Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll reports: DOOM-SCROLLING TAKES A HOLIDAY! Commenter-Con3 in the Rearview Mirror (things are closer than they appear). She writes:

Well, Commenter-Con3 (April 14-16) has come and gone and, as my hometown newspaper used to report on all social gatherings, “a good time was had by all!” I TRIED asking attendees to hold off a week on discussing CC3 because I had an earlier – now defunct — version of this column in the pipeline. But it appears to have had a lot of the cachet of a Geezer Woodstock! And people want to signify that THEY were there! Fair dinkum!

So I hope to discuss it again by drawing some conclusions after a week’s distance. Don’t worry, kids, if YOU weren’t there personally (despite months of my begging…ahem), you can still weigh in on the lessons drawn in the last half of the column.

First of all, I LOVE hotels. Joe and I checked in on the Friday before the wingding officially started. We had two nights just to chill and relax. Many “regulars” arrived on Saturday to do the same. When I was on the road for some 30 years doing standup, other comics complained about the loneliness and ennui of hotel living, but I loved it! I don’t want to say I spent a lot of nights on the road, but I didn’t BUY a bar of soap for about 15 years. I don’t think my boys knew that soap came in any larger sizes.

Of course, as you rise in your comedic status, you get put in better and better hotels. It’s not as fun to be in a motel in which everything that could possibly be stolen is bolted down. “Who,” you ask yourself, “would steal an IRONING BOARD??” Sure, a couple of Holiday Inn towels, but do the people who would steal an ironing board even have a use for one?

In one particularly wretched motel in Nebraska, three of us comics shared two rooms for 3 nights in a place where I swear nobody had ever spent a WHOLE night, if you catch my drift. One measly “bath towel” you could see through, no washcloth, a seat on the toilet, praise God, but no cover, and a black and white television bolted to the floor. No self-respecting junkie would even bother to steal that.

But, eventually, I was regularly quartered in luxury properties where the amenities were such that once when my dear, thrifty late Mama stayed with me in Naples, Florida, she had already put her fancy shampoo, soap, and face cream in her luggage before the maid had even changed the bed and of course, the maid laid out all new amenities – which Mama also nicked. I think Mama just DISPLAYED them at home on her vanity rather than using them.

It’s weird when something you have worked on for 10 months is suddenly over. Remember in the great Tom Hanks movie Castaway one of the worst parts of his character’s terrible isolation and omnipresent danger was having no meaningful work to do, apart from survival to another day. He even saved one of the UPS packages to be delivered when HE was delivered to have some task to look forward to.

I think men in particular struggle with retirement unless they make new friends and seek out new hobbies. Bear Bryant, who was not in the best of health, soldiered on from duty and his love of Bama football right up until he retired. Then, sadly, he was gone just four weeks and one day later. The brother of the firefighter next door to us in Minnesota also passed away just weeks after he was no longer called upon to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Watch little toddlers – what we call “toys” are their jobs. They are “busy” all day. I believe we are hard-wired for USEFULNESS and being paid to do nothing is one of the worst disasters that can happen to a person’s character, no matter how sweet it appears in the abstract.

Now, I realize that several of our male commenters do a lot of cooking, perhaps even the majority of it, but in our home, we have an extremely stereotypical, gender-specific division of labor: Joe writes novels, keeps an eagle eye on his Fantasy Baseball, practices piano, does his own laundry and virtually anything related to finances or technology.

I do household laundry and my own, write columns, cook two meals a day almost every day, and everything connected with that, such as shopping, dishes, and cleanup. In that sense, I see no “retirement” down the road. Which suits me fine. I love to cook and feed people and entertain. We pay other indispensable people to clean and do landscaping. No sense in overdoing this whole “usefulness” thing. But let us now circle back to Commenter Con and see what we can take away from the experience.

1. People came from 21 of the 57 states (Hat Tip: Obama), many bluer than a Buddy Guy guitar riff, and attendees were relieved not to have to self-censor all the time.

2. Youngsters, take heart! Unlike in many Asian and other cultures, in youth-worshiping America older adults are perhaps THE most “invisible” of all demographic groups and least respected. Do not despair if you are lucky enough to reach senior status! Most of our attendees ranged in age from late 50s to mid-80s. Please understand that every single attendee was still interesting, talented, fun, funny, and with it – even if occasionally our memories needed a teeny tiny jog. (“You know that actor – the one who has the charity for disabled vets?” “Gary Sinise” – yes! That’s it…anyway…”) There is no shame in being on “dial-up” instead of “high speed.”

3. And a great many of the ladies attending could definitely still turn heads. Nice-looking fellas, too, but then I am partial to older men. Or older man, in my case.

4. And, of course, dozens of our cohort have a knowledge base that could run circles around the smartest young person, some of whom know shockingly little without Google. Also much of what they DO “know” is wrong.

5. Among our famous Deplorables who smell and have bad teeth if we believe “journalists,” we have everything from an astronaut who docked to the Space Station five times (and also has a set of autographed drumsticks from Ringo!) to a retired cardiologist and a bone doctor; farmers from Minnesota with some of the most hilarious stories around; not one, but TWO women veterinarians; several novelists; a Dream Team of lawyers; at least a platoon of military vets; scientists, engineers; a guy with no home but four motorcycles; and a gunsmith married to an artist, Meme Queen, and world-class cook and gardener.

6. My forever bestie, Ladiehawke, caught my attention with her assertion that “EVERYBODY is a Ph.D in SOMETHING.” She should know – she legitimately could be called Dr. Dr. as she has a Ph.D. in some sciencey thing that always slips my mind – Biochemistry? Biology? Some bio thing – AND also a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. But she told me a beautiful story about a mentally challenged neighbor long ago who was an absolute expert on pigeons.

7. My experience at all the Commenter-Cons is that ANY conversational “hive” you happen upon will contain people so much smarter and warmer and more interesting than any celebrity in either D.C. or Hollywood that it isn’t even a contest. I’d love to lock “intellectual” Katie Couric and any seven leftist friends of her choice in a cage match with all three Tonys, Deb, Aurora, Lucretia, Joe, and Capt Jim and see who emerges with a brain cell standing after half an hour! (Not so easy, is it, without the ability just to cut off someone’s mic when he/she is WINNING?) By the way, we could pick ANY seven attendees and still win – those were just the first smarties I thought of!

We had a guy from Utah who is an expert at drying fruit and also knows everything about the Civil War and, oh yeah, speaks fluent Korean; we had a famous novelist who also is an expert on old-timey baseball players. THESE names he knows, whereas he wishes that every current human had to wear a name tag at all times…including me.

We had a truck driver with a Law Degree who also knows pretty much everything there is to know about vintage automobiles. We had a Navy vet who teaches Line Dancing. We had a World Champion Quick Draw guy who had to learn to shoot with his non-dominant hand after a little dust-up with brain cancer who is also a fanatic grammarian, having been properly taught in a one-room Iowa schoolhouse; we had an Iraqi Jew from New Jersey whose relatives wrote the definitive book on life for Jews in Iraq before the wretched pogrom known as the “Farhoud.” (Look it up if you have the stomach for it. The lovely book is called Memories of Eden.)

8. And, of course, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. One of the most wrong-headed things F. Scott Fitzgerald ever said was “There are no second acts in American life.” Quoi? Let me – S. Marie Vass – tell you that almost every person I know who has retired from one or more jobs is busy contributing in some other way. Making baby hats for newborns; gardening; learning a new language or musical instrument; volunteering at the VA twice a week in Prescott; tutoring black kids in St. Paul; heck, even learning to shoot and becoming a columnist at 67!

9. The almighty arrogance and utter lack of self-awareness of our pathetic, degenerate ruling class boggles the mind. I love it when sometimes they say the quiet part aloud. To hear Katie Couric say that Trump voters are anti-intellectual and full of “class envy” at least lets me know that the spoiled near-talentless little twit ADMITS that she and her pals are in a different “class” and look down on the middle and working classes with total contempt. And back atcha, hon.

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