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BY MAX BURBANK | As this publication’s resident political satirist, it may come as a shock to some of you that I know no other pundits. I do not rub elbows, hobnob or otherwise socialize with my fellows in any way beyond Facebook friendships of the “I know who you are, but you don’t know who I am” variety.
I have no way to gage if my peers find the news cycle we attempt to cover as exhausting as I do. Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve often heard people say, “What a great time this must be to be a comedian!”
Respectfully, I’d disagree. That’s like saying, “Hey! You like caramel corn! Boy, imagine if someone force-fed you a metric ton of caramel corn every week and just kept shoving it down your throat until you died, and then they harvested your liver to make some kind of obscene human caramel corn foie gras for cannibals! That’d be, like, heaven for you, right?”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan fired House Chaplain Pat Conroy for having the temerity to mention concern for the poor in a prayer. Kanye has an autographed MAGA cap. Lindsey Graham, senior senator from the great state of South Carolina, recently opined that Donald Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps secretly hoping the Noble Committee would introduce a new award for making bizarre public statements you obviously don’t believe a word of. The President “honored” the Paralympics, saying “It’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.”
There’s so much societal decay, it’s impossible to pluck one morsel of rotting garbage off the heap for the illumination of my wit. Oh well done, Mr. Burbank, how savagely you expose that one specific thing while standing hip-deep upon the summit of a festering garbage mountain! Thank you for your service!
Honestly, it makes me feel old. I think it’s making me old.
I mean, I’m not old. I only feel that way. I’m middle-aged. Depending on how literally one takes that. I guess it’s unlikely that I’m at the middle of my life, unless I’m destined to see 110. So what am I, then? On the older side? Old-ish?
I need prescription glasses at this point, but I’ll only buy dollar store readers; 350 magnification or they’re useless, and they only help me with the blurry stuff near my eyes. The far away blurry stuff, they just make blurrier. Three years ago a virus left me more than half-deaf in my right ear, but I won’t even consider a hearing aid. For one thing, I’ve found there’s quite a bit I’m just as happy not hearing, and for another, buying a hearing aid would definitely mean accepting I was getting old.
If I have to crouch? Like, to pick up a quarter? (And believe me, if it’s less than a quarter I just leave it.) I don’t want to get up. I can, my knees are still perfectly capable of doing it, but my brain says, “Are you sure? What if it’s really hard? What if you can’t? How’s that gonna look? Maybe you just better stay crouched the rest of your life.”
When I get up from the couch, which I try to do as infrequently as possible, I make a noise. A horrible, moany, sort of death rattle-type sound. My family hates it. I tell them I can’t help it; they insist I can, and I try! When I’m about to get up off the couch I swear to myself “Just… don’t. Make… that… noise. Show a little self-respect.” And then as I’m getting up, I hear it. The noise. Like someone else is making it. Like there’s a miserable, tiny, ancient, Jewish homunculus lodged right behind my sternum — and when I get up, he goes, “Ehphughhhh… hepheh… uhnghhh.”
It’s not all bad. With age comes wisdom, right? Isn’t that the old saw saying? Well here’s another: With age comes increased crankiness, yelling at strangers without planning to, crying at ad campaigns for cars where apparently hallucinating dads see their daughters at various stages of their lives, and fits of uncontrollable rage whenever the same commercial, even the dad/car/daughter one, plays twice during the same commercial break.
According to actuarial tables, men of my age, “middle-aged” men, have two equally likely options: They get older and wither, or, at some point, they just suddenly drop dead. I know. Dark, right? Didn’t think I’d go there, did you? But us older guys, we do that. We get dark real suddenly, without warning. Sure, old age sometimes brings wisdom, but it’s just as likely to bring pervasive creepiness. Especially in those of us who were somewhat creepily inclined to begin with. I like to think of myself as both wise and creepy.
I think the United States is middle-aged. And that’s being generous. Look at us right now. Do we seem like a country that’s going to make it to 482? I know, I know, you thought we’d go on forever, like Rome or Egypt or something, but honestly, you only thought that because you’re young. You lack the wisdom of middle age.
Obama was the last president of our country’s adulthood. Electing Trump? Even just Electoral College electing him? That’s a classic, impulsive, cranky-ass, middle-aged move. Late middle-aged. Old.
Maybe we get lucky. Maybe we make it through this phase, go on to become a wise old man country, the US of Obi Wan Kenobi. The North American Republic of Gandalf. Or maybe we just end up that horrible old country in the soup-stained, strappy T-shirt, plaid trousers belted just beneath its nipples, bellowing at the rest of the world to get the hell off its lawn. And let’s be honest, both those outcomes beat the hell out of the only other possibility on the actuarial table.
Now get out of here. I’m going for the early bird special at Shoney’s and then hitting the sack right after “Matlock.”