Saturday Night Coffee and Conversation (tf)

I was young once. I know this because I have pictures. I don’t remember much of being young. A combination of fading light and too much time spent perched on bar stools…..or rather, one particular bar stool. I preferred routine. Beer was always a buck a bottle in my favorite hole in the wall, and I could walk there (more importantly, I could walk home).

I eventually grew up. You start seeing the same guys on the same stools every night. They tell the same stories and the same jokes and play the same songs on the jukebox and pretty soon you realize that you are telling the same stories and the same jokes and playing the same songs on the jukebox….so it’s time to leave. Nobody announces when it’s over. They just walk out and somebody eventually takes over the empty stool. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I haven’t been in a bar in nearly 20 years, and I can’t stand coffee. So I’ve missed out on lots of conversation with grown-ups over the years. I think this is why I write so much. I’m carrying on a conversation with myself. People who do this literally are hauled away. Writers aren’t considered de-facto deranged, although many of them are. Taking pen to paper is a legitimate form of expression, but it’s merely talking after all. My father used to say “if you can talk you can write”. True, but have you heard the way most people talk? “Well” he’d say. “I didn’t say you could write well.”

So your Saturday night’s change. You look forward to them just as much surely. But it’s not the debauchery anymore. It’s the couch and a warm fire and sharing a blanket with someone you love. The kids are safe and the dog’s tail is wagging and no bills will arrive in the mailbox tomorrow ’cause it’s Sunday. You can sleep in and get up and decide to head right back to the couch again.

It’s easy to think back and remember how many friends we used to have. And how few we have now. But we get more discriminating as we age. In my 20s a friend was defined as anybody who’d buy me a round. As I approach my mid-40s, a friend is someone you can call when you have heavy stuff to move. And they come. You trust a friend with your kids. Your house. You trust them so much you even let them borrow books. The list is shrinking, right?. But most of us are lucky to have one of these people in our lives. We may go days, or even weeks without speaking to them. Lives are so busy that we don’t really have the time to stop and talk about days gone (or going) by anymore. That’s a pity and it’s on us, but it’s the speed we’re forced to go. Nobody sips iced tea while swaying on the front porch anymore. We’re working late and rushing home in time to get the kids to practice…..sometimes splitting up and going in different directions….meeting hours later to swap scores and statistics…..and taught to feel fortunate if we don’t have to rush off yet again to a second job. No wonder a soft couch and a warm fire are so inviting on a Saturday night.

The question is often asked. Could we survive a Great Depression today? It’s always assumed we could not. Our pansy generation with our Ipods and cell phones and computer screens, whining our lives away on Facebook and waiting for our entertainment to be delivered to our mail box…..as our obese children hide bags of chips under their bed…in a bedroom they don’t have to share with anybody by the way…..while we grasp our anti-anxiety prescriptions like life rafts. Yea….like we’re gonna sell apples on the corner. As long as we can bring our laptops and there is Wi-Fi.

Such is the common perception anyway. We’re soft. Spoiled. Motivated by selfish interests. Fattened and satisfied by the wonders of technology and the timely gift of worldly ignorance.

And then I study my history. Such things were also said about the boys who landed on the French beaches in early June of 1944. No way a rag-tag undisciplined pack of well scrubbed farm boys could take on the professional spit and polish of the Nazi juggernaut. American and British and Canadian boys would be thrown back into the sea…..if they even had the guts to get off the boats in the first place.

Look up the 1000 Year Reich to see how that turned out.

I don’t think anybody knows how brave they can be until they’re forced to be brave. Bravery is not the absence of fear of course, but overcoming it. So while we are soft and spoiled, it’s useful to remember that we got this way on the backs of others. Our parents would have starved to feed us, and had as their goal making life easier for us than it was for them. They’ve obviously succeeded.

In the 1930s parents did starve so their children could eat. I would rather my stomach be empty than my children go hungry. This doesn’t make me heroic. It makes me human.

If sacrifice is called for, I don’t think it matters what decade you were born. My generation will do what we have to do to make the world a better place for our own kids. It may not seem like we’re trying very hard sometimes, but….well….maybe the test is coming. The economy seems in free fall. Most of us have no savings. No nest egg. We live from paycheck to paycheck…stoned on credit…..and seemingly at the mercy of faceless number-crunchers. We live scared but we try to live anyway. Life’s too short. If we stopped to contemplate how close we actually are to the economic precipice we might throw ourselves off the ledge.

That would be messy.

So we grit our teeth and hold out for those Saturday nights…..when we can let our guard down and luxuriate in the softness of the familiar and warm…..and say…..”I don’t know what I’ll have tomorrow, but I’m so grateful to have all this now that tomorrow may be worth fighting for.”

–Tom Flannery

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~ by admin on January 28, 2011.

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