Memories From the Balcony – Do You Like Ribs?

I can think of it now, The Old Man coming in the television room, which we called the den.
He would ask, “What are you doing in here? Get outside!”

We never had video games like the ones that kids have today.
We had Atari. We had Pac-man. We had Asteroids.
We had Elevator Action. We had games called Frogger and Space Invaders. 
Other than that, the video game life was not the same as the video games that we have now.

This is long before the technology bubble burst and everyone had a cell phone with video and camera abilities.
I know that I have said this before but it is fitting for me to say this again: I am grateful that I didn’t grow up at a time when everyone had video capabilities. Therefore, there is no proof or video evidence of my younger hijinks – of course, the emphasis is on the word “high”. Either way, I’m grateful for my portion of history.

In fact, I remember going on one of the rides at Disney. The ride was called The Carousel of Progress.
Ever been here?
This was to show how our technology has advanced over the years. This was to show the progress that ranged from long before we had microwave ovens, to microwave ovens, to now, and then into the future.
I remember watching this.
I was young and small. I was thinking about flying cars and flying bicycles for kids, which I’m sure this is next.
I was thinking about the possibility and the otherwise unlikelihood of video phones that could reach people from anywhere in the world.

In my life, I span between two points, which are the end of an era and up until now.
I came from a time when homes had family rooms where families enjoyed family entertainment and sitcoms. I come from a time when there was no such thing as downloading music.
We used to go to record stores. We had cassette tapes.
We had to work for our music.
If we wanted to learn something, we had to go out and research it. Nothing was so simple or easy. At best, the only so-called Google search that I knew of when I was a kid was in the library.
We gained things this way. We learned more too.
We might not have learned as quickly because there were more steps to the process –
But we learned alright.

We had dictionaries and almanacs. We had encyclopedias and directories, guidebooks and handbooks.
We had indexes and textbooks. If you wanted to know more, then you had to work for more.
These days, we live in a point and click society.
Yes, I am the person on the phone who screams at the automated system for a live agent.
Or, with my face beet-red out of frustration because I pushed 9 several times for customer service, I am the guy shouting at the automated system, “CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!”
I remember a time when you’d walk into a place like a supermarket or any shop for that matter. You would pick up your things. You’d go to the cash register.
You’d wait on line and then you’d pay and you’d leave.
Not anymore,
Now, you have to tell them your phone number, email address, blood type, political affiliation and so on.
Meanwhile, for the life of me, all I’m thinking is that I really just want to buy my things and leave. There’s almost always a young, snarky cashier explaining how they have mailing lists and coupons and all that jazz.

I come from a time that happened before touch-tone phones. We had rotary dials.
We had nice things though.
We really did.
We had our first video camera which was big. I don’t mean big as in huge because this was “the thing” to have.
No, I mean big as in camcorders were these huge, shoulder hung machines with big VHS tapes in them.
I remember our first VCR.
I remember our first microwave oven. I remember the ease of things and how technology helped make things easier for everyone; as if to say “look at this brand new thing.”

I also remember The Old Man and Mom telling me, “Don’t sit so close to the television. You’re gonna go blind.”
Or as The Old Man would tell me, “Stop watching television! It’s going to turn your mind into mush.”
Then he’d point to the door. “Now, get outside!”

Sometimes, I think The Old Man would say this just because he wanted me to leave the room so he could watch his shows without listening to me talk.

I had a black and white television.
I had a little one in my room. Only, the reception was terrible. This was way before cable television. This was when televisions had antennas which you’d have to move around to get better reception. Sometimes, you’d have to move your body so the antennas could pick up better reception.
We had no remotes. In fact, as a kid and the youngest in my family, I was the remote.
“Go change the channel!”
“Lower the volume.”
“Raise the volume.”
“Go back to that channel.”
“No, not that one. The one before it . . .”
“That’s it. Good, now go sit down. You’re blocking the television.”

These are real things that were said during the time before remote controls.
I laugh about this.
I smile as I write this because I can recall listening to my parents tell me about the technology from their day.
And me, with my smart-ass sense of humor would think, “Well, don’t blame me for being born in the stone age.”

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say.
If this is so, then complacency must be the mother of all laziness.

Either way, I can see how all of these hurried rushes to advance or improve have left us with a few oversights.
I think we got more than we bargained for.
I think we missed something here.
I think that while our intention was to make things simple; the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

I agree with author G. Michael Hopf when he said, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

I understand the cyclical nature of this.
I understand that life is cyclical.
And we can be lazy.
Very easily.
We can lose ourselves in the search of good times or easy times. When we find them, we can often forget the suffering it took to build our perfect little empires.

There are some people who will never know the struggle of things like having to learn from the ground up without simplified tools to make their jobs easier.
There are people who forgot themselves and fell back down to the bottom of the so-called corporate food chain and now, they’re at the bottom, swimming with the sharks they used as stepping stones. Only now, the sharks are not beneath them. No.
Now the sharks are hungry and they have sharp teeth too,
There are times when we work hard to accomplish something and then, finally, we do. We get through the door. We work so hard to get so far and often, people forget the trails they went through. They forget the pain. They forget the hours of dedication it took for them to reach their goal. Or, maybe they got lazy. Maybe they forget their personal training skills, like exercise or healthy dieting. Maybe they forget the necessity or emotional fitness and need  for a strong sense of mental fitness.

Some people climb so high on the corporate tower, they forget that they were once the little guys too. They had bad supervisors. Or even to scale this down, there are people who were used like a remote and told to go here or there.
They remember the degradation of this but ah, to the victor goes the spoils. That’s the key word – the spoils, as in spoiled, as in lost meat that went bad because we forgot what it takes to properly care for ourselves. 

I have forgotten myself on more than one occasion. I have allowed myself to slack off or be lazy.
I have allowed myself to be both professionally and educationally lazy.
I have slacked off on my own self-importance. I’ve lost weight and gained the weight back.
I’ve gone up and down with more thangs than I can count.
I’ve been told to “Watch out” by doctors but once the threat was gone, I forgot all about the landmines that I dodged and the near-misses. I never remember to take all the meds once I start to feel better.
So, what’s the point of all this?
We have to remember where we came from and why we are here.

I don’t mind the progress of our technology.
In fact, I’m using it right now.
I don’t mind technology at all.
I think it’s incredible.
I think it’s intimidating at times and I’m pretty sure there’s a kid out there who watches me try to figure out my cell phone as I make the same face my Old Man did when he saw his first remote control. 

I might not know about the easiness of programs or how to make spreadsheets quickly.
Although I’ve given PowerPoint exercises, I’m not a PowerPoint person.
I never wrote a college paper.
I never took a computer class, which maybe I should.

I took a typing class in junior high school though.
A lot of good this did . . .
I don’t remember this much.
I don’t think my typing skills are my strong suit – and neither is my penmanship.
Or spelling, I am an editor’s nightmare . . .

I know what hard times are.
I know what good times are.
In full circle, I understand the challenges that come when soft times come along and make for hard occasions.
This happens, once more, like a cycle of forgetfulness.

I understand the cycles of mental health as well.
I get this.
I get why people forget to take their medication once they start to feel better.
I understand why people turn the lights out after they’ve paid the electric bill.
But when money is good – the lights are back on.
I can see why we buy the extra steaks or the seafood towers – and trust me, if you’ve never seen a seafood tower and if lobster and shrimp, crabmeat, oysters are your thing – you need to see a good seafood tower and eat this before you die.

I can see how all of the high-priced, first class, or executive business class can make one forget about driving in a beat-up old car that you started out with. I am one who has been in both coach and executive class.
I have to say, flying across the country in executive class . . .
it really doesn’t suck.

I can also see how we forget ourselves and how we can easily become accustomed to the easiness of life. 

Well, guess what – life is not easy.
It’s supposed to be hard.
Homework and schoolwork and difficult subjects are supposed to be hard.
Working for something so worthwhile is supposed to be a challenge; this way you learn valuable lessons.
One lesson above all is this: Never forget what it took to get you to where you are now.
Don’t relapse into old behaviors.

Once you’ve improved and advanced or once you’ve graduated from one place to the next, gather your resources and keep them up to date.
Never forget the old math skills that you used before you had a calculator because it’s easy to forget your math skills this way. One day, but hopefully not, times will become hard again and if you’ve forgotten what it took to get through your hard equations, the softness of your life will panic.
You’ll panic because you lost your training. You lost your skills and, humbly, you fell from grace without the abilities you once had when you graciously rose to the top. 

I came from a humble background.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of things.
I have to remember this.
I have to remember what it took for me to reach my level.
I have to remember what brought me to the dance in the first place.

Either way, I could dig the fascination of us being in my old childhood home.
I can think of us in the den, watching shows like All In The Family.
We had a big T.V. but it’s nothing like the big flatscreens we have now.

Somehow, I don’t think The Old Man would kick us out if you were there with me.
No, he’d like you.
He’d laugh with you too.
If you didn’t laugh, The Old Man would do something to make you laugh.

Then he’d ask if you want to get some food.
The Old Man loved food.
He would have loved the seafood tower too only he was allergic to shellfish.
He’d have liked the display though.

I suppose the world has taken off to a new level.
This is not all bad.
It’s not all hard or soft. It just “is,” if you know what I mean.
I think I’d like to see more togetherness though. More outdoors stuff. Less video games or cell phone things.

Or, I think I’d like another trip to a place called Bobby Rubino’s.
The chain is gone now.
The Old Man loved that place. He loved the ribs.
He loved the prime rib too.
This was a simple place that helped him endure hard times, which we all go through.

I wish we could go.
The Old Man would take us –
With a happy and excited face, he’d ask, “Do you like ribs?”
Because he’d want to make times easier for you.
He’d pay too
On one condition –
You have to eat everything on your plate.
Somehow . . . .
If we had the chance, I don’t think we’d let him down on this one.

Do you?

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