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Everyone is Older and Everything is Worse. Another Damn Trip to Albany [California Seething]

Some trips are all about the journey. Other trips are all about the destination. Then, there are those trips that are all about coming home and kissing the floor because you’re so fucking happy to be back that you don’t care how much dog hair sticks to your lips. Last weekend I went to Albany to visit my grandparents in the nursing home, attend Rosh Hashannah services and take in a spontaneous funeral just for fun. Care to guess which type of trip this was?

Like stepping over a dead cat on my way in to work, visiting Albany is a depressing and unsettling break in my routine. It’s an inconvenient but unavoidable opportunity to contemplate mortality, the fragility of life and all the other horrible shit that I don’t ever want to fucking think about.

In fact, according to AllTheOtherHorribleShitThatIDontEverWantToFuckingThinkAbout.com, “mortality and the fragility of life” was ranked just below “picturing Jan Brewer having sex with her gardener and screaming ‘Ay, papi! punch a hole in that wall, and fill me with your anchor babies! There are 2 week old eggs up there with more civil rights than you could DREAM of!’” (her gardener was born and raised in Phoenix), but less horrible than “Mitt Romney ACTUALLY becoming the next US president” – which has been number one on the Horrible Shit list ever since replacing “Herman Cain ACTUALLY becoming the next US President”, which replaced “Michelle Bachman ACTUALLY becoming the next US President”, which replaced “Rick Perry ACTUALLY becoming the next US President”.

Sigh.  I miss the Republican Primary debates. It was like watching the Heat play the Lakers and cheering for gruesome knee injuries (just as long as they’re all right for the next Olympics because I am a shameless Gold Medal whore. Come on, Kobe – bring home the gold! USA! USA! Ick. I need a shower.)

So, right, contemplating the mortality and the fragility of life. Who needs it? Actually, who the hell am I calling fragile? My grandfather is a WWII vet who’s 95 years old, as fragile stuff goes, he’s way more Tupperware container than Ming vase.  He’s like a ’58 Cadillac Biarritz on the streets of Havana. Sure, he’s been jerry rigged together with replacement valves and veins from his leg, and sure, he’s leaking a little blood inside. but the engine still starts every morning and he keeps rolling along.

He’s still got the white-walls, the chrome and the tailfins, he’s still got his wits about him, still every nurse’s favorite, and, most importantly, still, officially, the world’s Oldest Living (and therefore Longest Suffering) Jets fan (the only cures for Jets fandom are death and Tebow. So, you see, my Drunk Dad is also my Drunk Great-Grandfather and I come by my misery honestly.)  I mean, hell, this was my Fourth Annual Last Ever Trip to Albany to See Him and, not that I’m complaining, but I am starting to feel like The Who with all these farewell tours. Hello, Pop-Pop! Are you ready to Rock??? (the answer is always no.)

OK, let’s keep it real – my grandparents are way older than a 58’ Cadillac. They’re more of like Model T and a Model A, you know, cars that started with a crank and still featured “horseless” in the marketing copy.

And getting as old as my grandparents are, well, that’s no fuckin’ joke (unless it’s this joke:” she’s so old she owes Jesus a bag of dust” Ha!, or this one: “He’s so old he owes Abe Lincoln a penny” – Classic!, or this one: “She’s so old her beeper number is 1” – Awesome!, or this one: “He’s so old he sleeps all the time and can only eat pureed food and can’t hear anything and was barely able to even acknowledge me when I visited and doesn’t really seem to get any joy out of life.” Stop it, you’re killing me! Or “She’s so old, she has absolutely no idea where she is, why she’s there and who the hell I am when I visit her and just wants to get in her car and leave but she can’t because she doesn’t have a car any more and if she gets out of her ward an alarm goes off and the orderlies come to take her back in!” Brilliant! It’s funny cause it’s true! Also, it’s heartbreaking and tragic and unbelievably sad because it’s true!)

Like I said last year: “Thanks to my grandfather’s cardiac issues and grandmother’s dementia their lives have turned into a sad reenactment of The Wizard of Oz - he has no heart, she has no brain and I barely have the courage to visit.” As the saying goes, “getting old beats the alternative.” But when you get past a certain point, the margin of victory there gets smaller and smaller with every passing year until it’s pretty much just a tie and you start secretly and shamefully wondering whether it might be for the best if the game didn’t go into overtime.  Still, it’s not up to us to decide. The end of a life is like the Jewish holidays – always early or late – never exactly on time.

Wow. This post is kind of a bummer, isn’t it? I’m just a drug problem and an abortion away from a Very Special California Seething – like the Family Ties episode where Alex takes speed so he can study, or that really depressing episode where he works for the mayor and gets Parkinson’s Disease. What a downer that one was! Almost as bad as the Growing Pains where Mike finds Jesus, Carol won’t eat, Dr. Seaver gets a talk show and Boner kills himself. Typical psychiatrist’s family. Oh well, as long as they’ve got each other. So, alright, enough depressing thoughts from Albany about my grandparents getting older. How about some depressing thoughts from Albany about me getting older?

See, Albany isn’t only the place where my grandparents live, it’s where I misspent my high school and college years. So when I need a break from the nursing home, I like to spend a little time visiting my old haunts. It’s like sneaking off to the gift shop during a hospital visit and browsing through greeting cards with pictures of irises and heart-felt script-font messages (nothing says “You know, Jesus and I both really care about you” like script font) while commiserating with a sad looking teddy bear on crutches (“you and me both, brother”). Or hiding out in the cafeteria for a few precious minutes with cold coffee and warm Jello (with non-dairy whipped topping. Yum!) and trying to figure out how long you can stay down there before you’ve got to strap on your “everything’s gonna be fine” face and go back up to the patient’s semi-private room.

My Albany sneak-away destination of choice is Lark Street, which is like Artsy Poseur Barbie’s East Village Playset. It’s a 16-inch scale replica of a real live hipster neighborhood complete with Head Shop, Independently Owned Coffee Shop, Ironic Dive Bar and Bad Piercings Homeless Teen.

Seriously, Bad Piercings Homeless Teen, Albany? Your aspirations are pathetic. Albany is a city that you run away FROM. Now get down to New York or get your ass back to Buffalo. Your alchi mom is gonna be worried sick about you when the Bills game is over.

(BTW- congratulations to Silverlake on being named “Best Hipster Neighborhood in America” by Forbes Magazine!  They’re as thrilled as Rage Against the Machine when Paul Ryan said they were his favorite band. )

I was even more eager to head down to Lark Street last weekend because Larkfest, Albany’s annual street fair, was taking place and the theme of this year’s event was “Fuck the Open Container Laws” for the 25th year in a row. It’s just the sort of event that I would have loved as a free-wheeling, wild and crazy, anything-goes college student. And, sure enough, when I arrived, the streets were jam packed with free-wheeling, wild and crazy, anything-goes college students having the time of their lives. It should have been a blast! Unfortunately, there were a couple of things I hadn’t considered:

  1. I haven’t been a free-wheeling, wild and crazy, anything goes college student in a really, really, really long time.
  2. They all deserve to die.
  3. There was no parking information on the website. WTF????

It was a seriously disorienting experience, like going back to 1995 to hang out with my former self only to find out that he’s a douchebag and I’m a lameass. Now I know how Bruce Willis feels. I mean, it’s not like Younger Me tried to assassinate me, but we did go out for a drink together at the Local Ironic Dive Bar (aka the Palais Royale, complete with PBR in cans, linoleum floors and a banged up shuffleboard table) and realized we had nothing in common:

Younger Self: Dude, this place is awesome!

Me: What?

Younger Self: THIS PLACE IS AWESOME!

Me: WHAT?????

Younger Self: NOTHING, FORGET IT.

ME: WHAT?? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. THE MUSIC’S TOO LOUD .

Younger Self: I KNOW! AWESOME RIGHT? TOAD THE WET SPROCKET FUCKIN’ ROCKS! WOO-HOO!

(awkward pause)

Younger Self: Larkfest fuckin’ rocks!

Me: WHAT?

Younger Self: LARKFEST FUCKIN’ ROCKS!

Me: I guess so. I mean it’s crowded and loud and there aren’t enough recycling bins. Plus there’s no info anywhere about where to park and I’m not really sure that having all these drunken college students is beneficial for the business community. I mean, I’d think they’d want to market to a more upscale demographic.

Younger Self: WOO-HOO! LARKFEST! SHOW US YOUR TITS!

Me: Like I was saying.

(awkward pause)

Younger Self: WANNA DO JAGER BOMBS?

Me: WHAT??

Younger Self: JAGER! BOMBS!

Me: I’ll just have a Jameson on the rocks with a splash of water and a water back.

Younger Self: WHAT????

Me: JAGER BOMBS. FINE.

Younger Self: AWESOME!

(several Jager Bombs later)

Younger Self: Dude, I’m so wasted!

Me: WHAT?

Younger Self: I’M FUCKED UP.

Me: Oh. Neat. I’m tired.

(awkward pause)

Younger Self: Wanna smoke a bowl?

Me: WHAT?

Younger Self: DO YOU WANT TO SMOKE A BOWL?

Me: NO, THANKS. I don’t really smoke any more. Makes me paranoid.

Younger Self: DID YOU SAY IT MAKES YOUR VAGINA HURT?

Me: NO, IT MAKES ME…

Younger Self: I’M FUCKING WITH YOU, DUDE. LET’S GO SMOKE A BOWL. DON’ T BE SUCH A PUSSY.

Me: Oh. Uhm. OK.

(one bowl later)

Younger Self: Wow. That’s good shit. I’m totally stoned.

Me: Did I leave the oven on?

Younger Self: I SAID I’M TOTALLY FUCKED UP!

Me: I SAID I THINK I LEFT THE OVEN ON!

(awkward pause)

Younger Self: Dude, when did we become such a lame ass?

Me: WHAT???

Younger Self: WHEN DID WE GET SO LAME?

Me: I don’t know. MAYBE WHEN WE TURNED 30?

Younger Self: JUST FUCKING KILL ME NOW.

(awkward pause)

Me: I have to go back to the present.

Younger Self: OK

Me: Just one more thing I need to tell you before I go. Save your money and invest in Google.

Younger Self: WHAT?

Me: INVEST IN GOOGLE!

Younger Self (laughing): SURE, GOOOOOGLE, WHATEVER, DUDE, YOU’RE TOTALLY BAKED.

Me: NO, I’M SERIOUS – SAVE YOUR MONEY. INVEST IN GOOGLE (fading away), Google, google…

Younger Self: What a lameass! Who wants Jager Bombs? I just got a Discover card, so I’m buying!

Me (fading away in the distance): Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!Gooooooogle!!!!!!!

So there you have it. My recent trip to Albany. Hard to say what’s more depressing: being surrounded by college students on Lark Street that I have nothing in common with or escorting my grandmother to lunch at the dementia ward cafeteria. Both places are filled with highly medicated people with diminished mental capacity lolling about in a stupor and repeating nonsense words to no one in particular. In the dementia ward, they resemble actors backstage repeating their one line over and over again so that it will be absolutely perfect when they hit the stage, even though the play ended years ago and the audience has gone home. On Lark Street, they resemble drunken idiots waiting to puke in the Dunkin’ Donuts bathroom. Much less poetic.

So…what’s the point of this story? Well, I guess what I learned is that even though I’m about to turn 40 and I feel pretty old, it’s not nearly as old as I’m going to feel in my 90s if I’m lucky enough to even live that long. Turns out that youth is a drug that we’re all addicted to. We only get to take it once and we spend the rest of our lives jonesing for it. And we can bullshit ourselves all we want that we’re better off being sober and responsible and old but if we could score an eight ball of youth we’d snort it up in a second just to get that rush of being 22 and wasted with a brand new Discover card.

So, hey, wow – a drug analogy – I guess this is a Very Special California Seething after all! I certainly hope you weren’t counting on me to cheer you up cause if so I just totally fucked up your day. Hey, you know what, that actually makes me feel a little bit better.  Thanks, guys. You’re the bestest!

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