44

I’ve skipped the birthday blogging for the past few years. No reason. I’m just an inconsistent blogger. Besides, maybe if I only do this every few years, I can delay the inevitable march of time.

I’ll start with a quote from Wil Wheaton. His birthday was a month ago, and he started his blog that day with a line that was too good not to steal. He wrote, “Today, I complete my 44th trip around the Sun. It’s only taken me a little over 16,000 days, so my pace is pretty solid.”

This year, I’m glad to report that everything is awesome. Time’s march has been on a level road. My religious friends would say, “I’ve been blessed”, but I’ll say I’ve had ease and success in life directly correlated to the effort I’ve put forth added to the sum of being born white, male and middle class. These days I’m mostly riding the waves from earlier effort, but the formula holds.

My stay in Midgard has been mostly enjoyable, though the bars here are stingy with their booze. If I had one birthday wish, it would be to find a bar/restaurant that actually puts tequila in its margaritas. If I believed in the magic of wishes, I’d probably have more serious wishes (a million dollars, world peace, Trump cancer, stuff like that), but I don’t believe in magic. So I wish to stop ordering beers as the only alcoholic alternative to sugar water with a salted rim.

So there you have it. The one thing lacking in my life can be found by just staying home. That’s got to be some kind of allegory, right?

Editors note: I’ve been blogging since 2009, and I’ve never shared an actual intimate thought or story. That trend doesn’t end here.

Genius in a Bottle

Midlife. I can feel the second half of my life slipping away, one boring moment at a time. It feels like Sunday afternoon. The end of the weekend. I want to go on vacation and get drunk for five days and maybe never go back to work, but in reality I’m just going to sit on the couch and wait for the sun to go down. The clock won’t stop. Monday’s coming. Except in this case Sunday afternoon is midlife and Monday is the grave. I may not die Monday morning, but almost no one lives to see lunch time.

SMASH!
SMASH!

Some days my inner voice screams in frustration. I want to flip my desk and hurl my chair through a window. I want to SMASH a Chris shaped hole in the sheetrock and drive until I see an ocean. I want to be anywhere other than where I am, doing anything other that what I’m doing. When I feel like howling, I drink until the howl becomes a sarcastic aside. Rum quiets the beast.

Midlife Transition
Midlife Transition

This isn’t coming from a place of regret. I’m okay with the life I’ve lived so far. The screaming in my head is the sound of unbridled optimism crying to be released. It’s potential energy demanding to become kinetic, like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones stuck in a tiny silent elevator. I want to release my potential in the next forty years. I want to find my peak. I want to see things, to create things. I want to let the rum soaked genius out of the bottle.

Passing 41

I was just wasting my work day on Pinterest, when I came across a quote from “The Great Gatsby”, my favorite novel. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” That’s a great writing prompt.

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Today is my 41st birthday. In my twenties I used to read “The Great Gatsby” every year in the week leading up to my birthday. Near the climax of the book there’s a moment where Nick Carraway remembers that it’s his birthday. He’d been so caught up in everyone else’s drama that he’d forgotten. He says, “‘I just remembered that today’s my birthday.’ I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.” I loved that bit. So every year I read it, right through the drudgery that was my twenties, waiting to see that stretch of menacing road at thirty. That bit of the road is now well behind me, and I’ll say it wasn’t as menacing as Nick led me to believe. After thirty, I’d out grown Fitzgerald. I was older than the protagonists of most of his stories. I still have my well worn copies of all of his novels and short stories. They sit on my shelf as dusty memories of my own private jazz age.

Now safely in my forties, I find myself passing every new birthday feeling generally blah. This morning I went for a run. It was nearly eighty degrees, humid and still. I thought how much I can’t wait for the Fall. I love my morning runs in the Fall, especially those first mornings when it’s in the fifties and the sidewalks are littered with leaves. That’s when I come alive again.

So seeing that quote from Fitzgerald hit me right in the feels. That’s exactly where my mind was this morning and into today. I’m not feeling blah because it’s my birthday, I’m feeling blah because the summer has once again overstayed it’s welcome. My birthday isn’t the new beginning I’m waiting for. It’s the first sound of the breaking of the chrysalis. And it’s not menace up that road at all. It’s Fall. Just up the road is life’s crisp new start. And when it comes, you can bet your ass I’ll be running right through the middle of it.

A Pruitt Looks At Forty

unless you read this later

Sunday will be my 40th birthday. I’ve spent a few weeks thinking in the back of my mind that I should say something here for posterity. Something maybe about who I am and where I am at this milestone. But for the life of me, I can’t think of much worth sharing.

I’ve been in kind of a malaise for the past few months as this milestone has loomed out there like a big dead end.

Neither of my parents lived to be old. My mom passed away six days after her 50th birthday. My dad passed away at sixty. I’ve been wondering if they would have faced their final decade or two differently had they known it’d be their last? Will I face mine differently with my own mortality constantly hanging around the next corner? No. They wouldn’t have, and neither will I. Nor would you, I suspect. One of things that separates us from other animals is that we’re aware of our own mortality. Turns out that doesn’t make a difference. We live our lives each day as though we’ll live forever.

Ignoring the genetic risk for a shortened life, I’d say I’m probably around the mid-way mark. Life Expectancy in the U.S. is currently 78.37 (which is 51st place among all nations. Life expectancy is only 31.88 in Swaziland, though. So there’s that), but I know of plenty of people well into their 80s who could easily pass for 60. With advances in medical science, my generation will likely make it comfortably into our 90’s on average, maybe longer. If the singularity movement is correct, we’ll achieve immortality in 2045 which makes this all moot.

So how’s mid life working out for me? Meh! I’m not at a crisis point… yet.

I started training for a marathon this year. That’s sucky and boring. Running actually makes me feel older. I feel slow and old and fat. I’m not sure what this runner’s high is that they talk about. Most days it just pisses me off.

I’ve got a fast red sports car. That’s an indicator of mid life trouble, right? When I want to feel my oats, I can go crank up the tunes and drive really fast. I like that. Most days, though, I slog through traffic at 25 mph listening to audiobooks or podcasts or NPR.

No risk here of running off with a young hottie. Let’s face it, I’m way too antisocial for that. Also, I love my wife. We’ve got a great little family unit, and I draw tremendous joy from that part of my life.

No risk of quitting my job to become a cowboy. (My dad did that.) I’m one of those rare people who actually likes their job. I get paid to go to a place everyday and do stuff that I’d do for free. I’m constantly challenged to move outside of my comfort zone and to master new things.

So what then? I’ll pass this birthday, the way I pass every day. I’ll have a meal I enjoy with the people I love (Lisa and Jacob). There’ll probably be cake. There’ll probably be booze. The next morning, like every other morning, I’ll get up and move forward into another day. Always one day farther from home and one day closer to the grave. There’ll be a new thing to learn, a new obstacle to overcome, a new experience to be had. That’s a pretty good life.

Secular Funeral

While I plan on becoming immortal in 2045, there is always an outside chance that I could die before then. I’ll be 73 in 2045 and anything could happen between now and then. I could be killed in auto accident on the way home today. note to self: click on “publish” before leaving work today. If that happens, I want to make it clear to [all three of] my readers that I want a secular funeral.

It has always unnerved me to go the funeral of a, shall we say, less than religious person and find it to be little more than a church service held over their dead body. Which, by the way, is likely the only way they would have attended a church service. I’ve said before that I support organized religion, but I don’t necessarily buy what they’re selling. After I’m gone, I don’t want anyone living their life in the false hope of meeting me again on some far distant shore. I fully accept that we live in an 11 dimensional universe, and that we only observe 4 dimensions. So I won’t discount the limited probability that human consciousness may somehow be able to exist in a non-corporeal trans-dimensional form, but I’ve never heard that mentioned at a funeral.
So if I bite it before downloading my mind into an android, here’s what I want in the days following. First, there needs to be a wake. Not a sad-ass-everybody-crying wake, but a proper drunken celebration of my life. There should be lots of food and alcohol. There should be stories, both funny and sad. At this time everyone should remember that had I been invited to this party, I wouldn’t have shown up, because, let’s face it, I’m a little anti-social. The party should be held at someone’s house so my body doesn’t have to be there.

Next, the funeral. Rather than a preacher, I’d like to be eulogized by someone who knew me. (In order to know me, the eulogist must have either gotten drunk with me or shared an adverse experience with me.) We go to church and we have a preacher, but he doesn’t know me from Adam’s off ox. When we joined the church, he introduced us as “the Pratts” even though our name was written on a paper he had in his hand. I guess no one ever said religion is the opiate of the literate. If I were a proper religious person, I’d suspect this is some sort of game the devil plays, where you can’t be saved if the preacher says your name incorrectly. I’ve known, and even been close friends with a few preachers in my life. If one of them shows up and wants to do the eulogy, make them read this first.

There should be music, but no hymns. Music is such a big piece of the human experience, but you usually get just three songs at a funeral. Here are my three songs. For the Processional, “Never Been To Spain” (Elvis, from An Afternoon in the Garden). For the Hymn of Meditation,”Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (Willie Nelson, from Red Headed Stranger). And for the Recessional, “That’s Life” (Frank Sinatra, from That’s Life). These are not my desert island top three favorite songs. That’s a post for another day. This is just my funerary pick.

Finally, what to do with my remains… I don’t care. I have absolutely no investment in what to do with my body once my brain has been deactivated. Bury it, cremate it, defile it, give it science. Do whatever is the most expeditious thing.

Hopefully this will be the most useless thing I’ve ever written. I’ll be sure and delete this entry when I’m a robot.

For Jacob on the Occassion of his 13th Birthday

Jacob

As you take your first weary steps into adulthood, I feel the overwhelming need to lay down the ground rules for you. As puberty will continue to dull your mind for the next several years, you may want to print this out, keep it in your wallet and refer to it often. It’s going to be a lengthy list so you may want to look into getting a bigger wallet. Maybe one of the big fold over kind that men used to carry in their coat pocket.

The Rules of Life:

Education

  • School is your job. Right now, and until you graduate from college.
  • Average is not acceptable. This rule applies to everything, not just schoolwork.
  • You are solely responsible for your success or failure in all things. Sometimes this means you’ll have to work harder because you have a bad lab partner, bad teacher or bad boss. Those people aren’t responsible for your success or failure. You are.
  • College is mandatory. In the Game of Life you get to choose college or career. Real life is not a game, so you don’t get to choose. 
  • Make a lifelong commitment to learning. Learning doesn’t end after college, and for some people college doesn’t even end after college. It’s okay to stay in school forever. As long as you can make a living, go for it. Once you’ve left school, keep learning. Travel, read, research and grow.

Relationships

  • Your mother is the most important person in your life. If you don’t have a healthy loving relationship with your mother, you will never have a healthy loving relationship with anyone else, ever. The same is true of other people. Don’t get involved with people who don’t like their mothers.
  • It’s what you like, not what you are like, when it comes to making friends. Don’t get this wrong, strength of character is important, but for making new friends, it’s good to start from common ground.
  • You will be judged by the company you keep. Pick your friends wisely. Avoid people who make bad or dangerous choices.
  • Women aren’t mystical creatures. They’re just like men; manipulative, emotional men with boobs. They’ll try to make you think they can’t be understood, or that you can’t even pick out your own clothes without them. It’s a trick. Don’t fall for it.
  • Sex is not for only after marriage. If you wait, you’ll be sorry. I know you don’t want to hear about this now, but in ten years, you’ll thank me.
  • First marriages are for practice. If at all possible, try to avoid making babies with your first wife. To nullify this rule, wait until after you’re thirty to get married.
  • Be Faithful to your wife. The rules on fidelity are thus- If you’re the married one, it’s cheating. Don’t do that. If she’s the married one, technically you’re not cheating, but you’re also not bulletproof, so advance at your own peril. Also, no good relationship ever started with one of the parties cheating on their spouse.
  • The first girl you love is not the girl you’ll marry. You’ll fall in love in high school and think it’s special that you found your one true love on the first try. You didn’t. Trust me on this.
  • The greatest gift you can give your mother is to love your wife.
  • You’ll never outgrow the family you grew up with. If you believe “a son is a son till he takes him a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life,” you don’t know your mother. She’ll destroy any woman who tries to take you away.
  • The greatest gift you can give your father is to be a good father yourself.

Career

  • You will hate most of your first jobs. You just have to push through those times. You’ll need the cash to do all the relationship stuff above. These experiences also prepare you for later, less crappy jobs
  • Job satisfaction is more important than high pay. If you can score both, you’ve done well.
  • Pick a career that interests you. Find an employer you believe in. Don’t spend your adult years hating your job.
  • Anything worth having is worth working for. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. These are called truisms for a reason.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit. All that hype about not being a quitter is bull. Dedicating time to a losing prospect is much worse than quitting early.

All the other rules (in no particular order)

  • Rinse your dishes immediately after use. This will save you more work later.
  • All IT problems can be solved by turning the device off and turning it back on again.
  • Don’t slam doors or hit things unless you mean it as punctuation to a crappy mood.
  • Always judge people. This is contrary to what everyone else will tell you, but trust your instincts where people are concerned.
  • Don’t exercise in pajamas.
  • If at any point, you find yourself in jail, there is a very real chance you have failed completely up to that point, and your life will require a reboot.
  • Say what you mean, mean what you say, or don’t speak. Words are powerful. Use them wisely.
  • Learn to be self sufficient. There will be periods in your life when you will be completely alone.
  • Be weary of anyone who claims to profess the one true religion. For that matter, never trust anyone who claims to have conversations with an invisible deity.
  • In your late teens you’re going to discover alcohol. Don’t drink to excess or in public until you’re 21, and don’t ever drive drunk. Call me or call a cab. (#TAXI or #8294 from any cell anywhere).
  • Nothing good ever happened between Midnight and 5AM. Always be in bed under the covers during those five hours.
  • The toilet has a bowl, a lid and a seat. Each has a function.
  • Toilet paper should unroll toward you, not toward the wall.
  • Replace the TP roll when it’s used up. An empty cardboard tube on a spool may be of use after the apocalypse, but for now when the roll is empty replace it. (I know I just rattled off three rules about the toilet, but you’ll start every morning there, and you don’t want to start every morning of your life wrong.) 
  • College, marriage, babies. In that order!!!
  • Deadlines are due dates, not start dates. Plan accordingly.
  • Question authority. But first be sure you’re in the right.
  • Wear nice shoes and drive cool cars.
  • Caffeine cures depression.
  • Avoid the victim mentality. Don’t let impersonal things affect you personally.
  • Barney on “How I Met Your Mother” is not a role model. If you have to pick a role model from a TV sitcom, use one of the guys from “Big Bang Theory”.
  • Everyone loves a smart arse, but no one likes a jerk. Know the difference between sarcasm and meanness.
  • Use Social Networking responsibly. Be sure you don’t accidentally share a post with the world that you only wanted your best friends to see. If you want to share your most intimate thoughts with the world, start a blog… like this one, where I share our private conversations with anyone interested in reading them.
  • Avoid hypocrisy. Be who you are.
  • Honesty is always the best first option.
  • Spellcheck – Yes. Auto correct – No.
  • Variety is not always good. It’s okay to pick something you like and stick with it. It’s called consistency.
  • You learn from failure. So don’t be afraid to risk and fail.
  • Be resilient. Don’t get hung up on the losses life will deal you. Dust yourself off and move forward.
  • Confront your fears within reason and where possible. Don’t go out of your way to walk on the wing of a flying airplane or anything like that, but don’t let fear of rejection or fear of failure prevent you from doing things you want to do or having things you want to have.
  • Try to find the humor in every situation. Laughter will save you from the dull monotony of every day living.
And Finally…
  • Break all the rules at least once.

Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my High Holy Day. Lisa’s family will come over and we’ll once again blend our traditions, each person carrying a ghost from their own childhood in the form of a platter of food. It may be the stuffing their grandma made or the pie their favorite aunt used to make. Some new traditions may start tomorrow, and some old ones may vanish forever. This is only the most recent incarnation of my favorite holiday.

I’m not someone who likes to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. I am very good at compartmentalising my life, and tmy parentshat includes keeping the past in the past, where it belongs. But at this time of year, it seems like the veil separating the past from the present is so thin I may fall through. I feel like I could be driving home from work, sitting alone in my car, and suddenly find myself sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner at my Mema’s house thirty years ago. It may be seventy degrees out, but I can feel the chill of the last Thanksgiving before my mom passed away. It was 1993, and it snowed and iced on Thanksgiving. I almost skipped it because I was scared to drive on the ice. Only a handful of people were able to make it that year. I’m glad I was one of them.

I’ve shared the Thanksgiving feast with representatives of every generation of my family who lived in my life span, from my great grandparents, who were born in the 1890’s, to my son, who was born over a century later. Some day I’ll eat the feast with my grandchildren, and maybe someday with my great grandchildren. Those future feasts will be as different from tomorrow’s as tomorrow’s will be from the ones in my memory. But each will carry with it the joyful memories of all that came before.

Tomorrow, the memory of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents will share a table with us, as though they were still here. And hopefully, years after I have moved through the veil, the memory of me will live on to share Thanksgiving with the generations I will never meet.

Low T

On the way to work I pass a clinic with a huge sign that says “Low T”. This new-age disorder has replaced “Restless Leg Syndrome” as the new made up thing that people think the suffer from. They call it Andropause (this is “male menopause”) or Low T. The “T” is for testosterone. Here’s a complete list of symptoms:
      “Your T is low, Fool.”
    • Fatigue
    • Memory Loss
    • Muscle Loss
    • Weight Gain
    • Low Sex Drive
    • Erectile Dysfunction
    • Depression
    • Irritable Male Syndrome
    • Hot Flashes
    • Night Sweats
    • Hair Loss
    • Sleep Apnea
    • Prostate Problems
    • Osteoporosis

Oh God! Where do I start? One of the symptoms is “Irritable Male Syndrome“. I cut this definition right off a website called renewman.com, “Getting irritated by things that never used to bother you? Have you lost your temper suddenly or for no apparent reason? Never quite know when you’re going to fly off the handle again?” I’ve been an irritable male since puberty. I thought flying off the handle was a sign of testosterone rage. Are they saying if I take their drugs, I will have more testosterone, but I’ll be mellow? OH THAT MAKES ME SO MAD!

Fatigue, memory loss, muscle loss, weight gain, hair loss. Find me one man over forty who doesn’t suffer from four of those five things and I’ll buy him a wig. Hair loss? Really? They are claiming that hereditary male pattern baldness is actually a symptom of this disease. Whah?
 
Low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and depression. If you spend enough years being emasculated by women, subjugated by the boss, treated like an idiot by your children, and beat down by life you will exhibit all of these symptoms. Hormones have nothing to do with it. 
 
Sleep apnea, prostate problems and osteoporosis. These are all serious problems, the cause of which is not low testosterone. They are each actual health problems. Diseases in their own right. If you suffer from one of these, go to an actual doctor and get help.
 
Wait a minute. Is this all some B.S. reason to legally get steroid injections? Why didn’t you they so? Every man wants to be a pumped up action hero. They’re going about this all wrong. The ad shouldn’t say “Remember when you had the energy to [do a bunch of wussy stuff like be romantic and go to concerts]” It should feature Mr. T saying, “Wanna get ripped? Wanna bust some heads? Tired of takin’ shit off everybody all the time? Then get your T back, Sucka!”

Hell yeah! Sign me up.

Thirty Nine

On the occassion of the 18th anniversary of my 21st birthday, I’d like to take a 3.25 minutes to review the stats for my life so far:

  • I’ve been with Lisa and Jacob for 9.12054794505479452054795 years.
    • I can honestly say that 9.081532158016554 years of it has been pretty awesome.
    • We’ve been married for 6.795205479452054794520547945205 years
  • I’ve had the same cat for 17 years.
  • I’ve been legally elligible to drink for 6,570 nights. I don’t remember how many of those nights I actually drank, but I can say I puked probably less than 20 times.
    • This is only since I turned 21. Underage drinking gets expunged from your record.
    • It can be assumed that I’ve consumed 462.6 gallons of booze. (This stat is based on normal American per capita consumption, That’s 2.14 gallons per month. Jesus, America, slow down. It’s not a race. Is this why Rick Perry is so popular? You bunch of drunks!)
  • I’ve owned 11 cars
    • 3 were bought new
    • 10 were American
    • 1 was German
  • I’ve eaten 14,235 breakfasts, but I’ve only had 1,768 bisuits
  • I’ve lived 9 places (4 apartments and 5 houses) in 4 different cities, all within 60 miles of my place of birth.
  • I’ve voted in 5 Presidential elections. 3 times, my candidate won.
  • I’ve been to 19 states
  • I’ve had 7 jobs, with an average tenure of 3.4 years.
    • I better get back to work now or this stat may be in danger