Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Pirate Looks at 50... again!

I thought I was ready to move on after turning 50 – after all, it’s just a number, right?

At least, that’s what I tell everyone else.

So Saturday afternoon the First Mate and I took in a movie. “Last Vegas” features many of our favorite actors and the premise looked kind of cute, so I wanted to see it before it left town.

In a small town like this, good movies hang around for about a week; the really crappy ones seem to linger for months!

I’ll try not to spoil “Last Vegas” for anyone who still hasn’t seen it, but here’s the premise: four childhood friends – Billy, Paddy, Archie and Sam – all meet up in Las Vegas to throw Billy a bachelor party. At somewhere around 70, Billy is getting married for the first time… to a 31-year-old hottie!

Before moving on, know that “Rotten Tomatoes” gave the movie a 44%; as you might guess, that is not great. Another critic said the film was just the movie “Hangover” “retread for the older set”. The film grossed $33 million in its first week… mostly from that “older set”.

On this particular day, the First Mate and I were the youngest persons in the theater for the showing.

While the movie was mostly humorous and light-hearted fun, I also came away slightly depressed.

As I mentioned, the movie was filled with actors I love. Michael Douglas (Billy) had been great in “Wall Street” (1987) and “Basic Instinct” (1992). 

Michael Douglas, "Wall Street" (1987)
And he’s married to the still-hot Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is 44). But Michael Douglas is 69 now, and after a recent battle with cancer, it shows!

Robert DeNiro (Paddy) is 70 now. He was the young Vito Corleone in “Godfather II” back in 1974… when he was only 31 (and I was 11).

Robert DeNiro, "Godfather II" (1974) 
Morgan Freeman, the elder statesman of the bunch, is now 76. He was already 52 when he starred in “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989).

Morgan Freeman (2013)
Kevin Kline is the baby of the bunch at 66. But I still remember him from “The Big Chill” in 1983 and “A Fish Called Wanda” in 1988.

Kevin Kline, "The Big Chill" (1983)
And prior to the movie there was a trailer for the upcoming “Grudge Match”, starring Sylvester Stallone (67) and Robert DeNiro, who portray two former boxers pitted together in a geriatric boxing match to settle an old score.

Stallone & De Niro, "Grudge Match" (2013)

How did these guys get so old?!?

And if they’re that old, how old does that make me???

Oh, right. I’m 50.

Another depressing part of the movie was that while in most movies the make-up artists are instructed to hide the wrinkles and blemishes, in this movie they were apparently instructed to enhance them. The crows feet, “turkey necks” and liver spots were all on harsh display.

Kevin Kline, "Last Vegas" (2013)
Except for Kevin Kline. He still has a youthful exuberance about him that, despite the gray beard, the intentionally obvious hearing aids, and the ridiculous wearing of two pair of glasses, he appeared a much younger “old guy” than his cohorts.

I confided to a friend last week that whenever I look in the mirror, I still see the 25-year-old me… despite the gray, thinning hair and spreading waistline. 

So how old do I look to everyone else?

And finally, the message of the movie felt contradictory. What I think I was supposed to come away with was, “You’re never too old to really live!”

I like that thought.

But I’m not sure what that really means. Do I continue to try to desperately hang on to my youth, even when youth has gone? Or do I act my age? What exactly is “acting your age”?

Throughout the movie, those who were trying to “live” were ridiculed:

Bre Blair
-Billy was constantly put down for wanting to marry a hot 31-year-old (played by Bre Blair). The badgering was constant throughout the movie and sometimes vicious!

-When the four paid to be judges at a poolside bikini contest – because, you know, they wanted the privilege of staring at young hot bodies – they were again ridiculed. As if the insults weren’t obvious enough, the young DJ ended up stripping down to a Speedo and waving his junk in Paddy’s face.

-As they tried to pick up younger women in Vegas, they were frequently dismissed as “cute” and were compared to “my grandpa”!

And the worst insult came when Paddy convinced Billy that marrying the younger woman was wrong; so he dumped her and married the much older lounge singer (Mary Steenburgen, 60).

Mary Steenburgen (2013)
Oops. Sorry. Didn’t mean to spoil it for you – but you had to see that coming!

But hear me when I say, if finding a 31-year-old hottie who is will marry you is not “living”, I don’t know what is!

Sure, the jokes about prostates and hip replacement surgery and Viagra were all there – as would be expected. And most of the time they were funny! But in the end, I felt like old age won out.  

Near the end of the movie, as the foursome prepared to leave Vegas, Paddy once again produced the bottle of 12-year-old Scotch that the boys had swiped from a store when they were kids together. It was a recurring prop – Billy had been saving it all these years for the perfect occasion when the four would be together again.

Frankly, I can’t believe the kids didn’t drink it back then, but… [Initiate ‘intentional suspension of disbelief’ here.]

And so, sixty years later, the four friends lift a glass of now 72-year-old Scotch in a toast – but the liquor has obviously turned. As the others run to find a place to spit, Sam declares, “It can’t be bad; it’s Scotch!”

As the movie attempted to depict the lives of these men at 70 – likewise declaring “It can’t be bad; it’s Life!” – I found myself also looking for a place to spit. I’m just not ready for this.

We live in a youth-oriented culture. If you don’t believe me, just go to the mall and try to find clothes for adults!

Or check out your favorite newspaper. Even the liberal-minded Huffington Post played up this incredulous headline: “Debbie Gibson Rocks a Leotard at 42 During NBA Game”. Yes, even Debbie Gibson, the former teen pop idol, is growing older. But do they really have to put her age in the headline? As if a 42-year-old can’t still look hot?

Debbie Gibson (2013)
God, I’m getting old! That 42-year-old is looking hot!

But then again, my eyesight is not what it used to be either!

At my church we have a large number of members who have surpassed 90+ years of life, many of whom still enjoy good health. And I celebrate with them and all the years they have lived. Their battle cry is, “Growing old is not for sissies!”

But I’m not sure I want to go there. I just don’t want to be that 72-year-old bottle of Scotch.

“It can’t be bad; it’s Scotch!”


Other aging actors:
            -Jennifer Aniston 44          
-Charlie Sheen 48
            -Demi Moore 51
            -Bruce Willis 58
            -Jackie Chan 59 (yes, he’s still alive!)
            -Ted Dansen 65
-Arnold Schwarzenegger 66
            -Jimmy Buffett 66 (12-25-1946)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fly Me

The First Mate and I just returned from a week’s break in sunny southern California!

And it was actually sunny this time!

I won’t bore you with slides of my vacation.

Other than this one. My niece took me to Omar’s Exotic Birds store in Brea, where the birds are out and available for customers to pick up and handle.

I’m still not sure I think this is such a good thing for the birds, but it was a neat opportunity! Now if I can just save up $1400 I can get me one of these big guys!

We had a good time, and managed to squeeze a whole week of activity into only seven days! There was a birthday celebration, two special worship services, a volleyball game, a softball game, and a trip to “Pirates Dinner Adventure”, where the First Mate actually got to be part of the show!

Then we boarded a plane and headed for home.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate flying? I know it’s the only way to get across country in a short period of time, but it seems the airlines are doing everything they can to make the trip as uncomfortable as possible.

Of course, they try to hide the realities of flying until the last minute – kind of like when you take the dog to the vet:

“Wanna go for a ride in the car, boy?”

The airports are large, spacious buildings.

And nowadays, they contain everything you could possibly need. In addition to the Starbucks and fast foods and newsstands, there are also massage therapists and chiropractors. You can even get a flu shot!

And if you’ve committed some transgression while away from the spouse, there is a vending machine from which you can purchase a bouquet of flowers to take home!

But then your number is called. You move from the spacious terminal – and that name alone should be your first warning! – down a smaller hallway.

Finally you enter the plane… and take your seat…

That’s me in the middle – sitting between the First Mate (always on the aisle) and some large, flatulent Asian guy who didn’t speak English.

Boarding a plane is kind of like Russian Roulette. You find your seat and watch as others board the plane. Who will be your seat-mate? The hot chick in the short skirt? The large Samoan guy with the tattoos and piercings who will fill up half of your seat as well as his own? The grandmotherly-looking woman who will want to talk about her cats the whole trip? The nun?

By the way, it’s never the hot chick in the short skirt! I have come to believe that the airlines hire such women just to walk through the airplane to raise morale - and hopes - then she escapes out a rear exit before the plane departs!

Behind us sat a couple returning from a trip to one of those island nations that, when you mention its name, people say “Ooohhh!” and immediately have wet dreams of thatched huts on stilts out on a pristine turquoise bay. She was dressed in a strapless sundress – showing off her sunburned bosom, just inviting people to ask where she’s been – seemingly unaware that while the temps on her special island were a toasty 95 degrees, when the plane lands in Nashville it will be a very non-tropical 35 degrees!   

So we all sat smushed into these ridiculously small seats with our knees pressed up against the seats in front of us for 3 ½ hours, because “the Captain has turned on the seatbelt light”… which means you can’t get up!

Of course, being stuck in my seat caused my mind to conjure up strange questions, like, “Why are the emergency exits segregated?”

“Why do I need a life jacket when we’re flying over land?”

And why would we be making a “water landing” anyway? Don’t they really mean “crash into the ocean”?

“Why does the little package of honey-roasted peanuts have to have a warning letting me know that it was “produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts”?

I did take a journey to the head at one point, which is always a unique experience.

Will someone please tell me how ANYONE can join the “Mile High Club” in one of these things?

There’s hardly even room for one person in there!

Smoking has been banned on commercial airlines for 15 years now – a fact they still need to remind us of before every flight – and yet there is still an ashtray on the restroom door!

“If I push this button, will a waitress bring me a cocktail?”

The good news is, we made it home without any problems. 

And we were greeted at the door by our two cats... who missed us terribly!

And that’s what matters most.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What Does the Captain Say?

There are times when stories in the news make the Captain’s eyes roll.

“What were they thinking?”

Then there are other times when news items make the Captain’s head just completely freakin’ explode!

Did you see any of these stories in the news this week?

Apparently, on elementary school playgrounds in Sacramento, when the bell rings to end recess, the children are instructed to “Freeze, place your hands on your knees”. They are to hold this position until all the children stop, thus calming them down and preparing them to re-enter the classroom.

But some parents are upset about this technique to refocus the children after a boisterous 20 minutes of play. One parent argued that the position is teaching our children to be “submissive”.

And frankly, that’s true. In public schools, children are frequently instructed to obey their teachers and those in authority. This is part of the conditioning that later (supposedly) leads to good citizenship.

I guess if one is trying to raise an anarchist, this might be objectionable.

But another parent objected for a completely different reason. She sees the “hands on knees” position as sexual.

To which the Captain says, “If you ever, Ever, EVER! look at a playground full of children and think ‘sex’, you need some serious help!”

Tailgate Tragedy
In 2008, a country music festival was held at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. Three young women paid for admission into the parking lot so they could take part in the pre-concert tailgate parties.

Facts you need to know: they did not have tickets for the concert, they were under the legal drinking age, and they brought their own booze.

After an afternoon of drinking, they climbed back into their car and attempted to drive home.  Two of the women were killed in the car crash that resulted. The driver reportedly had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.

The family of one of the women sued the stadium and the owner of the New England Patriots for $2.5 million, arguing that the three women should not have been allowed to take part in the tailgating.

To be fair, the stadium had enacted a “no ticket, no entry” policy the year before, but was not enforcing it.

Yet, who is really to blame here? Even the mother involved in the lawsuit admits that her daughter had “made a bad choice”.


But this week, in order to avoid a prolonged court battle and the bad press to come from that, the stadium settled with the family for an undisclosed amount of money.

And money always makes it better, right?

But the Captain says, “Whatever happened to personal responsibility?” I make “a bad decision”, but you have to pay for it?

On Sunday, Richie Incognito was suspended from the Miami Dolphins for “bullying” another player. The 6’3” 320 lb. guard, once voted “the dirtiest player in the NFL”, was reportedly harassing Jonathan Martin, a second-year tackle for the team. Apparently this had been going on for some time, but Martin was reluctant to report it.

Captain’s note: Incognito is white, Martin is black.

It all came to a head with a voice message Incognito left for Martin, heavily laced with the N-word, the F-word, and insults toward Martin’s mother.

This is not the first rodeo for Incognito. In 2003, he was suspended by the University of Nebraska’s coach for bad behavior. In 2004 he switched to Oregon, but lasted only one month there before being dismissed from the football program. And yet, he was picked up by the Los Angeles Rams, who released him in 2009 – after he had racked up the highest number of “unnecessary roughness” penalties in the NFL four years in a row! Then came the Dolphins, which, after all that, offered him a 3-year, $3.3 million dollar contract to bring his act to Miami. This recent suspension will probably lead to Incognito’s dismissal.

Yes, Virginia, some playground bullies never grow up!

And so the Captain would remind us of the story of the Native American boy who climbed up to the top of a high mountain on a vision quest. There he found a snake, nearly frozen to death. The snake implored the boy to take him down the mountain to where the climate was warmer. The boy was suspicious and refused. The snake pleaded again and again, promising not to bite the boy if he would do this one kindness, and finally the boy put the snake inside his buckskin shirt and carried him down the mountain. As the boy began to release the now-warmed snake, the snake reared its head and bit the boy.

The boy cried out, “But you promised you wouldn’t bite me!”

To which the snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up!”

Are these three stories somehow related?

No. They’re just three news items from the past week that make the Captain go, “AAARRRGGGHHHH!”