Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Elderly: America's Future From The Past

Well, my neighbor recently turned seventy-nine years old. I know this because for about the last month when I've chatted with him he's said, "I'm seventy-nine years old." He used to say, "I'm seventy-eight years old." When I first met him he would say, "I'm seventy-seven years old." Those were the days. The days about 2 years ago.

Children engage in this sort of repartee, and it's endearing, because you know it will stop soon. With my neighbor, who I'll call John (since that's his name. He can't figure out how to reset his odometer so I doubt he's reading this blog), I also know it will end soon. It's not endearing though. It's a haunting reminder of my own mortality.

Today, after establishing his time on the Earth for all passers buy, I was asked to assist in the reading of a letter. This is a task I am frequently called on to assist with. It's not so much the reading he has trouble with. It's the interpretation that is becoming difficult.

The letter today was informing John his last check would arrive next month to pay off a debt owed to him. It went on to say that he should stop arriving in person to collect this debt, as a restraining order has been received.

John is a big fan of Westerns. Right now I can hear the rapid-fire gunshots; that can only mean a stagecoach heist is in full swing; floating through my window. The first time I met John, he showed me his extensive collection of Western movies numbering several thousand videotapes and several hundred DVDs. The collection is accompanied buy a handwritten cross-referenced cataloguing system that is made up of well over one hundred single spaced marble-backed note books and an extensive collection of fully functional old west shootin' irons.

John likes to practice fancy spins and trick draws. Of course, he is seventy-nine years old (if the word on the street is to be believed), and those irons ain’t getting any lighter, so he drops them often.

Generally, when I'm not interpreting threatening legal notes, John quizzes me on my favorite silent film and cowboy picture actors. To date, I have not heard of any of them. John is not deterred. He shows me a new style of gun slinging he's picked up from former Olympian and cowboy great Earnst Von Haffenshclaff (I call him this because a truck went buy and I couldn't make out what John actually said and have long since learned to just roll with these situations and, if forced, spout a platitude like, "You can't trust any of 'em") before sharing an anecdote.

Apparently John's niece ran afoul of her boyfriend and he slashed her tires. Well, a Hampden Cowboy like John isn't going stand for that kind of mistreatment of a lady, specially if'n she's kinfolk! So John tells me, "He slashed her tires," in a voice that is some where between Clint Eastwood, Will Farrell doing George Bush, and Jessica Rabbit with laryngitis. "He's a bad man, and I don't cotton to that! I was gonna shoot 'im, but I'd go to jail, protectin' my property so I figgered, I'd get him real mad, angry, see. Make him draw to me, but I'd draw first. Send 'im straight to Boot Hill!"

There were allot of flaws in John's plan that I didn't point out. I didn't point out, that the guy probably wouldn't "draw" and if he did, John probably wouldn’t out draw him, or at least out draw him and keep hold of his six-iron (the pistol, he'd be really screwed if he brought a golf club). I also didn't point out that Boot Hill is in Tombstone Arizona, and they probably wouldn't send a dead guy from Baltimore to Arizona for burial. I also didn't point out that Boot Hill hasn't been used for new graves in quite some time.

Of course, odds are, John would be the one pushing up daisies, so there is a chance that this guy, upon gunning down John would have taken his keys and cash and driving to Tomb Stone Arizona in one of the most ill-conceived getaways of all time. I find this scenario highly dubious, however, and am reasonably sure it's not what John was getting at.

Instead, I simply said, "Guy like that, shouldn't be on the street. But you can't shoot him."

"Yeah?" asked John.

"Nope," I replied.

He seemed a bit sad about this. I think we all know that Hampden could use a bit of frontier justice, just not sure John is the martial to bring order to these parts.

Funny thing about the elderly, for the most part, Asian people are from the country we were at war with when they were coming of age. John changed the subject, referring to our new Vietnamese neighbors. "Korean fellers just moved in. Was gonna be a gay couple, but we got these Koreans instead."

"I think they are the gay couple," I replied

"Nah, their Korean."

For a moment, I was envious. Ahh, to live in such a world! A world where things break because they're not made in America (instead of the opposite). A world where people or things can have no more than one exotic label (Gay Asian? You waltz with the devil, my friend! Spicy Tuna? Did that meal come here on a rocket ship?) Then John told me about his plan for the day.

He wanted me to tell him how to get to a far away shelter where he could get a new cat without having to pay eighty dollars. This seemed sound logic, as cats are four for a nickel where I come from, but his need for a new cat suprised me. Apparently, John got new hardwood floors last year. His current cat is old, and she's wearing out the floors. This one blew my mind.

My vision of pleasant dotage quickly shifted focus. I saw a darker, more likely me standing on the same porch talking to a confused thirty-something neighbor. "You like super-hero pictures? Not the modern smella-vision ones that are acted out by trained ferrets, movies like they were meant to be! Acted by human actors and Chelize Theron (who I believe is from Krull Space), thems were the days!

"The paramour of my young niece," I'd state in a voice some where between Christopher Reeves circa 1978 and Christopher Reeves, March 2003, "punctured the hover belt of her fly-o-cycle and such actions shall be avenged! That man is a dastard and yet I can not fire my eye lasers to incinerate him! I will have to simply challenge him and when he attempts to use his time shift powers against me, I'll swoop him and deliver him to the proper authorities!"

The wheels will grind in my new neighbor’s noggin. "Should I tell the old man that he has never been able to shoot eye lasers and that even if he could, he would be no match for the time distorting powers of the local thugs? Nah, just humor him and get inside." I'll be left there, standing on my porch, watching the rocket police zoom buy on their way to the mechanized donut hut, before turning and wading waste deep in schnauzers back into my home.

First off, I'd like to point out that I am not an age-ist. Some of my best friends are incredibly old (for arguments sake, anyway) I tell this story not out of spite or cruelty. I tell it to provide you with a moral.

What is the moral, you ask? What's the point? Well, if my neighbor weren't seventy-nine years old, I'd be totally freaked out by him. As it is, he's kind of cute. This is the advantage of oldness. Plan for it and start now lest you to end up squandering your remarkable harmlessness on a cold porch in Hampden threatening local hooligans. Shoot the moon, my friends! Have an outfit ready and begin concocting a story now. Tell it to yourself each night before you go to bed so that by the time your real life fades, this new one shall be in place.

I was raised by gypsies who hid my identity from the overlords who sought my head for I am the rightful king of Paraguay (see RUFNKIDDINME Tenet #4)! My fortune is vast, yet I am to old to make the journey to collect it! I can give you this map, and these 5 ancient riddles to guide you on your way! Good luck, young neighbor (who is way too loud and young and annoying and will probably die in a gyrocopter accident trying to find my non-existent treasure. Tee-Hee!) and may fortune be on your side!
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