TIME WILL STEAL EVERYTHING YOU CHERISH WHILE YOU WATCH HELPLESSLY WITH DETERIORATING VISION

Getting older sucks. It sucks in all the expected ways. Your body starts to fail. Even if your body never succeeded. Things get fuzzy around the edges. Hair gives no fucks and just shows up anywhere it wants uninvited. You catch your wife with the pool boy despite the fact that you don’t have a pool.

But it sucks in unexpected ways too. That’s what gives life its flavor.

I remember reading The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition when I was 18. I remember reading it because my mom bought it for me as a high school graduation gift. And since my post-high school plans didn’t include building a future, I had all the time in the world to read it.

The Stand was my favorite book at the time. I read the circumcised version a few years before and I was stoked to see what Stephen King could really do without the MAN on his back, without being limited to an insulting 800 pages.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Stand, it’s about a superflu that wipes out 99% of humanity. The remaining 1% engage in a final stand of good vs. evil. It’s a great story for those who prefer absolutes to shades of grey. Like Democrats and Republicans.

I studied every new word in this uncut edition. I reveled at the expanded Trashcan Man storyline. The new sections burrowed into my brain like parasitic worms. Wait, that’s awful.  The story gained depth and dimension that I didn’t realize was missing.

By adding the 400 original pages back into the novel, King was able to illustrate the reverberating impact of a worldwide pandemic. He could show us how a global disaster unfolds. For example, those who die directly from the superflu are just the first wave. Among the immune, there are aftershocks. Other diseases spread from the contamination and rot that comes with fat stacks of bodies. Fires happen with no fire department to put them out. You can see how it plays out. But if you still don’t see it, don’t worry–King straight up kills a five year-old boy to help you understand.

This five year-old boy was among the lucky 1% of immune folks on the planet. Everyone else in his small, rural home town wasn’t. Everyone else died. “Everyone else” includes anyone who could feed and care for a five year-old. So the boy did what little boys do when their entire family sneezes to death–he rode his big wheel around while he waited for them to reanimate. Happy story, right? Not so fast! He fell into a well. It took him a few days to die of dehydration and exposure down at the bottom of that well. No one came for him. He died alone. Probably begging for his mom as the last of his body’s water leaked from his eyes in sobs.

The first time I read that I was 18ish and I thought “Damn, that sucks. But what an incredible brain up there floating about 8 inches above King’s shoulders! I never considered the fallout!”

I read it again after my son was five. And I wanted to know: Why, Mr. King? Why in the ever loving-est of FUCKS did you have to kill a GODDAMNED FIVE YEAR-OLD? YOU SON OF A BITCH! I’LL PUT YOU IN A FUCKING WELL AND THEN JUST STAND THERE SAYING “OH WELL! OH WELL! OH WELL!” OVER AND OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU DIE! AND THEN I’LL FILL THE WELL WITH UNREAD COPIES OF THE STAND: COMPLETE AND UNCUT EDITION AND THEN POUR CONCRETE OVER THAT AND THEN WRITE “HERE LIES THE KING OF THE FLEA-DOGS” IN THE WET CEMENT AND THEN I’LL SHIT ON TOP OF THE CONCRETE!

I finished rereading the book because it’s THE STAND and let’s not be crazy. But I can’t take any book/movie/play/poem/TV show/news story that involves a hurt child. That’s what getting old does to you–it makes you soft and terrified. I only read Dr. Seuss books now. Except for that Cat in the Hat bullshit. I think he’s a demon.

The way aging changes how you feel about your favorite memories is much worse than actually forgetting them. Somehow, forgetting them preserves them. Maybe the feelings attached to the forgotten memories remain and you can look back and say “I have good feelings about my past” without knowing exactly why.

Instead, tweaking the perception of fond memories makes you look back and say “What the fuck was wrong with me for liking that?!” And then you don’t trust yourself. And you begin to realize you’re just the center of a grand experiment and the whole world was constructed around you to taunt you and drive you completely insane. And there are people in lab coats behind two-way mirrors watching you. Just you. And every mirror you’ve ever been in front of is a two-way mirror. And your family is in on it! And everything you once loved is tainted with taint.

Enter Motley Crue.  I wasn’t the biggest Crue fan in the world, but there are a handful of songs that I would play at high volume with low shame. Their songs were mostly the soundtrack to summer nights and events that involved minimal thinking. Like the hours I spent in pool halls. Who didn’t love Kickstart My Heart? Other than their catchy melodies and driving rhythms, I never really examined their music. It didn’t require a deeper examination. I definitely didn’t waste much time analyzing their lyrics. Because I was young.

Recently, I went to my very first Crue concert. I went because they promised that it would be the very last Crue concert in Chicagoland. I went with friends I friended long before Facebook forced people to friend each other.

Photo from Jeffandjillwentupthehill.com

We bought tickets via Groupon because that’s what old fucks do now. We had a hard time getting in because old fucks + smartphones = not getting in. Brian didn’t print out the tickets from Groupon so the guy at the door scanning people in had no way to confirm that we paid for 8 tickets. After yelling a lot and taking a long walk, the guy let us in because why the fuck not?

Once in, I had no way to prove that I had a claim on any seat in the house. And beers were $12. And suddenly, 6 of the people I was with disappeared into the arena. They just grabbed seats anywhere. Sprouting up like unwanted hair.  At one point, they were sitting fifth row center.  The seats that we actually paid for were in the very last row on the upper level. I had to duck down under some banners to see the stage. So fuck that. I made my way down to section 111. It was close enough to the stage and open enough so that no one would force me out. I stayed there once Crue came on.

They opened with Girls, Girls, Girls. And I think that’s when my oldness kicked in.

Vince Neil sang:

Yankee girls ya just can’t beat
But they’re the best when they’re off their feet

And I looked around at all the 40-50 year-old women singing along. There were many.

I’m such a good good boy
I just need a new toy
I tell ya what, girl
Dance for me, I’ll keep you overemployed

And the women still sang. They were happy to be objectified. They were happy to be whore “toys.” The flesh equivalent of blow-up dolls. Ok. Fine. They grew up listening to this. It’s just brainless. Harmless.

At no point did I question what was wrong with me for thinking this shit.

Then they played Same Old Situation (S.O.S.) with lyrics such as:

All around the world,

Girls will be girls!

Well, really, the only offense there is generalizing and painting women with a broad brush [pun TOTALLY intended]. Not good, but pretty tame. And in fact, it actually combats racism and xenophobia since it draws no cultural distinction–effectively saying that people are people and we all are one. Kinda beautiful, actually.

Until they elaborate:

It’s the same old, same old situation.

The same old ball and chain.

Oh. So women are all bitches.

And still the women sang along. They were practically whooping. Whatever whooping is.

Song after song. Every lyric fell into one of two categories:

  1. women are the best because they’re young and hot and they participate in sex with us
  2. women are some nagging ass bitches

Which is fine if you’re just a teenager washing your dad’s  Midlife Crisis Limited Edition Camaro in the driveway. But it takes a different turn when you have a daughter to raise. Or want to be with a woman you respect.

And need I remind you: all of this from a band who began their careers dressed like women. So is it misogyny or self-loathing?

Anyway, I really do hate myself for giving Motley Crue lyrics the close read that no one asked for. I’m going to hate myself more and more every time I read this post. It’s the only way I’ll learn.

I’d rather just go back to the days when I did more than think.

Sure, there are benefits to aging. But my point is–there are no benefits to aging. None. We’re all fucked.

14 Comments

  1. Age is but a number, or so they say.
    But fuck that, getting old is shit and we’re all screwed.
    I’ve noticed a lot of songs that are really sucky about women, but I suppose most people don’t really listen to the lyrics properly.
    Don’t hate yourself over this, people need to know what women hating crudbuckets Motley Crue are.
    I like apocalyptic books but no way am I reading The Stand because I can’t bear little children and horrific deaths. I think I’ll stick to Tufo, Chesser and Bible. Your idea for Mr King’s demise is ingenious and definitely worth further thought.

  2. Absolutely adored the unabridged “The Stand”. Now I think I’ll refrain from re-reading because you’re probably right, it will be ruined by my parent-eyes.

    Also had a similar response as your Crue experience when Momus and I went to see Green Day a couple of years ago. Billie Joe Armstrong was fresh out of rehab and the show prominently featured a drunken bunny. All over the place. While the teenagers laughed and screamed. I turned to Momus and announced “I am too old for this shit”.

    Turns out, however, that us old folks can still rock a U2 concert. We brought our two older daughters (16 and 20) and I’m pretty sure that they were the youngest ones there.

    • jeffandjill

      08/25/2015 at 3:44 pm

      U2 was born old–so that makes sense. I won’t be trying to go to any Slayer concerts because I won’t be able to keep up with the young headbangers. Because neck issues. And overall frailty.

      I do think it’s interesting that King didn’t call the new edition of his book The Stand: Unabridged Edition. He called it Complete and Uncut. Why? King readers don’t know what unabridged means?

      Food for thought.

  3. I’m not going to say what you think I am. But I loved this post. I’ll leave it at that.

    • jeffandjill

      08/24/2015 at 9:07 am

      I appreciate the positive review. And the fact that you didn’t say what I think you were thinking.

  4. What is it with Stephen King?? I read Cujo when I was a young mother — certain that the mother in the book would save her son from the rabid dog — and then King killed off the son at the end (again — from dehydration. Mr. King must have been a thirsty kid). That’s just fucked up. Because of that book, I always keep “Cujo food” in the glove compartment and an emergency pack with water in the backseat. I’m not kidding — ask any of my kids what “Cujo food” is and they could tell you.

    • jeffandjill

      08/24/2015 at 9:09 am

      Stephen King has childhood scars. I would recommend against reading “IT” if I were you. I’m amazed he hasn’t been investigated yet. I’m kidding. No I’m not.

  5. I recently introduced my boys to a beloved cartoon from my childhood; Voltron Defender of the Universe. Dodgy animation and voiceovers aside, I still got the nostalgic warm fuzzies watching it with them. Until the part where the Princess character, after stepping up to replace a fallen team member, is SPANKED by HER NANNY for disobedience while surrounded by the menfolk WHO LAUGH AT HER. What the dickfaced FUCK! I am still coming to grips with that, and wondering what insidious effect watching that as a little girl has had on my adult psyche. I also bored the boys by talking about it with them, (possibly ranting *just a little bit*) but at least my 4 year old changed his tune from “she should have stayed in the castle” to “she was brave and did a good job.” I think I might need a post to exorcise that one.

  6. Oh by the way, love this post! And am definitely with you about the boy in the well – I haven’t re-read The Stand since having kids but I remember that bit and I KNOW it’d mess me up. I think the punishment you describe is totally appropriate! I’m visualising it right now, laughing my head off.

    • jeffandjill

      08/25/2015 at 11:39 am

      Thank you! Yeah, it’s a different world than it was just 10 years ago. Personal changes aside, I think American culture has shifted considerably. With greater awareness to offensive words there also seems to be greater sensitivity. I’m just worried that everything will get sanitized to the point of being hollow. Not that I yearn for misogyny. But I dread censorship even more. I just want to be blissfully unaware again. Fuck thinking.

  7. I read The Stand when I was 18, too, and loved it. I’d never read anything post-apocalyptic before and it seemed fascinating to me at the time. In the copy I read, which belonged to my college roommate, this is what was on the page before the first chapter:

    Baby can you dig your man?
    He’s a righteous man.
    Baby can you dig your man?
    I know that you can!

    I have no idea what it’s from or how it related to the story–I just remember my roommate and I saying “I know that you can!” in an old black man’s voice whenever we were feeling unsure of ourselves. I’m glad I don’t remember the part about the 5 year old dying in the well. There are so many books and movies that I loved before I had children that I could never read or watch now.

    I did some research on the members of Motley Crue. What a sick bunch of aging bastards (they’re 52-60 years old now). They all got into legal trouble that included many DUIs, drug charges and assaulting women. Vince Neil drove drunk several times and once got into an accident (his fault) in which he killed his friend and fellow passenger and caused brain damage to the two passengers in the car he plowed into.

    Yeah, aging definitely sucks. You know what they say…it ain’t for those weak of character and unsound of body and spirit! They say that that, don’t they? Anyway, if you didn’t age you wouldn’t have become the kick ass writer and father that you are now. You wouldn’t be one my favorite feminists, write such thought provoking and gut bustingly funny posts like this one, or be manly enough to drink pumpkin spice lattes. In ten or fifteen years you might even be dying your stupidly long hair for a man your age, wearing eyeliner, driving recklessly and under the influence, dating women half your age while objectifying them, and have three divorces under your belt. I much prefer the Jeff who occasionally wears a pink wig and writes stuff I always look forward to reading so much.

    • jeffandjill

      09/01/2015 at 10:22 am

      Thank you so much for being here. And I promise to never wear eyeliner and date women half my age. But I can’t promise that I’ll obey the speed limit.

      That lyric “Baby can you dig your man,” is from a musician in the novel–Larry Underwood. He’s one of the main characters. He’s like Vince Neil except with more talent. He’s going through addiction recovery when the plague hits and he’s forced to get his shit together to survive.

      I would LOVE it if Mr. King wrote a sequel to The Stand. As long as he left the kids alone.

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