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July 1, 2012


The Joys of Coot-hood Await




Granted, coots can snag the best seats in the theater


A few too many signs of personal decay around here for comfort these days. To wit:


Underwent the annual checkup at school the other day.

The good news: I met my annual goal of weighing less than I had the year before: 136.0 (61.8 kg) down from 137.5 (62.5 kg). The bad news: I seem to have achieved this reduction from the top down, as I shrank from 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-8.*


I’m forgetting the names of people at school.

This is nothing new, but the trend has spread now to cover even people whom I have often thought about while ejaculating. Even more alarming, I’ve developed a tendency to blurt out the first thing that pops into my mind when I encounter such august personages. I’m one blow to the head away from abandoning “I can’t recall your name, but I know I had you in a class a few years ago” for “I can’t recall your name, but I imagined we played naked Twister last night.” Scary.


I’m adopting conservative policy positions.

Much to my surprise, it turns out that I’m staunchly in favor of nuclear energy, for one thing. You may have heard about a spot of trouble that we had over here in Japan with one of our nuclear power plants a while back. Funny story—in the aftermath of that, the nation collectively decided—in a fit of mass amnesia regarding the country’s utter lack of natural resources—to shut down not just the defective facility but every power plant in the country, with the nastiest, steamiest part of summer just ahead of us.

Okay, yes, there’s more than a bit of self-interest in that position, given that there none of the functional nuclear power plants is anywhere near my home. But take it from me, just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no clean-energy advocates in the midst of a face-melting Japanese summer. At least, none over fifty.


I’m not very funny anymore, as you may have noticed from the past eight posts on this site. Nine, counting this one. At least, not intentionally funny.

Then again, I may still be funny without knowing it, in an uncle-at-his-niece’s-graduation-party way. You know the type of funny—groaningly funny. Elbowing your sibling and rolling your eyes at the living Polish-joke compendium that is your brother-in-law. There was my clumsy racial profiling of a random Arab American a few posts ago, not to mention a slew of crass and sexist remarks that have gone right over my own head the moment they emerged from my fingertips. I can only hope that most of those remarks were merely irritating, not infuriating. Then again, how would I know? I’m old!


And irritable, too!

Things I used to shrug off with a smarmy comment now rouse my blood pressure to heretofore unscaled heights. Porn directors who have performers spit into each other's mouths? Burn them! Raymond Burr fake-singing for his supper on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour? Exhume him and burn him! David Sedaris? Arrrrgghh! Get off my lawn, Sedaris!


Things that still stun me into a slack-jawed stare that continues until the stare-ee coughs one of those ostentatious coughs to snap me out of it:

* Openly gay couples

* Guys in airports standing alone and holding conversation seemingly with the air itself

* Cleavage in places other than poolside

* Cleavage in places other than between bosoms


So, yes, against this mounting evidence, there’s no point denying it any longer. Four months shy of my fifty-seventh birthday, as you can clearly see—well, as you younger readers (if any) at least can clearly see—I am prematurely on the threshold of full-fledged and official coot-hood.

Once a man attains official coot-hood, his options are limited. He can retire from public life and thereby limit the sphere of his self-embarrassment to his descendants, his caddy, and those damned new bartenders down at the club, with their earrings and their Mohawks and what have you, who wouldn’t know a Manhattan if one bit them in the ass, for Christ’s sake! Or, such a man can keep on publicly speaking, writing, or representing Alaska in hopes of one day qualifying for the Coot Hall of Fame.

There are some who embrace coot-hood, or its female equivalent, bat-hood. Asked by a grandchild doing research for an elementary school project what the good points of getting old were, my mother once replied, “Well, Janna, you can speak your mind! You don’t have to hold anything back anymore!” at which moment, the rest of the family silently thought in unison—and no one more fervently than my long-suffering father, who was daily upbraided by his spouse for his failure to remember all the things he’d been told the day before—“For the love of God, Grandma, start holding back again!”

And yet, in advocating the right to speak one’s mind, my mother was only following a family tradition. After all, my grandmother achieved intra-family immortality for such pronouncements as, “I have nothing against the Negroes! I just don’t like the way they smell!” But to be sure, whatever we oh-so-enlightened youngsters thought about such pronouncements by our forebears, we forbore them. We forbore because said forebears were old, and there is an amnesty that accrues to the old the same way a crusty mucus-like substance accrues to the inner lining of a Rolling Fella Bomber at the height of rainy season. Unpleasant analogy there, and one that could only have sprung from the mind of a coot.

But just when does this magical amnesty kick in? And what scope of crimes exactly does it cover?
And how does it work for writers? Some case studies leap to mind. In a Bertie Wooster story that tangentially involves a visiting “minstrel” group from America, P.G. Wodehouse busts out the N-word among other unseemly descriptors. Shakespeare's characters were always going on and on about the Jews as he got older. Yet the reputations of such writers remain largely untarnished. Then again, those guys were British. Also talented. I have a sinking suspicion it’s the “talented” part that’s the key to gaining that eternal amnesty, which would be just my luck. Far easier for the likes of me to become British.

But back to my original question, because I don’t think it was answered yet. Was it? I can’t remember what’s going on from paragraph to paragraph any more… Anyway, what, exactly, does one have to do to attain that level of amnesty? Besides becoming great, I mean. Is there a secret club to be joined? Dues to be paid? Potentates to be blown? Just tell me what I have to do here! Again, apart from achieving greatness.

Sigh… Running out of stamina, need to wrap things up… I come to suspect that coot-hood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—that maybe the amnesty for inadvertently tasteless commentary extends no further than one’s immediate family—if that far. Suffering from the delusion that there are any bona fide benefits whatsoever to coot-hood is, in itself, probably a primary symptom of coot-hood. Or bat-hood, as the case may be. Wow, I narrowly averted another case of sexism right there. Wouldn't do to leave out the bats.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go chug a bottle of epilepsy medicine with fellow borderline coot John Roberts and help him cough up some more baffling majority opinions.







* I swore by 5-foot-10 in college, though admittedly I was cheating by fluffing up my late, lamented hair then. At my current rate of shrinkage, I could be Robert Reich’s nursing home playmate by the time he and I retire.