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  LIFE AS A LOSER #183: "ARTHRITICALLY HIP."  
   
   
 

Let me tell you about life as an urban twentysomething. Let me tell you about the non-stop insanity, the constant chaos, the perpetual pandemonium. Let me tell you how wild it gets here, in New York City, the home of dreamers, miscreants and mad prophets. Let me tell you how we live.

It is Thanksgiving weekend. You, you shallow simpletons, you sorry folk, you probably spent your Thanksgiving gorging on turkey, making empty chit-chat with distant, bland relatives, biding your time before dropping by Wal-Mart to buy tube socks, a garden hose and industrial-sized Crunch-N-Munch. You probably fell asleep on the same La-Z-Boy you will sleep on for the next 30 Thanksgivings, with a Miller High Life still in your hand, waking only

 
 

after you spill it all over yourself. Now, look at yourself; you've got gravy dripping off your chin. Christ. Have some self-respect. What happened to you?

Not me, no no, not me.

I am the underground, the beating soul that pulsates throughout our great land, giving it life, and innovation, and substance, while you're complaining about traffic jams and freebasing high fructose corn syrup. Here, have another donut.

I come to you on this Thanksgiving weekend from the artist's paradise, the spirit of all that vibrates with life: New Jersey.

I come to you from the Fox Hills Retirement Community in Dover, N.J., where my girlfriend's mother lives. We are spending the weekend here. Right now, the television directly to my left is tuned to the Fox Hills Community Network, channel 81. I am looking live at a man in a van, with an elderly woman in the passenger seat, hopefully his mother, trying to find the right ID to show the man at the front gate of Fox Hills. He looks agitated. The vehicles waiting behind them, all vans and SUVs, with parking permits hanging off the rearview mirror, look even more annoyed. But no one honks here. Let's move it on. Hey, that guy doesn't have his lights on. It's lightly raining. No one will show up at Fox Hills without Channel 81, the most popular channel here, announcing their presence.

The channel has a CNN-like scroll running underneath, updating Fox Hills' residents on the upcoming week's goings on. "FOX HILLS NEWS UPDATE: FOX HILLS MEET THE CANIDATES IN THE CLUBHOUSE … GLORIA STAHL, NOV. 29, 5 P.M., JIM DUNN, DEC. 1, 3:30 P.M., IN THE MAIN CLUBHOUSE CONCOURSE. SEATS AVAILABLE. INVITE YOUR FRIENDS." My girlfriend's mother, when she knocked on the guest room door at 8 a.m. this morning to wake us up, told me about the impending Fox Hills board of directors election. It's a very fierce one, it seems, and residents have been instructed not to hand out campaign literature in the hallways. It causes clutter.

It was my job to walk the dog, Beags, this morning. Beags was probably once a cute dog, lovable, energetic, loyal. Beags is now nearly dead. He has enormous lumps -- fatty deposits, I'm told -- on each side of his head, delivers howls of pain every time he moves, which is rarely, and most of the plants here have died within 10 minutes of Beags breathing on them. Though every time I've been here, Beags has shit somewhere he wasn't supposed to, I'm still charged with walking him this morning. I have a leash, but suspect it's just for show. Beags couldn't run away if he had a rocket pack attached to his back. I take Beags into the hallway and am met by a man who looks so old, it occurs to me that he might be Bob Hope's father. He notices that I don't have a cane and am not wearing a Medic Alert bracelet, and gets suspicious. I have just woken up. He follows me outside.

"Don't let that dog on the grass! You have to curb your dog!"

It is too early in the morning for niceties. I growl at him: "He's not on the grass!"

"Well, you keep it that way!"

By this point, I am carrying the dog. His "walk" has consisted of me dragging him behind me on the leash, him finally moving outside, and him lying on the cold concrete, peeing on himself. I wonder if this isn't the first time this has happened to a Fox Hills resident.

They have a gym here. It's really nice, actually. Working out is my new obsession, so I head to check it out. It is empty, and all the machines are set at weights that would seem far too high for a retirement community. I half expect to see a mound of spleens piling up by the door. The gym, I have to say, is better than the cramped New York Sports Club facility I pay 80 bucks a month for.

Hey, Seventh Heaven is on!

They have a bulletin board out in the hallway, where Fox Hills residents can find fellow Pinochle enthusiasts, or Mitch Albom fans, or get together to figure out how to use this AOL thing.

Every Friday is movie night. This week: Notorious, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Good movie. I'm thinking I might stop by.

I am moving into a new apartment on Sunday. It is the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, an area that is being flooded with white yuppie upstarts like me. My ride to work will be cut in half from my old place, I have several bars within walking distance and there's a grocery store, where I an buy a gallon of milk for $4, right across the street. I will be paying more each month than my parents pay on their mortgage. And I got a deal.

Here at Fox Hills, there is digital cable, gym access, an indoor and outdoor pool, a huge mall right across the highway, central air, central heat, eat-in kitchen and high ceilings. You only have to be 55 years old to apply. Unless, of course, I can figure out a way to stack the board of directors. I'm working on that. I hope the guy who yelled at me about Beags doesn't wield much influence around here.

All told, I love it here. All the convenience of home, plus Preparation H rations.

Honestly, I'm so goddamned hip I can hardly stand it.

 

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