old man

Get Off My Lawn!: Experiencing Ageism

I’ll be the first to admit it, my diet is horrible. What do I live on? Sandwiches, Pop-Tarts, cup noodles and fast food. What’s worse is I live in a health-conscious, vegetarian state. Some of these vegetarians are friends of mine. Time and again, they look at my choice in meals and cringe.

Seriously, I had this for dinner.

A common commentary is, “Don’t you want to live to a ripe old age?”

My answer, “Why would I want to do something like that?!”

I have no interest in getting old – nada. At the time of this writing, I’m an outta-shape, 36-year-old, unmarried, college educated, and unemployed white male. I have no 401K, no IRA, no other numerically fancy-schmancy accounts, and I’m worried about qualifying for food stamps. Prospects for quality in my “golden years” aren’t exactly the best. Do I want thirty more years of this crap? Hell no.

Compound that with the fact that I’m already reaching the point where my age might be a factor. A couple of years ago, I was attending a job group. I hated every minute of it. Most of the attendees had at least three decades on me. Many had been project managers, office managers, PR reps, and whatever soft-service titles existed prior to the ’08 economic crash. All of them were frustrated because they were constantly being passed-over by younger, cheaper, and more energetic laborers. To them, anyone in their thirties was the enemy. Opinions I possessed were immediately shot down.

Needless to say, I stopped going.

Two years later – as in, now – I found myself once again “touched” by the unemployment faery. Yet I was overjoyed that I had landed an interview with a hotel downtown. When I got down there, I was shocked. I was older than most of the staff by a good ten years. This had never happened before. The hiring manager himself was, maybe, 25. If that. The beard only made him look younger.

It didn’t help that the majority of the staff were also young, fit, and ridiculously good-looking. Downtown Portland, gotta love it. I tried to play up my experience in the field, but that might have been to my detriment. Playing the “old man” card was clearly the wrong approach. As evidenced by my denial of the job a week or so later.

Had I finally reached that point? Was that now a determining factor in my hire-ability? Well, yes and no.

If there’s one thing I try to be, it’s current. Thanks to a wonderful tool called the Internet, it doesn’t take long for anyone to gain a cursory understanding of pop-cultural trends. Music, movies, gossip, tech, and news are but a click away. The problem is figuring out how to apply said stimuli to a real world setting.

There’s no hiding the gray hair, but it is far easier to mask obsoleteness. Buzzwords from the 90s don’t apply in a millennial workplace. Keeping up-to-date on that is key. Words like “social media” or “new media” are very clearly on their way out. After all, social/new media has become the norm. Outdated language can be job-threatening. In this, I have been moderately successful. No, the issue is far deeper.

One thing that comes with age is a sense of privilege – an expectation of what you can do versus what you won’t do. I, for one, think I’m beyond fast food work. That may not necessarily be the case. After all, I’ve seen my regular wage drop from $11.50 an hour to $9.

Another factor is life choices. Instead of building a set of marketable skills, I sorta skated through my 20s and 30s. What do I have to show for it? A useless English degree, and years of customer service experience. And I don’t even like people.

Which brings me to the real issue.

I’m a damned curmudgeon. There’s no getting around it. The older I get, the more pissed off I become. Sure, there are smatterings of happiness strewn throughout my day. However, by the end of it, all I want to do is surf the net then fall asleep. It’s the modern equivalent to retiring to Matlock. I’ve retired from life in my mind.

Is this likely to change? Probably not. One of the best things I can do is stay active, find ways to keep my mind alert, and welcome the inevitable “oldening” with a smile and a middle finger. I just hope one day I can afford a lawn and a porch…

So I can tell young whippersnappers to get the f**k off it.

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Friday, October 26th, 2012 Musings 8 Comments

You’ve Probably Never Heard of this Tea Before

One particular evening, a friend of mine and I were conversing over beers. (Isn’t that when the best conversations happen?) The topic of hipsterdom came up. Being residents of the greater Portland area, we were bombarded with them regularly. The “anti”-clique made P-Town one of its ironic bases of operations. Funny thing, though, no one who is a hipster actually thinks they are one.

Case in point, my friend actually said – paraphrased greatly, “You exhibit hipster traits.”

“I do not!” I remember whinily protesting. “I’m a geek through-and-through.”

“Yes, but you complain about the current brand of geeks.”

Egad, he was right.

Heck, there were some mornings when I woke up with my hair in a makeshift mockery of a faux-hawk. I slept in out-of-season holiday pajamas. The irony wasn’t completely lost on me. That trend toward…well…trend-avoidance carried over to other aspects of my life.

Topics of geek esoterica – anime, British sci-fi, comic book movies, video games, even Bollywood (???) – all of those bits of outer-subculture I cradled had become…mainstream. In the ensuing years, I had some semblance of an identity crisis. What were “old school” geeks supposed to latch onto if their badge/identity was compromised by normalcy?

Somehow, someway, my attentions gravitated to a beverage. Tea became my solace, my self-actualization, my subcultural haven. NO one in my greater circle was into that sorta thing. Obscurity: Achieved! But that wasn’t enough.

Eventually, I did run into like-minded tea drinkers in my online perusal – the extent of which were far more knowledgeable than I ever could be. As a result, I had to find a niche; some sort of tea-ish focus that set me apart. I would say I stumbled upon it by accident.

My goal was to track down new and obscure teas from odd growing regions, and catalog them accordingly. That pursuit launched the (desperately-in-need-of-updating) “Tea WANT!” list. However, even that list wasn’t enough. I could barely keep up with all the new and exciting teas brought to my meta-hipstery focus.

And – in a clunky segue – I would like to highlight a couple examples:

I practically begged a fellow tea blogger for a sample of this. They were able to acquire this black tea through an offer put forth by the YaYa Teahouse in New Zealand. The Zealong folks – yes, the “oolong from MIDDLE-EARTH!” producers – were playing around with fully-oxidized teas now. It was new, it was obscure; it met my M.O.

The smell was chocolate. No other way to put it – chocolate and a residual woodiness. The leaves themselves looked like the shavings of a tree that had caught fire. Pure awesome. The taste, however, was surprisingly light compared to the burly aroma. The liquor brewed to a mid-amber color with a floral, Ceylon-ish nose. The taste was almost note-for-note a Taiwanese Ruby black, save for less mintiness. It was light with no tannic bite, and a hint of malt on the back.  A second infusion – which I did as a fluke – turned up really surprising results – with a citrus lean on the front and a crisp trail-off, more in line with a Dan Cong oolong.

I picked this up on my “Teattle” trip to the Phoenix Teahouse. It deserved a feature of its own due to its origin story. Koreans – like the Japanese – aren’t known for their black teas; they’re mainly associated with high-quality (and highly expensive) green teas. All produced in small batches. When I saw this single origin “Dan-Cha” black (sorry, “red”…and the reason for the above image) tea on their site, it was one I had to try. I ended up walking out with an ounce of the stuff.

The leaves for this didn’t differ at all from the usual, run-of-the-mill black tea fair. They were dark, they were twisty – carry on. The aroma, however, was unusual – evoking mint, nuts, a hint of caramel and some other unidentifiable feelings. It was really hard to pinpoint what it reminded me of; it was its own beast. The liquor brewed straight amber with an aroma that reminded me of pine needles on a Douglas Fir, for some reason. The taste was, well, incomparable. It was floral, sour, minty, sometimes sweet, never bitter, and it kept changing per sip. I have no basis for comparison. Wonderful, nonetheless.

So, here I sit, in my holiday pajamas – hard-pressed to think of a proper lesson learned from my quirky hobby. Oh wait…no…I do know. I’m not a hipster. Heck, there’s nothing hip about me. I drink tea, I write, I watch cheesy movies, and going outside requires too much effort most times. My desire to be obscure and my whining about being into something before the herd don’t stem from a need for self-identity.

I’m not a hipster. I’m just old.

Now get off my lawn.

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Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 Steep Stories No Comments

I work for tea money.

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