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Rose, Santa Barbara Mission

Monday, January 3, 2022

Getting old.

I am officially old. I still say thank you and even you're welcome. I am prone to talk about my many ailments and bodily functions. I honestly like Andy Williams. I remember watching the William Bendix television show, in its earliest reruns. I know the names of every original panelist on To tell the Truth. I still like J.K. Rowling. I have more tags on my neck than you could find at a garage sale. I wouldn't buy jeans that had holes artificially cut into them. Or shoes with shoelace eyelets and no laces for that matter. It is now a serious stretch to cut my toenails. I love Motown and pretty much hate rap and hip hop. I don't pass on the right shoulder and try not to run red lights. I don't think it is fair for girls who were originally born boys to compete in athletic events against girls who were originally born girls. 

And I am totally indifferent if not disgusted at the face tattoo thing. I saw a guy who took the Maori face tattoo plunge at lunch today and honestly felt sad. Because it seems like a real one way ticket. You paint your face, there is no going back. It is almost like you are holding up a sign that says, beware, I am mortally wounded. Stay back. But who am I to judge? My day has obviously come and gone. Have at it kids, it's your world now.


One of the most lasting images in my head from this past Christmas season was at Walmart. 

The checker had a hat on like she was just another one of Santa's little helpers but when you got up close her whole face was completely inked, floor to ceiling. 

It was like driving past a car wreck. I was definitely rubbernecking and had to pull over. I quietly took my cell phone out and tried to be as casual and nonchalant as possible, shooting from my navel and not bothering to focus and trying not to be noticed. Spray and pray we call it.

The visual was just so incongruent and jarring. She seemed nice enough and once again, who am I to judge? Might be Mother Theresa under that felt hat. But my prejudice as an old guy who is not very politically correct nor really with it was one of sorrow, honestly. As in, how the fuck could you do that to yourself? What impels you to color over everything you got, just because you can?

We all make our own choices and I am sure that we will soon arrive at a place that those that remain uninked are marked as some sort of pariahs and destined for the next coal car for Soylent Green. I will be the odd man out. I'm just not down with the paint your face thing, not going there, at least not yet.



If you look like this I will have a hard time breaking bread with you and I am definitely not hiring you. I'm old. It is my prerogative.

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There is a row amongst the p.c. against Rowling, I don't think she said anything that wasn't truthful personally. She is officially out, as are Hamilton, Jefferson, Churchill, Twain, Lincoln and a whole host of other unlucky historical figures who were doomed to live in a less than fully enlightened age such as we live in today. 

I tried to watch Fantasia last night and they have now stuck a proviso in the introduction that offers that it contains demeaning and outdated cultural references of some kind and to be careful watching the animation classic. And I'm thinking, Fantasia, who the hell are offended now, dancing hippos with hats? The aggrieved rodent class?

Nauseating to me to judge figures of the past by current woke standards, not to mention unfair as hell, but that is where we are, even cartoon figures. Hekyll and Jeckyll wouldn't stand a snowball's chance today. First they came for Doctor Seuss and I did nothing...

Audubon - Matthew Brady, 1850
Take John James Audubon, the preeminent ornithologist and painter, who is currently being drummed out of the conservation corps for the crime of owning slaves in the 18th century.

Guess what, according to a lot of evidence, his mother was either black or half black and he was in fact, a mulatto. Should that count for anything? From wiki:

Audubon was born in Les Cayes in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) on his father's sugarcane plantation. He was the son of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, a French naval officer (and privateer) from the south of Brittany,and his mistress, Jeanne Rabine,a 27-year-old chambermaid from Les Touches, Brittany (now in the modern region Pays de la Loire).They named him Jean Rabin.Another 1887 biographer has stated that his mother was a lady from a Louisiana plantation. His mother died when he was a few months old, as she had suffered from tropical disease since arriving on the island. His father already had an unknown number of mixed-race children (among them a daughter named Marie-Madeleine), some by his mixed-race housekeeper, Catherine "Sanitte" Bouffard (described as a quadroon, meaning she was three-quarters European in ancestry). Following Jeanne Rabin's death, Audubon renewed his relationship with Sanitte Bouffard and had a daughter by her, named Muguet. Bouffard also took care of the infant boy Jean.

Why would you cut and run from a historical figure like Audubon when he was in fact a mixed race man who lived in a slave owning culture? He was a product of his time, like Jefferson. Many artists are and were bastards, but does that mean that their entire body of work should be so casually annulled and discarded? I did the Audubon bird count yesterday, what do you want to bet it has a new name next year?

Where does this nonsense stop?  Should we look at the bible? Moses encouraged the taking of female slaves in Numbers 31. Is he too going on the scrap heap? Deuteronomy 21:10-14 encourages the rape of war captives. The Holiness code of Leviticus explicitly allowed participation in the slave trade and said furthermore that slaves could be inherited. Didn't Noah curse his son Ham and his descendants to be slaves too? Of course, this attitude about slavery was not exclusive to the old testament. The Saints seemed to be down with the whole thing too.

Saint Peter writes “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.” 

Now slave owning was not unique to the judeo christian tribes, in fact much of African slavery was black on black or berber on black. It occurred in Athens in 550 b.c. and in ancient England when Saxons enslaved Britons. It actually seems to be the norm through out human history or should I say, prevalent in many cultures. 

Guess what, humans are no damn good and they never were so good.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that we should erase the whole damn historical record.

I wonder what possesses today's youth to be so shallow in their thinking by denuding those figures of the past who fail to meet their own angelic current standards? I keep thinking back to a certain high school teacher I had when I was young and idealistic and arrogant and thought I knew how the whole thing worked. He taught a course in Labor and Government at Walden in New York City, an upper west side school I briefly attended.

I was prattling on and he looked at me in the eye one day and said, "You know, I hate perfect people." I got the message and shut up. And now I know what he felt like.

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My wife Leslie just told me that Stephan Stills is seventy seven today. And he thought he was so old when he was only four and twenty...

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Postscript. I got a very interesting email from this man today, in response to this post, a man who shall remain anonymous. I think it is worth sharing.

I’m a friend of ________ and I live in _________. I work with kids who are early college age. You ever feel like no matter how many examples you point to, there’s a disconnect you can’t reach with these kids?  The examples point to…what?    A religion of face tattoos?  A confederacy of dunces? 

Their forum is on line.  By the time you talk to them, it’s in the rear view mirror.  They are not willing to engage in debate because whatever they think, it’s settled. When you see them commenting on line, unfortunately, there’s no debate there either.  On line is a forum for them to air their feelings.

If you have a second, try to find a New Yorker piece called Cat Person.  I’ve seen that used pretty effectively, more so than the Coates book.  It’s a quick read, a failed love story. Or not.  What that story means still eludes me.  What happens in it is obvious, but what it means to the kids is wrapped in a gestalt of emotions. 

The debate I’ve seen with Cat Person is eye-opening.  Those who claimed to understand it refused to defend their position and scoffed at those who didn’t.  That created instant dogma. The instructors also scoff.  The group-think that reaction creates drives questioning students out of the class and sometimes out of school entirely.  Once they drop out, everyone is happy.

At some point growing up I must have been told or taught to ignore emotion while trying to reason.  That’s on its head now.  Feel first and think second, or not at all. Age isn’t what’s separating us as a people.  It’s not age responsible for substituting emotion for reason.

I too have seen students cover their heads with ink.  I say nothing.  I know my input is limited to up or down, yes or no, like or dislike.  That’s all they’ll take.  Anything less than total affirmation ends the transaction.  It’s a litmus test on the viewer, not the poor tattooed idiot. 

Affirmation ends the transaction too.  The kids have nothing more to say after they get the thumbs up, because it’s a viewer test, still.  You are a data point, not any more highly valued than a mouse click, or maybe a little less.

I think it’s self harm.  All of it.  The gauges, the ink, the drug-driven gender manipulation.  They seem like cutters to me, these kids, ripping themselves apart in what they feel is self-expression.  They aren’t interested in converting people.  They’re willing to self-sacrifice to show their emotional commitment to the cause, though they don’t know what the cause is.  And to ask about the point shows you don’t get it.  Obviously, or you wouldn’t ask.

I’ve never seen anything like this.  I keep coming back to Lincoln’s line in the Gettysburg Address:  “Now we are engaged in a great civil war.”  Why say that?  Wasn’t that the most obvious thing?  But I’m starting to think war is its own justification, that when people act without reason and thousands die, the reason may be we are engaged in a war and there is no reason beyond that observation. 

Sorry for the long response.  You don’t know me and it’s pretty self-involved for me to think you’d want to read everything strangers write.  I don’t post on line, don’t use my name and don’t ever post pictures.  No social media.  Your post on age is a conclusion I’ve seen others reach.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not the generation gap. 

Does it say anything that when I’m faced with a kid with a tattooed head, a boy with breasts and fingernail polish and army boots, I feel bad for what’s in store for him later in life, and he feels bad for me for being me?  I mean, we’re supposed to be less compassionate with age, right?  More “get off my lawn”?  Yet I’m the one with concern, not judgment, for my fellow man.  And I’m the one being judged.  This kid’s got a green head but the referendum is on me.  That’s not age. 

“Almost cut my hair” is the generation gap.  “I cut off my dick” is something else.

The best of luck navigating the upcoming few months, truly.  It makes very little sense to me.  And good luck with the blog.  You’re braver than I am, to wade into the cultural morass.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know what I hate more than face ink is those disks people where in their ears like earrings. And the absolute worst is when they take them out and have those floppy gross holes.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant essay on wokeness and slavery!! Not to mention the brilliant bit on tattoos. I totally agree with everything you wrote!

Anonymous said...

Robert I just read the "Heron" and it does not get much better than your eclectic combinations.
The lead article we remember when you had to pay dearly to see an ink covered body or a fat lady and today
that has become a norm.
Remember I am sure when every parish in Brooklyn had candles
lit Hodges was in a World Series 0/23 slump.
Very good! I had forgotten he about
his "glove hand"
I always felt he had
a Stoic demeanor
shielding the raging
🔥 of his competitive nature.
My heart aches and "Maybe if we build the field they will come.....😘🌹

Julie Reeder said...

Robert did you really write this?

Blue Heron said...

Why wouldn't I?

Kent said...

Written beautifully, intelligently and with unusual antiwokness. Love it. Happy New Year !

JeffN said...

I'm pretty much with you on this. PCness and wokeness are the worst traits of the naive young, the ultra-liberal, the victims (in their opinion). I'm about as liberal as you can get financially, ecologically and politically, but PCness and wokeness just aren't helpful. They distract from the real issues of the day - climate, gun violence, racism, education, poverty, broken immigration system and voters' rights. To name a few...

Sanoguy said...

You are not officially old until you qualify for Medicare… a few years yet for you, I believe!

Anonymous said...

the best rant!!!!!!

Blue Heron said...

One more year Mike. I am 64.

Sanoguy said...

You have time….. I am still way ahead of you!

Ken Seals said...

Awesome piece!! Top to bottom, every word.

Blue Heron said...

“Almost cut my hair” is the generation gap. “I cut off my dick” is something else.

What a line. I wish I had written that.

Anonymous said...

That was a very interesting response to your rant
Makes me want to read Logans Run again...
Px

island guy said...

While uninked myself, I’ve seen a lot of skin art in my job, including yakuza and Polynesian tattooing. Been to a few museum shows about the cultural and artistic traditions, have an expert friend in the field. Connection to a group and doorways to spiritual connection mark these older traditions. The people you showed and are talking about are cementing their status as outsiders with those facial tatoos, it is a total rejection of belonging, or a statement about their feelings of not belonging. That is why it feels so wrong.

The comment you appended had some really insightful things to say.

Blue Heron said...

I think you are certainly correct Richard. Rejection of belonging, extreme alienation, I can't help but feel sad when I see a person on this type of path.

Anonymous said...

Just read about getting older and face tats…I agree with the authors about their feelings of disgust/horror.

It has been my observation as a classroom high school teacher that this kind of self disfigurement is possibly a couple if things: it is the accepted “look”. For the family. I.e. mom and dad, cousins and other relatives, OR this look for the kid is pushing someone’s buttons….a passive/aggressive way of getting back at an authority figure.
In any event, NOT reacting to this and going on with your life, including your personal belief system and moral code and having a positive outlook is the best revenge.
Young adults who feel powerless or have no control over their lives have time tested outlets for their frustrations. Music, dress, language, hair, and attitude among themselves separates them from their elders. If, in the future, it impacts their ability to get a job or makes them more recognizable by law enforcement, tough cookies.

Blue Heron said...

Funny how all the nonconformists end up looking so much like each other.