To me, aging is a mystery. Of course for a long time, maybe my first 30 years, I wasn't aging. Instead I was maturing.
Then for another long stretch, while I wasn't maturing, I was at least breaking even (or so I thought).
But right around the Big Six-Oh, things started going downhill, both noticeably and fast. My muscles softened and my arteries hardened. Liver spots appeared, cartilage vanished. My arches fell, my blood pressure rose.
But the physical assaults weren't as bad as being so far out of the loop, I've become certifiably loopy. And worst of all, I'm full well aware of it.
I'm reminded of when electricity was first installed in the White House and Benjamin Harrison and his family wouldn't switch on the lights for fear of electrocution. Ironically, Benjamin Harrison dedicated Saranac Lake's first high school, which may account for some of its less progressive tendencies.
Like the Harrisons, I'm hard hit by technology. I have a computer, but I use it only as an electronic typewriter and encyclopedia. I don't have a T.V., a cell phone or an iPod, and as a result I'm not only technologically inept, but culturally outre as well. Of course since the culture I'm referring to is popular culture, I don't feel I'm missing anything important.
But my lack of knowing who's who and what's what has provided some strange moments. For example, let's say I'm with a group of people and they start talking about some reality show.
"Hey," says Jones, "did you catch last week's episode of 'Shmucks"?
"Oh yeah," says Smith. "It was hysterical. Watching Vince faking a heart attack in that mall was too much."
"Yeah," says Brown. "Almost as funny as that episode when Melanie kept hassling that counter boy in McDonald's about not having lobster thermidore."
I've seen only a few reality shows and they all seemed based on one premise: Trashy people doing trashy things sells and sells big.
But since I haven't seen "Shmucks" I can't contribute to this conversation. Instead, all I can do is smile vacuously and nod my head from time to time, like some pleasant dolt surrounded by a people speaking a foreign language, which in this instance is pretty much the case.
But being out of it has its high points as well.
Of hicks and flicks
One of my best friends, Will Kendrick, and I have been inseparable pals since college. But because he lives in Maine, we don't see each other often, plus since we have gaps in our writing and calling, there are always blanks in our mutual histories. For instance, I have some idea how he's doing at work, what his social life's like, and how his kids are doing. But sometimes what I know about him is far less than what I don't know, as the following example illustrates.
A few months ago my pal Emma Rose, who also knew Will from way back when, came back east for a visit. I picked her up in Burlington and on the way back she filled me in on what I'd missed since I'd last seen her. At one point, conversations rambling as they do, she mentioned her son's friend, who wants to be an actor.
"In the fall he's going to NYU to study drama," she said. "He's a great kid and a great actor, but who knows if he'll be a success."
"An iffy proposition, succeeding as an actor," I said. "Will's daughter is an actress and has been in California for a few years, has even been in some films, but I don't know how successful she is."
"What's her stage name?" Em asked.
"She doesn't have one," I said. "She uses her real name."
Suddenly, Em's eyes widened.
"Will's daughter is Anna Kendrick?" she all but shouted.
"You know who she is?" I asked, shocked.
"Sure do. She costarred with George Clooney in "Up in the Air." Didn't Will tell you that?"
"Uh, I guess so," I said.
"But you didn't remember?"
Ah, why indeed.
The answer is as obvious to me as it is ridiculous to anyone who's seen a movie in the past 20 years, namely I've no idea who George Clooney is.
I've heard his name and know he's an actor, but that's about it. If anything, I congratulate myself for not confusing him with Jerry Cooney, the former heavyweight boxer.
When I got in touch with Will and told him I felt bad not knowing how well his daughter was doing, he was wryly amused. But what really cracked him up was my not knowing who George Clooney is.
A novel experience
But as out of it as I am about who's who in film and T.V., I had the jump on Will with something else. It's due to my being around the 18-22 year-old set and knowing what graphic novels are.
If you don't know, graphic novels are just very long, well-bound comic books. I assume they're called graphic novels for marketing: Comic books are considered pretty lowbrow, the reading material of little kids or defective adults. On the other hand, the word "novel" implies literature, something indulged in by intellectuals and sophisticates. And it's also something you can charge a whole lot more for than a lowly comic book - even a lowly long comic book.
Anyhow, Will called last week and told me about when Anna signed a contract for her last movie. She told him the movie's name, but it meant nothing to him.
"Was it originally a play?" he asked.
"No," she said. "It was a graphic novel."
Now keep in mind, Anna's a slip of a lass in her early twenties who's always played the ingenue.
After Anna's last comment, there was a long pause on the line.
Finally, Will found his voice.
"So..ah..tell me, Anna," he said, "this noveljust how graphic is it?"