Goofs and Gadflies

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Silver Spoons Generation

Who do you live your life for? If you have a child, the answer is “I would die for my kid”. If you are a man in his thirties repatriated to the family home, more than likely you live for your parents. You are affected by their ascent into the octogenarian realm and all the vagaries that aging brings upon the mind-set of a parent. Since the number of adults moving back into, or in some cases never leaving the family home, has sharply increased in recent years in Canada, the question of how this affects the family dynamic is one that is increasingly being asked by academics. The questions of freedom and growth and familial responsibility all intertwine in this new dynamic. Still, there are people who have left the family home who remain heavily dependent on the support of parents, and people living in the family home who absolve themselves of all save the most basic contributions. There appears to be one standard similarity in the majority of situations falling into the multi-generational family dynamic: Today’s young adult seems unwilling to accept a significantly lower standard of living unless it is unavoidable.

Who’s to blame? As always, I blame TV. I blamed TV for my fascination with all things new and improved. Consumed with consumption, I became the vanguard for all new marketing tools. I began to look for products now bursting with more real fruit flavour. I needed the beta version of life. Everything had to be new and improved, even if the old and just plain proved worked unfailingly well. I never thought to save as a child, because saving was an impediment to consumption. How was I able to resist a GIC rate of 17% interest annually for a 5-Year Deposit? Atari, bitch. That's how. The original generation of vidiots, salivating at blinking lights and monochromatic destruction. At least we had to use our imagination with the first genesis of video games. Today's Mortal Kombat allows graphic depictions of electrified human entrails with the correct pressing of about 8 different buttons.

I blamed television for creating a generation of informed political youth. Teenagers who believed they could make a difference, and then went out and stopped a war. This is the early morally sacrosanct television that was a respected tool of education and closeness within the family unit. I liken this version of TV to thin Elvis. Parents may have shook their heads when Elvis shook his pelvis on The Ed Sullivan Show, but they were right beside their kids to tell them right from wrong. Then TV got fat. It grew as the capacity for carrying its signal grew from antennae to a system of underground cables. Unfortunately the content did not match the deliverance. There was as Bruce Springsteen said “Fifty-Seven channels and nothing's on”. This form of television consisted of cookie cutter programming focusing more on the art of the social commentary then the provocation of conversation. This is the fat Elvis, choking on a peanut butter and cream cheese sandwich.

So we are left with a new class of adult, the rise of the affluent poor adult. These are the people who have enough for a weekend of blow filled fantasy or a jaunt to Cancun or Vegas, yet who have a bank statement that is more difficult to reconcile than Elizabeth Taylor's fourth marriage. Asset light and debt heavy, these new adults are spending their days waiting until they can spend their parents inheritances. These are the adults reminding their folks to specify that "no special measures" be taken to extend their lifespan and enrolling their parents in advanced rock climbing courses at the local gym. Granted, these affluently poor adults are a *very* small portion of our generation and it is remarkable that they are even an identifiable sub-class of generation stratum. The people existed in every generation previous except we called them something else. Fuck-ups. Losers. Ne'er do wells.

Because our parents and forbearer toiled for four score and..... screw that, it was the technological age that ushered in this prosperity. We have maximized the utility of human energy and are able to extract and manipulate global resources at a heretofore untold level. The only thing our parents have failed to do is grow with this technological age. It is this generation that is so different that it has created a standard of living so attainable it makes George Jetson look like a Luddite farmer. In this vein our parents are the Luddites and we are the space aliens waving our Ipods around.

Somehow these late bloomers of the boom will find their way out of their parent's basements and into the basement apartments of the home one of their friends just bought. Life goes on. The next generation of slackers will make the former look like a group of bon vivants. These are the adults that will have never known the magnetic mystery that is the eight-track tape. They are the people who live in the Age of Pentium. The people for whom Rick Schroeder was an actor on a cop show, and not the symbol of agregious consumption. That my friends, is the nature of progress. End scene with a sepia toned Bob Dylan walking off frame, guitar slung around neck and a pile of cue cards left fallen on the street.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Friends & Family (In That Order).

It's a perfectly fair morning. Inspiration is just waiting to hit me like a bean burrito pounding the intestinal tract in a gastronomic Ragnarok. I've been thinking about friends lately. Reading a book called "Just Friends" by E.Rubin. It was an academic study on the changing role of friendships in North America. Written in the 1980s' it illuminates the different roles we choose to fill with either friends or kin. Family is the one place where, when you knock on the door they have to let you in. Family knows you best, accepts your worst, and is an unfailing branch on the tree of life. Friends, besides being a wildly successful TV sitcom, are the condiments and accessories on the leisure suit we call life.

Friends are the flowers in the garden. We appreciate them, they accentuate our life, and we cherish and nurture their growth. But it is not like the Family Tree. Flowers need attention and care to flourish and grow. The tree is a solid reminder of history and responsibility. We tend to rely on family in a way that we can't imagine asking our friends. Friends don't judge or ask questions when they help. They've been there themselves and they know that if you are asking for it they'll do it and keep their thoughts to themselves. Family on the other hand has no qualms about complaining all the way home from the precinct after posting your bail.

I have a lot of acquaintances who I feel very strongly about. I was lucky enough in high school to roll with a very unique crowd. Ultimately, we were the most popular clique in the School and thus enjoyed the perks of that title. Namely, off the hook parties and access to the popular cliques of all the other high schools. Because High School was such a great time for me, I made very strong associations with a large group of friends. 15 years later we still meet a few times a year on mass and share a meal or a game of cards. We all have good jobs, some have wives and children, and nobody really fell off the face of the Earth. Even Al, who moved to Australia, still manages to call when we are sharing a cottage for a long weekend. Even though I see these guys a few times a year, I still consider them very warm friends when anyone outside the "group" would estimate them as acquaintances. I consider myself blessed to know such amazing people with whom we continued our high school association into something of a legacy.

More than the warm fuzzies of old friends from high school, I have a select few friends of whom over the years have entwined themselves into my heart. These are the people I have met over the years whom I have chosen to share friendship with. Not because we had any shared or forced experience; It was a conscious choice to maintain a connection over the years out of admiration of their character and integrity. These friendships touch my heart in a way that my high school friendships can't reach. My high school friends are like extended family. My post-school friends are the ones who most appreciate my personality and qualities. I am not denigrating the tight emotional circle of friends that form the Stonehenge of my emotional center. These guys are my inner voice and have helped me become the social butterfly I am today. Friends fill different needs in our lives and together they complete our need to feel understood and accepted. To fit in this glittering world.

I always tell clients that my father taught me how to sell, and my mother taught me how to care about people. Although I think my dad also taught me that selling involves caring. It's developing long term relationships based on trust and reliability. My mom taught me how to look at people and ignore any negative perceptions. They really get filtered out before they even reach my brain. It's not naivete, its a conscious decision to only see the potential good in every person I see.

From my friends I have learned to listen. People want to be heard. People need to have a voice and express themselves. Luckily I have met and acquainted myself with some highly interesting people. I know some lawyers, doctors, bartenders, ad execs, and Teachers. I like to hear about the interpersonal relationships they have formed and while sometimes it ranges into pure gossip, more times it is just stories about life. It almost resembles a monologue when I watch people tell stories. I disappear from the scene as the stage goes black save for the one spotlight. Their eyes and bodies drift and reshape themselves to tell the story. They contort themselves into the past, recounting the tale as I stand observing the show. I consider myself a patron of the arts. I am an audience. I am not a critic though. I leave critiquing to those interested in the destructive arts. I've always been one more for intent than for the act.

"You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend"
-Carole King

Thinking about love last week, I was drawn to meditate on friendship and family today because the lines are sometimes blurred. I have a very close connection to my family and they see more of the true me because I understand the rigid nature of familial bonds. The family is my tree and I branch off from their love and support. I love some of my friends dearly. While it seems like some friendships have definite lifespan, I have a couple of friends I can't imagine not being friends with. It;s so effortless to talk to them, they have taken up residence in my brain. I have leased them a small room in the caverns of my mind. To more effortlessly exchange our friendship they have been granted a sort of most-favored nation status. They have crossed the borders of friendship with me, and still the outer shell of our friendship contains these energies and created an impenetrable fort. The space in which we act silly and dish the real stories of our life. Friendship is like my personal cottage country where we have adventures and long days by the lake walking the shores and skipping stones into the water.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There Is No Such Thing As Love

"Let me give it to you straight." - The Dears

Since I have already covered life, death, and the indeterminable amount of time in between which I call waiting. I would like to direct the reader's attention to that which we spend most of our lives as a product of or looking for, enmeshed in and falling out of, that crazy little thing called love. Far be it from me to suggest that love is a journey, a battlefield, or what happens to people when they least expect it. I am going to go with a macro definition of love and see it as a condition felt more often than it is realized. Love does not light up your life, it is not what keeps people together, and it certainly does not pay the bills. Love is not comfort, food for thought or grist for the rumor mill. Love does not make you cry at sad movies or when the hero saves the day. To thy own self be true. It is so cliche yet oddly important at this point to state, you can't love another until you can first love yourself. But if indeed there is no such thing as love, why bother?

It's when I look at the way others have struggled with love I see how the thorns of that rose do indeed prick. Hate is such a clear emotion. A strong feeling that endures like a painful reminder of loss, shame, or embarrassment. Hate rarely permeates within a person for an extended period of time. Because of its corrosive nature, hate must spill out to the surface regularly. If hate lingers in the heart too long it is transmuted to sorrow. From sorrow we lean towards regret. I think the same is true about hate. We cannot hate others unless we first truly hate ourselves.

"What is Love anyway, does anybody love anybody anyway" - Howard Jones

Love is within you. Love is something that spreads from you and can be spread upon you. You can be awash with love, drenched in the bliss of as my friend the Comrade would say: "Being in the only place I would want to be at that very moment." There are lessons in love I believe that teach us about our capacity for that emotion.

I have a good friend who yearns for her perfect love. I admire her ability to fight her way up the stream to spawn this true love. I have never seen someone so confident that there was a great guy out there for her as she truly does think her knight is around the corner. It's not like she is looking for a Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise looker with the intellect of Keats or Thoreau. She's searching for the ineffable quality we call chemistry. The ability to be an unreserved buffoon infront of your lover without fear of judgment. The partner for a lifetime of adventure and entertainment. The one who at the end of the day can turn out the lights and kiss you gently on the forehead. The way you have always wanted to be kissed since the days when you dreamed of Prince Charming or Mike Seaver from Growing Pains.

I want to be that guy. I want to be Lloyd Dobler. Even though I know its impossible to be movie star perfect; I think I am particularly superficial enough to try.

Lately I have endured the emptying of my heart and mind as I performed a gut check. I looked into my life and I asked myself if I liked what I saw. For the first time in my life I held myself accountable for my actions. I took stock of where I was and where I wanted to be. I set some goals and created the context in which success in one form or another was possible. I'm not about to start to sell you Amway or Real Estate, but I will say personal success is the easiest to achieve. I'm not saying my soul was saved or that I was a real mess to begin with, just that a little self analysis helped me identify some areas where bad habits were starting to hurt my personal development

Chief among the areas that were starting to hurt was the ability to love. I have loved before. I have endured love. Love can test the measure of a person in many ways. What would you do for love? At this point the author realizes he could write a million lines on the subject of love and not scratch the surface of what it means to love so he wonders why he took up the task in the first place. Love makes us crazy and it makes us blind to ourselves. It is maddening because of the heat which it creates. Love is a fever gripping the heart. The fires of love take the clay of our content and kiln it to an unbreakable bond.

"Can anybody love anyone so much that they will never fear? Never worry never be sad? The answer is they cannot love this much nobody can..."- Howard Jones

Because it is so ubiquitous and salient, so formative and abundant, I can safely conclude that there is no such thing as love. Love is life. To love is to live. We breathe love and it surrounds us like the air and the sea. We cannot deny it, or separate ourselves from it, and as such we cannot define it.

Phew. Now I can breathe a little easier. I've conquered love.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Changing the Nature of States is Easier than Changing the States of Nature

Most nights you will find me walking the streets of the urbia north of suburbia. Since my television is most often used as a staging area for bills; loose change; and the phone numbers of people I'll never call; I like to use the hours between supper and sleep to whittle away at the thoughts stuck in my head. Motion breeds emotional clarity as I literally walk my thoughts into submission. My father constantly repeats his thoughts and the responsibilities that are on his mind. I think he does this because he fears that if he doesn't, he will forget them and be lost for what to do.

It is a sad thing to be lost. Like a child at the carnival who leaps forth into the crowd and soaks in the strange atmosphere recklessly before folding into tears at the thought of never returning to normal. Normal is my favorite natural state. Like a deep breath of crisp winter air, normal is the baseline to which we judge all other states of being.

Thoughts about the power of nature swirl in my head like the crescendo of a blustery winter wind searing a path across my face. Nature never obfuscates. It doesn't practice self deception or rationalize itself. It simply exerts its will upon itself. Flash freezes; ice storms; tsunamis; and other great acts of nature; remind me that I am living on a giant moss covered rock spinning and hurtling through the black mass of space. Nature doesn't have a clue about what we call "crappy weather". So while it can't get depressed, I have heard of tropical depressions and I imagine seeing a storm linger over a bar in a Caribbean beach resort. Reminiscing about early days as a hurricane and staring into their daquiri facing the inevitable downgrade into a tropical disturbance.

It is often said when we wish to understand something, we give it a human face. G-d becomes some white haired actor who dispenses morality with a gentle smile. I think we humans have finally figured ourselves out. We certainly have enough psychotropic drugs on the market today. If you have it, there is a pill to alleviate the symptoms. We have found the map of the brain, and started doling pills out like Happy Meals at McDonald's. We have made it possible to change the nature of states. We can make a happy person sad, and a sad person happy. We can change a benevolent mind into a violent dull actor (just add the right combination of alcohol and rejection). We can make someone who is obese lose weight through pills. We can change the nature of states through passive resistance. We choose to give up the fight. We have quit on ourselves and we have turned our control over to modern medicine.

Here's where I try and mix my metaphors into a noxious cocktail of thought. Maybe we are "the nature". Maybe we are supposed to rock out and mosh and wild through the night. Humans fight war, right? We wage destruction and practice deception every day. We are nature itself. We are the tornado funneling, the hurricane wailing, and the streetwalk ice cracking the hips of seniors around the world. We are the world. No matter how much concrete we throw on this planet, from skyscrapers to sidewalks, we comprise the worlds energy and that's a fact we tend to ignore.

We treat this planet like we're spending a weekend at the Radisson. As we pass this incredible buffet of nature, it's important to stop and take notice of our personal responsibility. Practice conservation, take just what you need and move along. Perhaps when we realize that changing the state of nature is possible, we can stop focusing on changing the nature of states.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Shits and Giggles

The Silver Saturn Ion whips around the dimly lit streets of Queen St. West. Looking for a party, a birthday celebration of a friend. A trendy friend in a trendy part of town where trends seem to lift the gristly rough streets into a cultured urban stratification. Devoid of any true purpose except to exist. A place to be, where one thinks they shall be noticed or at the very least notice the noticeables amongst those waiting in line to be noticed. You won't catch me waiting in line for anything other than a coffee or a bank machine. Caffiene and dollars make the world go round. Or my world at least. I park and repark three separate times, each occasion inching closer to my intended destination. Funny how when one doesn't know where one is going, its always easier to be lulled into the idea that one is already there. When the brutal truth is, one always has a little further to go. In that vein, I think I am going to request to be buried SEVEN feet under ground. As the car passes by the Queen Street West Mental Health Centre I am reminded of a recent lyric by Steven Page: "They say that Jesus and mental health, are just for those who can't help themselves. But what good is that when you are living in hell on earth?" Tommy, can you hear me? I finally set upon a spot within walking distance of my destination and I disengage my internal monologue as I approach the restaurant. I find its always better not to think around people because if I do, I tend to enjoy them less.

Even though I have left the house without applying a bit of hair paste (to give my coif a matte shine and some spikes) and I am dressed decidedly out of style (relative to the style whores standing in line at the Drake Hotel); I feel strangely confident this evening. I am imbued with the inner strength of a man who refuses to be judged. I wear a smile, clean clothes, and an appetite for pleasure. That should be sufficient to get any man through the night. Though I must add I have always found it prudent to carry some gold coins and jewels in case the local currency collapses. And so, my night officially begins. Comrades, acquaintences, springy youthful fit strangers, all in my purview as I tease my eyes with the gourmet menu of gastronomic temptations.

Birthday parties seem to mirror the lives in which we live. Reflections of who we are and the abilities we have are exacted through studying how we celebrate the passings of a year. When we are young, they are controlled events put on for the display of the parents. We have themes and our imaginations run wild and there is always somebody crying about not getting to cut the cake. Then as we progress through our adult years the parties become less enthusiastic, and a lot more selfish. As adults we use the birthday party of others as an excuse to eat decadently and quaff a few more than the usual. Not a lot of thought goes into most of these parties, except the destinaton usually reflects the style of the said birthday person. No paper hats for the most part, and no adult supervision because frankly our parents are either dead or sleeping. Have you ever been to a birthday party for a senior citizen? I have, and let me tell you that it can be a real drag. At this point birthdays become reminders that we haven't died yet. An occasion to think about all the people who were at your last birthday and didn't make it to this one. Yes, you have won another round in this battle of human attrition. Eat your cake gramps, and lets hope the sugar doesn't flare up your type two diabetes.

It's always about life and death. Life is larger than death we think. Life encompasses everything we do, are about to do, or have done at some point. Death is seemingly the downtime, the final nap, the eternal sleep. I figure I am going to be dead for a lot longer than I am going to be alive, so therefore I want to make the most out of my living days. I begin a new search for adventure, to seek out new lives and engage with them in discourse and illumination. I wish to leap out of this fishbowl and titter across the ocean.

I need something to find. Having a goal isn't what I mean here. It's not a start/end proposition. I can't just be content to live life. That is no longer an option. I need meaning, a justfication other than a mortgage or Desperate Housewives, or The Drake Hotel.

I refuse to wait in the line of life. If I must, it has to be for something that will take me places.

Coffee or money, the rest of it is just days on a calendar.