1. Drink your Ovaltine. I had a meeting last week. That’s not unusual in that the bulk of my professional life is spent getting ready for, attending, or recovering from meetings. This one was special though, because we had a 4-star general spend twenty minutes telling us to eat right, exercise, and get eight hours of sleep a night. A full general. Eat your veggies and get lots of sleep. I have a hard time imagining Eisenhower or MacArthur or Patton spending so much time ensuring their people enjoyed a nice kale salad and got tucked in at night. So do me a favor out there and remember to drink your Ovaltine so you can grow up big and strong.
2. Our big thing. Our grandparents went from riding horses to riding rockets. Our parents built the internet. So far what our generation has done is develop faster and faster methods of sharing pictures of cats with everyone you’ve ever known. No cure for cancer. No flying cars. Just incremental improvements on stuff that’s been around since we were kids. Where’s our big thing? What is it we’re supposed to be doing to leave our mark on the world? I’m as clueless as everyone else I guess, but someone needs to figure this mess out and get working on it.
3. Only when it’s convenient. There are a slew of stories in the press this week about the meteoric rise in Baltimore’s murder rate this month. An AP story weeps that “Now West Baltimore residents worry they’ve been abandoned by the officers they once accused of harassing them.” Well shut my mouth. You treated officers like dirt, sued, and badmouthed them at every turn and suddenly the community is surprised to learn the blue line between civilization and chaos is a little more thin than they realized. I appreciate their efforts to have it both ways – to have a deep and active police presence banging heads and taking down criminals but not the “low level” criminals who are “members of the community.” Sorry folks, it’s a binary system. The law is the law – felonies or civil violations – and when you break that law you recognize that there could be consequences for your actions. For decades parts of Baltimore thought they’d be better off without law and order. Well gang, next time let’s go ahead and remember to be careful what we ask for… because unintended consequences can be a real mother.
Sure, I’ve been a curmudgeon for as long as I can remember, but the flood of pictures this weekend of many, many of my friend’s kids heading off to homecoming left me feeling a bit like I’d stepped through the looking glass. I mean weren’t we the ones going to those dances just a year or two ago? It’s inconceivable that anyone I grew up with could be old enough to comment about their offspring’s high school milestones.
Despite my 9PM bed time, constant state of near exhaustion, and the nagging aches and pains that seem to accompany me everywhere now, I don’t feel like all that much time has passed. I don’t feel that far separated from our younger selves. Maybe I’m better informed, a little more cynical, and a lot more medicated, but I still feel a strong connection to that dopy, awkward version of me.
Seeing so many of the next generation on the cusp of adulthood themselves is absolutely inconceivable. So if anyone needs me, I’ll be busy rejecting reality… and possibly checking to see if we can get a group discount if we all order our Life Alert systems at the same time.
As Pearl Harbor Day slid past more or less unnoticed by the vast bulk of the country last week, my mind set off wondering how long it would take for the anniversary of the great traumatic events of our lifetime to be considered “just another day” on the calendar. Pearl Harbor was one of, if not the defining event of our grandparent’s generation – the clarion call that freedom itself was imperiled across the globe. In their millions, that generation answered the call and rolled Japanese imperialism back across the Pacific and stomped out Nazi fascism in Europe. They did the impossible because the only other choice was to accept a world where the very idea of personal liberty was an endangered species.
Seventy-two years later, when we collectively remember Pearl Harbor, it’s as grainy newsreel footage or from three inch pictures in a textbook. We remember it as a singular event and not as part of a grand, sweeping epoch of history that saw democracy in the world fighting for its survival. Worse, we see those events as something so far removed from our daily lives that they might as well have been made up by Hollywood.
Like the attack on Pearl Harbor for our grandparents, for us the terrorist attack on New York and Washington are slowly slipping into history. Even now, students in our nation’s high schools are too young to have first hand memories of that clear morning in September. How long do you suppose it will be before that too is something confined to the pages of history and 20-second “filler” clips on the news channels?
We owe it to ourselves and to the future to be better stewards of our history. They should know as much as possible about the world they’re inheriting. We’re not doing anyone any favors when we play down or neglect the sacrifices of the past. If I can be so bold as to paraphrase one of the great heroes of my youth – We must always remember. We must always be proud. We must always be prepared, so we may always be free.
We’ve simply poured out too much blood and too much treasure for landmark dates to pass as just another day.
1. Bullying. If the media is to be believed, basically every form of social interaction is now considered bullying. Look, I get that we want to protect kids from all the mean, nasty things in the world, but the fact is sometimes the world is just a mean nasty place. There were plenty of bullies around 20 years ago when I was in school. I’m sure there were plenty 50 years ago, too. It’s not exactly like this is some new danger society has never faced before. Is bullying wrong? Of course it is. Should we be aware of it and try to reduce it? Of course. Once upon a time, if you stood up to a typical bully they went away. From the news coverage of those who choose to off themselves or shoot up the place in response to a bully’s taunts, I wonder if we’ve collectively raised a generation that simply doesn’t know how to actually stand up for themselves rather than immediately lurching to the extremes.
2. Healthcare.gov. I’m pretty sure if my boss gave me three years and $500 million and told me to build a website, he might have some actual expectations that at the end of three years I’d have at least a working prototype. Sure, it might need some of the rough edges smoothed out over time, but the damn thing would have at least the basic functionalities built in – like being able to register as a user. If at some point in the process, I realized things weren’t working out, I’d at least have the stones to fire off a red star cluster and call for assistance. Instead, we have a dysfunction website that no one is willing to be accountable for screwing up. Maybe I’m just doing the whole work thing wrong. It could be time to go see what jobs Health and Human Services has available. An employer with no actual expectations would have to be a pretty relaxing gig.
3. Buying off the rack. I’m not now, nor have I ever been a small guy. A side effect of this is my neck has to be correspondingly thick to support the giant gourd that sits atop it. While I’m not and will never be known as a clothes horse, I do from time to time, have to find something to wear that isn’t a polo/khaki combination. Let’s just say finding a collar that fits around my pillar of a neck with sleeves that don’t stop halfway up my forearms is something just shy of seeking the holy grail. Of course when you do find one of these mythical shirts, they’re never on the $19.99 sale rack, they’re always way in the back on the $75-full-price-thank-you-very-much section of the store… and that’s a real pisser for something I’m going to wear once and then relegate to the back of the closet because I hate wearing a tie.
As we all know by now, I’m a creature of habit. In the spring one of those habits is enjoying Game of Thrones as each new episode airs on Sunday nights. Sunday night dramas have been part of the routine since The Soprano’s was the highest rated show on HBO, so let’s just go with the assumption that the 9PM timeslot on Sundays is a very well established and sacrosanct part of my weekly schedule – the parting shot signaling the end of the weekend.
Now anyone who has seen the show or read the books knows that when they sit down to watch an episode they’re signing up for 54 minutes of greed, sex, violence, and dragons. Given the show’s ratings, it seems to be a pretty popular Sunday night pastime for a great many people. As I learned this past weekend, my mother is most decidedly not among that legion of devoted fans.
Rather than watch last weekend’s episode, I mostly cringed through it under a barrage of commentary ranging from “I don’t know why anyone would watch this” to “this is stupid” to silent painfully obvious eye rolling. I’d say it was probably a demographic problem, but there’s the tricky fact that George R.R. Martin is himself part of mom’s age group. It’s more likely just a case of widely divergent opinions on what constitutes great television… and possibly a leading reason why I need to seriously consider adding a second cable box to the household and avoid the awkward Sunday drama.
I don’t think mom will be running out to get a subscription to HBO any time in the near future… but maybe she’ll change her mind when she sees Boardwalk Empire this summer.