Saturday, November 1, 2014
A Mid-Life Message Courtesy of the Folk Shop
I needed some hardware, a very small screw to be precise. A tuner on my guitar had come loose from the headstock and no longer held a string at a steady note. I wanted to get back to playing with all the strings, so made my way to the local folk shop, the Folk Shop.
Everybody who works at the Folk Shop is talented beyond imagining and poor as desert deer mice. They are great people who know a lot about music, life, and problems like needing a screw. I also wanted some new guitar strings, which I bought.
They also gave me a bunch of screws, more than I could ever use for one guitar. (They operate on a different business model than the big up-and-comers of the flashy variety. The place smells of wood and leather. Music lives there. Instruments line the walls. They radiate love stories and lonely times. Music is what they do. Making money is a hopeful side effect. The Folk Shop has not "gone corporate.") They also gave me good advice about making sure the screw I put in did not fall back out. Quality, durability, function -- the important stuff. "Break a toothpick off in the hole," they said. "That will keep the new screw from loosening," they said, three of them nodding in agreement behind the counter. "Bring em back if they don't work."
I left with more than free screws, and with this embarrassment of threaded riches, I made my way into the rest of the day.
As I threaded my way through Tucson traffic, I felt like I was in some kind of race, both speed-wise and other ways. Audis, Porsches, Beemers, and hot rods rushed ahead of me at red lights so they could cut in front of me and be one car ahead of where they might have been.
They were not so nice, but they looked really good. Nice cars, nice clothes, coifed hair, expensive shades -- the works.
By contrast my old Subaru looked dilapidated and just plain dated. The bike racks were bent, had lost paint, and looked tired. Real tired.
I felt tired too. And old. The rat race is losing its appeal, and being happy, of some kind of service to others, and satisfied with what I am, is looking better and better.
It might be my age, or something else, but I am just about done with the race to look good, to answer some advertising ideal. The pull is still there. People one-up me all the time at parties: Where have you traveled? They ask. When I tell them, they say Oh I've been there and more. How smart are you? Before I can answer they say Well I'm really smart and make all kinds of great decisions. Where do you get those clothes, anyway? And on and on.
I still want to answer "Oh yeah? Well I can blah blah blah as well as you," but the reflex is dwindling as fast as my waist line is growing.
I have to say, that I find 50 and 60 somethings scrambling to present bigger and better egos a little unbecoming. For a 20 or 30 or even 40 something, it seems age-appropriate to compete, to scramble to make a living and life.
When do people stop valuing "smart," "better than," and "looking good" less than "wise," "generous," and "kind?"
Maybe we just keep scrambling because that is what modern, industrialized adults do. Maybe it doesn't matter what others do when the lights of mid-life start to dim into late-life.
Maybe there is more in the palm of a hand than an urge to grab more and more for a me-me that never quits wanting. Maybe doing a favor is worth as much or more than stepping on someone to rise higher. Maybe aging and heart-songs can teach me.
Aye, what a dilemma, so many choices. What does one do? Home-spun and happy or glitzy glam? Or both?
I like the Folk Shop and my free screws and want to learn to play my tunes of longing better, to join my mates in the great decline, undiminished, nutty as a fruit cake. I don't get excited about being smart, shallow, and looking good as my hipper brethren, but do find wrinkled, wise, and sly a promising prospect.
As I install the new screw that now holds the tuner snug a boat anchor, I wonder about simple, Earthly pleasures, like singing when my heart is in trouble and my soul feels that life is too hot to touch.