Old Man Yells At Cloud

I feel sorry for you Millennials with your student loans.  As a solid Gen-Xer, I was fortunate enough to not have to bear the burden of having student loans.  I know.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.

What’s my secret?  How did I manage to escape the burden of such heavy debt?  How rich are my parents?

Were my high school grades just that outstanding and I got a scholarship?  I mean, my extensive knowledge with regard to the 1982 NBC primetime line-up alone…

All good questions.  Every last one.

I managed to escape the student loan trap by being a goddamned dirtbag who never went to college.  I do not recommend this as an approach to avoiding student loan debt.

Not attending college was a “bold move”, in that I had no money to go to college.  Since nobody else in my immediate family had gone either, there was nobody to tell me how I could have even done it, anyway.  There was no internet to find this information.  We were poor as fuck, so nobody knew the first thing about crazy shit like “applying for financial aid”, or “talking to someone about your future”.  When you grow up poor, you are acutely aware that you don’t have a future.  It was just assumed that if you didn’t have $40,000 in cash lying around, then you didn’t go to college.  Go find yourself a jobby-job.  End of story.

As the brilliant Ted Knight so eloquently says in Caddyshack, “Well, the world needs ditch-diggers, too.”

When people asked me on my graduation day from high school what I was planning on doing after school, my answer was that I was going to, you know, hang out.  See some bands.  That’s exactly what I did, too.  I hung out.  I saw some bands.  I had no car and no job.  Had my mother not gotten remarried and moved out of the house, I would have had nowhere to live, either.  She let me live rent free in the old, falling apart house for six months as a graduation gift to me, thank god.

After lying around on the couch doing nothing for months on end and slowly descending into a flaming bout of mental illness which was akin to those scenes in “The Aviator” where Leonardo DiCaprio is crazy as fuck, manic with OCD, stops bathing, and keeps repeating the same sentences over and over while twitching, I finally pulled myself out of it and got an entry level full-time job that paid me $6.00 an hour, through a friend who could also give me a ride there.  My two-week paycheck, after taxes and whatnot, for 85 hours of work, was $373.00.

Anne eventually moved in and we split the rent at the house.  We relied heavily on the Burger King “Two Cheeseburgers and Two Fries for $2.22” deal for meals, and ate at our parents’ houses whenever we could.  I still didn’t have a car and instead had to pester everyone I knew to give me rides.

I was fortunate that my mother’s husband surprised me with an awesome used car one day when I was 21 years old, that he let me pay him back for over a five year period at $100 a month with no interest, otherwise I would have never been able to get a car on my own.  I was never able to put more than $5 worth of gas into it at a time.  The first time I could afford a full tank of gas, I was 26.

In the end, stuff worked out, and by “worked out”, I mean I spent decades of my life not even having $400 to my name.  If I had to estimate how much money I spent cumulatively in overdraft fees at my bank, it would be in the thousands.  Sometimes I overdrafted on purpose, and took the max amount of cash out as sort of a gonzo loan until payday, where I would deposit my paycheck at the end of the week and it would just take my account back up to $0.

After working full-time for 16 years, the first time my checking account had $1,000 in it, I was 34 years old.  I felt like a millionaire.  I opened my first savings account when I was 36, and didn’t start contributing to a retirement account until I was 37.

When the subject of my lack of higher education has come up at job interviews over the years, it makes me feel like I want to literally die right there in the interviewer’s office.

“You mean you didn’t go to college…at all?”

Then they make the face.  The face that, if I’m lucky enough to be hired, makes me feel like I have to work ten times harder than everybody else, just to prove that I’m worthy of the position.

That’s why it is incredibly insulting when someone asks you what college you went to, and when you tell them that you didn’t go to college, they say, “Good for you!  I wish I hadn’t gone!”

It’s like telling someone who has polio that you wish you could go back in time and not get vaccinated against polio.

Why am I regaling you with all this nonsense?  Because I want to impart one large piece of wisdom on you.  GO TO COLLEGE.  A CHEAP ONE.  FOR A DEGREE THAT WILL SOMEDAY HOPEFULLY MAKE YOU SOME MONEY.*

“Okay!  I’m thinking of majoring in philosophy!”

No.  If you tell me that, I will push you into a fire and walk away.

You can toss any arts degree in there while you’re at it, and I say that as someone who has both tried to make a living as an artist and is a huge, huge supporter of the arts.  Someone whose friends are almost all exclusively artists.  Someone who believes art is the most powerful language in all of humanity.

Had I had the ability to go college when I got out of high school, I surely would have majored in some broke shit like creative writing, or painting, or poetry.  You know, things you absolutely do not need a degree for in order to do them.

Get an accounting degree.  Major in international finance.  Medicine.  Science.  Engineering.  Something with computers and whatnot.  You can work your job and still write poetry in your spare time.  Also, your poetry sucks.

That was uncalled for.

I guess what I’m really saying is loans or no loans, nearly everyone is fucked unless they’re born with money.


*This is just one humble dirtbag’s opinion.  Your anecdotes where you fully disagree with me or show me your student loan bills will be printed out, put through a shredder, and then used as kindling for a drum circle bonfire, which I will not actually be attending, because “drum circle”.

80s Parents and The Saga of BoyCrush 

When I was 7 years old, my favorite song was “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack.  Yes, I was allowed to watch Flashdance when I was 7 years old because “80s parents”.  Anything short of a snuff film would have passed muster with 80s parents.  Now I’m going to make you repeat the words “snuff muster” over and over in your head, because I’m doing it myself and I feel it’s only fair that I spread the wealth.  Snuff muster.  Snuff muster.  Snuff muster.

We discussed this earlier.  Never do anything just because I told you do it.  I will become drunk with power and the next thing you know, you’ll open a bag of Fritos and I’ll appear from thin air, take the bag from your hands and say, “You weren’t eating these, were you?” and then walk away with it.

“You wouldn’t do that!”

It’s like the Maya Angelou quote everybody loves to throw around:  “When someone tells you they will steal your corn chips, believe them the first time.”

We had a local rollerskating rink we used to go in the early 80s, where parents would typically drop you off around 10am with $3 in your pocket, speed away while blasting a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, and then pick you up 7-10 hours later.  It’s what they now call “free-range parenting”, and except for everyone getting molested and stabbed, it worked out pretty great.

Generally speaking, back then if you were savvy enough when you were 7 to turn down a pixy-stick of cocaine from a 30 year old guy named “Scary Gary” and skate away like your parachute pants were on fire, your parents felt they had done their job instilling a solid fear base in you, as well as the athletic prowess required to escape such stealthy, googly-eyed, predators-on-wheels.  You could basically just self-parent from that point forward.

My sisters and I had been dropped off at the skating rink one Saturday, and it turned out my super duper, #1, oh my god, crush was there.

BoyCrush was, by far, without question, the cutest boy in the first grade.  He had sandy light brown hair, big dark doe eyes, and a smile like someone in a toothpaste ad.  He was always dressed so clean and neat, and unlike every other boy in class, his hands weren’t covered in dirt and warts.

My feelings about BoyCrush were not unique by any means.  Everyone had a crush on BoyCrush.  Aside from being cute, he was the only boy who was ever nice to us girls.  Instead of throwing rocks at us on the playground, he was usually found delicately pushing us girls on the swings or playing Chinese jump-rope with me and my friend Tricia on the basketball court.  BoyCrush was the total package.

My sisters knew about my crush on BoyCrush, and even if they didn’t, anyone could have put two and two together.  This kid was universally adorable.  Any girl could have walked by and someone could yell, “You think this kid is cute, DON’T YOU?” and they’d eventually cave in and say, “YES.  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR?  YES!  HE’S SO FREAKING CUTE!  I’M NOT MADE OF STONE.  I HAVE TWO EYES, YOU KNOW.”

In an effort to match-make us at the skating rink, my sisters cornered BoyCrush near the restroom and told him that I liked him, and then he immediately ran into the boys’ restroom and hid.  Upon hearing that they ACTUALLY TOLD HIM that I liked him, I ran into the girls’ restroom and hid.

Unbeknownst to me, my sisters then went to the DJ and requested my favorite song, “Maniac”.  They came back to the girls’ restroom with a plan to coax me out.

My sister Julie knelt down beside me on the restroom floor, the feather roach-clip in her hair danging over me and said, “You know, BoyCrush just went to the DJ and asked him to play “Maniac” because it’s your favorite song and he wants to skate with you.”

My sister Bonnie chimed in, “It’s true.  I saw him go up to the DJ booth and ask.  He totally wants to skate with you.”

I said, “Really?  BoyCrush said he wants to skate with ME?”

They nodded their heads in unison, “Yep.”

I couldn’t believe it.  BoyCrush wanted to skate with me.  Of all the girls in the world, he picked me.  I’d never felt so special.  At least not since Chef Boyardi started selling Beef-a-roni in the family-size can.

I eventually came out from the girls’ restroom and passed by the boys’ restroom.  BoyCrush was sitting on the tile floor, up against the wall, looking extremely distressed while a couple of my sisters’ guy friends (including his own older brother) appeared to be trying to talk him into something.  He had a desperate look on his face, like he was being interrogated by the police.

Just then, “Maniac” came on over the sound system.  I guess my sisters weren’t lying after all!  I waited for BoyCrush, but he was still in the boys’ room, so I skated out on the rink alone.  About halfway through the song, I saw BoyCrush emerge from the boys’ room and come out onto the rink.  I slowed down so he could catch up with me, then he took off like a rocket and zoomed right past me.

When Monday morning rolled around at school, he and I pretended like the whole thing had never happened.

I ran into BoyCrush at a bar many years later, when he had returned home from college for winter break.  We had a couple drinks together and reminisced about our old school days.  After my second drink, I worked up some nerve and said, “What was the deal that day at the skating rink when we were in first grade?  My sisters said you requested “Maniac” so you could skate with me, and then you just blew me off!”

I playfully knocked him in the shoulder and laughed, “How could you break my little 7 year old heart?!”

He laughed, and laughed and laughed and laughed, and then said, “Oh, my sweet.  Your sisters were soooo fucking with you.  I never asked the DJ to play that song.  Did you seriously not know I was gay?  For god’s sake – I used to play Chinese jump-rope with you and Tricia – in public!”

(I imagine you probably came to that conclusion yourself when I mentioned Chinese jump-rope a few paragraphs ago.)

I said, “How the hell was I supposed to know?  I was 7!”

BoyCrush said, “Fine.  How about when we were in middle school and I went to the New Kids on The Block concert with a pack of 13 year old girls?”

I said, “Plenty of people liked New Kids on The Block besides teenage girls!”

BoyCrush gave me his best “Bitch, please” look and said, “Name ONE boy or man.”

I started to answer and he put up his index finger and said, “One that’s NOT gay. And before you continue, may I also remind you about the time in high school when I did a spot-on lip-synch performance of Madonna’s “Hanky Panky” in front of everyone outside the art room?”

He probably had me on that one.

He clinked his glass against mine and said, “And I NAILED IT, chica.”

Now I have to go write this goddamned Sheen vs. Estevez thing even though I was planning on doing nothing today.

I have this really great new excuse for cutting myself some slack:  I turned 42 last month.

I had a similar excuse around this time last year.  It was called “I turned 41 last month”.

If you’re older than 42, you’re thinking, “Shut up, skank.  Talk to me when you’re 70.”  I totally, totally get that because:

1.  I am actually a skank, so kudos on your spot-on assessment.

2.  In the grand scheme of things, 42 is still young.

I realize that there are plenty of people who still scale Mt. Kilimanjaro who are also on Medicare, but let’s pretend they don’t exist for the length of this blog, if for no other reason than those people make all of us look bad by comparison.  They’re blowing the curve with their “active senior lifestyles”, which I think is pretty selfish of them.  Did you go skydiving for your 90th birthday?  I don’t want to hear about it.  At least not while I’m googling padded toilet seats, anyway.

The problem is that I cannot be trusted with any amount of slack.  I just can’t.  If you give me an inch of slack, I won’t even take a mile.  Instead, I’ll call someone up from the couch and say, “Hey, can you go pick up this mile of slack for me?  Some fool trusted me to just take an inch.  No, no I can’t go get it myself.  I’m busy.  Just leave it by my front door.  Thanks.”

Then I’ll return to watching Major League for the 150th time and wondering aloud at what age, as the spawn of Martin Sheen, one would have to decide whether to go by “Sheen” or “Estevez” professionally, and then wax philosophical as to the various pros and cons for choosing one over the other, because that is literally the kind of bullshit I spend time wondering aloud.  How Bobby keeps from smothering me with a throw pillow is completely beyond me.  The man is a saint.

And I would choose Estevez, for obvious reasons.  Perhaps I’ll write a post that details those exact reasons in somewhere around the 1,200 word mark, and then you will finally give up on me for good.  You can do better, people.

I especially like to use age as an excuse to cut myself some slack when I’m too lazy to push myself to work out.  Cutting myself some slack with regard to exercise, by the way, means I tell myself that I don’t have to exercise at all.  Usually something along the lines of, “I should probably cut myself some slack today.  I don’t want to be one of those people who works out so hard that they need knee replacements before they’re 50!”

Then I breathe a sigh of relief, sit down on the couch with a Ziploc bag of loose chocolate chips, and start watching The Golden Girls, thankful that I’ve saved myself from all the potential joint damage.  Not working out?  That’s about staying safe!

Luckily/unluckily, when I was 35, I discovered this wonderful form of exercise called “Pilates”, so it’s difficult for me to make excuses and still be able to look myself in the mirror.  Never in my life did I dream I would find an exercise regimen so perfectly tailored to me, but there it was:  An exercise regimen that requires you to LIE ON THE FLOOR to do it.

Pilates were invented by blah blah blah…you had me at “lie on the floor”.

Is it hard?  Absolutely.  I would dare any Crossfitter in those weird toe-shoes to attempt a Pilates core-workout and not start crying and shaking uncontrollably even two minutes into it.  Pilates workouts are horrific, awful, torturous things.  They feel like a sorority has been unleashed inside your torso swinging pillowcases full of soap bars.  Pilates are brutal with a capital “I fucking hate this”.

I can withstand them not because I have abs of steel, but because I am doing an exercise that allows me to lie on the floor.  My mental and physical toughness increase exponentially in any situation if I know I get to lie on the floor the whole time.  No matter how bad it gets, I just say, “You could be standing doing this exercise right now. Standing!” and that’s enough motivation for me to keep going.

Every now and then I get an annoying little bee in my huuuuge bonnet about needing to add cardio to my workouts, usually right around the time that I can’t pull my skinny suit-pants on Monday morning without using a shoehorn.  Then I remember all the hot pretzel-eating from the night before and go, “Ahh.”  That’s because the night before, while looking at the hot pretzels on the menu I said, “You turned 42 last month!  You’ve earned the right to eat hot pretzels whenever you goddamned feel like it!”

This is all fine, a hot pretzel isn’t exactly a whole birthday cake or anything, but when your excuse is “I turned 42 last month”, it can end up being one hell of a slippery slope.  Before you know it you’re doing MILF porn in a van parked outside a Denny’s in exchange for an order of Moons Over My Hammy because “I turned 42 last month.”

Also, I aged out of the possibility of MILF porn on the day I turned, like, 25.  At 42 I’d be in the Old Lady Circus Freak category.  Now I’m concerned that typing the words “MILF porn” into this blog entry this many times is going to bring a whole new readership to the blog that I will regret for the rest of my life.  C’est la MILF.

Seemingly well-intended types can get super pissed when they see you not cutting yourself slack and will go to great lengths to encourage you to stuff a pie into your face, or have that fourth drink, or lie around on the couch all day.  I assume it’s because those are the things they actually want to do and they don’t want to be the lone loser in your circle of friends.  They saw what being the lone loser did to Ross Gellar on Friends and they don’t think they can handle it.  And they can’t.  If Friends had happened in reality, Ross would have been tossed off the top of a skyscraper decades ago.  By me.

I might be willing to actually cut myself some slack if I hadn’t spent ten years between the ages of 25 and 35 where my entire life consisted of cutting myself slack, which means I ate like a wild hog with a gland problem, chain-smoked cigarettes, drank lakes of well liquor, never slept, never worked out, packed on forty pounds, and felt like crap all the time.

Trust me – I’ve had plenty of years of my life where I was a slug who stuffed bacon cheeseburgers and pie into my mouth like they were on that candy factory conveyor belt on I Love Lucy.  Plenty of years where I spent upwards of 100 hours a week watching television.  Plenty of years where I was too lazy to shower for weeks on-end.  Trust me – I am not suffering for lack of slack in my previous life, so don’t tell me that everyone needs to cut themselves some slack on occasion.  I’ve cut enough for twenty lifetimes.  Don’t encourage me.

The only way to keep myself from ending up living in the ditch outside a Hardee’s wearing a trash bag as a muu-muu and eating old garbage french fries out of an upside down road cone is if I allow myself zero slack.  I know that I can’t start the slack engine without immediately crashing the slack car.

Now I have to go write this goddamned Sheen vs. Estevez thing even though I was planning on doing nothing today.  I hope you’re happy with yourselves.