Some folks still recall, with varying degrees of either chuckles or mockery, an expired nom de plume under which I regularly vented my spleen, exorcised demons, and generally mocked the unending supply of intolerable stupidity and frustration that seems to comprise the daily struggle in this vale of tears we call life. “Mr. Bitch” ranted, at various times, about local food, love, violence, bad drivers, American foreign policy, fear, sex, deadly sins and the burden of existing in a world in which so very many things are so very aggravating. It was cathartic and, given my nature, rather easier than shooting fish in a barrel.
At a recent meeting with the principals of this fine magazine, it was suggested that I resurrect the Mr. Hyde to my…well…there was never any Dr. Jeckyl but that’s beside the point. I seem to have forgotten exactly where I buried the body.
It’s not that there are no provocations – if anything, the number and kind of things that would have caused sputtering, incredulous raving at the sheer myopic brainlessness of both individuals and humanity in general have only multiplied. It simply turns out that another of the things someone wiser than I once said is true: As one gets older, the number of issues worth fighting over shrinks.
It’s not that I have no passion left, it’s that I’ve become far more discriminating about where I spend it. Sure, Sarah Palin still makes me roll my eyes and wonder what sort of epidemic of imbecility infects a few million Americans, but it bothers me far more that Bacardi rum is no longer stocked at Carrefour, Save ‘n Safe or the RT Mart.
This change – call it crankopause – is certainly at least partly due to age (I’ll not insult the word by calling it maturity). When I arrived in Taiwan, my beard was black and there were only a few stray grey hairs on my head. It drove me almost to the point of murder trying to get my brain around the cultural necessity on this island to maintain social harmony by telling people what they want to hear (as opposed to the truth). As one hardwired to say what I really think (and often without waiting to be asked) this caused no end of trouble. Now, however, I just shrug and go on about my business. Getting twisted up over things you cannot change is like smashing yourself in the face with a ball peen hammer – it feels better when you stop.
Aging is a strange process. I look in the mirror and see the same young man who has for years been looking back at me. More recently, however, that fellow in the mirror has taken to asking, “What the hell happened to you?” I can only shrug my shoulders as we say to each other in perfect unison, “I have no idea. It just happened.”
I’m a little slower off the dribble and can no longer get above the rim; the long pots still find the pocket occasionally but I haven’t had a break over 50 in almost a decade. I used to play tennis. Went out with a neighbour to hit a few balls and was surprised to find I still have a pretty stroke but there’s no way in hell’s half acre I’m chasing balls from alley to alley. The ankles and knees have lost their spring, and the lungs register very serious objections with rather frightening impatience.
I no longer have any interest in hitting the clubs, spending a wild weekend in Kenting, or knowing where the hip kids are going to be on Saturday night. If they aren’t in my living room, I don’t care.
And, for better or worse, the well from which I drew the venom necessary to power Mr. Bitch has almost run dry…or perhaps not dry, I just no longer keep mah bucket handy at all times.
In response to the suggestion that I crank out a fresh Mr. Bitch, I spent more than a few hours chasing various threads down pointless cul de sacs. I simply couldn’t spare the vinegar for things that only amount, these days, to mild annoyance.
I do, however, have a shovel and a vague idea of the general location of the grave. I am not at all averse to digging up those old bones and hooking the corpse up for a Dr. Frankenstein style lightning strike to jolt some juice into a righteous screed should the stars so align. A good friend – one far too smart to believe such utter shite – recently tried to argue for homeopathy. THAT is the sort of thing that can wake the dead (while offering absolutely no assistance to the living). So, fair warning: I may have mellowed and moved out to the mountains, but the ghost of Mr. Bitch still lurks…and waits.