When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
I have lived my entire adult life in defiance of 1 Corinthians 13:11. Today I turn fifty-two years old. I don’t say that as an appeal for presents (although I would never turn down presents), and I don’t say that because 52 is some significant milestone. I say it because, sometime, somewhere in the course of the past few months — something happened.
Case In Point 1: Dinosaurs In Motion
There’s an exhibit now on display at the St. Louis Science Center called “Dinosaurs In Motion.” It features giant metal sculptures of dinosaur skeletons that you can manipulate with levers and pulleys.
And I couldn’t care less.
I know. I don’t get it either. Normally I’d be all over this thing. A few years ago I would’ve been first in line to pull switches to make a fake T-Rex shake his head. Now, I dunno. If someone gave me tickets, I’d go. But I can’t imagine spending my own $12 on such a thing. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by too many hours of dinosaurs on cable TV. Maybe I’ve been burned too many times by movies like “Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie.” Maybe I’m tired of waiting on science to get its act together and clone me some real dinos.
Or maybe I’m just getting old.
Case In Point 2: St. Louis Wizard World II
Remember last year how excited I was that Wizard World was bringing a full-blown comic convention to St. Louis? Remember how I spent two days covering it and how depressed I was when a late-season snowstorm blew in and I missed day three?
Did you notice I didn’t write word one about the event this year?
The trouble began when I submitted my press credentials — same as last year — but this time I was rejected. Apparently their first year they were so desperate for attention that they’d take anyone, but now that they know St. Louis is full of nerds, only the Real Media gets free passes now.
So I had to ask myself: Did I really want to spend anywhere from $40-$100+ to wander up and down the packed aisles of a football field filled with merchandise, people in poorly fitting costumes and maybe catch a glimpse at one of the has-beens or soon-to-be has-beens of nerd culture?
No, not really.
I had pretty much made up my mind not to attend when my wife insisted — nay, demanded — that I go. That’s the state of my life right now. My wife is more concerned about me attending a comic convention than I am. I finally agreed to go Friday night in large part to get her off my back.
I walked in behind a woman dressed as Hawkeye, which I took to be a good sign. As I entered the already crowded convention center at 4 p.m. (it opened at 3) I was momentarily overwhelmed by the claustrophobic sense of concentrated nerd. “I don’t belong here,” I thought. Nerd-dom has always been a private thing for me. None of my friends growing up read comic books, so I never had that sense of camaraderie that these people have.
I eventually shook it off and wandered around for three hours. The cosplay wasn’t as good as last year, but all the A-talent probably showed up Saturday. I caught a glimpse of William Shatner and some other celebs I have since forgotten. Felt sorry for Burt Ward seeing him at his empty booth right next to Adam West’s busy one. Picked up a nice Hawkeye print by Carlo Pagulayan. He even put down his sandwich to sign it.
I grudgingly admit I had a good time. But not good enough to go back the next two days.
All this got me thinking: Have I lost my nerd edge? Have I finally grown up? What do I do now? I still don’t like cars or sports or hunting. Isn’t it too late to take up those hobbies at this age?
But I haven’t given it all up. I still get excited by the latest comic book movie. I’ve become addicted to reading comics on the Ipad. I’d rather wear my Avengers T-shirt than anything else in my wardrobe.
So I thought some more. It’s not just nerd stuff I’ve grown tired of. Billy Joel was in town last week and I stayed home. I don’t need to see him sing “You May Be Right” another time, especially at today’s outrageous ticket prices. There’s a new Springsteen album but I can’t be bothered to download it off Freegal Music. I still haven’t bought those Monkees tickets.
Is this all there is? What was all the fuss? Why did I bother?
Oh, and then there’s the health issues.
I have remained relatively healthy for 52 years despite never exercising and eating crap because I never go to the doctor. Doctors, after all, are in the business of finding things wrong with you. The last time I saw the doctor was two years ago when I collapsed in pain at LawyerCon and had to have surgery for kidney stones. I haven’t seen my doctor or my urologist since.
So about four months ago my left shoulder starts bothering me. Dull pain with occasional bursts of shout-out-loud piercing agony. I put up with it for as long as my wife will let me, then go to the doctor. He pokes around, takes some blood and has me pee in a cup.
The next thing I know I’m going to Metro-Imaging for an ultrasound on Tuesday, then back again for an MRI on Saturday, then he wants me to call my urologist and talk to him (who will schedule more tests) and then come back in two weeks. I didn’t bother to show him the rash on my right leg as I’m sure that will lead to me having to find a dermatologist. Did I mention there’s no sick time at my job?
I decided I’d had enough. I had done it all in 52 years. All I wanted to do anyway.
Time to cash in.
I figured I’d better share my plan with my spiritual guru and movie-going buddy, Paul.
“You’re not going to do that.”
“Well, for one thing, you’d miss the next Avengers movie.”
“OK. There is that.”
“And then there’s the Ant-Man movie, and probably another Thor movie, maybe a Black Widow movie. How stupid would you feel if you killed yourself and the next day they announced they were making a Hawkeye film? You’d be kicking yourself in the grave.”
“So my continued existence hinges entirely on Marvel Studios?”
“There’s also Batman/Superman. And the new Star Wars movies.”
“OK, besides movies what is there to live for?”
“I’m sure there’s other things. What about your son?”
“Oh, he’d be confused for a day or two but then he’d get over it.”
“What about your wife?”
“She’d be so much better off. She could finally find a man who enjoys Shakespeare and Jane Austen movies and the works of the Impressionists.”
“There is no such man. Or at least, not one that’s interested in women.”
“She always talks about joining the convent after I die.”
“i thought the convent was closing.”
“Oh yeah. Wait — her friends have been talking about starting up a food-truck business near a beach somewhere. She’ll be fine.”
“There’s no Mexican Villa in the afterlife. Or Coca-Cola.”
“I probably won’t be hungry in the afterlife.”
“What about Joelfest 2017? Who will host it if you’re not there?”
“Liz can handle it.”
“Look, Ronnie, I get it. You’re more than halfway to 100 and know you probably aren’t going to reach it. Your career imploded and you can’t find an equivalent replacement job because you’re too old and your resume is five years out of date. Your St. Louis friends are fickle and your old friends and family are too far away. Your hobbies are starting to bore you. Your body is falling apart. Does that about cover it?”
“Well that’s no reason to cash in your chips. You have a son that makes you smile every day. You work with people the rest of the world would just as soon forget about. Some people like you. You live in a peaceful, prosperous country where no one’s trying to kill you. And you have a wife who is far, far, far, far better than you deserve.
But that’s just the basics. Every day is new. You don’t know what’s coming around the bend. Could be more suck, could be something great. Remember last week when you saw ‘Once’ and it was really much better than you expected? Stuff like that. Why, you could win the lottery tomorrow and everything would change.”
“I don’t play the lottery.”
“Could you shut up for 5 seconds, I’m trying to make a point. See, life is like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs and twists and turns and sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it’s thrilling and sometimes it makes you sick. But you don’t get off the ride until it’s over. If you get off the ride early who knows what you’ll miss. And you can’t get back on because the line is like at Disneyland.”
“I’m pretty sure ‘Parenthood’ used that whole roller-coaster analogy.”
“Fine. Wait. I’ve got it. Life is like a Marvel Studios movie.”
“Let’s use ‘The Avengers’ as an example. You wouldn’t walk out of the theater while Thor and HULK are going at each other and the helicarrier is about to crash, would you?”
“Of course not. That’s crazy talk.”
“And you wouldn’t leave in the middle of The Avengers battling the Chitauri for the fate of the planet.”
“Exactly. You wait until the movie’s over. Once the credits start, then you leave.”
“No, that’s not right. If you leave then you’ll miss the after-credits scene with Thanos.”
“Oh, right. So you stay for the after-credits scene but then you leave once the scrolling credits begin. Who cares who the key grip was, right?”
“No. You have to stay through the scrolling credits or you’ll miss the schwarma scene. You can’t go until the movie is absolutely over and the ushers are impatiently waiting on you to leave because otherwise you’ll miss the schwarma scene and…
Sayyyy, I see what you did there. Well played, Mr. Kennedy. You’re pretty profound for an art teacher.”
“Well, I also coach track and field.”
“Is this movie every going to start?”