Sunday, October 18, 2009

Intermission 1- Prelude to Outfitting

When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man...I started wearing sandals with black socks.

There is a moment of transition; of transformation.

It's a balancing point in life. A moment when you find yourself at the crest of a mountain, looking not only back at the path you've taken to that peak but also ahead to the coming descent. You're balanced on the razor's edge...

Yep, you're up to your junk in metaphorical imagery.

Welcome to middle age! Come in! Sit down (Making that sound your dad used to make...) and get comfortable. Help yourself to a cup of coffee. (Better stick with the decaf. You'll be up all night again.)

I remember being a young guy, observing those older men (Sages!) who looked out, with direct eyes, from that summit. I didn't realize they were standing on any metaphorical mountain peaks at that point, of course. I was too preoccupied with wondering why these balding dweebs would actually be outdoors, in broad daylight, walking around shopping malls or mowing their lawns while wearing hemmed shorts, tucked-in banlon shirts buttoned all the way up and old dress shoes with black knee socks. Now that I'm a great big, grown up boy of 56 (Pause for imagined protestations of disbelief. If stuck for one, go with "Oh, no, Denny! You can't be 56!  Really?"  Try not to snigger. It ruins the effect.) and have developed the respect for age to be found among, well, primarily the aged.. my understanding has evolved.

The stages progress, roughly, as follows. (Take note, Kubler-Ross):

The first cracks in the wall came in your thirties when, hopefully, you realized that any chance of looking cool had passed you by. While a few of your friends continued, embarrassingly, in their attempts to keep up, (This would be the point to say "You know who you are." but, sadly, you really don't. ) we accepted it and welcomed the savings on clothing and hair care products.
Some took longer to learn the lesson; like a friend of mine who persisted in going shirtless. He was working in the yard one day when a couple of teen girls walked by smiling and obviously checking him out. He was pleased and still studiously holding his gut in as they passed by when he heard one of them giggle "Nice tits, mister."

The haunted look on his face as he related this story over a couple bottles was tragic... Hilariously tragic.

Next came your forties. In addition to finally "truly getting" Sinatra, you gratefully embraced the Hawaiian shirt and gave up on trying to force your hair into configurations that "Man was not meant to play with." Freshly shorn and wearing your new bifocals, you looked upon your mature visage (ferocious toad!) and readied yourself for the final battle. (Theme music wells up in the background; full strings in a minor key swell with the addition of woodwinds and foreboding minor-sevenths... 
Your fifties... You reach what you think is a fresh plateau of realization nearly every year and call it wisdom.

You're wrong...

(Spoiler alert. If you're mid-fifties and are not ready to face what lies beyond no longer caring what you wear to the home center/grocery store or who the hell sees you, skip ahead.)

While hunting down the right footwear for this trip I picked up these quasi-sneaker/sandal things. Variously labelled as "reef-runners" or "surf shoes", they're basically open-backed sneakers with open cutouts on tops and sides. They're breathable as hell and seem just the thing for clambering around hot, humid or dusty temples and ruins; a nice, stable alternative to my old hiking sandals. Perfect...

Of course there could be blister problems from going between wet and dry environments and varied types of ground. I made the obvious adjustment.

As I look down at my feet with horrified realization dawning, I can hear the music building up, no longer an incidental background theme but loud and urgent; darkly triumphant, with the brass section taking the fore. As the darkness rises up around me (Not unlike, oddly enough, a cloak and helmet, why not?) the mechanical sound of my breathing is drowned out by the mocking laughter of generations of my predecessors, some long dead; (my father's chuckle standing out clearly) as they point at me with amusement from the half-mown back yards of time...

Seriously, though, these things are really comfy...

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