Posts Tagged ‘Personal essay’

March 20, 2016

Carl's Eyebrow

 Old Age

 Most of my life I have been looking for a certain place, a locale… maybe a milieu where I would be welcomed to speak and to think spontaneously, nourishing friendships that transformed  into fully realized community, rather than a plodding bus driver’s sort of life that froze awkwardly into a revolving Groundhog Day of bored greetings.

As it turned out, it was not a place I was looking for but an age.

Old age has become that place in life where in many respects, I fit.  And I enjoy it.  Not that this early idea I’d had of a friendship utopia has ever come to pass.  The completed vision itself still eludes me and may elude a final release date.  But I have made outreaches and created small settlements where the inhabitants and I are welcome and enjoy one another in a somewhat circumscribed way.  Which, as you age, suits the personality of old.  I haven’t either the energy nor the neural fortitude for any buddy trips, beer-addled nights out, nor intense philosophical inquiries nor romance.  Instead I Facebook interesting people in neatly digitalized encounters.  I meet to read and discuss poems with a regular crowd.   I enjoy activities with my wife and son, and spend a large share of time reading or writing.  I walk my dog around the neighborhood, now and then stopping to chat with a neighbor.  We all have to do a little upkeep on our homes and we discuss the ups and downs of that and exchange a bit of the very local (within a block) news.  And modern TV is a dream realized!  I can download my favorite series to watch at my pleasure, uncut by advertisers and without the interruption of unruly patrons at the theater.  Very few gripes to my life, you bet!  And it settles in every day around 3pm with a cold beer.

As for my earlier years, I re-create those early days as I make sales calls each morning in my ‘retirement’.  For this work you must be friendly, confident, keep the conversation quite direct, on track and goal-oriented, while giving the semblance of a relaxed but knowledgeable representative of a prominent, prosperous business.  You don’t waste their time with idle chatter.  You talk but listen more.  And an older voice with a bit of gravitas, a mature sense of humor and a knack or historical recollection for the right comeback is valuable.   People trust an older person more than they do a younger.   Any conversation lasting longer than 3 minutes usually goes south for me as my thoughts wander; my imagination opens its mouth.  I like having conversational fun too much.  So, all of this, plus the fact that I’m just missing many of the puzzle pieces to a successful chat makes the grit and slog of cold calling ideal.  For three minutes I’m a young Turk and in the game and I can obey life’s rules.

So currently, it’s my ‘new and improved’ youth in 3 minute stints for 3 hours a day, and then a lot of old age which is my New Age – as I’ve found old age to ‘exuberantly’suit my temperament.  Old people are rarely listened to, but I was rarely listened to when I was younger.  Besides, I’m often wrong, and this just keeps me from making a fool of myself.

Not much is required of old people.  We’re left to wander the grounds.  Old people are not required either to shine or to play at athletics.  Younger people don’t want answers or trouble from old people.  They certainly don’t expect miracles – at least, from me.  And they don’t ask where I work.  And they evidently feel they have a pretty good take on what I do by noting the grizzled chin hairs.  (Which I leave long primarily for that purpose – and because I’m lazy.)  Older people are even allowed to be eccentric or a bit silly.

Among ourselves the narrative has all been cherry picked for the best possible life’s story until we really get to know each other, and by then it doesn’t matter – either to me, or to them.  We laugh about all that.  And us older people are left alone to pursue our interests, while included by the relations.  Nobody asks me what I intend to do with my life, or if there is a special ‘somebody’?  And I can call a halt to most any conversation just by mentioning a death – and giving them the gimlet eye as I do so.

In short, when I was young I never realized that the best career I could have hoped for would to have been a has-been and to have rested on my laurels.  I’ve always loved the idea of a has-been.  To have been there!  To have accomplished!  And then, to be done with all of that.  Pure heaven!

(I feel Kevin Costner, especially, has pulled this role off very well in his movies.)

That’s how I see it.  And if I could have had my wish, it would have been to have been old sooner, while I still had all my physical abilities and mental capacity!

Unfortunately, I could never develop any laurel to rest upon.  So I’ve just had to age.

Carl working out

Essays by Carl Nelson

February 3, 2016


 The Upstairs Bath

There is talk (in some halves) of having our upstairs bath redone.  Are there wives anywhere who are not thinking of refurbishing, restoring, remodeling, or refurnishing whatever home they inhabit?

My son, meanwhile, was talking over dinner about the shower he would like installed which pours down on you like a tropical rain.  He has been following a website which celebrates the way billionaires live.  Apparently he doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed when the money rolls in.

Myself, I had a fortune cookie which once said that I “would always have enough money”.  I have hung on those words.


There are two kinds of people.  (Didn’t you know this?)  One seeks freedom by acquiring as much money as possible.  The other seeks freedom by surviving on as little money as possible.  An example would be my identical twin brothers who are retired.  One travels the country in a bus which pencils out at about forty dollars per mile, (I believe he quoted me).  The other travels the Pacific in a sailboat.

One of my fascinations has always been visualizing the smallest possible accommodation in which I could live as cheaply as possible.  (I’m not alone.  A plethora of websites cover this.)  I’d always fantasized my chosen life would be as a modern Johnny Appleseed or wandering Country Western singer – a Woody Guthrie without the politics.  In a book of columns by Charles Krauthammer, the columnist writes about a mathematician named Paul Erdos who conducted all of his life from out of two suitcases.  One suitcase held the mathematical materials he was currently working on.  The other suitcase held his clothes and incidentals.  He would travel from friend to friend, visiting with other mathematicians, working theoretical problems and died having published 1500 collaborative papers.  Mathematicians would rank themselves in terms of degrees of separation from having published with Paul Erdos.  Ah, to be a living legend.

But with time I’ve realized this sort of life probably wouldn’t have made me happy.  I enjoy staying in one comfortable spot where routine smoothes incident and I’m left my time to dream.  And I need my companions: wife, son, dog and cat.  When the two of them are off shopping or otherwise occupied, I imagine myself without them versus with them.  There is no contest.

But with all of this comes expenditures.  Sigh.  And with expenditures comes debt.  And with debt comes the need for money.  And with the need to earn comes loss of time.  You get the drift.

One of my many daydreams is that I would have been good in business or at making money.  I spent most of my adult life in Seattle, Washington, where in the late 20th century start-up millionaires were hatching like baby chicks.  Tech money was condensing out of the air.  There were so many expensive cars motoring around the suburb of Redmond you no longer bothered to gawk.

I never attracted a dime of it.  Everyone around was pulling in their limit, and I couldn’t get a bite.  In retrospect, I think a major reason was probably because I never invested.  I never put my line in the water.  You don’t make any points if you’re not in the game.

And this is why we’ll probably redo our upstairs bath.

I don’t want to be left on the bench.

Essays by Carl Nelson

January 30, 2016

Carl1 (1)Web

The State of My Discontent

I’m glad I said something to the effect of “never say never” in my last posting, as I have decided to reverse course and continue my blog.  Only the postings are planned to be personal and/or somewhat impersonal essays.  Also political and whatever comes to mind.  That should cover it.

The social media with its incessant buzzing of current affairs, both political and cultural, has created a concomitant buzzing within my own mind.  Poetry can simply not excrete the level of vituperative informational overload that is being dumped upon me day in and day out.  I simply cannot shit this stuff out fast enough through the medium of poetry to cleanse my thinking.  The essay is a larger and more practical pipe for the carrying off of this effluent – and my blog, with a near non-apparent readership – the perfect place to dump it without the worry of much talk.  Should whatever I say begin to attract more readers and/or the authorities, I’ll have to re-weigh my strategy.

But as it is, right now!  I have virtually no audience, save a few masochistic hangers-on.  All of which grants me great latitude.  I can kick small dogs.  Take the toys from children.  Even enjoy a super-sized fountain cola, without the threat of much blow-back.   I could probably even snack on small birds plucked from out of their nest, (Have you seen this video on social media?)  without causing much of a stir.  And just for starters, I think my first posting will be to say a few positive things about Donald Trump.

Stay tuned.

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