A dear friend of mine periodically jokes:
You can’t have everything – where would you put it?
Think about it.
This applies not only in the case of material things but for more ephemeral items like love, success, health, revenge or recognition. There is only so much emotional space one has to file the good, bad and indifferent. Somewhere along the line you reach a breaking point where the uploading capacity of human beings will cause one or more of those items to take a back seat to the others if you receive too much of each.
I was waiting to have lunch recently at a well-known L.A. watering spot (that used to be hipster talk for an “in” place to eat and hang out) where I found myself staring face-to-face with a person who, coming towards me, I had had dinner with some years ago. This person and I have many mutual friends and through the years have become very acquainted with each other. However, since we last met this person has clearly transformed himself or herself (I’m not saying which gender) with both an Oscar and a new body that shows off she/he’s very newly worked out torso. Also transformed seems to have been this person’s mind, memory and manners because there was not a hint of recognition as she/he dramatically removed she/he’s sunglasses and stared knowingly yet blankly at me, again face-to-face, before blithely walking on.
Hmm, perhaps she/he was distracted by his/her own image reflected back in my non-sunglasses, which I somehow must have mistook for a stare into my eyes. Um, well, I doubt it. In point of fact, this person seems clearly to have OD’d on an item called the I’m better than you are attitude while things that they used to possess such as memory, intellect and, well, general…courtesy (?) seem to have fallen by the wayside.
If it weren’t so cliché Hollywood it would be laughable. But as I and anyone else who has spent decades in the entertainment industry will tell you this is not an isolated incident and, in truth, happens more frequently than one thinks. However what also quite frequently happens – given the cyclical nature of life and the industry – is some decades later this very person, no longer at the top of their game, will spot you at a party and, sweet as pie, approach you as if it’s old home week and no time has passed at all as they sheepishly, and perhaps sincerely, actually inquire into your life.
Truth be told, this very incident also happened to me last year at a supermarket where another award winner I know (Emmy, not Oscar, but who’s counting), who, aged so, I barely recognized all these decades later, approached me with a big smile and enthusiastically affable manner for a long and generous conversation. It was lovely and pleasant and a sharp contrast to the last experience I had with this person several decades ago at that VERY SAME L.A. watering hole where they blithely acted as if I was either a leper from another planet or possessed some rare form of show business plague. Clearly, they now feel either:
a. My disease has been cured
b. They now have the same disease and no longer care, or
c. They have been newly gifted with such items as kindness, humility and the wisdom of age. Or, perhaps, the ages.
My Dad turned 85 this past week and I took him out to a mini-family dinner. This was celebratory for many reasons though my father likes to remind me that I should be particularly happy he’s still around and having birthdays since, The longer I live, the better it looks for you.
While on some level I do want to believe his longevity genes will be passed on, that was not the primary reason this dinner turned out to be great. Throughout his life, my father – a gambler and once a frequent high roller at many famed Vegas hotels where he received countless complimentary luxury suites and free dinners for his family and other guests in exchange for a little of his action – has always been the generous big spender. This being the case, it has been seldom, if ever, where my sister and I (Note: yes, WE took him out to dinner – yikes – sorry!) or anyone has been able to generously pay for anything in his presence – much less the tab at a hip and fabulosity-ridden au courant restaurant.
This all means that, if you wait long enough, anything can and probably will happen. Anything at all. But you don’t want it to happen all at once. Where, indeed, WOULD you put it? How could you appreciate it? Or even, on a practical basis, how would you ever find the time, not to mention energy, to use and enjoy it all? Cue Erica Kane…
I know for sure that in my younger days it would never have meant as much for my sister or me to take my Dad out to dinner because it would have seemed too tit-for-tat – that in some small way we were trying to imitate the grand gestures on his part that we had grown used to. (Note: This wasn’t only limited to Vegas dinners but extravagant birthday presents or memorable childhood items like being the first in our neighborhood with a remote controlled color TV in the mid 1960s – quite a BIG deal!). But in 2013, with Vegas a shell of the Frank, Dean, Sammy and Ann-Margaret days of yesteryear and all the glitz and glamour of that type of childhood gone, it meant so much to bring a vague contemporary reinvention of it back to him on our dime – if only for just a few hours.
This is not an appreciate life, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, wisdom with age kind of message. It’s merely a recognition that not everything, and its entourage of best friends, are worth having when you long for them or think they’re a must have. It takes space, efforts expended, and more than a few bruises, knockouts or even slight bumps along the way to approach the state of mind where you can enjoy that which you are receiving. It also, quite simply – takes physical TIME to enjoy using what you have. And often experience in understanding how that item can best be optimally used, much less enjoyed.
The reverse is also true. Some things are best acquired when one is younger – either physically, mentally or both. For example, I think the window of opportunity has long elapsed where I can truly appreciate a great comic book superhero film. Although I was recently quite entertained by the 5 year-old Batkid who had just beat leukemia and, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, got to fight crime throughout a Gotham City-enhanced version of San Francisco.
Also, given the fact that I could purchase a small home in Detroit for the amount of money I’ve shelled out to various dentists in the last few years, I can never again quite enjoy Skittles, Bazooka Bubble Gum or even Pixie Sticks in quite the same way as I once did.
Finally – and alas – I fear (and admit) I will never be, or even dream about being, a world-class ballet dancer or even low-rung astronaut – though the former not surprisingly appeals to me far, far, more than the latter. Those days are long gone. Which is exactly what Diane Keaton said some years ago when someone suggested she wear a dress cut on the bias.
Still, I find these are all very small prices to pay as I look around all the stuff I do have at this moment and take real inventory. Let’s start with my closet here – I mean, how many shirts and pairs of pants do I really need – how many can I possibly wear at the same time?
The same goes for awards. And, most especially, attitudes.