The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

At what point does life reach its peak?

Last August I bought Third Eye Blind’s new album, Ursa Minor, on the day it came out. And while I love it tremendously, I realized several years ago that nothing they ever do will top their 1997 debut album with “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Jumper”, “Graduate”, “Motorcycle Drive By” and “I Want You”. They keep making good music, even if I’m the only one still listening. But they peaked 11 years ago.

Michael Jackson experienced his peak in 1983 with the success of Thriller, personally haunted by the fact that he was never able to commercially or critically top it. And as much as I love Dave Matthews Band, I find it scientifically impossible for them to top their 1996 7x platinum album Crash, featuring the flawless “Crash into Me”.

Not that it’s an awful thing to peak early in a career. Not everyone can go out with a bang like George Burns, or remain relevant after several decades. It happens to plenty of good actors and comedians too: they continue to make movies after people stop really caring. Steve Martin. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell. Robin Williams. Tim Allen.

A sign of a once-relevant comedian officially being past his peak is when he appears in a family movie in which he gets thrown high into the air, then lands abruptly but suffers no major injuries, then looks up at the camera with this expression that says, “Ugh, that’ll leave a mark…” (I have a visual right now of Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen when he gets catapulted out of the Gymboree.)

Gone are the days of Steve Martin’s classics like The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, and the legendary Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (which I refer to in about 23% of my writings). Now we’re stuck with The Pink Panther. I’m sure it makes him millions of dollars, but it doesn’t make anybody laugh.

Steve Martin: surprisingly, not Jewish.

While I don’t have a career in acting or music where I have to keep reinventing myself to please fans in the business of entertainment, I do live a life in which I am sometimes tempted to keep looking to the future for my vindication, contentment, or perfect stage of life. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to remind myself of some corny forward that someone e-mailed me a few months ago that said: These are the good old days.

Whether or not I am living in the peak happiness of my life now or in 30 years, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned it’s not the bad, boring, or annoying memories I keep going back to. It’s the good ones. Those are what I keep close to heart: These are the good old days.

Robin Williams: Also, surprisingly not Jewish either.

“I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)

“And I’ve never been so alive.” -Third Eye Blind (“Motorcycle Drive By”)

Conversation Topics 101: Crime, Politics, Weather, Sports, Entertainment

What do we talk about by default when we don’t have anything important to say?


Out of a person’s mouth comes what is in their heart. But when a person is not engaging in serious conversation, only making “water cooler conversation”, what comes out of a person’s mouth is what is in their head. And what is in their head tends to come from watching the news. If the local news is any indication of what Americans value, then here are the basic categories of conversations that we evidently can’t go wrong with: crime, politics, weather, sports, and entertainment.

Crime: Growing up, my Mexican grandma would call my mom sporadically to warn her of the newest criminal that escaped the local jail. (Weird that it happened as much as it did.) I don’t know how it really helped, knowing. Criminals will always be among us, whether they’ve committed the crime yet or not. But still, people like to be informed about crime.

Politics: Yes, the wise warn to shy away from politics and religion. But when I already have a good idea of a person’s political stance, and I ask (not try to convert) their take on the most recent political event, which keeps the door open for a healthy and interesting conversation. The word “politics” basically has a negative connotation to it, but it’s still worth knowing what our leaders are doing and deciding for us. Just like the weather, can’t really control it, but we definitely can talk about it.

Weather: Speaking of the weather, this is the classic go-to in a time of conversation crisis. As a kid accompanying my mom every week as she bought groceries (I was very picky about what cereal was purchased in order to get the toy I wanted inside the cereal box), it was always funny to see the teenage “bag boy” struggle for conversation as he pushed the cart out to the 1987 Bronco II. It was inevitable: “Nice weather we’ve been having, huh?”

Entertainment: Loverboy was right in 1981- Everybody’s working for the weekend. And entertainment goes hand in hand with the weekend and free time. From the local July 4th parade to the this weekend’s upcoming music festival, entertainment is an all-inclusive subject.

Sports: My favorite scene of one of my all time favorite movies (Trains, Planes, and Automobiles) is when Steve Martin and John Candy have to sleep in the same small bed in a hotel. They wake up the next morning, all cuddled up. John Candy says, “My hand is between two pillows.” Steve Martin responds, “Those aren’t pillows!…” Immediately the two men jump out of bed, disgusted and embarrassed by their too-close proximity. They start talking about sports to feel manly again. At least in America, sports are important.

Need more to talk about?  Try reading some of my older posts from my monthly archives, found on the right side of the screen.  Or wait long enough, and I may write Conversation Topics 102.

Manspeak, Volume 1: Humor

It was April 2002 when I first learned/realized that humor is an expected male trait. My sister and I went to this $5 concert some new young musician guy was doing in Birmingham, AL. Supposedly he was about to make it huge and this show was to thank the local radio station for being the first to play his songs. It was none other than the pre-Jessica Simpson, pre-Jennifer Anniston, pre-tattoo sleeved John Mayer.

For months following the concert, I was unable and unwilling to remove his No Room for Squares album from my CD player. I picked up on the fact this 24 year-old kid swam in something I could relate to, and it wasn’t just our shared love of the year 1983. He spoke my language. The third track, “My Stupid Mouth”, had a line that said, “I just want to be liked, just want to be funny, looks like the joke’s on me”. That’s when I realized that I was not alone in that I felt responsible for having to be funny, because I am a guy.

While no doubt there are countless social expectations from the female gender, one that is not important and vital is humor. That’s a guy thing. Compared to the overwhelming number of male comedians, it’s more difficult to find successful female comedians. The ones I can think of right off, are not the norm for what is considered feminine: Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Wanda Sykes, and Roseanne Barr.

I’m a personal fan of Ellen. I watched her talk show every day my senior year of college. She’s like one of the guys. And I think that’s why I relate to her so much.

The big exception to this “guys have to be the funny one” rule of comedy is Friends. Three men, three women, and they’re all funny. The show was co-written by a man and a woman. That 50/50 designation of both the actors and writers was part of the massive success of the show. Both men and women could relate to the humor and the characters. Even Seinfeld had a 3 to 1 ratio of male to female actors. Friends broke the mold.

Yes, attractive and feminine women can definitely be funny: Anna Faris, Tina Fey, Cameron Diaz, and Chelsea Handler. But I still see a tom-boyish quality about them. Where it at least seems like they grew up with all brothers. And for every one exception, there are five Seth Rogen’s, three Jon Stewart’s, and four Adam Sandler’s.

Men are expected to be funny, at least in some degree. Even Ben Stein, as dry and drab as he is, is still hilarious. (“Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?”) And the Terminator in his violent mission of destruction, right before he returns to the police station by running a squad car through the glass doors and blows away all those in his path, declares, “I’ll be back”. That, is funny.

While this may put extra pressure on a guy, there is a trade-off. Guys don’t have to find the perfect pair of shoes to match every “cute outfit” they own. Or give birth.

“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” –Marilyn Monroe

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

 

planes_trains_and_automobiles