Decades - 100 Hundred Lives
"Its just another night on the other side of life."- Ian
James Campion -'
that for every pearl there is too much swine'.
Heres the problem with turning 40, which I do on the ninth day of
September, 2002, or a few days from the time this hits the streets. You
see, it actually seems like Im technically 110, or somewhere in
my mid-hundreds. Not unlike say, Moses or Noah, or any of those Biblical
types that lived well into their second or third centuries.
Aging, or should I say, "experiencing" life, is an odd process,
seeing how most of what you really know is what is right in front of you
and most of what youve already accumulated in the way of knowledge
is ghostly, like a dream of some kind. And by the time you reference this
crap it's so completely meaningless in the realm of your current reality,
you seem like a doddering fact-finder trying to impress the congregation.
Let me explain this as best I can within the structure of this column
and the space limits in which it imposes.
My childhood used to matter to me. The events of days around pre-school
or somewhere thereafter held an almost monumental theme to my teens and
my early-to-mid-twenties. And since Ive never been in therapy and
barely attended the few psychology classes of my youth, these events have
seemed to fade into a kind of peaceful oblivion. Not to mention drowned
out by my over-use of testosterone-addled rage and teen angst transformed
neatly into random poetry, wild prose and silly rock songs.
So by my early twenties, Id developed this character in my head
that resembled my childhood persona in no possible way. The shy, blonde
and blue-eyed runt whose mother dressed like a porcelain doll every day
before attending the rigors of Catholic school was replaced by some kind
of mutant. I grew up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood in the Bronx
with everyone around me looking like something between John Travolta and
some key cast member of The Godfather. So the quiet, outcast thing was
predisposed, but not manipulated until the teenage years when I quickly
became a foul-mouthed slop-head with a penchant for hating everything
known to modern civilization and then some.
Although, if I can break for a moment, I must say, my parents recently
visited Fort Vernon and brought clippings from my high school and college
newspaper days, as well as the odd published mess from whatever bones
the education system throws young loons like myself who fancies himself
a scribe. And I must say, not too much of what comes spewing forth in
this space weekly was absent from the mini-me. However, that kind of honesty
seemed to slip through the cracks as I moved out on my own and broke from
the family nest.
I stopped being honest, thats it! I made it up as I went along and
tried the best I could to mask any parts of me that might have reared
its ugly head during the painful maturation process. So, until I hit thirty,
I found myself hiding. Yes, I think thats it, hiding.
Heres the best way to describe "hiding" in America as
a young man. Play music. Grow your hair. Get extreme to the point of structured
radicalism. Get pissed at things you cannot control, like international
mistreatment of foreign citizens by your government and other governments.
Just mainly get pissed, really pissed at everything. When you get bored
of this, freely practice getting pissed at being pissed.
During this time, treat other people like characters in a play, especially
those of the opposite sex, who are more than a little confused at their
own place in the world. You can also throw in the odd use of drugs or
alcohol, and mostly fill up whats remaining of your mushy brain
matter with reams of pop culture and volumes of Kurt Vonnegut.
Then go to work in the most disgusting forms of journalism. By this time
you cut your hair, put down the guitar for a meager form of subsistence
and begin to sink yourself into the fantasy world of sports journalism.
More hiding; but with less angst and a better level of car and girl and
Not to say, I did not meet the finest humans on the planet while practicing
my hiding and making anger into some semblance of art, it's just that
for every pearl there is too much swine. But hey, I dont want to
hear any pansy shit about the Marines or Special Forces. If you could
send me back in a time machine to Brooklyn or Greenwich Village or Freehold
or the Jersey Shore or Trenton or Philly or those original far-off days
at the Putnam Bunker, Id gather up all those crazy motherfuckers
and ship us all to Baghdad right now and prepare for victory.
But enough about my twenties.
Man, I loved turning thirty, because for a manic of infinite changes,
the flip on the age odometer means regressing back into the hiding state,
but this time with eyes wide open. In other words, try being nineteen
again, but with a hell of a lot more cash, experience and a better vocabulary
in which to skew your new version of pissed. I dont know about anyone
else, but for the likes of me, this is a highly evolved state a nirvana.
And it was during my thirties that I got down to really writing.
Not pretending to write, or living like I wanted to have written; just
balls to the wall, no white flags, burn down the fucking highway writing.
Bad writing. Good writing. Book writing. Talk about writing. Sleep writing.
Dream writing. Sex, laugh, fools gold writing.
Yes, a writer. Like I once wrote in my middle-school yearbook, like I
wished when I was falling asleep on some beach half out of my head, like
I talked about with everyone who would listen. Living in the swirl of
events and not giving a pile who the hell cared. But 40? Jesus, how long
do they expect me to live?
I guess if Im lucky, Ill have a few hundred more lives. Some
of my fellow compatriots werent so fortunate. After all, hiding
has its casualties.
One hundred more lives, huh? Maybe that means a few more times to die.
So, Id like to conclude by thanking all those people who came to
my many funerals. See ya at the next one hundred. Hopefully.
Now where are my hiding shoes?
© James Campion September 2002
(Happy Birthday from Hacks)
Campion has a new book -'Trailing
TOYS OF SUMMER
(Musings on the Destruction of the 2002 Baseball Season)
like watching dramatized documentary footage of dinosaurs trying to yank
their enormous frames from a tar pit,
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