Facing the gap

super-dark

With 6 weeks until my 53rd birthday, I think I finally understand the concept of the generation gap.

You know when you’re with a group of people and two or more share a joke that isn’t funny? You stare blankly as they laugh and laugh and laugh. And when they finally catch their breath, one of them looks at you and says “You had to be there.”

That’s the generation gap.

It’s being faced with events or concepts for which you have little or no context. It simply fell outside of your life experience. And truthfully, it isn’t necessarily about age.

As an example, for months now (and possibly years), I have been struggling with comic book movies. They bore or bother me rather than entertain me, and yet I am surrounded by friends who adore them. Given my childhood fascination with comic books and Saturday cartoons, this just didn’t make sense to me.

Today’s comic book movie characters seem so dark and angry and violent that I leave the movie theatre depressed about the future of the world, not hopeful. Superheroes don’t inspire me anymore.

As a child of the 1960s and 1970s, my Batman is funny and my Superman is pure (for lack of a better word). And the only superhero that experienced anxiety was Spiderman, but he at least met it with self-deprecating wit.

[Note: Speaking of wit, I have an incredible soft spot for Robert Downey, Jr.’s Ironman, who for my money is 1000X funnier than Deadpool.]

ironpool

Today, to my eyes, Batman is psychotic. Superman kills people. And Spiderman is neurotic to the point of paralysis.

What I am quickly discovering from my gob-smacked friends is that I completely missed the graphic novel phase of these characters, where shit went south very quickly. My view of these characters is like the classic memory of “the old country”, a snapshot stuck in time.

I have also had a lot of friends rave about the new Netflix series Stranger Things. It hearkens back to classic Steven Spielberg or The Goonies, I hear. It is the 80s, they proclaim.

stranger-things

That must explain why it is only vaguely interesting but not particularly gripping to me. For all my love of and respect for Steven Spielberg, the 1980s wasn’t my decade and so the references and throwbacks hold much less significance to me than they do to my friends a decade or more younger than me.

So now what?

Well, for one thing, I can stop complaining about this stuff…which is good because I don’t have a lawn to tell kids to keep off of. If it doesn’t talk to me (whatever it is), I need to just accept that and move on. It is nobody’s fault. It is simply a generation gap.

I had to be there, and I wasn’t.

And more importantly, there are plenty of other things that I can enjoy, stranger or otherwise.

Seniority

(Source: BBC News Sussex)

(Source: BBC News Sussex)

The world wizzes by

At sixty minutes an hour

As the invisible old man

Shuffles by the store window.

Faces, buried in phones,

Are oblivious to his struggles

As early winter snows

And joints no longer fresh

Imperil every footfall;

Each step an exercise

Of will and forethought.

Hands palsy of cold and age,

Eyes rheum of wind and memory,

But the soul burns wildly

Despite bodily afflictions.

Crowds thicken and jostle;

The man holds his place

To catch balance and breathe.

And historied eyes rise

To catch reflections in glass.

The eyes that watch me

Are my own of blue,

But the husk that bears them

Is that of an ancient;

Frail and mortal witness

To a life eternal.

It’s official as of yesterday at 1:44 pm

sign

In the shadow of my approaching 50th birthday, at 1:44 pm EST on Saturday, November 16, 2013, I officially became old.

Worse than the first time I was called “Sir” or visited my old graduate department to find it populated with children, I was verbally punched in the gonads when a young man (early 20s?) offered me his seat on the westbound subway near Coxwell Street station.

Adding insult to injury, the subway was not busy—there were other seats available—and I was only carrying a notebook while he was burdened with a large knapsack, a cardboard box and a binder.

I graciously thanked him for his offer while refusing it and then proceeded to die a little bit inside.

Now, if he’d offered me a senior’s discount at the liquor store, well…

Let’s go to the Ex – Part One

Every year for two weeks in August, going back to the Ex has nothing to do with trying to rekindle an old flame…or does it?

Ending on Labour Day, the Canadian National Exhibition plays host to families from throughout the Greater Toronto Area, often dragged by parents trying to relive their own childhoods.

At 134 years old, the grand lady is starting to seriously show her age. She struggles every year to keep up with a population that is increasingly more comfortable keeping its head in a Blackberry or iPad.

She’s creaky. She’s doddering. She smells funny. But she’s ours, and I think we’ll keep her for a few more years yet.

Here are some of the people who agree with me.

PS If you want to learn more about old things Canadian, check out this great blog Bite Size Canada by T.K. Morin

Brothers by birth

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When we were young, my brothers and I were very close. The house was so small, we had little choice.

We moved a lot when we were kids, so we tended to see each other as playmates as much as anything, even though we were 5 and 5 years apart, me being the eldest. My brothers were constants in a sea of change.

At our youngest, spending time together was easy. Scott and I would use Shawn as cannon-fodder for any number of experiments, and he would respond as though it was great fun. The fact that Shawn did not die in childhood or does not suffer the after-effects of brain damage today is a testament to the strength and resiliency of the human skull.

As we got older, though, the strengths and directions of our individual personalities began to interfere with our genetic and social bond. I was the studious, overly verbose nerd. Scott was the quiet and reserved one; the observer. Shawn was the independent freedom fighter.

What were once common goals became more fractious, and as Shawn became older, he began to realize that his lot in life didn’t have to be guinea pig, and with his fiery temper, he in fact became a weapon of filial destruction. Only my decadal seniority kept him from killing Scott, who wasn’t always in my good books.

The genetic link continued to sever as we continued to age and each of us found less reason to spend time with the others. Our interests were different. Our needs were different. And our attitudes about the other two changed.

Around the time that I buggered off to college, Shawn’s rebellious streak took solid hold and he headed across the country to do his own thing. And Scott folded more into his own world.

In one way or another, we had effectively abandoned the family unit, and more important to my mother, the family unity. I can appreciate now how hard this must have been on her, but at the time, it all sounded like mom whining.

Over the next bunch of years, I think I saw Shawn twice…both weddings, one his. I saw Scott more regularly, but a lot of it felt forced as we would often meet at my mother’s place. I can only speak for me, but it felt like we were trying to maintain an illusion of what was.

There were good interactions between us. And I like to think there was still love. But there was no friendship. Genetics just wasn’t enough.

We parted company and lives. If asked, I am confident that any two thought the third was a complete asshole.

Time passes. We evolved and continue to become the men we need to be for ourselves. And from my perspective, something great has come out of that. We have been given a second chance at friendship.

As full-grown men with our own lives, interests and goals, we have chosen to welcome each other into our lives in one way or another. It is not the bond we shared in our youth, but I don’t know that any of us are too worried about that. (Shawn’s still too big and strong to let Scott and I pile drive him into the basement floor.)

The friendship I have with Shawn is different than the one I have with Scott, but both friendships are meetings of equals. One of the only bonds we seem to share as a trio, other than our familial link to our mother, is a neurological link to alcohol (damn, that’s one hell of a pub tab).

Shawn is the successful restaurateur, who is still the independent freedom fighter.

Scott is the dedicated family man, who is still the observer.

I am the raconteur, wit and writer, who is still the sexiest man in town (okay fine, the studious, overly verbose nerd).

But none of these descriptions is sufficient. We are simply the men that we are.

Shawn, Scott and I are brothers by birth, but we’re friends by choice. And that’s the way it should be.

The Guardian

She stands in the yard,

the centre of her universe,

an observer of her time and place.

Barren arms reach into the air,

fingers scratching at the sky,

grasping at the breeze.

She stands alone.

 

Her skin is deep ebon,

in stark contrast to the piles

of snow at her feet.

Once, it was smooth

but now bears the deep

crenellations and scars

of her many years.

The pliancy and suppleness of youth

have been replaced with the

inflexibility and roughness of maturity.

 

Her age has brought many visions,

scenes of an over-full life

flooding her existence.

She has seen the passing

of innumerable families

in her neighbourhood;

The birth of children

who have played in her yard,

enjoying the welcome

of her open arms.

Children who develop

and change their surroundings,

having children of their own,

growing old and passing on.

Yet, she outlives them all.

 

She will live forever.

For her, the years are minutes,

decades but hours.

Who knew, those many years ago,

when that small grey squirrel

prepared his forage for winter,

that such beauty would surface

from the cold, damp earth

pressing down upon her infant self;

to shade her yard in summer;

to return fertility in the Fall with humus

from her dead and dying leaves.

She is the immortal,

timeless and carefree.

(One of the autumn immortals from Toronto’s High Park.)

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