Modern Methusala

The tables at Bertucci’s had appeared swarming with high school kids and college freshmen. The only couple over thirty sat in the middle of the room, donning festive NASCAR top hats around gray heads and looking quite bewildered – a fact partly due to age, partly due to the environment, but mostly due to the hats. The rest of the nubile crowd chatted noisily. A group of high school girls held conference behind us, practicing imperfect similes:

“Sorry guys for being like so late. We like got held up by like a thousand lights on the way.”

“No one calls sprinkles Jimmies.”

“No one calls sprinkles Jimmies.”

The kitchen clattered and steamed with thin-crust pizza, delivered to tables where GameBoys sang with squealing tires and power-ups. Therefore, when Dasad and I later made our way into the TCBY, it felt a little strange to be standing in line with seven or eight gray-haired seniors.

“Are we old?” Dasad asked afterwards.

“No, I just think we picked a very mature ice cream parlor, that’s all,” I said digging into my peanut butter parfait.

“Do you think we’ll be doing the same thing twenty, thirty years from now? Hobbling to the nearby fat free yogurt stand for waffle cones and white chocolate soft serve?”

“. . . and jimmies,” I helpfully add.

“Huh?”

“Jimmies, you know, the sprinkles you pour over ice cream.”

“That’s not the right word,” Dasad corrected. “No one calls sprinkles ‘jimmies.’”

“Sure they do. I just did.”

“It sounds like drug slang: ‘Give me a nickel bag of jimmies, man. The good stuff.’ ”

“No, its sprinkles, chocolate or rainbow colored. Jimmies.”

“One day I must learn this dialect you practice so well. Do you think we’ll be spendin’ our Fridays outside a TCBY?” Dasad asked for another attempt at focus. “For that matter, what will we be doing ten twenty years from now?

The question has merit. In the spring of my life, I constructed a bucket list of sorts, a short repository of aims and goals for the future.

  • Find true love
  • Save a life
  • Be a good brother, friend, husband
  • Get in shape
  • Travel the world
  • Win the Pulitzer Prize
  • Write a work of fiction that will stand the test of time (perhaps children’s lit)
  • Kill a dragon with my bare hands

dragonslayAlright perhaps not the most reasonable goals (especially that last one), but then your life’s pursuits should never be too modest or probable. It’s the impossibility of it all that makes it worth pursuing in the first place. As of this moment, I have yet to achieve . . . well anything. But although scratching off any item on my list may seem like carving Mount Rushmore with a toothpick, if you never give up, you’re that much closer than those who do.

Despite our accomplishments though, I do not believe people change that much. When she was a girl, my grandmother would travel downtown via street car to the movie theater, watch movies all day for a nickel. Today she spends her free time poised before Turner Classic Movies and field trips to see the latest Oscar nominees. My great-grandfather during Prohibition concocted booze in his bathtub. I recall his lavish parties, where beer and booze would fill the glasses of all guests, regardless of race, creed or legal drinking age.

Dasad and I arrived back home and nestled our aging bodies down in plush armchairs. The TV and the Xbox hummed into life. We see the familiar devastation, silhouetted against a blood red sky, a large rotating cog and a grinning skull where the sun once stood. Horde mode loads.

“I think we’ll probably be doing the same thing we’re doing now.” I pushed a few buttons, trying to remember which trigger button controlled the aim.

I could see ourselves, sitting in the same chairs, obsessed with the latest cooking show, playing the latest video game: virtual reality Tetris or Super Mario Multi-verse perhaps.

Dasad nodded. “Is that sad? Should we feel disappointed by that?”

“Oh well, more yogurt for us . . . "

“Oh well, more yogurt for us . . . "

“Well,” I considered. “We might be married with kids by then. That’d be cool. Plus when your fifty-something, you get to eat as much yogurt as you want, right?”

“Is that why so many old people were at TCBY?”

“Probably, because it’s soft and relatively fat-free, they suck it down,” I say, “Ooo . . . got boomed.”

“On it. Why’s that matter?” Dasad said navigating his character through the debris, where I lay bloody and crawling.

“Because old folk are more health conscious, and many have trouble chewing. You know, dentures and all that.” I wrapped my lips over my teeth and mimed someone gumming their vanilla mocha yogurt.

“So what you’re suggesting,” Dasad laughed, “is that when we’re fifty, we’re going to be sitting in the same chairs . . .”

“. . . well not the same chairs, perhaps something more comfortable and ergonomically satisfying . . .”

“Whatever . . . wasting our Saturday nights playing the same games – or the future equivalent,” he added before I could interrupt. “And all this will be ok, because we’ll be consuming vast amounts of fat free yogurt . . .”

“ . . . with chocolate jimmies . . .”

“Shut up, there’s no such thing . . . and teaching our kids and wives how to kill undead hordes, alien swarms, or subterranean invaders? Is that it?”

“Yes, only our wives are super hot, and my kids are showing your kids our shared manga collections and anime DVDs,” I smile. “Oh, that will be a grand day.”

“My kids,” Dasad frowns, “will never see your kids – unless it is Thursday. Thursdays are the days when my kids make your kids eat grass. We’ll call them green ‘jimmies.’”

“Hmph, try as you might, my kids will train early on, mastering their Tekken, Street Fighter, and Soul Caliber. By the time their twelve, they’ll have mastered all the world’s fighting styles rendered into the virtual world. They’ll be able to shoot fireballs from their hands.” My geekdom knows no bounds.

kawaii_hat“That’ll work well until my kids Asian genes kick in . . .”

“Ha, my kids will be exposed to so much manga and anime that they’ll be more Asian than you by the time the next Thursday rolls around.”

The game stalls for a moment or two. Desad walks into an empty room and suddenly finds himself out in the open surrounded by subterranean mutants. Mine is the sole character left. I run him towards the bridge for the final stand when the screen goes red: disconnected from server.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I mutter.

“That there’s not a Hell’s chance we’re ever going to reproduce.”

“It’s probably better for everyone, you know?” I say dropping my controller to the floor.

“Oh well, more yogurt for us, I suppose,” Dasad shrugged.

“And chocolate . . .”

“Shut it.”

In which Murph journeys into the Lost World while consuming cookies . . .

I ate a cookie the other day. It was delicious. Cookies being rare treats for me (I try not to gorge myself on sweets too often lest the sugar-high causes my head to explode), I offered a silent blessing on the Keebler elves that their nimble cookie-making fingers never strain and their fairie baking-powers never diminish or empties — in truth, I know little about fairie baking magic, whether it can run empty like gas in an automobile or simply needs recharging like an RC racer.

NOTE: hopefully elves garnered more efficiency at charging than the racers as a normal three-hour charge releases only about fifteen worthless minutes of actual driving time; if such was the case, EL Fudge would be as rare and extravagant as Lindt’s truffles.

 

Yet then I realized that Milano cookies were a product of Pepperidge Farms, not Keepler. Quickly I finished my blessing to the elves regardless (every day we should thank all cookie makers for their worthy craft), and considered who I should thank for the Milano. I seem to remember an old man, in years past, who advertised the delicious cookies, his voice sputtering out the name “Pepperidge” like an old car engine. However, blessings I seem to recall require a name and “old sputtering Pepperidge Farm guy” just sounded mocking and thus unsuitable for a blessing.

 

As I sat wondering, considering whether I should just eat another cookie and save the blessings for those better suited to the task – clearly I was not – my gaze fell upon my collection of dinosaur toys from ages past.

 My dinosaur collection

When I was a kid, more than anything else I wanted to be a dinosaur. It is easy to conceive why as dinosaurs are vastly superior to any other living thing on this planet – except kangaroos, which due to their biological pouches and innate hopping do add something to the evolutionary gene pool. You may debate this point – unless you have a problem with kangaroos, in which case I do not want to hear it – but it would be folly. Seriously, from what other phylum past, present, and extinct could we choose? Dogs? Lions? Horses? Please. Evolution teaches us that most land-based mammals like horses, puppies, and cats grew from the sea; mammals were all once fish. Meanwhile fish represent the evolutionary achievement of all bacteria. Ad hoc we may categorize the majority of the animal population as either fish, bacteria, or platypus, the evolutionary equivalent to potpourri.

Ergo, everything started from the same stew of atoms, molecules, and bacteria, destined to develop into complex multi-cellular life, into either horses or dinosaurs. Now I ask you, which is more impressive? The answer should be clear. Even the platypus, as odd and jumbled as it is, cannot compete with the bony horns, cavernous mouths, and thick armor of the dinosaur. Like living tanks, knights with biological armor, or demons from the darkest corners of Tartarus. No child is immune to their seductive appeal, the marvelous beauty of living monsters unfettered by civilization.

 

“ ‘The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster but there – there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.’ ”

— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

A Utahraptor enjoying a meal.

Yet dinosaurs achieve this distinction through three major factors:

  • They are giants.
  • They are monsters.
  • They were real.

These factors in themselves convinced me to spend a great deal of my childhood stomping, growling in mock imitation of my favorite dino, Tyrannosaurus Rex. For a boy of seven, anything monstrous compelled imitation. Stomped loudly on the floorboards and roared with piercing primal screams, I was quite proud of my future occupation. Years later my piano playing never fully recovered from years of holding my two fingers aloft in the semblance of tiny reptilian claws or – for those ignorant individuals we met in the street – a hippie child with a lazy arthritic peace sign.

My mother remained quite supportive of my behavior too even after that biting incident at school; although the neighbors never ceased staring at me like I was sucking on lead-based lollipops. Clearly they were envious of my lofty ambitions.

Allosaurus skeleton.

In time my dreams drifted – though not faded – as I sought out other monsters living today, now. Sacrificing truth for reality, I researched the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Goat Man (A mid-Atlantic legend, the creature possesses the head of a goat and the body of a man and wields a giant axe to attack parked cars, lovers on lonely roads, and other untrustworthy individuals.) and then, as my reading skills improved, mythology. Until one fine beautiful day, I found myself with a copy of Lewis Carol’s “Jabberwocky” in my hand reading aloud to the kids. Of all the poems memorized for school, Shakespearean soliloquies, and wise saws from – as Patrick once put it – “old dead guys,” I will remember the wonderful horrifying nonsense of this poem ‘til I too one day pass away, consumed again into the earth, extinct.

 

 

JabberwockyThe Jabberwock by John Tenniel

By Lewis Carol

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.