Time Gap: Shock of Ages

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 16, 2008

Last week, I had another shock to my system. Well, shock might be a strong word—let’s call it “disappointment, surprise”—nah, let’s keep it “shock.” I was working the night shift at the portrait studio when these five adults (three girls and two guys) came in for some pictures. There were only two of us working that night, with five groups waiting for the whole gamut of service—pictures, sales, pickups, backrubs (just kidding)—so they had something to give to their moms, so multitasking became a whole new nightmare for me. But everyone was patient, so I thanked God for big miracles (patience in South Florida is no small miracle).

Anyway, the five adults already had their pictures taken, as did two other groups waiting for viewing at the same time, so it was time for me to walk them through the picture set. As I bounced from group to group trying to give everyone a fair amount of time with service, though knowing full well just how lousy it was, I couldn’t help but notice how unfamiliar the five adults were to me. And that in itself was shocking, because one of the girls was a girl I knew pretty well back in elementary school.

Awkward.

Every so often I’ll run into someone I know from the past. Usually, the distance is short—five years, ten years tops. In this case, time was a behemoth, as this was the longest gap between frequent interaction and brief reunion I had with a single person in probably ever. The last time I saw her was in sixth grade.

In elementary school, I was part of the gifted program, which didn’t mean I knew everything, but meant, rather, that I had the ability to know everything. In the class, each grade had only a handful of students, but my grade had the fewest (from second grade to early fifth grade there were only two of us). When fifth grade got a decent running start, however, a girl moved to South Florida from some other state and joined the gifted program, disrupting the two-person niche we had. So now there were three, and it stayed that way until the end of sixth grade when we all graduated to junior high.

Fast forward twenty years and I only recognized the girl’s name.

Sometimes people carry a strong resemblance of his or her childhood self into adulthood, and identifying her as someone you know becomes easy. But in jumping from age twelve to thirty-two, the rules seem to change. Everything you remember is mush.

And hence, my shock. Everything about the girl was foreign to me, and I had seen her in class every day for more than a year. What the hell happened?

In the last few years, this time gap happened with three other people. Two I recognized, one—another graduate of the elementary school gifted program, but one who also attended my high school, so the distance in time wasn’t as great—I didn’t. The one thing they all had in common: they all looked old.

According to memory, these people had smooth skin, soft eyes, and general youthfulness. Then they went off to college, had families (well, half of them did), and gained about ten to fifteen years of age.

Now they have skin spots, coarse areas around the eyes, and this look about them that says: “Look at me, or don’t; doesn’t matter, really.” And I find it surprising because these people are my own age. Which means…

I don’t think I have to elaborate where this is going. Looking at my thinning scalp reminds me that I’m one of them—I’m one of the old guys on youth’s totem pole. In the last couple of months I’ve had people think I was twenty-three and couldn’t help but wonder if they were clinically insane. I mean, did they not see my scalp? Did they not see the wrinkles branching out from my eyelids or the hair trying to migrate below the back of my neck? What twenty-three-year-old looks like he belongs in middle management somewhere? I’ve got gray spots in various places. Come on!

I’m not usually age conscious, granted. I’m still in that hybrid stage where I can run around without killing myself, and yet, still have to watch what I eat. It’s not a bad place, just a weird one. It’s a place where playing Guitar Hero is perfectly accepted, but talking to a nineteen-year-old girl, even on friendly terms, starts to feel creepy. And recalling a moment when I was five years old, thinking I could never die because I closed my eyes, opened them, and I was still there, makes my getting here all the stranger.

Given the speed of time these days, however, it makes me wonder just how much faster it can fly before I close my eyes and discover that I can’t reopen them.

So, now it’s time for us to sing a song: If you’re aging and you know it, clap your hands! Oops, careful. Arthritis.

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The Parable of the Phrase that Pays

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008:

I’ve had this thought in my head for months, but am just now getting around to writing it down. Call it distraction if you want; that’s probably the main culprit in suppressing it for so long. The issue is timeless anyway.

In Matthew 25: 1-14 (in the Bible), Jesus gives the parable of the ten virgins (or maidens, if semantics is an issue), who were waiting for their bridegroom to arrive. Five of them came to the house prepared with lamp oils; the other five stood there like monkeys until realizing they needed to get oil of their own. So, while the first five continued to wait by the door patiently for the bridegroom to arrive, the second five disbursed, looking for the very thing they forgot to bring. Well, while they were out getting the things they procrastinated over, the bridegroom arrived at the house, let the first five in, and closed the door. When the second five returned with their lamp oils, the door was already locked, so they missed their chance. Sucked to be them.

A local radio station has a marketing scheme that reminds me of this parable. Every ten minutes of every day, they play the slogan: “Ninety-seven nine WRMF plays the best variety of the eighties, nineties, and today.” They play it so much that it’s impossible to forget. My brain receives so much information each day that I can hardly remember what I eat for breakfast (when I eat breakfast), much less detailed things like Bible verses, movie quotes, and song lyrics—things that most people have no trouble reciting. But I have no problem remembering this “Phrase that Pays,” as the radio station repeats it every freakin’ ten minutes. And yet, I find it surprising that so many people who get the call still don’t know what it is.

Here’s how it works: The radio station has a call list that the listener has to volunteer to be on (making it kinda odd that some people get upset when the DJ calls them). When the DJ gets them on the phone and asks them for the “phrase that pays,” the listener has to repeat the slogan word for word. If they get it right without adding, subtracting, misplacing, or changing a word, they get a thousand dollars. No strings attached. No listening commitments. Just money. Money for their cars, money for their homes, whatever they need it for. A thousand dollars. A free gift.

And the majority of people who get the call still don’t know it. They’re reminded all the time. They don’t know it. They’re warned of its worth. They still don’t know it. They don’t know when the call is coming, but it comes. And they’re not ready for it. And they lose out on a free gift. And it makes you wonder how they can let something like that slip away.

The message Jesus gave in Matthew 25 was to be prepared for His arrival. I think the “Phrase that Pays” is a good, modern example of that parable. Funny how a radio station that broadcasts its show from various cocktail bars on Friday nights can make one of Jesus’ many parables relevant, and yet, sad how even that’s not enough to get certain people to pay attention.

AOL Strikes Again

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008:

Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing chapters for my third novel (my first needs to be rebuilt, thanks to an error in judgment, and the second is on hiatus, since I don’t want it to be my “first”), so I’ve slacked considerably on every other form of writing I’m known for. Journals, or blogs as they’re called on MySpace, are the chief among the neglected areas, and I owe part of that to common distraction—the Playstation 2 is a strong proponent of temptation. But I also have to owe part of it to the Internet, as AOL hates me.

I’d imagine AOL hates a lot of people, actually, so I think anyone reading this might sympathize with my situation. But for those who can’t sympathize or for those who don’t use AOL (pure geniuses) here’s my story:

The thing is, when I sign on, AOL plays nice for about five minutes. First, it coddles me, making me think everything’s gonna be all right when the news page loads up (AOL tends to give a choice of five lists to read from, starting with world news, then moving toward entertainment, then medicine, then real estate, then finally to the random nonsense page). Then, when I decide I’m not interested in the news, I’ll hit the “X” to vanish the main page; though, the AOL options menu and instant messenger refuse to die. When all the stuff I don’t care about is gone, I start checking messages. So, I log onto Hotmail to see five or six different organizations trying to get me to use their services. From there I ignore them, search for something relevant, nod my head as nothing fits the bill, and “X” out of Hotmail on another washed mission. It’s about then that AOL starts cashing in on its tease.

Lately I’ve gone straight to the messaging boards that I’ve frequented for about eight years after signing out of Hotmail. For a season, however, I followed Hotmail with MySpace. In either case, AOL uses the second site, the one that comes after I’ve been online for five minutes, to assault my nerves. Everything starts out okay, usually, loading the first page with as much speed as dial-up allows. But then it pulls the plug. Everything stalls. I can be in the middle of scrolling through someone’s message, hanging in suspense as I wait to read the final words, when all of a sudden the system locks up for at least two minutes, with no reason as it’s not loading anything, and then resumes as if ignoring the fact that it just got caught in a two-minute hiccup. What’s worse, it stalls my whole computer with it. Microsoft Word, usually friendly to me, also gives up life two minutes at a time. The calculator? Twenty times ten equals…equals…wait for it…

There are several reasons why I don’t visit MySpace much anymore. A big part has to do with the fact that nothing ever happens here. I probably don’t need to go into details, as I’m sure many witness the same lack of activity. But it feels like a waste of time. Blogs are written; no one responds. Friendships are requested, but not from real people. Plus, the whole convention is superficial. But AOL is the element that kills the experience.

Having said that, I officially deleted AOL yesterday in an effort to regain functionality out of my computer again. Yes, I will reinstall it, as DSL does not service my area and a cable hookup might cause more cracks in my bedroom wall than I already have and one false drill might bring the whole house down, so I’m short on options. But as of now, I’m writing everything blog-related out in Word (which works great when I’m not online), and will transfer it to MySpace when the time is right for the rest of the world to read it.

Which I suppose has already happened if you’re reading this.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Find a new information source, as the Internet demands too much performance out of simple machines.

Broken Flip-flops

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008

So my favorite shoes broke a few minutes ago. Okay, my only shoes—or at least the ones I actually wear. I went out for one of my usual midnight strolls through the ghetto for my early thirties exercise (we tend to need that a lot more when a third of our lives are gone), when I felt something weird between my toes. I looked down to see—

Actually, I wasn’t in the ghetto anymore. I had to walk through the ghetto to get to the store, but walk past the store to reach the canal where the two homeless guys sleep on the embankment, camping out with a radio (and fishing poles, or something like that—it’s hard to tell in the dark). Then I had to keep walking beyond the canal to reach the traffic light that leads into the walled city. It was there where I felt the something weird between my toes.

Yes, there’s a walled city around the corner from my house. It’s called Atlantis, FL; feel free to Google it.

So, with the border of Atlantis just a few feet to my left, a silent highway to my right, and hard sidewalk to my front, back, and at the base of my feet, I stopped. I looked down to see the toe flap, the very thing keeping my foot attached to the sandal, split in two. And I still had to walk back.

Well, I’m back now, obviously, so no harm there; but now I have a decision to make. I can’t really wear the sandals in their current condition, as another split might ruin the shoe. So I have to fix them. But how? Do I get them sewed together? That’s possible; the toe flap is made of cloth. Or I could go the easier road and tape them together. Masking tape might blend in with the natural earth colors the flip-flop is made of (after I color it with a brown marker). My last option, of course, is to open an E-Bay account and see what I can get for them. With gas reaching four bucks a gallon, I could use the extra help; though, I’d have to go around town barefoot.

Any suggestions?

DSCF0883

The flip-flops are on the bottom of the page. If you look closely, you can see the broken flap on the sandal to the left.

Also, ignore the other shoes. The black ones are my work shoes; the rest I’ve had since the nineties.