Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Changes in Attitudes; Changes in Platitudes: A Kind of Throwback Thursday Piece

That title is a little twist on a Jimmy Buffett song, "Changes in Latitudes; Changes in Attitudes". Latitude had nothing to do with my changes in attitude, but age did. There were things I said in younger years so often they did become platitudes; promises I made to myself and sometimes anyone else in earshot.

For instance, I oft declared I would never work in an office. By that, I meant some stereotypical business office. As it turned out I sat my body down in many an office over the decades of my life from rooms with long rows of desks, to private ones to cubicles.

The timeline of my life became a long litany of office locations.

 Of course, as a teen my desire was to be a writer of books, not a bookkeeper or some other mundane means of earning a living. I developed a platitude about this in my late teens. "I am going to write a novel someday that will shock the world."  What I meant by that was a story filled with all the things taboo to writing in those times, something filled with salacious activities and naughty words. This was far from the perspective I projected to those who knew me.

I never used any naughty words. An occasional "darn" or "heck" might escape my lips, but little else. As far as salaciousness…well, anything along those lines was purely in my imagination in those days.

You must realize I was a teen in the 1950s. Censorship was king when it came to the arts. The Catcher in the Rye was considered a scandalizing book. Books were not only censored, they were often banned from even coming into the country. Henry Miller was not a name you found on your local library shelf in Downingtown. You'd have to travel to France to find a copy, and then maybe it wouldn't be in English so you'd be out of luck anyway.

D. H. Lawrence was another author not so welcome on our shores. Even home-grown authors who were welcome in American bookstores faced difficulties of meeting high decency standards. Hemingway was forced to substitute for words he had in mind for some of his characters. Go read the uses he made of muck and milk in "For Whom the Bell Tolls".

I had never read Henry Miller or D. H. Lawrence then. How could I; they were verboten! In 1959, a book called Peyton Place appeared and rocked the literary world back on its heels. The sexual twists in its plot led to the term "Peyton Place" entering the language to describe any tawdry place with seamy secrets.

My plans to write the world's most shocking novel was actually exceeding my grasp as the sixties passed. It the years after I graduated high school a lot of "shocking" novels appeared and by today what could one possibly write that would shock anyone?

My own work contains little in word or deed that anyone would even blush at let alone be shocked by.

But when I grew up and actually began being published, I became more reserved in my ideas of what
to write; that is, I became tactful and reserved and less likely to offend anyone. I also soon developed a new platitude about the future. "When I get old I will write what I want and not care what people think."

After all, I reasoned, once you are old you can say the most outrageous things and everyone just passes it off to your age; i.e., he's a bit senile or eccentric or just plain nuts. Ignore him with a laugh, you know how these old curmudgeons get.

Now here is my problem and why I don't live up to my promises of what I will do. I can't figure out when old is.

I am working my way through my 74th year. When I was that callow teen someone of 74 was ancient. I mean, if you were over 70 you were fixin' to die! I somehow don't feel fixin' to die. I don't feel like much needs fixin', period. I don't feel all that broken down, so I don't know if I am old enough to be eccentric in anyone's eyes. When is old? I heard a survey was taken on that question and the highest percentage picked 75 as old. I am not that far from that milestone, but will I really look and feel so different in less than two years? Must I wait until I am 80 or 90 to be allowed crabbiness and politically incorrect criticism of society?

I guess in the meantime I'll just have to be my boring silly self.

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