Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Will You Still Need Me? Will You Still Feed Me? (Will You Still Lead Me?)

My breakup with the AARP has left me at loose ends. It's not like the AARP had local chapters and group events or distributed a booklet of mixed drink recipes for seniors -- which is kind of a shame since once you've tried a Gene Autry, which is equal parts viagra and nitroglycerine dissolved in vodka with just a spritz of prune juice, there's no going back.

(What's a Gene Autry? I innocently ask. You know, the guy who wrote Back in the Saddle Again. Long pause while I savor the silence.)

Now, speaking of dead, saddlewise or not, the great thing about the AARP was that you knew that to get ahead you just had to hang around. It was like a George Burns joke. Join the AARP? Everyone I know is dying to get out of it.

(Long pause, during which the silence becomes a little embarrassing.)

Old jokes are like old friends. It's not a matter of appeal, it's more admiration for their mindless stamina. But back on point -- and I do have one if I can only remember where I put it -- you recall when the AARP, so feckless and inconsequential I had always assumed, wrapped itself around the Bush drug bill, a work of legislative art that managed to provide the least possible benefit at the greatest possible cost. People fumbled for their AARP cards, looked at them for a long moment and tore them up. That's what my wife and I did, as well as rejecting any mail from the AARP, hoping that they had to pay return postage. At least, we hoped we were creating a few minimum wage jobs in the mail room at world AARP headquarters.

Cut off from the AARP -- and cut off from the flood of AARP junk mail -- I suddenly found I had time to kill on weekends, as well as at those odd moments during the workday when I was not thinking through some subtle point of high philosophical thought or cleaning out the lint trap on the dryer.

Revelation! I realized I need to learn to putter. I needed to master the art of aimless unproductive activity that someday SOMEDAY-- when the university catches on that it's either buy me out or suddenly wake up to reports that I haven't met my classes in two weeks and that there's a bad smell in the corridor -- I will need to employ.

I think there are two approaches to puttering. One would be to undertake large activities -- mowing the lawn, painting the shed -- and then to wander away leaving the job half done, creating the big eyesores that result in the neighbors screaming and my turning my hearing aid off and the dogs loose.

Second approach is working at infinitely small tasks to completion, like digging through the compost heap and segregating the earthworms by length.

There is, of course, puttering in the grand scale on the model of the presidency of Ronald Reagan, i.e., climbing on the lawn tractor, plowing through the flower bed in a spirit of sweet indifference and chancing into a game of chicken with the most hated man in the neighborhood on his own lawn tractor, driving him into the ditch and tipping him over. How the other neighbors would applaud that, though perhaps his lawn tractor already had two flat tires, bad brakes and faulty steering, and I was merely in the vicinity of the accident rather than the cause of it.

Puttering -- the art of knowing that anything worth doing is worth doing with glacial incompetence!

And I will definitely engage in intellectual puttering, too. I will adopt a flashy nickname -- The Geez! -- and write curmudgeonly letters to newspaper and magazine copy editors pointing out typos, dropped commas and any and all errors that a person with a life would not take the time to notice or the malice to point out. For instance, in today's Chronicle:

Footage from Associated Press Television News showed blood inside a slightly damaged Humvee and a flak vest laying in the road.

Wrong. Flak vests lie, as do various politicians whose names will come to mind if I only close my eyes and concentrate and stop thinking about the blood.

Bonus Picture of Reagan on his Lawn Tractor

1 comment:

G Pabst said...

On AARPophobia:

Always throw the damn AARP mail out (recycle bin) unopened. Classic denial.

(I first typed the word "senial." Scary. Freud's right about there being no accidents.)

The one time the sirens sang to me was when AARP published their "young-end" book, "My Generation." Decided it was time to pull into the island. But either inertia or laziness (barring simple forgetting) meant I didn't get around to it and the magazine sunk beneath the waves, post-911. Some of the best decisions are made by not deciding. Or puttering.

BTW: got a first look at this one early Wednesday morning and congratulate you on the Autry joke edit. Made a stronger punch line.

But back to denial/senial. Many demographers, and I believe I've read most of 'em, say that we babyboomers (I'm class of '47, aka Year II) all believe we're ten years younger than we are. Which means I'n not REALLY new old meat until '07.

My story and... you know.

But codgerdom, senial or no, creeps in its petty pace. I, too, stifle the urge to write stinging corrections: where did I just read something about the "Chevron" Flying Red Horse. I'm sure it was Mobil. Saw one in Dallas last week.

And rhetorically spanking editors: Chronicle just cancelled Prince Valiant. Bastards! I learned to read on Dick Tracy and PI. And was mystified by the !s used therein. To six-year old me a comic strip ! looked like a baseball bat. What that had to do with the Funnies I couldn't decode. Though it seemed more appropriate in Joe Palooka. Hmmm. Anyway, the Chronicle cancelled it just as the publicity machine was ramping up for the oiled muscle epic "King Arthur." Guess their research didn't cover that unexpected incident. Fools!

I rest my case.

For now I've decided not to decide. Inertia? Laziness? You decide.