AS GREGOR SAMSA AWOKE from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed into a monstrous vermin. –Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Ever know anyone who has experienced a life-altering metamorphosis? Come to think of it, that’s probably a rhetorical question. Chances are we all have. The experience may not have been as extraordinary as that described by Franz Kafka, but to me, my particular creeping transformation is just as unwelcome as turning into Kafka’s giant bug. Read on…
So, things being what they are, I’m in a brooding and reflective mood, y’know? Just between us, dear reader, it’s not the best of circumstances, but better than being in a greasy, black funk. The difference is the absence of anger in my present condition.
The Holiday Season has ended—including the lyrical 12 days of Christmas. BTW, I like Alan Sherman’s version best; the one that ends, “And a Japanese transistor radio.” The lights are turned off and stowed, decorations are down, and menorahs are snuffed. Year-end joyfulness is being supplanted by the letdown of dreary, bleak January, which momentarily fits my disposition. Y’see, odds are I can tally the Holiday Seasons I have remaining on my fingers—the countdown has begun. Midyear I will enter the octogenarian decade; the one that the entire Myers generation before me got their dirt sandwiches. From another room, I hear a Doors’ melody. Jim Morrison is singing about his old friend, THE END to which I respond, “Gulp”.
Kay and I have returned to Arizona after spending the last half of December in the Southern California beach towns, and New Year’s Eve at a black-tie gala in Palm Springs. The former was with our kids and their marriage partners, and the latter with my brother and his wife. We had a great time, and we look forward to our next gathering at the BNP Paribas tennis tournament in Indian Wells this coming March.
What follows may seem like I’m whining and complaining, but I assure you I am NOT. Nor is the following an attempt to illicit a poor-me pity party. Quite the contrary, my intent is to simply recognize and relate a time-worn human condition and process that afflicts us all. Certainly, I was on the other side when I was younger—and vociferously so. Perhaps karma is smacking me on the backside. Just deserts, eh?
Rather, I have passed into a time of life where I am looked at as being obsolete, irrelevant, an oddball, a strange duck, and a nonvalue-added entity to society. That right there is my personal metamorphosis; my Kafkaesque giant insect. You see, in life’s cycle I have rounded third base and am heading home. At least that’s where I am chronologically—but not (yet) physically and mentally. Perhaps that’s the problem; that is, I have not progressed to the old-timer stage of life expected of me. You know, the sit-down-shut-up-and-listen phase. I still have the audacity to have opinions and ideas that I think remain worthwhile and value-added.
In truth I must admit I’ve, since youth, had a geometric worldview that undoubtedly contributes to my present situation. Mainly, I become easily bored with blathering minutia, and tee-hee, titter-titter, giggling chitchat. My eyes glass over, and those nearby can see that I’m mentally flipping coins.
I enjoy discussing ideas, but abhor one-way diatribes about one’s fantasy football league, the stock market, and/or “me-me-me” humble bragging about golf, your children’s successes, and/or your next or latest cruise. However, light-hearted banter is fun. Exchanging stories with friends and new acquaintances is fun. I desire a dialogue, not a dual monologue. Here’s an example of the latter: I casually mention an experience, which a listener instead of acknowledging, attempts to “top” with an incident of his own. Sometimes the “topping” attempt begins with, “That’s nothing, one time I…” However, ennui aside I have come to realize that my age alone may disqualify me from participating in verbal intercourse with the new human race.
Keep in mind that I avoid phrases that turned me off when I was a young dude, to wit: “Years ago… or When I was young… or Back in my day…” Still, not being considered worthy of contributing is a tough reality for sure, but like it or not, that’s the human condition; and one each of you will also face eventually.
To state my case: I happen to be well-educated, bilingual, quick-witted, a published author and have an international life experience matched by few. I have literally risked my life to save others (once going into a burning building), and have been spared almost certain death as a prisoner in the Middle East. In addition, I have formed several musical groups, and participate in one. (BTW, the foregoing is an example of humble-bragging to illustrate my point in the previous paragraph.) Yet, at a social gathering other than a perfunctory how-are-you no one seems interested in my worldview, writing, and/or what’s going on with me. I patiently listen but am left out of most conversations. I am often requested to listen to the opinions and stories of others, but few seem interested in mine. (After all, I’m—sigh—too old to understand today’s world.)
With respect to my writing, I lay out heart and soul. Strangers coast-to-coast frequently comment. I love it. Feedback—positive and negative–is the engine that drives me; keeps me going in pursuit of continuous improvement. Sadly, a precious few acquaintances and relatives engage me in this quest. Why? A wise man once lectured that a man has no honor in his hometown, the prevalent opinion being: How could he be any good? He’s one of us. After three books, and 200 articles and counting; I presume that’s the way of the world.
Guess I’ll take up whittling, wearing suspenders with plaid shirts and pee-spotted pants with a waist line up to my armpits, sitting outside a general store, chewing tobacco, and spitting. Also, maybe get a John Deere baseball cap. Developing a wheezing, rattling cough, and twiddling my thumbs might be worthwhile—ah, good old psychic masturbation.
By Gene Myers formerly a dashing stud, but now merely an old cornball