skits on their phones.
Life changes. Funny survives.
I teased Smartacus the other day that he’d had kind of a crummy century: terrorism, long wars, school shootings, racial unrest and now COVID.
“The death of movies,” I added.
“Dad, not that again.”
I didn’t blame him personally for any of it, I just recognized what trying times he’d seen.
“It’ll get better,” I assured him.
“Guess we’ll see,” I said with a shrug.
Always does. Always will.
Till then, 2020 remains the year of lost things. Lost jobs. Lost holidays. Lost weddings. Lost lives.
But not lost ideals.
It is the year of realizing that an electorate is better than its leaders, whether here or in China or in Suriname…anywhere, really.
Elections reward bluster; they seldom honor integrity. For the most part, we are better than our leaders, more reliable, more moral.
As I recall, November is a good month for long, satisfying dinners. We will soon dig out old recipes, on stained note cards. We will share a few laughs. Pass the potatoes and a funny story, please.
We wiggle in our chairs, in the company of Grandma’s ancient serving plates, around fancy tables that generate a light all their own.
Remember when this country was resonant and filled with all your cozy hopes?
Our next Happy Hour Rose Bowl Hike is a sellout. If you were among the first 50 to respond, you will have received details by now. If you missed out, there will be a couple of other Rose Bowl hikes before the holidays. Also, stay tuned for the Gingle Bell Ball, our holiday gin bash Dec. 9. Details to come.