All 2,574 words of this post started as a Reply to one of my Little Sister Bloggers. She got me to thinking about something, and it just took off from there.
That’s what this place should be about: pushing ourselves and each other even farther.
I’m going to be sixty-three in September.
I don’t think I’ve changed that much since early adolescence.
Almost at all, when I think about it to any degree.
Same basic personality, got it.
Core values, got it.
Basic collection of attitudes, got it.
Basic outlook on life and people around me, got it.
Likes / dislikes, got it.
Emotions, triggers, buttons … check.
Blonde hair, all there, all mine … got it. The pony tail kicked in about 1971. Get it cut every eighteen months or so whether it needs it or not.
Same cute little ass, but as the years went on, it just got smarter, so … check.
Different world, different issues, different variations of the same old shit, South East Asia replaced by the Middle East. Gotta keep on my toes, so … check mate.
I really don’t think anybody changes after a certain plateau has been reached in their lives.
Once our core values and ethical priorities have been firmly set in place and in motion,
and that can be earlier than some might presume.
I see that in most of the people I have come to know long enough.
I realize that there are any number of traumatic episodes that can indeed change the game entirely:
a girl getting gang-raped at a Frat Party; watching one of your Brother’s jarheads flying fifty yards down a dirt road ’cause of some young girl with a bomb strapped to her; spending four-hundred forty-four days as an unwilling guest of the Ayatollah; being a Senior, Class of ’99 at Columbine.
Most of us (not quite as many as there used to be, thank you Messrs. Holmes, Lanza and LaPierre) get to lead pretty uneventful lives outside of whatever events we pursue for ourselves and the occasional fender-bender in either a literal or figurative sense. We’re lucky that way.
Don’t believe me? Ask someone who grew up in Belfast through the ’60s or in Palestine since forever.
But very few of us live through something beyond a point of no return.
John Lennon expressed that same belief once, about folks not truly changing after a certain point, and the only reason I mention it is that I think it’s pretty fucking cool. Brother John and I thought alike. Maybe I just want it to be that way, but he was an introverted young lad as I spent most of my youth on the outside fringes looking in.
Listen to the last of John’s messages and teachings he had time to share with us. Listen to his Imagine album and allow it to embrace you the way he meant for it to do: some of the most personal lyrics and haunting melodies I can remember from a guy who actually did a cover of “Be Bop a Lu La”. Almost like he knew that even in his late thirties, he was a relatively older man than I am now.
I’m still that way.
John was shot and killed when he was forty, still – and forever – Sgt. Pepper incarnate.
I can even give you an example of what I mean:
my friend Brad. Met him when I was seven when he moved kitty-corner to me. I must have known something special was going on there, ’cause it stuck with me indelibly. Steve introduced me and Marty to Brad standing behind Hank’s house. Hank was nowhere around, but his backyard was the shortcut to Mary’s backyard.
And Steve said “Meet your new friend Brad.”
That was that.
Brad and I spend many long playing Whiffle Ball straight through the long hot day, spend Saturdays in NYC in The Village or Times Square, pick up our back issues of “Playboy” and sneak them home. We spent parts of our college summers hanging around getting high, listening to music, talking about things. No matter what we were in the middle of doing, it never distracted from our talking about things.
Brad was different. Only one of us allowed to go certain places and experience certain things even after a certain age, first with hair beyond his collar / shoulders / shoulder blades / lumbar vertebrae. First one living with a chic. Always seemed to be more aware of certain things than others of us were, We all were worked up about Viet Nam, Civil Rights, Equal Rights, but Brad always saw more behind those things that just wasn’t right and it bothered him. Saddened him and infuriated him and, in their own ways, encouraged him.
It was through him (as one of my two “big brothers”) that I first came to understand that while there were incidents and episodes which deeply affected me through life, they were only just examples of a concept / mindset / zeitgeist that needed to be addressed. That punching out the kid who always picked on me might feel good, but it would not stop the bullying that went on all around us. That was the problem that needed to be addressed.
I was the mild-mannered Sancho Panza to Brad’s Don Quixote.
Brad always had a gentle, compassionate social conscience, and as it went, he left the country during the Viet Nam war for reasons that might have included the military draft we had down here. Went to law school in Canada.
For hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people around the world, that was a good thing.
Kind of lost track of him mid-way through college till we reunited in our early 50s, but here’s what he’s done since then:
My tender soul of a brother.
Then there was Marty, who I mentioned before, a cut-throat Monopoly player since midway through Grammar School. Graduated after four years at Johns Hopkins with a Bachelor’s and Masters in Economics. In four years. Went on to law school, recruited and hired by one of the prestigious Manhattan law firms, and one of his first clients was Bolivia. The country. Not a bunch of coffee bean farmers, I mean the whole freakin’ country, got it?
Well, since then he helped orchestrate the Comcast/ Universal NBS / GE / Sony deal down in L.A. Picked up an eight-bedroom “weekend home” a block-and-a-half off the beach in Central Jersey shortly after that.
The rich get richer helping the filthy rich get sickeningly rich.
Neither Brad nor Marty changed, they did manage to adapt. To adapt and to perfect.
Especially Brad, that shameless ol’ hippie. Whether addressing the Canadian or Australian Parliament, the United Nations or the elders of an Inuit tribe within a stone’s throw of the Arctic Circle, who you saw was who you got. Just dressed appropriately for the occasion.
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