As a Greenwich Village poet once wrote/sang, "The times, they are a' changin'." True. Then again, the times are always a' changin'. Sometimes for the better...sometimes for the worse......depending on your POV. I'd argue that the times are a' better compared to say 12th century England. Medically, technologically....not much of an argument. These days a cold, an infected tooth etc are probably not gonna kill you. As a serf on a medieval fiefdom ya takes yer chances.
Technology is a double edged sword. I enjoy blogging, youtube, facebook but don't tweet, use instagram or any other social media. That's not to say I may not in the future. As a musician I love my harmonizer, effects pedals, compact PA system and the ease of home recording. And instead of having to move a needle back and forth on a record or spin a cassette to a desired location I simply say, "Siri, get me the chords and lyrics to Don't Let The Sun Catch You Cryin'" and twenty five choices pop up on my phone/computer including youtube guys willing to painstakingly walk me through every chord change and nuance. Yeah....I'll take that over back in the day. In an earlier blog I included a bit about a Twilight Zone scientist whom Rod Serling leads back to a simpler time, as per his wishes, only to be completely frustrated that he can't do much with the antiquated equipment of the era. Hijinks ensue and he and Buster Keaton are led back to the wonderfully technologically superior 50's.
The downside I see is a loss of connection....humanity.....imagination. A few years back I was driving a couple of young girls to the airport. They were in the back seat on their phones. Lots of giggling and elbow jabbing and I could see that they were having a conversation via text. They were right next to each other!!! On the other hand, if they didn't want the old hippie in the front seat to overhear their conversation....well....it worked. I'm slowly getting sucked into the text world. It does make it easier to not talk to people. Even easier than letting the answering machine take your messages. Remember that?
I'm popular with the kids in my family. I mean the really young ones They call me Ted and are not sure what my connection here is. But they know I'm always willing to roll on the floor, play hide and seek, climb a tree, make a fort, crank up the music, eat ice cream right out of the carton and..... grandma seems to like me. And I guess that's enough. I've never quite....grown up. It can be a problem. But one I embrace and refuse to apologize for. I have a theory. I think it's because I never had kids of my own. You have a life. You have kids. You start living their life. They become adults, move on and you get back to your life; looking back over that span of your kid's life to your old life as some kind of distant memory. Like a line with a chunk out of the middle. My line/life is uninterrupted. Thus....the man/child. By proxy I've become a father and a grandfather. Not the same as the real thing but a lot of fun.
But with all the devices kids have, alone time with their imagination seems to have taken a back seat. They'll certainly have the technical expertise to get through this life adventure but something will be....missing. I get, "I'm bored" a lot. When I reply," What....I'm here to entertain you? I'm your personal clown?," they don't even get the Goodfellas reference.( Sigh....) When I suggest they read I get, "What....like a book?" (Sigh...again....) Here comes the when I was a kid thing. When I was a kid I could amuse myself for hours with a rubber ball and front steps. Or a basketball and a hoop. Or exploring the woods behind my house. Add a buddy and we could take these adventures to the next level Make a raft or a go cart, become soldiers in a WW 2 battle ala"Combat,"or just have a catch and create any number of baseball oriented scenarios. And it continues to this day! I've missed many a NJ Turnpike exit because I've been involved in a personal daydream. Playing bass with the Boss 'cause Gary Tallent got held up and can't make the show. Or shipwrecked on a desert island and the different modes of survival I must employ. Does anyone else do this or am I a complete freak. Rhetorical.
I had an imaginary friend. I don't mean a blotter induced 1970's college dorm imaginary friend but a friend I could see and hear and interact with. I was 4, 5, 6 yrs old and could summon Soupy out of the large radio in the living room. Remember those? It was a piece of furniture about four feet tall with radio, short wave and a turntable. Soupy was a bear. He stood upright, had a tie and a pork pie hat and a wise/wiseguy way of talking; like he was a little too hip for the room. Apparently no one else could see him but now and then, at my insistence, an extra chair would be set up at the dinner table and indulgences would be made. To this day I'm not sure if Soupy was real or an undigested piece of potato. Angel? Long gone relative? ET? One day he just stopped showing up. And I "forgot" how to get him to show up. And then I just....forgot. But lately, for some reason, Soupy's been on my mind. My past and present seem to be getting closer; like they're gonna meet at some point. Weird. Imaginary friends, I've learned, are normal. Whew!
Calvin and Hobbes was a comic strip I could relate to on so many levels. Calvin was a precocious, sensitive, kind kid who had a stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Hobbes would come to life when no adults were around. He would participate in Calvin's adventures and, at the same time, be a kind of conscience. Calvin was me. And maybe....you. Like the time Calvin speed ate boxes of chocolate frosted sugar bombs cereal so he could send away for a propeller beanie that he was sure would allow him to fly around the neighborhood. Upon arrival and assembly the propeller promptly snapped. Hobbes walked Calvin through the disaster and repairs were made. Out to the backyard, beanie applied and Calvin was....was....walking. Because of course, beanie hats can't really make you fly. Much like the printing kit Kellogs sent me that did nothing more than get ink all over the place and pretty much fall apart. But I enjoyed the frosted flakes.
I've included below an article I ran into in cyberspace. I don't know the author or its origin. It's an adult Calvin on his deathbed and a last conversation he has with Hobbes. Be warned. If you're anything like me, you know, Pisces, watery, sentimental..... have tissues at the ready.
PS My "granddaughter," Alyssa just asked me if I'd help her make an obstacle course.
"Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?"
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, "Did... did you.... find him?"
"Yes dear," Susie said smiling sadly, "He was in the attic."
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.
"I washed him for you," Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
"Thank you, Susie." Calvin said.
A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
"Dear," Calvin said finally. "Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him."
"All right," Susie said. "I'll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I'll be back soon."
Susie kissed her huband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. "I love you," he said.
"And I love you," said Susie.
Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.
Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. "Hello Hobbes. It's been a long time hasn't it old pal?"
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. "It sure has, Calvin." said Hobbes.
"You... haven't changed a bit." Calvin smiled.
"You've changed a lot." Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, "Really? I haven't noticed at all."
There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.
"So... you married Susie Derkins." Hobbes said, finally smiling. "I knew you always like her."
"Shut up!" Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
"Tell me everything I missed. I'd love to hear what you've been up to!" Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grandkids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause.
"You know... I visited you in the attic a bunch of times." Calvin said.
"But I couldn't see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal." Calvin voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
"You grew up old buddy." said Hobbes.
Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend. "I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn't grow up and that we'd be together forever!!"
Hobbes stroke the Calvin's hair, or what little was left of it. "But you didn't."
"What do you mean?"
"We were always together... in our dreams."
"Yeah, old buddy?"
"I'm so glad I got to see you like this... one last time..."
"Me too, Calvin. Me too."
"Sweetheart?" Susie voice came from outside the door.
"Yes dear?" Calvin replied.
"Can I come in?" Susie asked.
"Just a minute."
Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time. "Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks... for everything..."
"No, thank you Calvin." Hobbes said.
Calvin turned back to the door and said, "You can come in now."
Susie came in and said, "Look who's come to visit you."
Calvin's children and grandchildren followed Susie into Calvin's room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. "Grandpa!!" screamed the child in delight.
"Francis!" cried Calvin's daughter, "Be gentle with your grandfather."
Calvin's daughter turned to her dad. "I'm sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories."
Calvin laughed and said, "Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age."
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, "Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up."
Calvin's beloved family said good bye and promised to visit tommorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, "Francis. Come here for a second."
Francis came over to his grandfather's side, "What is it Gramps?"
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago. "This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him."
"He's just a stuffed tiger." Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, "Well, let me tell you a secret."
Francis leaned closer to Clavin. Calvin whispered, "If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait he will turn into a real tiger."
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, "Not only that he will be your best friend forever."
"Wow! Thanks grandpa!" Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
"Francis! We need to go now!" Calvin's daughter called.
"Okay!" Francis shouted back.
"Take good care of him." Calvin said.
"I will." Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.
Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. He eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. "I'll take care of him, Calvin..."
Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.