The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

ON NOT AGING WELL: It is, of course, impossible for creatures as limited in their knowledge and perception as we are to truly divine the works of the Almighty, but I think I stand on fairly safe theological grounds when I say that subdural hematoma is the Lord’s none too subtle way of telling you that you should avoid white water kayaking as a recreational activity and take up something else a tad less stressful, like jai alai or collecting poisonous South American toads for fun and profit. I bring this up because the children’s librarian here at the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for a pittance recently spent a weekend trying to acquire this particular skill. I do not believe that she ever had much enthusiasm for the project, but her newly acquired boy friend was all gung ho for the idea and so she went along for the ride. Going along for the ride when the ride involves traveling at high speed down a boulder strewn river in a conveyance that does not come equipped with brakes as standard equipment is almost always a bad idea for everyone involved.

I must admit that I felt sorry for her as she told the rest of us about her weekend, but frankly, I knew this was going to happen. While there are inevitably exceptions to any rule, on the whole women would be wise to avoid having a relationship with men having a mid-life crisis, as this sort of thing tends to get very messy, especially when you smash into a large rock or get eaten by a polar bear. Women must endure a mid-life crisis as well, but the beauty of menopause, if you want to call it a beauty, is that menopause is a biological reality that women cannot deny for long and so they adapt. Women know that when one part of their lives are over, it’s over; whether most men choose to admit this or not, the vast majority of women are brutally realistic in a way most men can never hope to be.

The male mid-life crisis, by contrast, is more psychological than biological, and there produces no undeniable physical manifestation that makes perfectly clear to the male that he ain’t as young as he used to be, unless he counts the fact that he can no longer see his feet without leaning forward a bit, and five will get you ten that he doesn’t give his now invisible feet any credence whatsoever. Given that most men stop aging mentally somewhere about the middle of their senior year in high school, the idea that they can’t do everything they did at eighteen without the serious risk of coronary infarction is utterly abhorrent. A man faced with the horrid reality will usually deny it with every amount of psychic energy and every dollar he can scrape together. Men having a mid-life crisis will mortgage the family home several times over, if he can get away with it, in order to buy an Italian sports car, get a new wardrobe, and start dating an eighteen year waitress named Tiffany, who works down at the local diner and whose main ambitions in life are to be a movie star, work for world peace, and become Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Year, although not necessarily in that order.

None of this lasts for very long, of course; the insurance premiums on the Italian sports car are beyond the merely prohibitive and border on the completely extortionate, the car itself is as temperamental as an ex-wife who hasn’t gotten her alimony check in three months, you’ve noticed that the new clothes are a more than a little snug around the middle, and you’ve also noticed, once you’ve stopped popping Viagra tablets like jellybeans just to keep up with her, that Tiffany, as lovely as she is, has no idea what the hell you’re talking about half the time. There’s something very dispiriting about that blank and almost clueless look that appears any time you make a reference to something that happened before she was born, primarily because deep down she doesn’t really believe that anything happened before she was born. If it did, she’d remember it, wouldn’t she?

Some guys will close their minds to all this evidence and will not simply admit that they can’t do everything now that they did in high school, which appears to be the category our children’s librarian’s newly acquired boyfriend fall into. To his credit, he seems like a nice guy and he’s managed to skip the whole Tiffany phase; our children’s librarian is a very attractive femme d’un certain age, as the French say, and so he can make cultural references till the cows come home without worrying about Tiffany’s bovine blankness making coming home something of a psychic chore. But instead of lying on a beach in the Caribbean, soaking up the sunshine and drinking tropical rum concoctions filled with fruit and topped off by that silly paper umbrella, as I am sure she would prefer, our children’s librarian is off to the white water, there to learn how to navigate a kayak down a fast-moving river full of rocks. Oh joy!

First, and I do not for a moment hesitate to point this out to him, her, or to anyone else who might think of taking up whitewater kayaking as a hobby: this is not a good idea. In fact, it’s a dumb idea, one of the dumber ideas to come scurrying down the well-worn track of dumb ideas in our time. White water in the middle of a creek or river is an indication that there are large rocks on the bottom that impede the smooth and even flow of water. White water is, in short, a danger sign, an indication that floating down this particular stretch of waterway might not be conducive to your long-term survival, so DON’T DO IT, DAMMIT!

Some people, however, have to be hit over the head several times before they get the point, and yes, it is truly amazing how many times you can hit your head in the course of just one trip down your local raging torrent and just how unpleasant that sensation can be, even if you are wearing a helmet. And if having Mother Nature bludgeon you black and blue just for the hell of it were not enough, there’s always the rapturous joy you can derive from drowning, or coming very close to it. Severe oxygen deprivation is always fun, as anyone who has had the experience can tell you as they drool baby food and vile smelling spittle all over your freshly shined shoes.

As for our two adventurers, I’m pretty sure that our children’s librarian wants no further part of running rapids, but I am not sure that the newly acquired boy friend shares the sentiment. A fifty year old man who wants to prove that he can do everything he did at eighteen is a man looking for trouble, if you ask me, and very likely to find it, and at the worst possible moment, too. You can’t tell some guys that, though; they have to learn it for themselves. On average, the revelation that time has finally caught up with them usually hits some time during their third week in the hospital. Facing reality can be a horrifying thing, particularly when you want your pelvis to mend quickly.


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