Losing It Again

“I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Memory is a fickle thing. It used to be my constant companion. People often asked me for clarification when anything involved a shared memory because they knew I would know what had really happened. It was a gift I guess I took for granted, that I lorded over others like Excalibur newly freed from the stone.

But unbeknownst to me while I was in the middle of that blessed time, memory was also fickle. I imagine it had begun curving away from me, its ends a bit frayed by time, without my even recognizing the shift. As time went on I started to lose fragments of my massive memory. I used to joke about it, back then.

“I guess that memory had to leave to make room for this one, right now,” I would tell people, but inside my brain this niggling doubt began inching its way in. Continue reading “Losing It Again”

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The Nick Nolte Syndrome

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“Strange, don’t you think I’m looking older? Something good has happened to me. Change is a stranger you have yet to know.” ~George Michael

You know those actors who never seem to age, the ones like Courteney Cox, who is virtually indistinguishable from her initial Friends foray over 20 years ago, or Will Smith, who still has the same stylish good looks he had as a fresh-faced Prince of Bel Air, also over two decades ago. They get older on the calendar only, and we, as regular human beings, try to figure out how they accomplish this feat, as if it’s a type of magic. But it’s not magic, and eventually they will succumb to Father Time like everyone else. Just as Kirk Douglas. Or Nick Nolte.

Back in the mid-80s to mid-90s Nick Nolte was a great character actor, playing everyone from good guys to bad guys, in movies that ranged from action to romantic comedy to everything in-between. He was a good leading man because despite his advancing years he maintained a set of good looks that women of all ages admired, and his rugged facade made men want to be him. Besides, it seemed like he owned a piece of art straight out of Picture of Dorian Gray.

But sometime in the late-90s a shift happened. Somehow the man who had defied the gods of time for so long began looking his age. In fact, it wasn’t even a gradual shift. One day he was the ruggedly handsome Nick Nolte and the next he was an old man who might be found rummaging for food down at Grand Central Station. Perhaps his picture of himself got destroyed, or he just lost the chess match with Father Time. I call this shift the Nick Nolte syndrome.

In recent years other stars have begun to succumb to this syndrome, most notably someone like George Michael. A heartthrob for years, he didn’t seem to get older, just more stylish, just a better version of himself as he aged. But then 2008 hit and his hair was thinner, his face more angular, his style more dated than before. And even though he still sings like an angel he no longer carried those boyish looks that had characterized him for so long. He looks his age, and I’m still getting used to it.

Another example is the mercurial Tom Hanks, who for years and years looked not too far off from the character he portrayed in Forrest Gump. He had that jovial face, and that smile, and was as ageless as the kid from Big even in the older body. But in recent years he has begun to look more like a grandpa and less like the man who named his only friend Wilson almost 15 years ago in Cast Away.

It happens to everyone, but I think we are more blown away by what we perceive as a sudden shift than by the gradual aging process of most people we are familiar with in real life. Perhaps it’s the camera angles and make-up artists we have to thank for the fact that these actors tend not to age for years, but at some point the camera only has so many angles, and the real world must intrude. Which is fine because if they were actually timeless I think scientists would be studying them in cages by now.

Like Nick Nolte (who’s seen him lately anyway?)…

Sam

Dear Journal: Being 37

This is what 37 looks like.

Dear Journal,

I am an adult. Sometimes I find that hard to remember, which is funny since I spend a lot of time with younger people. Time was when I would be the youngest one in a room or a group, and I got used to it. But of course as time has passed so have those opportunities to be the youngest, or the second youngest, or the third youngest. Sometimes I still like I’m maybe the fourth youngest but only if I squint really hard and imagine some people are older than they appear to be.

And I’m not sure when that age thing became important to me. Maybe it always was, but from the other side of the glass, when I was looking in at the exhibits instead of being one of them. Generation X. We had the future ahead of us, but now that future is now, and it’s moving quickly. Objects in the rearview mirror are getting more numerous and hard to differentiate from each other. Was it 10 years ago or 20? I can remember both with some level of clarity, but they all start to blend together at a point. That’s all part of being 37.

But yes, I can still be childish at times. I find myself making jokes that I am ashamed of later. Kid jokes, like the kind you would find in a “clean jokes” book available at Barnes & Noble for six bucks. Or playing the repeat game, when someone else says something and I repeat it. Then I’m the only one who laughs at it. I do that a lot with my eight-year old and she’ll roll her eyes at me and keep on doing whatever she was doing before I started repeating her.

Every once in a while I’ll find myself thinking about what I was doing 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, and remembering how I thought I was so old then, that time was some kind of vacuum that sucked years up like so much detritus. And I’m older now, but I don’t always feel my age, whatever 37 feels like. Maybe 37 feels like whatever I’m feeling at the time, like it’s an individual thing instead of a collective age.

Maybe being 37 is just a state of mind.

Sam

@ The LAX Lobby: A Short Short

She holds a ticket in her hand while she sits on the hard plastic chair in the airport lobby, trying to decide if it is even worth it. Ethan had gone on ahead, thinking she was on her way when she could get away, but she didn’t know then if she would, and she still doesn’t know now. A shock of her now-white hair hangs precariously over her left eye, a curtain to either keep in or keep out the fear, and she doesn’t move it, a fight against her instincts. But there’s so much more to ponder, she realizes, as the man sits down across from her. Out of the corner of her right eye she makes out the movement, and he’s not hard to miss in his Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. His hair is nearly as white as hers, both the hair on his head and on his legs. She can tell the latter because of his deep tan. He has been on vacation, and she should be heading on one if she can only get past herself.

It’s not even that difficult to fathom how she has gotten into this situation. It all began with a phone call.

“It’s not going to work out for you here,” he had told her after their standard pleasantries, and she wondered why he had even bothered.

“But I can do whatever you want,” she said, trying not to break down. “You know I need this.”

“I know what we can afford, and it’s not you,” he said somewhat flatly, but she knew how hard it hurt him to tell her that. He was obviously trying to distance himself from the news, to no avail.

“It’s because of my age, isn’t it?” she questioned, speaking the unspeakable.

That’s when it finally sunk in, through the silence that hung like a drape over their now aborted conversation. It’s when she knew she was indeed too old for her life. She had outgrown her usefulness, so what use could Ethan possibly want with her? Therein lies the essence of her indecision while sitting on that uncomfortable airport lobby seat. She is lamenting her demise, so why try and enjoy a life that is in such flux? But then she saw the man sit down across from her, with his easy manner and his tanned legs. He is obviously older than she is, and yet he is still enjoying his life. What right does he have when she is old and washed up?

Her cell phone calls out to her in the midst of her reverie. The chorus of “I Kissed a Girl” reminding her that it was her 25-year old daughter who set her ringtone and she, for the life of her, couldn’t figure out how to change it to something more suitable. She saw the man grin at her as she fumbled with her purse, trying to find her phone to drown out the music that she believed dated her even more. When she finally had it out, and the beat had just about become everything she heard, she looked at the display. It was Ethan. And she thought she finally had an answer for him.

She picked up.

Sam

So You’re Turning 36. It’s Okay.

There are three types of birthday people. There are the ones who adore their birthdays like they’re little kittens that just have to be petted whenever they come around, who shout it from the rooftops, who crave birthday parties just because, and who proudly announce their new age before anyone even thinks to ask. “How old are you? How old are you? I’m seven years old!” There are also the ones who celebrate modestly, with a few close friends, or maybe even just family, a small birthday cake (or birthday flan, if you will), and a bottle of Dom Perignon (okay, so that last part’s a little sad). And finally, there are those who deny even having birthdays. They swear they never get older, hide the year on their driver’s licenses, and dare you to point out their gray hairs. I fit firmly into the former category, and am damn proud of it.

Every year when my birthday nears, hordes of people celebrate by throwing up banners, decorating their houses, and even yards, singing songs in the streets, and putting up a big tree with twinkling lights on it. While that’s so sweet, and I really appreciate it, I know they’re not really paying homage to the day of my birth. They’re celebrating some pagan holiday instead. That’s okay, though. It doesn’t dim the day for me at all. After all, this pagan holiday is a couple of days before my actual birthday, so some of the crazed nature of it has died down some by the time I expect everyone to get re-energized for my party, and for my special day. Which happens to be tomorrow. Yay!

And I love the classic joke about how your first birthday and your last birthday are the same. People fill a room, and your family has to tell you, “these are your friends,” and you have to believe them because you know no better. I hope that’s not true, at least for the last one, because I hope to be coherent and know what’s going on then, but we’ll see. In this day and age, though, we do have the glory of Facebook that act as our family would in the aforementioned two bookend birthdays. It tells you when your “friends” have their birthdays so you can put your condolences (I mean, your celebratory greetings) on their timelines (or walls, if you prefer). Of course, if they were really your friends, wouldn’t you know when their birthdays were? Why would Facebook have to tell you? And does it makes it any less of a sentiment that you had to be reminded by an entity like that, or are they just grateful that they got a post on their timeline from you?

When you’re young, you enjoy your birthdays because you get toys, and as you grow up you enjoy them because you get money, but then you start to think that age isn’t a good tradeoff for these things. You wish you could give the money and gifts back in exchange for the fountain of youth, but it’s not showing up anytime soon, Vasco de Gama. And that’s okay, because with age comes experience, and with experience should come a greater appreciation for how far you’ve come. Enjoy the years. They mark you as someone with character. So think about that when your next birthday comes (no matter how old you are). I know it will be on my mind tomorrow.

Sam

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