Friday, May 23, 2014

Pompous Circumstance

Graduation season is upon us again and colleges and universities have announced their commencement speakers. Peyton Manning spoke to the class of 2014 at the University of Virginia, which was an odd choice considering where he did his college quarterbacking. Howard University awarded an honorary doctorate to Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, who now wishes to be known as "Doctor Diddy." Being a distinguished alumnus of the U. of Memphis, I kept waiting for my alma mater to call, but I guess they lost my number after I surrendered my basketball season tickets. I did prepare a little something just in case, and since I hate to see inspirational words go to waste, here is the commencement address I might have given.

Congratulation graduates. Your term of voluntary servitude has ended and you are now free to go. Take a month and sleep as late as you damn well please, but remember your new student loan contracts require you to be a server in a restaurant for at least three months. There, you'll get your first taste of reality and learn  the meaning of humility. Also, you will understand, early on, the importance of tips to the people who serve you. Winston Churchill once famously said, "Never, never, never give up." There may have been a few more "nevers" in there, but this is the agreed upon number. I know you have all heard it said before: If you believe in yourself, don't let anything or anyone stop you from reaching your goal. Just keep believing and if you don't give up, you'll eventually get there. I believe, however, that there are times when the wiser path is to just go ahead and give up. Whether you're an unfunny comedian, a thirty-nine year old minor league pitcher, an aging lounge singer, or an unlucky stockbroker, give it up man, or you just might sleep through life while  following your dreams.

Now that everyone has majored in broadcasting and film making, we have encountered a problem. If everybody wants to be a sportscaster, a movie director, a pop star, or a reality TV personality, somebody's going to fall short of the mark. Spare yourself the years of agony pimping yourself out to under-qualified employers whose subjective judgement determines if you fail or succeed. Aim for the stars, but find something on Earth that will pay the rent. To paraphrase the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, go ahead and follow your bliss, but keep your day job. The class of 2014 will never have to worry about leaving school just to find a jobless economy waiting. In case you didn't catch the news, NASA satellite photography has revealed that large chunks of the polar ice caps have collapsed and a United Nations expert panel has speculated that it's too late to do anything about it. Sea levels are rising at an alarming rate since polar ice sheets have melted "faster in the last twenty years than in the last ten thousand." This means, goodbye Florida and the Eastern Seaboard, farewell Gulf Coast and the Jersey Shore, and the Big Apple will soon be bobbing for apples. On the bright side, the Corps of Engineers and FEMA will be hiring, as will insurance companies worldwide. Have you seen how much plumbers and electricians make these days? Damage assessors will be the new rock stars.

Try to find a career that won't stress you out. Lighten up now or get digestive problems later. The words "public servant" have become synonymous with the term, "Ponzie scheme." We need people committed to the kind of public service that doesn't take bribes in the way of campaign contributions. I'm sorry, how silly of me. The Roberts Supreme Court has declared corporations as people, and money as speech. And now that political donations have been declared unlimited, a few cognitive-challenged billionaires determine who's elected to public office. So, be an activist. Don't be indifferent or passive, and don't wait for someone else to say what you're thinking. We're only one Supreme Court Justice away from overturning this whole Bush legacy once and for all. We need people to put our priorities back in order, and teaching is the most important, lowest paid job out there. Be a teacher or else sit on a commission that raises their salaries. Wake up- not everyone can be famous so make a difference where you are. I'd say "respect your elders," but many of your elders are undeserving of your respect, so just show a bit of deference to older people because, with any luck, you'll be one someday. In conclusion, take your time. I began college in 1965 and graduated in 1993, so should you find yourself  in times of difficulty and anxiety, take one of my old sayings to heart: "When in doubt, go back to college."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fat City

A few days ago, I woke up fat. I'm not sure how it happened since I was in top shape just thirty years ago, but suddenly I'm not merely carrying a tire around my mid-section, I'm toting a John Deere tractor wheel. Since childhood, I've been naturally slim, although my weight has gone up and down in recent years. So, I'm no stranger to battling the bulge, I just don't know how to manage the bloat. In recent years when I got portly, I'd go to the bathroom and I'd be skinny again. For most of my post-thirty life, I have averaged around 172 pounds. Suddenly, I'm carrying around a twelve-pack, and I think they are tall-boys. It didn't sink in until I saw two recent photos. In the first, I was standing with a group of guys and I just figured someones iPhone must have distorted the shot and widened me out. In the second, I was seated, leaning slightly forward, and I looked like some hunkering gargoyle. Dunlop's disease has overtaken me because my gut done lopped over my trousers. I should have noticed it in the shower when recently, I have been unable to see my nether-regions without a slight lean. I recoiled in horror from a full-length mirror, but I was inspired to write a new country song called, "I Can't Stand To Look In The Mirror, Because I Hate To See A Grown Man Cry." This can't be happening to me! Who wants to be old, bald, and fat?

My wife blames it on my addiction to Pepsi Cola, but I point out that Hugh Hefner drank Pepsi his whole life, and he's still slender. Or look at Joan Crawford. She sat on the board of Pepsi, Inc. but "Mommie Dearest" never got pudgy. I've tried the diet versions, but they taste like medicine and I need my cola fully loaded. I also attempted switching to ice tea in a can, but they are saturated with high fructose corn syrup, and you can gulp them, so you need a couple. It's tougher to chug a cola without belching like a howler monkey midway through. Don't get me wrong. Many of my old friends have blown up beyond recognition. It comes with the territory. But I don't look grotesque or morbidly obese and Melody tells me I'm not fat anywhere else but my belly, but it's starting to move around some. I think it's because ever since I began keeping quasi-business hours, I started eating three meals a day. When I kept musicians' hours, I'd sleep half the day, eat a big dinner and a snack later, and that was it. My body just wasn't acclimated to what's commonly referred to as normal life, and it rejected the health benefits I was attempting to incorporate.

Funny thing is, I don't eat a lot of sweets or desserts, I don't snack a lot, nor do I drink beer or alcohol. It's not a moral thing. Alcohol just makes me sick. Lord knows, I've tried to be a proper drunk in my past and I spent years searching for just the right drink. I started drinking Brandy Alexanders just because I read it was John Lennon's favorite, until I woke up one morning and spent the day calling people to apologise. But it didn't matter how you disguised it. Whether it was wine, whiskey, or beer, it just made me ill. And the sad part is, I would go directly from being straight to being sick with no euphoria in-between, and only hell to pay later. I finally figured out it was a crappy high anyway and abandoned the effort. I can, however, see years of alcohol consumption in my friends' faces, and they have payed for it with gin blossoms and enlarged proboscises, as well as the expansion of the epidermal layer to keep in the heavy load below. Go anywhere in public these days and you'll see enormous, titanic, obesity-- the kind you didn't see just twenty years ago. You would think Americans exist on a steady diet of fried pork rinds, Mountain Dew, and whale blubber. I enjoy an occasional Chips Ahoy myself, but I don't eat the entire Costco-sized bag at one sitting.

Of course, the answer is always diet and exercise, but ever since that gall bladder thing I had a few years ago, I am physically unable, by the grace of God, to do a sit-up. Walking is the answer, but my neighborhood isn't entirely walker friendly. When the sidewalk ends, your choices are either walking along a major thoroughfare where the autos zip by like NASCAR, or taking your chances on the pavement of a narrow lane with speed bumps. In any case, there is no walking around here without including the dogs. If they catch you putting on sneakers, or even thinking of the word "walk," the dogs go wild- and we have three of them. I don't mind taking Rufus Thomas' advice and walking that dog now and then, but I'm no Cesar Milan and I can't walk three at once. But, who are we kidding? I'm not walking anywhere farther than the mailbox anymore. It hurts, good people. So if I return to musicians' hours and you should hear me somewhere singing Fats Domino's classic "I'm Walkin'," you'll know that I am exercising- poetic license that is.