Ain’t That America

If you’re like me (it’s OK here to breathe a sigh and whisper “Oh thank God I’m not”), your internal dialogue runs constantly. I do pretty well keeping it internal. Most times. Sometimes, for us writers, our internal dialogues find their way to a blog. I guess this is the manifestation of a Sunday morning 9-second internal dialogue.

I was getting a little computer work done Saturday evening and doing my best to not ingest the sensationalist diatribe on recent media. Not easy but certainly doable, and a worthy goal. I’ve been reading Victor Fankl’s “The Meaning of Life,” and contemplating a people that lived in a time of truly, for me, unimaginable pain and darkness. It’s a wonderfully crafted work but not a fun or easy read and I have to take it in doses. I mean doses in the truest sense of the word. It’s good medicine for the soul, but geeze, it tastes mentally awful.

Rachel had just set before me a thing of great beauty, art, and love; my Saturday evening end-of-day, all-chores-done, Gin Man-Martini. As she sat down she whispered something that I did not quite catch but often don’t on the first go. After a minute I gave my usual half-assed, I-kinda-wasn’t-really-listening utterance that finished in a vocally upturned ending.

“Mmmmm?” I didn’t look up. I get a bit myopic when I work.
“Something-something-something-something gin”
“Mm.” My brain kept working on it. I’ve been accused of being able to keep working while someone burns the house down around me. I’m not sure why anyone would do that but I’m not entirely sure it’s not at least a little bit accurate. Sometimes the non-worky part of my brain goes to sleep while the worky part does all the heavy lifting. Sometimes the sleepy part gets all prickly when it wakes back up.

“Sorry babe.” My non-worky brain was starting to feel like a billion little needles. “One more time.”
“We’re out of gin.” Smile.

I wish I could explain the myriad sensations and questions I experienced in the proceeding quarter of a second.
Suffice it to say, I panicked.

How could this have happened?
What did this mean for me and my future?
Why was life so unfair?
How could you say that to me?
I don’t want to live in Gulag.
I should get online quickly and learn the route to the closest available remedy.
Where was my credit card?
I should arm myself.
Will drinking mouthwash really kill me?
Who is to blame here?
I thought this was America, not some Gin-less Third World (GTW) freakin’ country.
We won’t make it.
Where are my shoes?
Is my underwear clean?
I want my mommy.

I think I got the look on my face like the abominable snowman when he realized Hermie had pulled all his teeth.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Page 6 - Holiday Central Photos - CBS.com

And then, two seconds after the quarter second, the really awake part of my brain bitch-slapped the prickly side of my brain and said, “Stop it.”

I saw my shoes.
I wasn’t even wearing underwear.
Rachel was looking at me with concerned love and a smile.
“What’re we watching tonight?”

Thankfully I was already one really-fine sip in and cooler, Man-thoughts prevailed. We made a very calm plan to get to the packy the next day and pick up some gin and those really nice extra big martini olives and to continue finishing the final season of Sopranos (am I the last person on the planet to learn how good this show is? I’m practicing my Tony around the house: Wha-ya-gonndo-boutit). I was proud of myself for overcoming the panic.

We got to the packy the next day after live-streaming church. What an amazingly cool time to be on the planet. We’re liking a new Gin. New Amsterdam. It’s very floral and took me a bit to relish, but oh-now-trust-me, I’m relishing the AF out of it (I’m 58; leave it alone). On the way back we stopped at a local smaller store to get some veggies to grill. We’re leaning more vegetarian these days in a very quiet way. We grabbed some tofu to grill as well.

The store was buzzy and we parked out a bit. It’s always buzzy on Sundays. We didn’t get everything we wanted but we were open to new options and the produce section smelled like freshness. We found some new thing that looked like it might be fun to grill and had lots of vitamins. People were in a bit of a hurry. Nothing new there. The lines were long but we were in no great rush (having secured gin of course) and we expected to wait a bit. John Cougar Mellencamp’s Ain’t That America was playing overhead. I like that song.

While in the checkout line I met Alejandra who has a daughter and new granddaughter in San Francisco and apparently also has great predilection for Lunchables and bleach. Alejandra had alot of pictures on her phone. Alot. She was very nice and laughed alot too.

The older guy behind me had three stepdaughters from two wives and one girlfriend (I’m so not good following familial trees) and knew how to butcher cows and owned a .300 magnum and knew where to go shoot a cow. I wasn’t sure he’d need that caliber and velocity to shoot a domestic cow, but held my own. He seemed very proud of his skill set and reminded me a bit of my senile dad. Further ahead the lines parted and I said my goodbyes to Alejandra and Cow Shooter Guy.

The checkout girl was in support of societal lock down and I said I was sorry her day was bumpy and thanked her for using the bags we brought. Like my EMT son and ER nurse daughter in law, her life has been fuller than usual lately and she was understandably ready to normalize. I offered her my Monopoly cards but I guess she’s not allowed to play. The pink hair girl who took my cart likes working on Sundays because there is different energy. She can’t play the Monopoly game either. I grabbed the bags and waited for Rachel to get the receipt.

I stood beside phone guy along the wall. It’s odd the gyrations people go through when their phone rings and it’s in their pocket. It looked like a third ring might bring a jaw-clamping electric shock or maybe the miss of Publisher’s Clearing House next Millionaire call. In the next 9 seconds I wrote this blog in my head.

From what I could piece together, someone was checking on his progress. His cart boasted a successful hunt that supported proud regaling. His responses surprised me so much that I had to look at him and thought he might be an alien.

Alien phone guy said, “awful,” “craziness,” “wiped clean,” (twice), “insanity,” a few resigned yeps and nopes, a finally “ridiculous,” and ended the call.
He caught me staring.
He really was an alien.

Wiped clean? Wiped Clean? For the love of God, wiped clean? Are you blind? Have you not just walked every one of the 23 aisles in this wonderful store? Have you just not seen more food in one place at one time than most of the world sees in a month or a year? Did you not just spend a one hour fantasy stroll in a luxurious place of choices and options and freshness and best-if-eaten-by dates and mist sprayers?

Insanity? Insanity? Did someone just not ask you how your day was? Did you not see that muscle car pause for crosswalk granny? Were you not offered game cards for whatever fantasy you might enjoy? Are we not all talking nicely as we stand in line and wait?

Awful and craziness? Awful? Craziness? Are you not pushing that weighted cart? Breathing clean air? Financially well enough to have a cell phone? Wearing nice clothes? Free to leave this store and drive any direction you choose? Did you not meet Alejandro who has a new granddaughter? How about Cow Shooter Guy who knows cool things? Do you not love Ain’t That America?

We got in the car and I sat for a second.
Alien phone guy made me a bit sad.
We. Have. SO. Much.
You. are. SO. blind.

Funny how different people see things, hear things, experience things.
I wonder of Viktor Fraknl. I can’t stop humming Mellencamp’s song. Little pink houses for you and me.

Tonight, when I sit down to my end-of-day, chores-are-done martini, I’m going to get a little bit emotional, lift my glass in thanks to God, not be able to really find the right words, think of Frankl and little pink houses, and whisper my best Tony “Salute.”

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MiddleAgeMark

Observations, lessons learned, perspectives, and anecdotes from the Grand Adventure of Middle Age as Rachel and I chase our dreams. I welcome you to follow along and join the adventure.

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