james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 9/4/02 REALITY CHECK


“It’s just another night on the other side of life.” – Ian Hunter

Here’s the problem with turning 40, which I do on the ninth day of September, 2002, or a few days from the time this hits the streets. You see, it actually seems like I’m technically 110, or somewhere in my mid-hundreds. Not unlike say, Moses or Noah, or any of those Biblical types that lived well into their second or third centuries.

Aging, or should I say, experiencing life, is an odd process, seeing how most of what you really know is what is right in front of you and most of what you’ve already accumulated in the way of knowledge is ghostly, like a dream of some kind. And by the time you reference this crap its so completely meaningless in the realm of your current reality, you seem like a doddering fact-finder trying to impress the congregation.

Let me explain this as best I can within the structure of this column and the space limits in which it imposes.

My childhood used to matter to me. The events of days around pre-school or somewhere thereafter held an almost monumental theme to my teens and my early-to-mid-twenties. And since I’ve never been in therapy and barely attended the few psychology classes of my youth, these events have seemed to fade into a kind of peaceful oblivion. Not to mention drowned out by my over-use of testosterone-addled rage and teen angst transformed neatly into random poetry, wild prose and silly rock songs.

I guess if I’m lucky, I’ll have a few hundred more lives. Some of my fellow compatriots weren’t so fortunate. After all, hiding has its casualties.

So by my early twenties, I’d developed this character in my head that resembled my childhood persona in no possible way. The shy, blonde and blue-eyed runt whose mother dressed like a porcelain doll every day before attending the rigors of Catholic school was replaced by some kind of mutant. I grew up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood in the Bronx with everyone around me looking like something between John Travolta and some key cast member of The Godfather. So the quiet, outcast thing was predisposed, but not manipulated until the teenage years when I quickly became a foul-mouthed slop-head with a penchant for hating everything known to modern civilization and then some.

Although, if I can break for a moment, I must say, my parents recently visited Fort Vernon and brought clippings from my high school and college newspaper days, as well as the odd published mess from whatever bones the education system throws young loons like myself who fancies himself a scribe. And I must say, not too much of what comes spewing forth in this space weekly was absent from the mini-me. However, that kind of honesty seemed to slip through the cracks as I moved out on my own and broke from the family nest.

I stopped being honest, that’s it! I made it up as I went along and tried the best I could to mask any parts of me that might have reared its ugly head during the painful maturation process.

So, until I hit thirty, I found myself hiding. Yes, I think that’s it, hiding. Here’s the best way to describe hiding in America as a young man. Play music. Grow your hair. Get extreme to the point of structured radicalism. Get pissed at things you cannot control, like international mistreatment of foreign citizens by your government and other governments. Just mainly get pissed, really pissed at everything. When you get bored of this, freely practice getting pissed at being pissed.

During this time, treat other people like characters in a play, especially those of the opposite sex, who are more than a little confused at their own place in the world. You can also throw in the odd use of drugs or alcohol, and mostly fill up what’s remaining of your mushy brain matter with reams of pop culture and volumes of Kurt Vonnegut.

Then go to work in the most disgusting forms of journalism. By this time you cut your hair, put down the guitar for a meager form of subsistence and begin to sink yourself into the fantasy world of sports journalism. More hiding; but with less angst and a better level of car and girl and friend.

Not to say, I did not meet the finest humans on the planet while practicing my hiding and making anger into some semblance of art, its just that for every pearl there is too much swine.

But hey, I don’t want to hear any pansy shit about the Marines or Special Forces. If you could send me back in a time machine to Brooklyn or Greenwich Village or Freehold or the Jersey Shore or Trenton or Philly or those original far-off days at the Putnam Bunker, I’d gather up all those crazy motherfuckers and ship us all to Baghdad right now and prepare for victory. But enough about my twenties.

Man, I loved turning thirty, because for a manic of infinite changes, the flip on the age odometer means regressing back into the hiding state, but this time with eyes wide open. In other words, try being nineteen again, but with a hell of a lot more cash, experience and a better vocabulary in which to skew your new version of pissed. I don’t know about anyone else, but for the likes of me, this is a highly evolved state a nirvana.

And it was during my thirties that I got down to really writing. Not pretending to write, or living like I wanted to have written; just balls to the wall, no white flags, burn down the fucking highway writing. Bad writing. Good writing. Book writing. Talk about writing. Sleep writing. Dream writing. Sex, laugh, fools gold writing.

Yes, a writer. Like I once wrote in my middle-school yearbook, like I wished when I was falling asleep on some beach half out of my head, like I talked about with everyone who would listen. Living in the swirl of events and not giving a pile who the hell cared. But 40? Jesus, how long do they expect me to live?

I guess if I’m lucky, I’ll have a few hundred more lives. Some of my fellow compatriots weren’t so fortunate. After all, hiding has its casualties.

One hundred more lives, huh? Maybe that means a few more times to die. So, I’d like to conclude by thanking all those people who came to my many funerals. See ya at the next one hundred. Hopefully.

Now where are my hiding shoes?

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