ON THE AVENUES: If this is adulting, I’d rather be leaving on a jet plane.


ON THE AVENUES: If this is adulting, I’d rather be leaving on a jet plane.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
— T.S. Eliot

In the context of human history, as hundreds of millions of our species lived and died with very few elective choices apart from doing whatever was necessary to survive long enough to procreate, “adulting” as a concept could only have been recently formulated by youthful residents of the richest impoverished country this planet has yet seen.

Adulting is the assumption of tasks, responsibilities and behaviors traditionally associated with normal grown-up life, along with the implication that the individual in question does not particularly identify as an adult and that acting as one does not come naturally.

This said, “adulting” is a popular inside joke at the Confidential household. As the missus puts it, “Every time we look around at the house and see something in need of repair, we get right to adulting by booking a trip to Europe.”

Not like it’s a bad thing, mind you, but the majority of yurt dwellers in Mongolia have known for decades about my utter hopelessness as a household handyman, having spent my formative childhood years reading books and listening to music, and only grudgingly participating in my father’s manly pursuits like tools, grilling, guns and barbed wire fence maintenance.

Even minor details of domicile upkeep interest me little, and I seek to evade them. Fortunately my life partner is considerably more adept, perhaps because she’s from Maine. Diana is willing to study YouTube videos and follow instructions. Meanwhile, forever the critic, I’m busy complaining about the absence of an appropriate soundtrack or the video’s poor picture quality.

Last week our dryer’s drum stopped turning, and I was the one to shrug; after all, clotheslines are good, too. She already was taking it apart, finding the snapped belt, ordering a replacement on-line, and viewing video instructions for what proved to be a relatively quick fix.

In short, she triumphantly adulted that nasty dryer, and consequently we didn’t go to Belgium or buy a new one. I congratulated her profusely and trundled off to return the clothesline to where it had been used previously, artfully securing the gutters to the garage.

Or was it the muffler to my car?

This brings us to the squirrel in the upholstery on the third floor, which is a finished space, albeit not air conditioned. We don’t go up there very much during the hot weather months, and apparently neither did the squirrels, who’d been frolicking in the narrow space above the drywall this past spring.

Their summertime absence led me to surmise that my inspired purchase of a Popeil Ultrasonic Pest Repeller last April actually had worked as billed, although the truth is they probably gnawed through the power cord within days of installation. Either that or tuned their guitars by the frequency.

Now with the return of cooler weather last week, the pitter-patter of Tree Rat feet could once again be heard above the ceiling and beneath the roof, and with it the suggestion that it was my turn to merrily go adulting by doing something about whatever portals these varmints were using to gain access.

This involved the painful task of finding a roofer, which I somehow managed to do, but in the interim on Wednesday night before he could come, Diana heard a series of crashes emanating from the 3rd floor. Upon closer examination, a squirrel had found his way into the room and wreaked havoc.

The door had been shut, and either the squirrel had exited as he entered, or was still there somewhere. Returning home, I went to investigate and could not locate the perpetrator. Drawers were opened, nooks illuminated and crannies scoured, and still no squirrel. I reinforced two potential rodent egress points, and went to bed.

It did not occur to me the squirrel might be hiding inside the couch, as opposed to underneath it, and as I was vacuuming yesterday, out he leaped. Scampering away, he must have stepped on the remote, because the television set suddenly came on — to a Cialis ad.

From what I’ve heard, squirrels hereabouts have been doing nicely without artificial stimulation.

Brow furrowed, it occurred to me that squirrels eat to live, and I live to eat. Armed with this helpful knowledge, I went to the kitchen for peanuts; having eaten my fill, a handful traveled back up the stairs, where I made a munchable path from couch to window. The screen was removed, and I retired to the other side of the room to wait.

Ten minutes later the squirrel was perched on the window ledge, twenty feet away, taking his sweet time to finish one final delicious welfare peanut before disappearing outside.

Probably his feet were what we heard again this morning above the bedroom, but the roofer’s coming today to look for pathways and patch them. I hope it works out, because this adulting thing is absolutely exhausting, if for no other reason than Microsoft Word’s determination to change every single mention of “adulting” herein to “adulating.”

Stop it. Just stop it. There is no adulation in adulting, at least until the plane leaves the gate.

I’ve been following the Tribune and the Blogs; nothing really changes does it? New Albany always did suffer from intellectual constipation and it is fun to watch and listen. It’s amazing how a well placed comment/question/barb can upset the thought process and/or equilibrium of the powerettes that rule. It’s a hoot!

Eleven years ago, I received a lovely e-mail from a retired New Albany native living in New Mexico. Having resolved to move back home in 2008, he had started reading NA Confidential and wanted to tell me how much he enjoyed the blog — and craved beer like he used to drink when stationed in Scotland.

This is how I made the acquaintance of Don Eckert, who left the city of his birth around 1958 to spend 26 years in the Navy, afterwards working for various military contractors. He and his wife eventually decided to remain in Alamogordo. This was fine, because we’d struck up a regular correspondence by this time.

So, it looks as if, at the earliest, I’ll be returning next spring and will drop by for a pint. Served room temp, not frozen please. I like to taste my beer.

Don proved to be a left-of-center kind of guy, and he was a folksy, capable writer with stories galore. It was a nostalgic to me. How long had it been since I had a pen pal, someone I wouldn’t recognize if we met on the street, but who enjoyed exchanging notes and observations? Don was just this sort, and we generated dozens, surely hundreds of e-mails over the years since.

As I sit here listening and watching on YouTube an assortment of “Flash Mob” pieces filmed in various locales, I again am reminded that if in an introspective moment you discover you’re possessed of just a bit of an “Old Soul”, then you need to hie off to Europe. And, regardless of current politics and national insanity it is mandatory that one must imbibe and listen. I’m too old and hobbled, but you’re prime to give it a go.

I’m in a mood, thanks for listening.

Earlier this summer, Don’s e-mails suddenly became more frequent. At 78, he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and started writing to family members, explaining his chemotherapy, passing the time in treatment and griping good-naturedly about all and sundry. I was flattered and gratified to be copied on these electronic letters.

I was also extremely worried.

His most recent e-mail arrived during the first week of August, still optimistic overall, except with a darker edge. My pen pal’s angst seemingly had less to do with his uncertain medical condition than the foul mood of the country he served.

Didn’t these squabbling factions (all of them, on all sides) realize they were suffocating democracy?

Probably said too much already. Gotta go.

Indeed, it was the last time Don Eckert wrote, because he died on September 1. Two weeks ago I realized how long it had been since I heard from him, and just couldn’t bring myself to search for confirmation. This morning I took a deep breath, adulted, and found the obituary.

It wasn’t a surprise. Still, I’m crestfallen.

Loved your “Turkey-Day” missive; well, maybe missile is a bit more appropriate. If you were to think of the Pilgrims, their trans-Atlantic skedaddle, the jumping atop the rock, and the rape-loot-pillage of the indigenous people, from the perspective of someone looking west from Plymouth, you’d have to come to the conclusion that they, the Pilgrims, weren’t looking for the freedom to worship as they please. Rather, they were looking for the freedom to dictate to others how to worship as they, the Pilgrims, believed. The English were fortunate to get rid of those bigots; the Dutch grew tired of them and the Native Americans certainly didn’t need them.

Enjoy your brew; as for me, I’ll be looking for a good Porter when I finally get back to NA. I’m not a beer sophisticate; I just know what I like.

Farewell to Don, who evidently never made it back to NA. We didn’t once meet, and I already miss him a hell of a lot.

When the time comes and I finally get where I’m going, perhaps Don and I can still hoist a pint of (celestial) Plain.


Recent columns:

September 20: ON THE AVENUES: Fighting the power with ballots, not bullets.

September 11: ON THE AVENUES: After 49 years, two more reasons to be an Oakland A’s fan.

September 9: ON THE AVENUES: May, Kennedy, wigs and prayers, but where’s the delightful infidel gardening column?

August 30: ON THE AVENUES: From Baltic to Mediterranean, the diary of an unrepentant New Albanian Europhile.