Old Pine

Some very, very, very well-worn floorboards.

“So, we’ll try to save the floorboards.”

Uh, no. Wrong answer. We will save the floorboards.

This is an old house. More than a century old. These are the original floors. And yes, they are a bit distressed. I like ’em that way.

I am not so crazy about the grooves that catch crumbs and fill up with junk when I pass the broom over them. I have discovered, though, that if I quickly and smartly sweep back and forth in the grooves, the gunk comes out. And then, if I push the rubble quickly, I can brush the detritus into the dust pan.

[Actually, moving quickly doesn’t help. The stuff still falls in the crevices. I just do it quickly because it seems like it should be more effective. Then I sweep it up and out of the cranny and move it along to the next cratered board and the next until I get to the lesser-damaged area. Thought I’d let you know that I wasn’t really fooling myself.]

The finish is shot on most of the exposed wood. The wood under the area rugs looks great. Under the radiators? Fabulous. Where we walk, where the dining room chairs slide back and forth, the hallway run where the Beast chases what’s left of his Kylo Ren doll? Pretty well unfinished. There is no fear of sliding and falling if you run through the house in stocking feet. But watch for splinters. And for the nailheads.

The morning sun streaming through the dining room window will still reflect a bit on some parts of the floor. Closer to the walls where there is less traffic for sure, but there is a gleam beneath the arch between the dining and living rooms.

While I have been derelict in my care for them, I love these old floors. They hardly creak, but a few spots do. There is a decent-sized hole in the Big Guy’s room, where we had to put a big board so that the bed leg wouldn’t fall through. The floor by the front door is a hot mess, with embedded pine needles from Christmases past stuck deep in rain and snow damaged trenches.

But I don’t want new floors. I don’t want the house to look new. Like the lines at the corners of my eyes or the gray streaks in The Spouse’s locks or the loose skin around our middles, there is no reason to erase all signs of time. A little bit of yoga, an eye cream that delivers more hope than results, a slightly shorter haircut that minimizes the amount of silver will get us through.

These floors. I don’t want them to look new. I just want them to last longer.

Back in ‘Nam

A pair of rockers on a decaying porch. And a cow pitcher on the table in between.

It’s known that I’m thinking that maybe we ain’t that young any more. I’m reminded of it every day.

I look in the mirror and see that skin is hanging a little looser around my eyes. There are fine, and less than fine, lines cropping up around my mouth and striping my forehead. There’s really no hiding them. And the silver tinsel that is my hair is kept at bay by a colorist I see so often she’s now a friend.

I am having a tough time reconciling these outward signals with my mental self image. I say that I think that I’m still in my 20s. But really I don’t.

I’m a much wiser and much calmer and much more confident and much more accepting version of my twenty-something self. I was going to say more patient, but I’m still working on that.

My neurologist said that I have the brain health of an 18-year-old. That means that my physical brain still fills my skull. It isn’t shrinking. It still has lots of twists and turns, where my thinking is done. I wonder if it was even bigger before, and it actually has shrunk. But that wouldn’t explain the youthful folds and crevices of gray matter. It was the nicest thing anyone said to me. At least one of them.

You see, I’ve had many opportunities for nice–and sometimes not so nice–things to be said to me. It’s just a factor of potential volume of opportunities. Opportunities born of time.

There’s an extensive internship program at my current gig–with the youngins between the ages of just barely able to buy a beer to still covered on their parents’ health plan. [Thanks Obama!]

They have full heads of hair, barely grown in beards, skin that doesn’t sag at their upper arms and their first work wardrobes. They think that I came up with John McCain via their Tropic Thunder view of Coppola’s view of Viet Nam (“Wait,” they said, “That was a remix?”) They are… Millennials.

Now, I know I’m not supposed to like them. Especially in the workforce. They are lazy, entitled narcissists. They are disrespectful of their ancestors. They think things are easy, and don’t get why you don’t fix them, duh?! They get their feelings hurt too quick.

And then, Baby Bear told me that he hates Millennials. “I know, and I’m one of them.”

And I was all like, “Bear, you are wrong!”

See. I was impatient too. I knew much more than my bosses credited me. And they were doing things a dumb way. And, Jaysus!, I could do their job. Seriously. I had the smarts. It’s not that hard.

Every generation starts the same. It’s the trajectory we follow over a life’s course. Over a decade or two, I learned that if it were easy, it’d be done. That the battles are much less important than the war. That we have different preferences and styles, like I like the forest and you like the trees. I found out as Broadway Aaron Burr said to young Broadway Alexander Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.” And, maybe most importantly, life is not fair. The best ideas, the clearest tones, the rightest right, the most honest truths do not win out. Not all the time. Sometimes the bad guys win. I really hate that. But it’s true.

The Bear and I went around and around and when we were done we landed on one big difference between when old people were young and his cohort. It’s the butthurt feelings.

Oh, Millennials! I recommend that you work to gather as big a perspective as you can. And use that vista to inform your view. Make it bigger than you.

My other millennial spawn, The Big Guy, took me to school and flipped my script. Turns out, I’m not the center of the universe. What? Who knew?

When people make decisions that aren’t about me, they are not thinking about me. Seriously. They are making a call for themselves. I might end up as collateral damage–and that may need to be addressed–but their focus wasn’t on causing me butthurt.

Someone else says it best.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness.* –Hanlon’s Razor

People are not required to take your feelings or perspective into account. It’s nice and all, but not a requirement. Anyway, it’s a gift to have your perspective challenged. It makes a person think. Thinking is good. That’s something that my young brain/old self can wrap around.

Thanks, Youths, for reminding me that we’re alike, just at different times. Hope you’re not disappointed when you get to my place. Let me know. I’m not as old as you think. If you do the math, I’ll still be alive.


*Other people prefer “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity,” but I find it’s more likely omission vs. stupidity.

Rocking Horse People Eat Marshmallow Pies

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The British Invasion band called the Beatles first played in the States in Washington, DC. It was in an upside down half pipe called the Washington Coliseum. A half pipe the size of an airplane hangar.

There was some kind of massive snowstorm that forced the lads up to New York via train. My favorite recollection was that of a man who said all he remembered was deafening, high pitched screaming. That and the smell of urine. I guess thousands of the teeny bopper fans pissed themselves in excitement.

To me the “coliseum” is a decrepit old building among many old decaying structures on the other side of the train yard where the Amtrak, Maryland light rail and the subway tracks criss cross and then feed in and out of Union Station.  It was tagged by the prolific Cool “Disco” Dan, as well as by more visually talented graffiti artists.

I had no business on 3rd St, NE so I didn’t see it up close until the our offices moved to the development at NOMA–which is a made up developer’s name to make the industrial area of empty lots, bus terminals, armories, and abandoned warehouses that was the real estate surrounding the tracks north of Union Station into a destination for high-rise offices, apartments, coffee and pet stores and restaurants.

I saw the “coliseum” up close the first time I passed under the bridge, driving along M Street. You could park your car in that rundown cavern for $5. That is an unheard of and remarkable price for DC. I kept driving. The overhead of walking under the bridge from a sketchy lot wasn’t worth $4 to me. Seriously, I paid $9–almost double–to not park there.

Now, that spot, where the Beatles played and the girls peed and the cars parked, is being converted to a very nice outdoors sporting goods joint. And condos, and, I bet, a new fast casual spot that has greens and grains in a bowl with some sauce.

This changes the neighborhood. Not a little. But a lot. And it’s mostly good.

In my neighborhood–two subway stops and a scant three miles away–we’ve had a torrent of new people moving in. I am very happy that people are buying houses and making spaces and creating families. This is what people in my neighborhood have been doing for the past hundred years. Not the same people–since our time on this earth is finite–but people who move in after others have moved out.

So, this moving into houses thing is NOT new. But, somehow, some of the people who move into the houses think it’s new. That, somehow, their being here defines new. And special. Really special.

I would call this attitude gentrification. Know that my neighborhood, that we have lived in ourselves for multiple decades and have been overlapping with other multi-decade residents (some from many decades before our multi-decade gig), was just fine before the newest new people got here.

Don’t get me wrong. We are happy you are here. We welcome you. We welcome you when you move in when you’re still are single. We welcome when you adopt your shelter dog and as you struggle through your training. And we are downright excited when you have babies and are tickled when you stay here when they go to school. And when we watch them go to prom and graduate high school, we know you are one of us.

But know that we have been a close knit middle class ‘hood pretty much forever. Maybe you haven’t lived with native Washingtonians before–I know I didn’t before I had my children–but they did fine before you. You are not the savior of our ghetto neighborhood, because this is not the ghetto and we don’t need saving. We are super happy that the clusters of new apartments and condos and overpriced townhomes have increased the density of our neighborhood so we can support more restaurants and a fancy wine store in addition to the liquor stores that don’t have tastings but have carried decent wine and excellent beer for at least a generation.

And, dearest new people,  if I can give you one piece of advice, as you stroke your long beards and push your running strollers and swing your bikes from your driveway past me into the street, say “Hi!” or at least nod your acknowledgement to the olds and the new’s.

Remember, new people and gentrifiers, we are still a sleepy little Southern town; and those niceties that stitch us together into a community go a long way to ensure that your neighbor digs you out of the snow when you have a new baby and your spouse is out of town, that a neighbor anonymously keeps a watchful eye on your house when you’re away for the weekend, that someone gives the stink-eye to a stranger walking on your porch where your Zulily and Amazon boxes lie, that people who know who your kids are peep on them to make sure they “independently” make it to the schoolyard or playground or scout meeting, that an amazing stranger brings a CVS bag filled with toothbrushes and toothpaste and soap and a comb and tampons when your house burned down. Seriously. This is what we do.

Spend the time knowing the old, and the new. It’s really all good.

Hey, are you new? Oh hai!

First of The Year

me, my mom and sibs before we were orphans

Frankly last year was much less a trial than 2014. Not that I’m complaining. Overall healthy and happy and–after upping my craft beer consumption in Traverse City–fat.

Folks would likely say that it was good to take it easy after that roller coaster, but I think that I was a bit too easy. Does lazy rhyme with easy? I think so. While I don’t want to be that person who jumps over social media, I did realize that I was spending too much of my down time with where child stars are now, seventeen celebrity plastic surgery botches (number 9 will surprise you!), and way too much time on the escapades of a rich man who wants to be king. So I started with a Trump-diet and now am more mindful on taking the click bait.

I started thinking about all the posts that I start in my head and don’t write and therefore never publish. Seems to be less lazy to create than simply consume. So I’m publicly challenging myself to post every day for the next year.

Yes, Loyal Reader. Every. Stinking. Day. For. The. Entire. Year.

So today I am posting a musing on becoming the old people. Because I became that last January when my mom died. There are a few flung of my Aunts/Uncles left, there’s really only two that I know. And none that my kids know.

So now that the Spouse and I are orphans, we have become the old people. The elders. Maybe a little earlier than we should have, but that’s who we are. There is a turnover at the old people’s table, and I found myself there.

And, I wonder if the elders before me had a mental image of themselves of being 28–or some such age. I don’t see myself as one of those old hippie baby-boomers, but I think others just might. It’s my personal cognitive dissonance. Am I inside out? Or outside in?

Until tomorrow, Loyal Reader.