Monday, July 11, 2011

"At Least I'm Not Like All Those Other Old Guys"

So, I was driving the minivan home from work, blasting Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba," with my windows rolled down, when it suddenly occurred to me: Yeah -- I'm that guy.  The guy with four car seats in the back but a CD case filled with the kind of music that makes even my wife cringe a little.

Understand, I grew up on Crashdog and Vengeance Rising -- much to my mother's chagrin.  I still recall with fondness the day she walked in on my teenage self listening to "Cashists, Fascists, and Other Fungus" and shouting at me.

"They're yelling at you!"
"It's Crashdog, Mom. You bought me the album."
"But they're yelling at you."
"Yes, that's why I bought it.  I don't remember paying you to yell at me!"

This argument, it should be needless to mention, did NOT win me points with Mom.

At some point, that kid grew up.  And much like back then, I'm a very respectful guy, until you tell me what I'm supposed to be listening to.  I suppose much of my generation has outgrown the drums and the screaming, and the crunching guitars.  To be sure, my musical tastes certainly stretch far beyond this, but at heart, I'll always be that kid in the mosh pit.  In spirit anyway.

I've been coming to terms recently with the fact that I am getting older.  I suppose at some point when I wasn't looking, the illusion of immortality wore off -- but I've never gotten used to the idea that I'm supposed to be an adult now.  I'm still not entirely sure what that even means.  I have a wife and four kids.  A job and bills.  Cars that break down, and responsibilities I don't remember signing on for.  And I'm thankful every day for all of it.  So is that being an adult?  Or does it mean that I'm supposed to leave behind pieces of my individuality, too; my daydreams that I turn into stories, my intense desire to find humor where most people find frustration, simply because I'm afraid of what will happen to my sanity if I take those things too seriously?

These are the questions that crop up as I prepare for work and my overweight, 33-year-old visage glares back at me from the mirror, while I studiously ignore the gray hairs I've long since given up pulling out of my goatee.  I dress myself in t-shirts and the occasional polo, having decided years ago that life's too short for neckties.  If I go out in public, my middle-age-guy uniform consists of a polo shirt, camo shorts and skater shoes -- like a wearable mullet for the aging Nirvana generation.

So, yeah... on the inside, I'm pretty much the same as I've always been (maybe -- hopefully -- a little wiser), while on the outside it's a struggle to maintain a shirt-size you can still buy at Wal-Mart.  I have a bad back and a trick knee -- and another knee that just seems to not like me very much.  This was all brought home to me a couple years ago at the last metal show I caught, in Allentown, PA.

I should start by saying that, when my friend asked me if I wanted to go in on some tickets, I was beyond excited.  I hadn't been to a hardcore/metal concert since college, and not only was Demon Hunter -- a current favorite -- headlining, but there was the added enticement of college nostalgia: Living Sacrifice was getting back together, and THIS was also their reunion tour.  The fact that, of the 4 guys in the car, I was the senior by more than 10 years didn't really bother me so much.  Didn't really occur to me, in fact, except to silently note that a post-show beer run was absolutely out of the question.

And then the first of the four bands hit the stage, and the mohawked and pierced college kids hit the pit. That's when I became suddenly and uncomfortably aware of who I was.  Ten, fifteen years ago, I was one of those kids, dodging feet and elbows, planting one boot on the hardwood, as my head went its own way and my arms pushed and pulled with the crowd.

My first thought in Allentown: "Somebody's gonna lose an eye."

I remember when I was younger, there were always guys on the fringes of the pit.  Those guys who were too old, or tired, or out of shape to mix it up with the rest of us.  These guys were always a little mythic to me (at least, that's the way I remember it now).  There they stood, just on the outside.  And while they weren't in the dust and blood with the rest of us, they still rocked out.  And not only that, but kept it just a little safer for everyone. I don't know that I fully understood it back then, but in Allentown, I joined those noble ranks. Maybe my knees and back couldn't deal with the pit.  Maybe I was too out of shape to mix it up.  But I could stand at the outside, keeping celebrants from being trampled; shoving overzealous revelers back into the throng, and making sure that, if somebody had to catch an elbow, it wouldn't be the wallflowers and teenage girls behind me.

Am I experiencing an early midlife crisis?  Is my love of loud music may way of clinging to my lost youth?  I guess there are as many answers to that as there are overpaid therapists.  All I know is, I get to work on time, I love my wife and kids, and if my music's not pissing off the old ladies in the car next to me, it's not loud enough.

Now get off my lawn.

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