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Month: November 2018

A Tale Of Two Generations

A Tale Of Two Generations

Back in the early to mid-2000s, I lived in an apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the end of the block was a commercial plaza which had a barber shop, which is where I would go to get my hair cut. I must have gotten my haircuts there for five years. It was an old-fashioned men’s barbershop, a proprietorship owned and operated by two men. The chairs had ashtrays built into the armrests, though no one ever used them. There was a small TV up against the ceiling in one corner. Customers would hang around just for conversation. It was the kind of business that acts as a “third place,” or place of gathering and shared experience outside of the home or workplace.

From talking to one of the two men who ran the shop, I learned that it had opened in the 1950s. One of them had started the business, and then invited the other to be his partner. This guy told me he had been coming to work at this place ever since. It was the only place he had ever worked – and for longer than I had been alive. In contrast, since graduating from Virginia Tech in 1988, I had worked at ten different jobs in four different states.

Judging from their life story and apparent age, the two barbers must have been members of the Silent generation, born 1925-1942. Their career stability is characteristic of their generation, as my career instability is characteristic of mine – Generation X, born 1961-1981. When you read laments about the lack of job security in this day and age, you are reading about this trend.

This instability hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go to the same place for work for decades on end. Honestly I think it would drive me crazy. I have enjoyed my nomadic contractor life, despite the insecurities, as I described in an earlier post. I have been exposed to so many different environments, and met so many different people. It’s been an adventure. But what I have missed, which the two Silent generation barbers enjoyed, is a deep sense of belonging to a community of people rooted in one place.

Shortly before I moved out of that apartment, I heard from the old guy while he was cutting my hair that his partner had gotten sick, and was planning to retire. He was going to retire as well, since he didn’t want to run the business alone. Not long afterward, the store was empty. The chairs, the counters, the TV on the shelf – everything was gone.

Then a tattoo shop opened up at the same location. It only lasted a few months before it closed – some younger entrepreneur’s failed dream. Next came a gift shop. Then I moved away, so I have no idea if the gift shop lasted, or if any business with staying power could ever survive there again. Or where all the men who used to hang out at the barbershop now went to instead – if they ever found a new third place.

The Memorial At The Site Of The Shooting Where Route 100 Meets Route 202

The Memorial At The Site Of The Shooting Where Route 100 Meets Route 202

On the drive from my BFF’s home to my apartment in West Chester, Pennsylvania, I come down Route 100 South to where it merges into Route 202 South. Just before the merge there is a chokepoint where the two lanes of Route 100 converge into one, and the lead up to this point is so long that vehicles often race one another to the first place position. This can get messy when traffic is heavy.

There’s something about being behind the wheel of a vehicle that can bring out the worst in people. Part of it is anonymity – when you are driving you are unable to see the other drivers, to look them in the eye. It is the same phenomenon that turns people into jerks on the Internet. Part of it is the way being in a vehicle insulates you from the reality of your situation and the danger you are in. It can’t be worth all the energy and risk put into aggressive driving to save a few seconds or jockey for position, but people do it anyway, as though unaware that the real stakes are not their status but their very lives. This is all covered in a fascinating and illuminating book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do¬†which I recommend to anybody.

In July 2017 two vehicles met at the convergence point on Route 100 South and in the ensuing struggle to merge a tragedy unfolded. One of the drivers shot a handgun into the other driver’s car, killing her. The details of the case read like an awful convergence of today’s troubling social issues, an absurd outcome of our exaltation of individual rights, an ominous sign of the undercurrent of conflict beneath our civil society. Or it could just be the story of one person making a very poor choice.

At the site of the shooting there is a roadside memorial. The choice of the sign – HATE HAS NO PLACE HERE – aligns the message in the current political environment. It’s as if to say: please stop killing us.

There is some consolation, I suppose, in knowing that authorities have placed highway signs in honor of the victim. Just a few weeks ago, the perpetrator pleaded guilty in court to third-degree murder, and will receive his sentence by the beginning of next year.

Feet Firmly On The Ground

Feet Firmly On The Ground

I haven’t mentioned this online yet, but I had a minor foot injury which has plagued me for the past couple of weeks. It has finally healed to the point where I can walk without pain, and what a relief! I feel like a new man – you know that feeling when you have recovered from a health condition and you are energized like you have tasted from the fountain of youth.

The foot is a part of the body governed by the root chakra, where life energy is involved with survival and physical security. When I was limping from my pain I thought to myself, well if the zombie apocalypse starts now I am f*****d. The rest of you might as well let them get me if it will buy you a minute or two. I didn’t want to stand even, only to sit as much as I could.

It makes a lot more sense to me now that the lower limbs are associated with the root chakra – they are essential for “fight or flight” to even be an option. It sure feels good to walk freely and to appreciate the power of Mother Earth at my feet!

Halloween scare (or not)

Halloween scare (or not)

It was awesome to see the new Halloween sequel on Halloween night, because the movie is set exactly then – 10/31/2018, forty years since the original movie’s horrors on the same date in 1978. The movie was good – exactly what you’d expect, and with the same awesomely creepy music.

We were two adults and one teenage boy, but the boy wan’t worried about being frightened. As he explained to us, he never gets scared by horror movies. We adults both recalled that we did get scared (I remember having nightmares over the Frankenstein monster), but perhaps the young generation is hardened now because of all the exposure to violent entertainment from multiple media sources.

Or perhaps, I speculated, we’ve all gotten so used to mass murder in real life that it is impossible to find it shocking or frightening at all. Which turns out to be exactly the point made by one of the teenage characters talking to his friends in the movie. The babysitter murders of 1978 just seem so mild and quaint to the teens of Haddonfield, Illinois in 2018, who might reasonably anticipate being shot up in school on any random day.

I won’t say any more about the film except that if you are a franchise fan, you will find this one to be a satisfying sequel. I can’t personally compare it to the other sequels, since I have not seen any of them, but the buzz on the Internet seems to be that it is the best of the lot. This is probably because, while it has many updates appropriate for the times, it stays true to the feel and form of the original.