So, the question you are probably asking yourself right now, other than ‘why the hell am I reading this stupid blog on one of the most insignificant websites (WordPress) in the world’, is: ‘Really, Larry Lipitor, so, you have, like, two followers, and you think Jonathan Franzen is the dork, not you?’ Before addressing this very pertinent question being contemplated by you, my two most appreciated, most intelligent, most amazingly discriminating readers, not to discredit you, even though the remaining world population of nearly 8 billion has absolutely no interest in what I have to say about Jonathan Franzen or Pokémon Go or Donald Trump or what I had for breakfast or how much I like coffee or how many toothpicks I go through in a year, is to ask you this follow-up question, which is posed strictly in the spirit of intellectual curiosity: Wouldn’t you agree that it takes a dork to know one and that Larry Lipitor is perhaps the dorkiest of the insignificant dorks that you follow on WordPress or Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or IloveFruitLoops.com? Before continuing with my analysis, let me just say that there is no need to email me with your comments or respond to an attached survey or even push a ‘like’ or ‘not like’ button because I value your time and your privacy and don’t feel like I have the right to impose on you to do anything beyond reading this very insightful opinion about my once favorite contemporary literary talent, Jonathan Franzen, who has taken up birdwatching in Santa Cruz, California. And now, for my inarguable proof that Jonathan Franzen is totally a dork and overestimated by all of his readers. Okay, so it’s not inarguable proof, but it’s certainly a thought that will put Jonathan Franzen’s credentials as a writer in comparison to those who I consider to be the greatest writers of the past. And my thought is this: I can’t help but wonder what Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and John Fante would have to say about Jonathan Franzen’s preference to look at birds in lieu of laying naked in bed with a bottle of Jack Daniels, a satisfied woman, and a Victor Hugo novel. They’d probably say that Jonathan Franzen is a big dork like Larry Lipitor, who spends his spare time playing bridge, hanging out with his family, and doing everything he can to find a new follower or two to his totally dorky blogs. They’d probably also say that Jonathan Franzen’s 35mm birdwatching camera with the 3 foot long zoom lens could be put to much better use than birdwatching and write a snippet or two on what those better uses might be.
So, after creating this blog and posting 8 times, I’m feeling kind of like I felt after discovering the evil ways of the flesh. Not to put down flesh, because flesh is actually an amazing element of anatomy, however, let’s be honest…flesh is always in selfish pursuit of attention just like bloggers are! Yeah, it’s the same bullshit dance where I pretend to be interested in your blog because I really want you to read my blog not because I’m the slightest bit interested in your blog, but because I’m hoping you’ll make me feel really good by reading my blog and telling me how great it is and giving me one of those thumbs-up “like” signs. No wonder this experience has left me cynical, self-loathing, and feeling older than ever. Yes, I’m old! But who cares? Old is the new old and guess what? Being old is not all that different than being young. I have blogging to thank for this insight. Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, and the rest of social media are nothing but an attempt to force our agenda down every one else’s throat. Word press is nothing but a bunch of shitty writers like me trying to impress other shitty writers. Oh wait! Let’s attack old people because they’re inferior to young people. Old people are cynical, unimportant, fat, wrinkled, impotent, ugly, boring, stupid, prejudiced, and worthless. And young people are what? Open-minded, beautiful, brilliant, exciting, fun, and hot as hell? Dream on! You’re as unimportant as I am. Oh, wait! No you’re not! You have 28 “likes”, 1352 followers, and three feature articles on Word Press! Congratulations! Because of your successful blog, your ideas will live forever.
Before mailman Steve shows up around ten, my neighborhood is a quiet, relaxing hamlet near the beach. Birds are chirping, wind is rustling through palm trees, and ocean waves are crashing on the sands several blocks away. All of that changes the moment Steve passes through the private, guarded gate of the community in a cloud of exhaust fumes and then squeaks to a halt at the first set of mailboxes. His arrival is the highlight of my day. Unfortunately, I have to share the mailman with all of the other unimportant men in the neighborhood, who, like me, rush out of the house to cajole Steve into giving them their mail first. You might think this sounds ridiculous, but believe me, it’s not easy to get someone as popular as Steve to select you as his favorite unimportant person in the neighborhood. To reach the top of Steve’s list requires skills they don’t teach in MBA programs, Corporate Charm School, Six Sigma Training, or any other past training program that made me a successful business man. Just for clarification, it’s not what’s in the mail that motivates me to compete like this, it’s strictly the competition. In other words, in my unimportant life, whomever gets Steve to give him the mail first becomes the most important-unimportant man of the day. So, are you starting to understand why Steve is the most important man in my life, and why I have given Steve generous gifts for New Years, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day (this one makes me feel kind of weird, but since he always favors me on that day, I continue to do it), Easter, Father’s Day, his birthday, his wedding anniversary, Veteran’s Day (despite the fact he never served), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mailman’s Day (a holiday I arbitrarily made up)? Might I add that there isn’t a week that goes by where I haven’t also provided him with a gourmet lunch, a dozen donuts, a pizza, my wife’s famous Italian beef sandwich, a cake, a bag of cookies, a dozen bagels with two tubs of his favorite cream cheese, a double white chocolate macchiato from Starbucks, or whatever else I discovered that he craves. To my delight, all of my efforts have not gone unnoticed by Steve or my fellow unimportant colleagues in the neighborhood. Over time, I have become a force to be reckoned with. In fact, everything has been great until today, when a new mailman showed up and informed me that Steve suffered a serious heart attack over the weekend, after which he refused to give me my mail early.
Now that I’m an old and undesirable man, women feel free to converse freely and uninhibitedly around me. This includes women of all ages, from 15 to 100. I say this because the women I’m frequently in contact with are within this age range. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I’m not sure, but of course, it’s my nature to lean toward thinking it’s a bad thing. The reason I’m leaning in this direction is because listening to these conversations usually makes me feel more unimportant than I already feel. Women are schizophrenic when it comes to men. If they have a man, (and by this, I mean a long term relationship, married or unmarried does not matter) their conversations are usually about children, grandchildren, shopping, vacations, the latest stupid thing about the man in their life, some home improvement project, some advice about whatever shit some other woman needs advice about, or their most recent weight loss program. If they ever say something nice about their man, it’s only because he bought them some great gift for their birthday, Christmas, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day, but of course, if he doesn’t deliver the goods on every single one of these occasions, she’s back to talking about the latest stupid thing he’s done. Bottom line…he’s not very important to her unless he showers her with better gifts than her friends got from their man. Of course, a man doesn’t realize this until he’s retired and his woman tells him that he needs to get out of the house more. Believe it or not, the conversations that women without a man have are even worse. Even though women without a man talk incessantly about the men in their past, in their present, and in their future, they never speak a word of truth about any of these men; they only say things about the men who are not in their lives that make them feel better about themselves. Either he treats, treated, or will treat them like a princess, or is, was, or will be a phenomenal provider, or is, was, or will be a great father, or is, was, or will be a lot of fun, or is, was or will be amazingly attractive, or something else that makes the woman sound like she attracted, attracts, or will attract the greatest men on earth, truth be damned. Regarding the ex-man in her life, everything about their relationship was perfect until he became an alcoholic, beat her, cheated on her, ignored their children, or went to jail. Everything that eventually went wrong in her past relationships had nothing to do with her, and every man she has met since has verified that to be true. No need for truth when fantasy makes her feel much better about herself and the new men in her life all adore her. It depresses me to hear the conversations of women who don’t have a man. Women without a man can’t stop speaking about men. Women without a man find men to be the most important thing about their lives. Women without a man expect the new men in their lives to be exactly like the past men in their lives excluding their faults. And, of course, every man in their lives, past, present, and future have all of these wonderful qualities that make them much better than I’ll ever be. Knowing that I could never be as great as the men in the lives of women without men in their lives makes me feel more unimportant than ever. Whether romance novels or chick flicks or Disney Studios is to blame for the imaginary men that women without a man create, I have no idea. The only thing I know for sure is that I felt much better about myself as a man before women with or without a man made me privy to their private conversations.
Vampires and zombies are not the only somewhat-dead creatures who suck the life out of the living. A lot of us retired people are just like them. If you think I’m exaggerating, you should spend an afternoon with me and my somewhat-dead, retired friend, Stein. Once we get out of bed (separate beds, separate houses, separate wives, just to set the record straight), which is where we spend most of the day, it’s time to suck the life out of those who are productive. The productive masses fund our social security and Medicare, clean our houses, serve us our food, wash our cars, trim our nose hairs, etc. Stein and I are completely helpless without them, and like zombies and vampires, we have no use for them once they satisfy our needs. We’d rather either spend our time with other despicable creatures just like ourselves or get back to our beds than spend a minute more than absolutely necessary with the productive masses. So, although we are technically alive, we are living as if we are somewhat dead; and being somewhat dead is what my friend, Stein, excels at. However, believe it or not, my friend, Stein, despite being the most somewhat-dead, retired person I know, is also the happiest, which is why I find him to be the most interesting and important retired person I know. I have no idea why he’s so god damn happy, but believe me, the man is incredibly and undeniably ecstatic. So, what is Stein’s typical day, you ask? Well, he sleeps a minimum of twelve hours a day, and would sleep longer if he didn’t set his alarm clock to wake him; and once awake, he’s too tired to shower or brush his teeth, so he often puts off his morning ablution until later in the day or week or month; and despite his foul smell, he has no problem mingling with the productive public and with me. You would think Stein’s odor would offend me, however rather than be offended, I have learned to live with it. Because Stein is more important and much happier than me, I would rather discreetly cover my nose, turn the car fan on full blast, or hold my breath when around him because it would be utterly rude and inconsiderate to insult a man who is vastly superior to me. And so, odor and all, whenever we get together, we go off to lunch at the restaurant of his choice, and then take a walk at the pace he sets while discussing the problems of the world that he finds most relevant, and compare our lives, which never fails to prove how much better his life is than mine. I’m always amazed that a man of his importance and high level of happiness wants to spend time with me. I’m very unimportant and rarely very happy yet he enjoys being around me. Stein is a true inspiration to me as I do my best to be more like him. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I am incapable of living up to his high standards.
Back when I was running a billion dollar company, nobody at work paid attention to my teeth. Everybody focused on listening to what I had to say and how I said it. I was a very important man and everything I said was very important. My wife didn’t care much about my teeth either. Only when she reminded me of my annual dental visit did the subject of my teeth come up. Since nobody else cared about my teeth, I didn’t care much about them either. I chewed on ice. I bit down into Tootsie Roll Pops as soon as I put them into my mouth. I ate the sweetest candies, desserts, and ice cream. I chewed Spearmint gum. I drank tons of Coke, Doctor Pepper, and Snapple Ice Tea. I didn’t floss. I didn’t use a fluoride rinse. I didn’t use the tiny in-between-the-teeth brushes. I didn’t use those pointed rubber doohickeys that scrape bacteria off the gum line. As far as I was concerned, my teeth were fine. I ate and bit and sucked on whatever I wanted. That all changed when I retired and nothing was exciting about me anymore. I mean, how boring is a man who spends most of his time playing bridge and golf? Most men who play bridge and golf are very boring unless there is something very impressive about them that stands out; and it’s almost impossible for an older man to come across as impressive. If you don’t believe me, think about Donald Trump’s hair or John Kasich’s jokes or Joe Biden’s hair plugs or Alan Greenspan’s analysis of current monetary policy…they’d all be better off without these ridiculous attempts to come across as impressive. In fact, nearly everything an older man does to come across as more impressive just makes him appear ridiculous. That is, everything except for his teeth. Perfect teeth look great on an old man. Perfect teeth make an old man look more impressive. For some reason, perfect teeth do not scream fake or ‘I’m trying too hard’ like Botox injections, plastic surgery, hair dye, a beard and a Meerschaum pipe, earlobe earrings, a handlebar moustache, a toupee, a nose job, and nipple piercings. Great teeth always look great! Da Vinci veneers, whitening of the enamel, implants, straightened teeth, etc. They all look great and they all make an older man look more impressive. So, please don’t think less of me when I admit to having spent a small fortune in order to make my smile look better. If only I can improve my personality as well, I just might stand out as more impressive than all of the other unimpressive men that I golf and play bridge with. But enough of that. It’s time for me to brush with my Oral-B, Braun electric toothbrush, floss, scrape bacteria off the gum line, clean out the gaps between my teeth with the three different size go-between brushes, gargle with fluoride rinse and then with plaque and gingivitis preventing antiseptic mouthwash. Inspecting my teeth with a magnification mirror after I’m done with all of this is the highlight of my day.
The baby shower at my house yesterday cost me nearly a thousand dollars. Believe me, I’m not complaining about the money. It made me happy to put up the money for my daughter’s baby shower. And I could care less about my house getting trashed by the event. Over 50 women showed up. There were four or five babies sucking up tons of attention. I was the only man in attendance. Once I set up the rented tables and chairs, picked up the ice and food, cleaned the back yard furniture, filled up the drink canisters with lemonade, iced tea, and coffee, and skimmed the pool, nobody wanted me around. While mixing an Arnold Palmer for my own consumption, the early guests ignored me except for one woman who asked what I was doing there. The last time I felt so unwelcome was at the Fifty Shades of Grey movie where I was the only male in attendance at a nearly full theatre. (Just for the record, I did not attend this movie by myself. I accompanied my wife because her girlfriend got sick at the last minute and she did not want to go by herself. Honest! Why don’t you believe me?) I never used to have time to go to chick flicks and baby showers when I was running a billion dollar company because I was always working. On weekends, I entertained customers at the Country Club. Only on Friday and Saturday nights was I available for social events that had nothing to do with my job. I used to feel attractive, desirable, successful, and important when I attended neighborhood cocktail parties, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, New Year’s Eve galas, etc. Women were impressed by me. I got lots of attention. Now, when I attend these types of events, women either ignore me straight out or ignore me after asking me if I’m thinking of going back to work and I tell them ‘no’. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. At yesterday’s baby shower, I had three conversations with women. Conversation number one took place with my older daughter (not the one having the baby) after a woman handed me her shower gift so she could put on a pair of protective booties. As I placed the gift in the designated gift area, my daughter asked me if I remembered to hand the woman an envelope to write down her address for the ‘thank you’ note. When I asked her what she was talking about, she scolded me with a lecture about the efficiency of having each guest fill out the envelope in order to save the mother-to-be some time when she writes her ‘thank you’ notes and then ordered me to find the woman and have her fill out an envelope immediately. Conversation number two took place when my mother and sister informed me that I would be holding my sister’s birthday party at my house next weekend and told me who would be in attendance and what I would be bringing to the event. Conversation number three occurred when my wife told me all the clean up work that I needed to complete so that the house would be ready for the cleaning lady the next day. Of course, I did exactly what they all told me to do. I’m an unimportant man after all, and all of the women in my life seem to feel great when they make me feel unimportant.
I’m always questioning who I am and what I want. Conversely, I’m always wondering why other people never seem to question who they are and what they want. Asking who I am and what I want depresses me. I have no idea who I am and what it is that I really want.
During any given day, my head swirls with questions such as:
-Am I a bad person when I purposely ignore a member of the bridge club who smells like piss and rolls his eyes around like he’s having an epileptic fit?
-Do my grandkids find me disgusting when I distract them from their video games while attempting to get them to say ‘hello’?
-Am I going straight to hell when I die because I always pick on my 88 year-old mother? (Just to fill you in about our relationship, I should mention that she’s lived with me for two years because several years ago, she told me she lost the will to live and needed to move in with me in order to be able to go on with her life. I should also mention that she spends ten hours a day watching the Catholic Television Station, EWTN, at full blast volume because she’s so deaf.)
-Am I an uncaring, insensitive husband because I can’t help but get mad at my wife when she insists on going to the 99 cent store every time we go out to eat or to a movie or to visit the kids or to the bank or to Starbucks or to anywhere else that doesn’t actually require some really cheap shit from the 99 cent store in order to enjoy the primary event?
-Am I a horrible human being because I get really pissed off at all the mentally challenged homeless people who scream obscenities at me while taking my daily walk through the park, the wetlands, or along the beach, the spots where they hang out all day long waiting for people to walk by so they can stare at them and yell at them and tell them they’re going to starve to death if they don’t give them any money?
Questioning who I am and what I want makes me feel like I’m doomed by my deficiencies. At the end of the day, I usually find myself craving a couple of beers or several glasses of wine. I never find a need to drink early in the day, but by the end of the day, I’m dying for some alcohol. Alcohol allows me to love myself and everybody else. Alcohol allows me to think that everybody, including myself, is just fine.
Oh shit! Am I an alcoholic?
Who cares! After drinking a couple of beers, I feel amazing.
Now that Easter has come and gone, it’s time to forget about Jesus dying on the Cross to save me from my sins and get back to sinning again; and boy is life ever better when I can commit a few sins here and there without feeling guilty about Jesus suffering a Crucifixion just to save me from the fires of hell. Sinning is what brings a bit of excitement to an otherwise boring day of retirement. Looking forward to a few sinful pleasures is what convinces me to get out of bed every morning. Now that I’m retired and don’t spend all of my time attending business meetings, commuting to and from work, doing chores for my wife, playing with the kids on the weekend, frequenting family functions, and struggling like hell to find 4 available hours to sleep every day, I have finally arrived at that moment in life where I have time to commit a few juicy sins. Just thinking about the 7 great sins makes me smile. Let’s see, next time I see my Republican buddy, Bill, I’ll be sure to be as annoyingly vain as I possibly can while pointing out what greedy sons of bitches all of the republicans are and how hypocritical they are when attempting to convince us that the richer they get the better it is for America; and next time I talk to my richest buddy, John, I’ll be sure to soothe my envy by speculating how great it’s going to be when Bernie becomes President and redistributes his wealth to those who can’t find a job; and next time I play bridge against that smug bitch, Joyce, I’ll be sure to yell at her for the slightest infraction of the rules; and tonight I’m going to dine at Maggiano’s and stuff myself and drink a couple of glasses of IPA and oh, my God, that will just be the beginning of my evening. But, oh yeah…thank you, Jesus, and I hope You understand.
I’m convinced that the less people know you, the more they like you. This became apparent to me as my house became completely transformed last night in preparation for my daughter’s baby shower scheduled for next Sunday. I mean, we have no idea if this new human being will be a wonderful person or a total asshole, but the biggest party of this kid’s life is being held in his honor next Sunday. To prepare for this grand event, extensive discussions have been held every day for the past three or four months about the menu, the seating arrangements, the games to be played, the size of the coffee urn to be rented, the tablecloths, the way to control the traffic flow of the guests, etc. I mean, not to sound like I’m feeling neglected or ignored or insignificant, but this unborn kid’s baby shower is all that everybody in this family has been talking about at breakfast, lunch, dinner, while in the shower, while in bed, while driving to Babies R Us to buy stupid shit, and while people are beating the shit out of each other at Donald Trump’s rallies. Nobody in this family gives a shit about the presidential primaries, the terrorist attack in Belgium, the Final Four tournament or the new IPhone. Never in my life has any party or discussion been held about me or any other “born” person I know that resembles this. Monarchs, heads of state, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, the Pope, the Kardashians, and every other living person do not receive this much attention. Once you’re born, it’s all downhill. The more people get to know you, the less they like you. Not until you die do they ever give you the amount of personal attention and adulation that you get at your baby shower. I used to be afraid of death, but now I’m looking forward to it.