Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reelin' In The Years

[Credit Where Credit Is Due Department: This was inspired by Buck. He wrote a similar post back on August 29th. You should visit there and read it, either before or after reading this one. You could try reading both his and mine simultaneously, but I wouldn't recommend it. You'd probably blow off the top of your head and then your brains could get all wet when it rains.]

UPDATE (9/6/12) - Uncle Skip and Michelle and Craig have joined in the fun. Why not follow their lead and do one of these yourself? I'd love to see it!

Buck started off with a song. So have I. His held special meaning for him. Mine is just one of my favorites, featuring one of the best guitar solos of all eternity, by the incomparable Skunk Baxter. What follows is a very quick snapshot of life; the highlights that come immediately to mind. Actually, it will be six snapshots, one for each decade I've been alive. Let's start with the 1950's.

I was born in 1957. I can't say that I remember much about my arrival, which is probably a good thing. I've heard that the decade was pleasant enough, outside of a few trivial inconveniences like The Korean War and Joe McCarthy, but my contribution to America was mostly done via eating and pooping. From all reports, I did my job well.

As we moved into the Sixties, I gained consciousness. This was a good thing, overall, even though it made the pooping more embarrassing. I went to school, where I learned a smattering of useful things and a whole boatload of utterly ridiculous foolishness such as New Math. I watched a lot of TV.

I also became aware of sports. And the Red Sox were instrumental in shaping my outlook on life. They stunk, but I adored them. I was the only person in my neighborhood who cheered them on without a hint of sarcasm. Everybody else jumped on the bandwagon in 1967 when they suddenly started winning, but I had been there before they arrived. I look at every other thing I've championed in my life, from the Libertarian Party to The Ramones, and I see that I've tried to do the same thing that I did with the Red Sox, which was to find something I thought was really cool and shout about it before every dope in town decided it was the best thing going. That so few of the things I've 'discovered' haven't panned out as well as the Sox did is no fault of mine. I've been right, every time.

(Well, OK, maybe I went overboard with the XFL, but I've been right on everything else, dammit.)

Next come the 70's. I gained consciousness in the 60's, then expanded it in the 70's.

For me, it was basically the decade of drugs. Sure, lots of important things happened - my parents were divorced, I got laid for the first time, I found out I was lucky enough to have been born a year or so too late to have had to go to Vietnam - but mostly I turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. Drugs led to my liking music one heck of a lot more than I did before drugs, so I decided to join a band. The fact that I had never taken a music lesson in my life (aside from a failed attempt to learn the trumpet during sixth grade) did not deter me. I told some guys I was a singer, so they let me 'sing' in a conglomeration named World's End. I also bought a keyboard, taught myself a few chords, and filled out the sound a bit with it. By the end of the decade, I was playing the bass - and playing it rather well, I might add.

Let's see; what else happened in the 70's? I figured out I wasn't going to make the major leagues in baseball, so I began playing in organized fast-pitch softball leagues. I'm still doing that, so I suppose that counts for something.

Now we come to the 80's. This is where fun drug usage devolved into serious addiction. I spent every cent I earned on cocaine. I was in a dead-end relationship, no direction whatsoever, working jobs that meant nothing to me, and coming to the realization (after a couple of wonderful years in a band named Live Wire, which I truly thought might have a shot) that I probably wasn't going to become a rock 'n roll star. In addition, I was rapidly going bald. My Dad had open heart surgery, and I was his only child and he was divorced, so I was the one who took care of him, period. It was a stressful and wasted last half of the decade, following a wasted and enjoyable first half of it.

[1981 or so. Drugs were fun! I'm extremely happy to report that I have no snapshots of what I looked like by the end of the decade.]

Then, in the last weeks of the 80's, I was the recipient of a "Dear John" letter from a woman I had been with for a few years. She went on vacation and never came back. She sent me a letter, a couple of days before Christmas, telling me she had met someone and we were through. I was, to put it mildly, knocked off-balance. Some others might say that I was insane for the next several weeks. I didn't eat at all. I dropped about thirty pounds (a good thing, actually, as it cleared my head and made me more attractive for my re-entry into the dating pool.) Oddly, I had stopped doing drugs about six months before she wrote the letter. Maybe that's why she wrote the letter. She liked to get all lit up as much as I once did.

Nah. We were never right for each other. I was as much to blame as her; maybe even more so. I've come to realize that slowly since the actual time.

So, I entered the 90's at possibly the lowest point of my life. Then, in February, I met MY WIFE. And we lived happily ever after.

Well... more or less, anyway. The past twenty-some years have been personally and professionally rewarding. There have been bummers - My Dad died, both of MY WIFE's parents died, My Grandma died, My Auntie Ba died, lots of folks died - but overall, on balance, a decent enough couple of decades, even if I still have never won a championship of any sort in 35 years of playing softball and I don't have any teeth left.

[They're my teeth because I paid for 'em, but they're not those originally issued to me.]

And here we are, in 2012, which means, now that I do the math again, I am in my seventh decade (although I'm 55, this is the seventh decade in which I've been alive. Somehow that doesn't seem right, especially considering the drugs I've done, but it's the truth.)

I will not make any predictions concerning how much longer I expect to be around. I mean, really, I expect to be around forever, because I'm a Christian, but not necessarily in this rapidly-decaying body. I survived to the end of this piece, at least, which may be more than some of you have been able to do and I can't say I blame you.

Soon, with more better stuff.


joeh said...

Well that's the "Readers Digest" condensed version. Some of it sounds familiar.

This Winter (I hope) my self-published (meaning i'm not a real writer) version will be out titled
"I Used To Be Stupid."

Yes, it is exciting, but calm down!

stephen Hayes said...

An interesting and informative read. I was born in '52, so many of your experiences are familiar. I think we both had the same TV.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

Well, like me, if you'd known you were gonna be around this long you'd've probably taken better care of your body. But, then there wouldn't be those memories we have to share ...or the ones we wonder IF we should share.
Gotta say, though, that I had a head start, pretty much stuck with booze and never got beyond not learning the trumpet. The rest is slipping out in dribs and drabs.

Oh, and it's the eighth decade I'm in.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I suppose if I'm gonna develop a post like this, I better come up with a theme song?

Buck said...

VERY well done and it goes without sayin'... even though I WILL... that ya did a better job at this than I did.

I'm struck by our similarities, except for the fact I have zero musical talent and didn't get seriously addicted, unless you consider habituation and low-level drug dealing. Other than that? Eerie.

There's also that "happily ever after" bit, which escaped me. But, Hey! I had a 23-year run, which is better than a lot o' people get, and for that I'm grateful.

Again: well done. Or BZ, as those Squids say.

Craig said...

Thanks for this, Jim. I really enjoy these 'retrospective' posts. I've done posts somewhat similar to this before. If I were a little more ambitious (or things were a little slower at work), I might post a link to 'em. But I'm not (and they aren't).

I have some vague memories of Elvis that must have been from the 50s, but that's about it. For me, the 60s were the Tigers, the Beatles, and the space program (also my parents' divorce, and variations on my family configuration). In the 70s, I expanded my mind, too, but mostly along the educational track. I got married in '80, and since then, we've been raising kids. Right now, I'm just trying to stay focused long enough to get 'em all launched and on their way. . .

'Reelin' In the Years' is a great theme song for a retrospective, BTW. . .

Suldog said...

Joe - Great title. You can rest assured that I will snag a copy when it comes out.

Stephen - It's was a big-ass old Admiral, and it was my friend. Honestly - I can still recall, with crystal clarity, the sounds those knobs used to make. *Ker-CHUNK* *Ker-CHUNK* as you changed the channel...

(not my) Uncle Skip - Funny thing about booze, Skip. While I was on cocaine, I drank like a fish. I mean I seriously swam in alcohol, with Vodka being my liquid of choice. Downed a quart or so every time I did the marching powder. After I got off of cocaine, I had no residual desire for booze, and I still don't have more than a beer once every four or five weeks, really. Alcohol by itself has never been a big draw for me, but it sure did even out the other stuff well.

And you're in San Francisco, for goodness' sakes. If you can't come up with a theme song...

Buck - Better job? No, not at all, though you're kind to say so. Different styles, my friend, that's all.

You scare me, though, with that "23 years" thing. We just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, and we've now been acquainted for 22 years...

Craig - Now, see, here's the problem with these things. As soon as you publish 'em, somebody says something, in response, that makes you realize you forgot some mighty important stuff. The Beatles. Yeah, they were big at one time, right? And that triggered a thought of probably the biggest damn thing that imprinted my young mind in the 60's - Kennedy being killed in '63. He was loved by many , of course - he was The President, after all - but in Boston he was the closest thing to a secular saint as there was. My older relatives had portraits of him on their walls. Irish, Catholic, almost a personal triumph to some of my relatives when he was elected. When he was shot, the entire world (to my young eyes and ears) went dark and quiet for about a week, a very eerie thing.

And there was a guy who landed on the freakin' moon, and... See what you've done?

lime said...

hhmm, i really don't know what i'd choose as my theme song through the decades. good roundup of your decades though. you've always been a terrific storyteller.

mine started during vietnam and not quite a year before armstrong walked on the moon, so i can't personally what little bit of the 60s i lived through but not for the typical reasons associated with life in the late 60s.

Anonymous said...

Well you better stick around for a while yet. I need the entertainment!

Tabor said...

Well my head is spinning a bit with your math, cause you sure don't look 70! ;-). I never did drugs (well lots of beer) and I grew up in the 60s ahead of you. I guess I was just too scared and too poor. Never even smoked a 'joint.' I did drink a muddy root extract in Fiji once...but it never made me see rainbows much less give me a buzz. I grew up earlier than you, had less fun, but DO have all my teeth! This post was all about me, wasn't it?

Maggie May said...

Well you are still a good deal younger than me so I'm expecting you to be around for a good bit longer yet!!!!!!! Blogland wouldn't be the same without you. Hang in there.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Ericka said...

glad you're still with us, even with the pontificating regarding softball. ;-)

Jackie said...

I miss you...and you know that I love reading what you write.
I'll be back one day, my friend.
Mama isn't doing well ( she was hospitalized for a long while and I stayed in the hospital with her 24/7. It's where I want to be and need to her side.)
You have been through some amazing times during your lifetime, Jim. Keep that Libertarian spirit alive and well! Hugs to you.
Your Sister,

Anonymous said...

You know, it really is inspiring to see the highs and lows you've gone through and still be such a sweet, smart guy in shape enough to play softball in his 50's, which is really a big deal. Kudos and thanks to you, for hanging in there!

Shammickite said...

I loved this post. Now I know the real Jim. No idea what my theme song would be, but I haven't had quite such an exciting life as you have.

Michelle H. said...

Great post! I'm not sure I would do a condensed retrospect concerning my life. I remember certain important events, but I'm not sure I have much to say about it. And I'd be stumped over the song part. But maybe I'll try something out.

Daryl said...

well i hope you will be around for at least another few decades .. xo

messymimi said...

An excellent autobiographical summary.

Since i don't have pictures from all of my decades (thank Heaven!) i will not be following your and Buck's eminent lead.

Michelle H. said...

Thanks for the linky love!

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

It seems there is a gearing up toward retrospectives and, depending upon how honest folks want to be, there could be some excitement... or somethin'

Hilary said...

You're always entertaining but your way of looking at the decades floored me. I'm not ready to say I've seen seven decades.. and yet it is so.

Jeremy said...

Hey, my sketch made the post. Nice. I'd do one of these,but I don't think it'd be too interesting.

Suldog said...

Jeremy - That sketch is one of the coolest things anyone ever did for me! And everybody has an interesting life. I'd love to see you do one of these posts.