Apr 13 • 6M

35. 40.

through being cool

Open in playerListen on);

Appears in this episode

Jd Michaels
Life’s lemons into rich, dark chocolate.
Episode details

I used to say that I wasn’t a math guy, but I’ve learned that what I’m not is an arithmetic person. It turns out that actually enjoy mathematics. Reaching beyond arithmetic’s addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, mathematics serves as a dynamic modeling science of measurement and pattern.

I didn’t actually know the two were different until I looked them up.

I’m thinking about numbers a lot because my reunions are coming up. College and high school. I’ve never been to a college reunion, and because I went to a 5 year high school (where 8th grade was included) these events are always right next to one other, rather than in the “every other year” pattern that most people have.

So college 10 was the year before high school 15, 20 was right before 25 and now it’s college 35 and then high school 40. Wow. That’s the number of years where, if we were trees, we would be considered officially fully grown, ready to be cut down for IKEA furniture. I think I’d better go to this one.

It’s assumed that the reunion years up to 15 are where everybody’s getting started, building a base, becoming established, pushing forward…so many good phrases for that. Around 25, you begin riding it out, staying the course, keeping stride…a lot of what seem to be horse racing metaphors. At some point you pack it in, or just take it easy.

I’ve been listening to a load of autobiographies by octo- and nonagenarians.  Betty White, Dick Van Dyke, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks. I’ve learned so far that:
you should be born or live in the midwest or Brooklyn (so I’m pretty much covered there),
always take your vitamins,
keep moving,
keep learning,
and keep making stuff… all good advice.
But they never spoke of packing it in or taking it easy.  And all of them said that they don’t really “feel” old. I guess I don’t either. I have no desire to be young again, but hanging around people you knew in the past, in a place you lived in (in the past), talking about things you barely remember in the past seems the surest path from dirty martini to Geritol Spritzer.

I’m only going for one day. My chief reason not to go before was social media - if there was anyone I wanted to talk to, I thought I could just chat them up online. But that isn’t really true - because something special happens when people gather together in the same place. Relentless judging.

While I’m enjoying who I am now, I haven’t really been graded on it yet. 

Reunions seem designed to determine just where we stand between potential and decay. I am neither a mighty seed, nor a hollow log atop the forest floor. Am I more highly anticipated food order or post-meal empty plate? More New Year’s resolution or stationary bike used as a clothes horse?

Like a talking hat at Hogwarts, reunions sort us like a social pachinko machine. Clickety clickety clickety boom SUCCESS. Clackety click clackety click click DISAPPOINTMENT. Clackety clickety click clickety click -

– and here my metaphorical metal ball falls out of the board because I’m just not done yet. I’m taking my vitamins, I’m moving, I’m learning. I’m not done building yet. I don’t know if this means I haven’t applied myself, or that I didn’t catch a break, or maybe I was busy paying off my student loans for 22 years. Oop- yeah, it’s that one, I recognize it now.

In any case, I’ve got no regrets to complain about and no incredible achievements to crow about.  I am neither hobo, nor movie star. 
Clickety clackety clickety clack.

It would be easier if we were all movie stars. That would be like the Met Gala. We would all assume each other’s achievement, even we didn’t recognize each other.

There’s still be judgement, I guess. Let’s see, there’d be:

The Tabloids: I mean, you knew they were always headed that way. But wow.

The Methods: still forging the paths they were on years ago with keen determination.

And the Legendaries: propelled by the winds of some epic achievement that defined them, leaving them nothing more to prove, or in some cases, even do.

Again, I am none of those.

A friend suggested two more movie star categories: the Workhorses, and the Show Ponies.

Show Ponies have very expensive watches and haven’t scooped a litter box in a long, long while. They have staff. They have mastered the discipline of delegation, allowing them to control resources far beyond their natural reach. They don’t DO the thing; but they’ve put themselves central to THE THING GETTING DONE. They’re probably not actors… they’re more like Executive Producers.

But the Workhorses are the actors you remember from dozens of movies and shows; the police chief, the sommelier that ended up being that spy, the Vice President who fought the werewolf. You’ve seen them around. That one is probably me: never stop working, ends up being the Great-Grandpa in some Disney+ show.

Of course, it’s good company. Samuel L. Jackson is a Workhorse. And Dame Judi Dench. And, saints preserve us all, Harrison Ford. Now there’s a man who’s cleaned a cat box. He’s probably mucked a stable. Recently.

I think the whole reunion experience may be best enjoyed by those who have been to all of them. It’s like a show they get to watch twice a decade. From the “What have you been up to?” brunches, to the “Well, why didn’t we?” late-night parties, there is intrigue and gossip and schadenfreude.

But I realize that, ironically, my life is more arithmetic than theoretical equation. It’s all added up. So while it might be more fun to have an agenda, I just kind of want to talk to a few other workhorses. People who are doing rather than people who are done. I guess I’m more interested in what people make than who people are.

Hey look! Who is that over there?
Is that Jd Michaels? Wow, he is covered in cat hair! What a scooper!