Cultural Echoes

Among statements that are almost always good advice, “never read the comments on a YouTube video” is right up there. Unless, of course, you are seeking confirmation as to some theory concerning the sickness our society is rife with, in which case, you certainly will find ample evidence there.

Today, though, I want to look at one particular thing, and that is the almost universal connection between nostalgia and music. Many people believe with unwavering conviction that the best music ever written was written when they were young. They also believe every piece of music written today is horrible by comparison.

I read it about the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, and the comments are virtually verbatim except for the change of decade. Singers (or bands) now have no talent, back then, people had talent and could touch the heart, etc., etc.

Now, when I myself was young — my teens and twenties were the 70’s and 80’s — I was aware of this tendency among adults, particularly as I started playing the piano in public for money at a fairly young age. I concluded then that “first music” was like “first love” in its tendency to seem better than perhaps it really was, because of (1) the emotional nature of the age; and (2) lack of anything to compare it to. I would probably now add (3) the tribal nature of young people, given how school tends to add a social element to life that many people never get anywhere else. Music is one of the main elements of inclusion (or exclusion) within the tribe.

Because I had to learn a lot of old music for my work, I concluded that there had always been good (and bad) music written, and most likely, always would be. I’m about as anti-tribal as they come without being a misanthrope, nevertheless, I realized and experienced the power of music for social (and sexual) connectivity.

I also learned that every bad thing about human intolerance also gets acted out through people’s musical preferences. This is another example of how almost every good and great thing in life, in the wrong hands or used the wrong way, can be a bad or even horrible thing.

So I am not prepared to decry all music written since {fill in the blank}. I realize that people will continue to talk about how much better music was in the old days, whichever particular “old days” they happen to favor.

I also realize, as I’ve said elsewhere, that the YouTube comment section is, frequently, the modern equivalent of the public bathroom graffiti of my youth. The impulse to post anonymously offensive messages is not a new one.

It’s still kind of depressing, though.

Session 3

“You seem perturbed.”

“I am. I spent a small fortune this week, money I don’t even have, buying jewelry for this woman I’m seeing. And she only really kind of hinted at wanting it.”

“Yes, that stuff is quite popular. Miss Lathermore,  our receptionist, just got a bracelet she was showing off to everyone a few days ago. The nurses were oohing and ahhing over it. I don’t really get jewelry. Luckily, Mrs. Ibis has never been that big of a fan.”

“I’ve been thinking… you might be right about me trying to buy affection; I think you’re on to something. What can I do about it?”

“Are you ready to start talking about this relationship you are in?”

“Um… almost. I haven’t introduced her to the boys; I’m not sure the relationship will last long enough. She’s an expensive sort of girl to date.”

“Is she the materialistic sort?”

“Yes, very baldly so. She says that I have what she wants, and she has what I want, so the relationship is pretty much perfect. She thinks love is a big hoax, a scam. Everything, she says, is about tradeoffs.”

“She doesn’t really seem like your type,” he said, musingly. “What do you get out of the relationship? Sex?”

“That’s pretty much it. That, and a more interesting-to-read credit card bill.”

“Do you agree with her, that love is not a real thing?”

“No. Love is real. I mean… she’s younger than me, and very attractive. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. I’m… a gentleman, I guess you’d say. Women feel safe with me, they are safe.”

I laugh, thinking about two other women I had dated. “I’ve known others who wanted me to spend money on them, but I never got anything in return. A least this one has her own sense of honor.”

“You call that ‘honor’? To fuck you in exchange for money?”

I stared at him. “You aren’t a typical therapist,” I say, at last. “Yes. She uses me, and I use her, each with the others’ full knowledge and consent.”

“How many people know about your relationship?”

“No one.”

“Why is it a secret?”

“It’s … not entirely appropriate, given what each of us do.”

“Ah, a work relationship.”

“Sort of, yes… I don’t really like feeling as though I have to buy love, because that is how I feel. What do I do about it?”

Now it was his time to stare. He took off his glasses, rubbing his eyes. “Gambling and spending addictions are among the hardest to overcome, and it sounds like you have a bit of both. If you don’t mind me asking, is the sex addictive?”

“It’s okay. Honestly, she’s a little skinny for my taste.”

He laughed. “Yes, young, thin, and willing, men hate that.”

= = = = =

“I love this hotel, I’ve always wanted to stay a night here,” she says, in between eating grapes on the bed.

“I thought a weekend out of town would be fun. Last night was.”

“Let’s go shopping today.”

She sees the look of reluctance on my face.

“Maybe I can persuade you,” she says.

She does.

Fat Saturday

My computer hasn’t exactly died, but it’s kind of had a stroke. Writing on a tablet is doable, but not great, because I have big, clumsy fingers. Today, so far:

At the Gym at 5 AM.
At work by 7:30 AM, stopping once per hour to post a poem.
Watched one Facebook live video, and chatted with another friend on Messenger.
Ate way too much all day.
Left work about an hour ago, now sitting in a parking lot writing, because there’s shade.

There’s a couple on a date just walked by, and they both look like models. I’m envious. I look more like a model of Jabba the Hutt. Or maybe his cousin, Pizza the Hutt.

I had toffee eclairs with lunch, a food too decadent to be mentioned in decent company. It’s possible that things like that have contributed to my weight gain. Or maybe it’s a punishment for past wrongdoings.

Another young couple headed into the restaurant in front of me. That young man looks very nervous.

Maybe he’s going to propose.

Maybe she’s going to reject him.

Maybe he’ll wistfully look over at the model couple I saw earlier and wish he looked like that.

Maybe she’ll look over at the model couple I saw earlier and wish he looked like that, too.

Or she might say yes. She looked pretty happy…

This is why I should never people watch.

Chewbacca Bread

My wife likes to randomly call things by the wrong names to get me to laugh. It frequently works.

For example, last night, we went to an Italian restaurant. After the waitress had brought ciabatta, my wife moved the plate towards me, asking “Chewbacca bread?” in a cheerful voice, causing me to practically choke on the drink I was sipping.

In everyday life, I am irritated by people using the wrong terms for things, which means, in corporate life, a stream of constant irritation. For example, people frequently conflate the terms “flesh out” (make more substantive or add details to) and “flush out” (draw something out that’s hiding so you can shoot it). I’ve heard things described as “jury-rigged” (the ethnically insensitive term “Jerry” being long out use) and an irrelevant point described as “moat”. 

There is also, of course, the world of corporate consultant-speak, a place that delights in torturing the language. I believe the practice of randomly using nouns as verbs came from there, through terms like “leverage” (which is a thing, not an act). I’ve heard the term “socialize” used a lot the last few years to mean “let more people know” as opposed to “turn over to government control”, the latter being the term’s actual meeting.

And yes, I know language is living and not static and new usages emerge. It’s misusages that aggravate me.

Unless my wife does it, in which case, it’s hysterical.

Hobbies

I needed a new hobby, so I’ve started collecting calories. 

It’s going really well; I’m way ahead of schedule. The way I see it, success comes when you have achievable objectives. 

This banana split, for instance, represents a tremendous opportunity: not only can I meet my calorie goals, I can internalize them. If you don’t actually become your hobby at some point, how dedicated were you, really?

I’ve had some interesting hobbies over the years. I have collected

  • Dust. Those were the “dating years”.
  • Witty comments it was too late to make. Pretty much high school.
  • Second-hand opinions. That hobby is very popular still.

Well, enough reminiscing, I have 2,715 calories to collect.

Raisin Bread

In real life, I’m a moody and rather homely guy who is best known for being quick-witted. Not kind, not smart, not even well-spoken — no, being sharp-tongued is what is most commonly mentioned as my leading personality characteristic by those who are around me the most.

I’m not a mean person at heart — well, not anymore, I’m not — but I do find it hard to pass up a good line when they occur to me. Which is to say, pretty often.

People who read my poetry might conclude I’m a very emotionally connected person in reality. I most decidedly am not. I am fairly tuned in to other people’s feelings, it’s true; however, it’s an oddly timid thing, under most circumstances. I’m very unlikely to initiate conversation with strangers, for instance.

Real emotional connections are amazing — the first time I had one, I never, EVER wanted to go back to having meaningless conversations again. The real thing was so great, so perfect… why go back?

It was kind of like when I first had raisin bread toast, and I couldn’t figure out why we ever bought any other kind of bread. Yet, here it is, years later, and I’ve had shockingly little raisin bread.

Maybe I’ll go have some now.

Session 2

“Hello, Sir, it’s nice to see you today,” she says to me in a cheerful, professional voice. “Doctor Ibis is running a little behind. If you don’t mind having a seat in the waiting room, he will be with you as soon as possible.”

She smiles at me fleetingly, returning her gaze to her computer screen.

The hint of her perfume reaches me, and it reminds me strongly of our last few hours together, three days previous. I return to the waiting room, where even the depressing sight of four year old Sports Illustrated’s and Ladies Home Journal’s in the waiting room can’t dampen my suddenly elevated mood.

Some minutes later, engrossed in an article on how long the Jimmy Johnson / Cowboy dynasty would last (he’d been fired years before) I hear her say “Sir — the doctor will see you now.”

The door closes.

“So how was your week?”

“Not too bad.”

“Any episodes?”

“No, none at all.”

“Did you do the exercise I set for you last week?”

“Yes, I thought of all the ways I could think of that love is shown, then tried to figure out if I was using the most appropriate ways to show it.”

“And what did you come up with?”

“Here, I wrote it all down, and brought you a copy,” I say, handing him my notes.


WAYS TO SHOW LOVE (OR AFFECTION):

  1. Kind words
  2. Physical affection
  3. Doing things for others
  4. Gifts or presents
  5. Giving people time and attention

WAYS I SHOWED LOVE (OR AFFECTION) THIS WEEK:

  • I called my parents and talked to them for an hour (category 5)
  • I helped my elderly neighbors change their air conditioner filters (category 3)
  • I spent a few hours with category 2, no details
  • A (category 4) gift or two might have been given at the same time as the immediately preceding bullet

It seems to me each one of these was appropriate for the situation. I also guess I didn’t have any kind words for anyone. I might want to work on that.


He put the paper down after reading it. “I see you’ve read ‘The Five Love Languages’,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Are you seeing someone?”

“Yes.”

“You never talk about her.”

“No.”

“The first person you’ve dated since your divorce?”

“No.”

“Why are you reluctant to talk about her?”

“She’d rather I didn’t, I think.”

“How are your parents doing?”

“Great. My dad’s about to retire; my mom retired just this year. They plan to do as much traveling as they can.”

“Do you often help your ‘elderly neighbors’, as you call them?”

“No, I don’t, because I’m horrible at fixing anything. But installing ceiling filters I can do. And they’ve been really good to the boys and me.”

He decides to go back to the earlier subject. “You do know that sex and physical affection are two different things, right?”

“They are not coterminous,” I say, reverting to my own form of professional voice, “but sex is arguably a subset of physical affection.”

“Or can be,” he corrects.

“Or should be,” I assert.

We return to the subject of my parents for the remainder of the session. They had high expectations for me that were never really met…

= = = = =

“How long can you stay?” she asks from the other room.

“I need to be at work early, so, maybe… two or three hours,” I say, unbuttoning my cuffs and sitting down on the chair in her bedroom.

She comes in and lays down on the bed. She looks overpoweringly beautiful.

“You should be with someone your own age,” I say.

“So should you,” she says. “Now get over here.”