One of the stops on this year's World Tour was Austin, Texas, to which I have a couple of connections: I have family there (my mother, one of eight children, came from there), and while I didn't accomplish much in so doing, I attended the University of Texas. So I have plenty of reasons to visit the place. I hadn't done so in seven years, though, and this is just the sort of interval which invites comparisons between Then and Now.

"You seem ... less weepy," said a cousin of mine.

I stifled the urge to reply "I should bloody well hope so." I was, indeed, an emotional wreck in those days:

Most people perceive a gap between what they are and what they'd like to be; the chasm between what I am and what I feel I need to be is so wide that what I'd like to be, mostly, is somebody else. And while I was fairly good at that for a while, it's a tremendous strain to maintain a second persona — especially when it seems that no one has much use for the first.

This is miles away from, say, Jane Wagner's quip that "All my life I wanted to be someone. I guess I should have been more specific." But I can't think of any reason why anyone would have wanted to be the 2001 version of me, myself included.

The change, I think, kicked in right around my 50th birthday, and it went something like this:

I filled up an entire Dumpster with the detritus of my last ten years yesterday, carting roughly a ton of junk across the parking lot, and I felt like I'd been juggling bowling balls. It doesn't help that I still have about 800 lb of stuff to go. (Why didn't I finish? The answer is in that word "filled".)

But that massive disposal operation is ultimately a metaphor for Where Things Stand at the beginning of my second half-century. For roughly twenty years, I've been more or less content to go with the flow, to let the chips fall, to pile up the clichés.

Nowadays, if I have any chips, they're on my shoulder.

But maybe it's just this:

By all accounts — by all my accounts, anyway — my forties sucked rocks. My fifties would almost have to be an improvement.

Whatever the explanation, a price has been paid, and a stiff one at that. Whatever changes in brain chemistry result from owning one's own home, I've certainly had, at a cost of seventy-five thousand dollars plus interest, plus interest. (Over 30 years, it mounts up.) And my dealings with the fairer sex have mutated from "I can't believe there's nobody for me" to "There's nobody for me and nobody gives a damn, so STFU," an adjustment which is harder than it sounds. Still, I believe that whatever lack of weepiness I exhibit these days is a direct result of having written the checks, physical or otherwise, for those changes. I leave to the historians — not that they'd be particularly interested — the question of whether I overpaid or I got the screaming deal of a lifetime.

The Vent

  1 August 2008

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