Flippin’ The F

REMEMBER YOUR FIRST COMING OF AGE? That time that’s pretty much filled with excitement and terror and rites of passage. Remember puberty, your voice finally changing, and all those Firsts?

In a feeble attempt to establish credibility, let me point out that I have a degree in sociology with a focus on adolescence, and 30 or so years of working with teenagers. I also have 44 years of experience trying to realize that I’m not a teenager anymore.

One of my old textbooks, Arnold van Gennep’s book, The Rites of Passage, he explains, “I propose to call the rites of separation from a previous world, preliminal rites; those executed during the transitional stage liminal (or threshold rites); and the ceremonies of incorporation into the new world postliminal rites.”

For example, around 14 or so, we begin to long ardently for independence—our own transportation—to come and go as we please. Call this “the rite of separation from a previous world.”

None to soon we get a driver’s manual, probably the most diligently studied textbook in school history and we take Driver’s Ed: “transitional stage liminal (or threshold rites).”

Finally the day comes that we get our license and Dad hands us the keys: “the ceremonies of incorporation into the new world postliminal rites.”

If you’re a faithful reader of About Pops, you know that one of my favorite story genres is bildungsroman (coming-of-age stories). You also know that I like to talk about the age of nearing retirement as my second-coming-age. If you’re bored and want to read more about that, here are links to a couple of posts I’ve made on the subject.


While I am not yet retired, and in fact, I can’t even see retirement from where I am, still I can see I’m in the that preliminal rites stage of separation from a previous world.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great job and I get to work with some amazingly creative and energetic young adults, but I do look forward to the weekends and Monday morning often comes to soon. Maybe it’s Nature’s way of preparing me for the time when I will not get up and go to work M-F. Maybe I’m entering the threshold rites stage.

Last Friday morning I was going through the morning ritual: make my toast for peanut butter and strawberry fruit-only spread, start the coffee, take my daily tablespoon of olive oil, and so on.

I commented to My Amazing-Missus, “I LOVE flippin’ the F.”

“I beg your pardon?” she lovingly replied.

All of my peers these days take a cocktail of pills: baby aspirin, fish oil capsule, multi-vitamin, vitamin D, and assorted other pills for heart health, arthritis, etc. We all put them in a little box divided by the days of the week. On the lid of each section is the letter of the appropriate day. When I get to flip the lid on the F I know I get to wear jeans to work and that the weekend looms.

The second-coming-of-age isn’t as exciting as the first, but it is something. Someday instead of getting a driver’s license I’ll get a metaphorical Gold Watch. I wonder if after the “ceremony” it will be as fun to flip the S, the M, the T, the W, the other T, and the other S has it has been to flip the F?

Life As Story

FOR A WHILE NOW I've been working on a project called, "Storyline." It's the brainchild of Donald Miller. The project is about creating a life-planning process based on the elements of story and was developed combining the principles of screenwriting and storytelling.

I'm a big fan of Donald Miller--for several reasons: one, he is an excellent writer; two, his ideas of looking at our lives as STORY makes a lot of sense to me.

I love bildungsroman. Some of our most timeless and treasured stories are bildungsroman. You know the ones:

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bildungsroman are stories where the protagonist "comes of age." They're about maturity, passage, and developing morally and psychologically. This word, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, is a German word meaning "novel of education" or "novel of formation."

For us Baby Boomers, movies like The Graduate, To Kill A Mockingbird and Rebel Without a Cause are examples of this literary genre. Some of my other favorite coming-of-age films include: Dead Poets Society, The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, and most recently Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

We all have a personal story, we're living it, and sort of making it up as we go. No doubt you remember a version of your first coming-of-age. Maybe it centered around puberty, or a religious event, or a rite of passage like the new found freedom of a driver's license. Maybe it came through a trial of some kind: losing someone close to you, a loss of innocence--something that required you to grow up fast.

Today there is a state or condition called "teen angst". I don't know if it existed when I was a teen or not. If it did, maybe it didn't have a name. In a way, this "second coming of age", as I like to call this time of impending "retirement", has some of the dread, uncertainty, and anxiety that the first coming of age had.

Quote by Donald Miller. Image from Pinterest.

Quote by Donald Miller. Image from Pinterest.

Back to Donald Miller and this whole life as story point of view--Donald wrote a memoir of sorts called, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. Here's one of my favorite lines from the book:

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”
― Donald Miller

He's right; you know. Recently I found an Airstream that would have been a great fit for us. It was Used, but in great condition at a fair price. I disguised my fear of doing the deal behind a curtain of being wise and discretionary and responsible. A crock of BS, as the kids say. I was just afraid. Not that this is an example of a life-altering moment, but it is real. 

There's so much more I want to say on this topic, but I'm getting close to the "optimum word count for a good blog post." So I'll sign off with final words from Donald Miller from the same book:

“Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.” ― Donald Miller

P.S.: I highly recommend you watch the movie, Stranger Than Fiction, with Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman. It's a great movie about life-as-story.

Buckle Up Buttercup!

Remember back in the day when wearing seat belts was optional? 

In fact, for us "men of a certain age", the cars we rode in and learned to drive during our first coming-of-age didn't even have seat belts. Now we strap the grand-girls into devices that remind me of something I once saw some cosmonaut in on his way to outer space. The cool thing is, the girls climb into these seats like that's what normal kids do. Of course they have something else we didn't have as kids--miniature TV screens playing their favorite programs.

Here's my point: for them it's just automatic; routine. The car doors open, they climb in. Dad straps one in and mom the other. Big sister yells at little sister because she has grabbed big sister's "special" (fill in the blank): toy, notebook, doll, book... The doors are closed. We stand waving and sighing as the tail-lights of the mini van disappear in the distance. We miss them already, but nap time is calling.

I recall the shift when cars not only came standard with seat belts, but with a warning light and a persistent dinging sound to remind us to buckle up. It didn't work. Hard-core seat belt haters figured out how to disable the warning signs.

The government in their relentless effort to save us from ourselves, put together a catchy campaign to encourage us all to adopt seat belts as normal operating procedure. Remember the little song that was a part of the campaign:

It didn't catch on in a behavior modification kind of way. So laws were passed and tickets were issued. You know the slogan: "Click It or Ticket."

A good thing happened for me once I adopted a Click-It lifestyle. My life got simpler. You see there was a time when it was a decision-making quagmire every time I got into the car. Should I buckle up or not? I'm only going to the grocery store! As if wrecks never happen between your home and the grocery store. I'm not getting on a highway, so my top speed will be 38 or so. How much damage can I do at that speed?

Back to my point. The grand-girls don't have that quandary. They just climb in and buckle up. The don't have to waste brain power on that decision. They can save that mental energy for arguing important issues like who had the doll first.

I'm reading a book right now called, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey. It is a summary of the work and life habits of famous artists, musicians, writers, philosophers, etc. gathered from their journals and letters. What I'm learning is that rituals, routines and habits don't necessarily make life boring and predictable, but can in fact free us to be more creative. Sort of like when I stopped wasting time over that silly seat belt decision.

Now, I just buckle up and save my decision-making powers for important, life-decisions, like: should I stop at Starbucks®, drive-thru or go-in, banana-walnut bread or not, eat it all or save half for later, cash or credit, if I use credit what do I say to my Amazing-Missus when she sees the charge come through and deduces that my total charge is exactly the cost of a tall dark roast, black, and a piece of delicious, carb-laden, banana-walnut bread?

Coming Of Age in 1969

It may have been "twenty years ago today,
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play,"

But 45 years ago today, the band was in Washington D.C. marching in the presidential inauguration parade of Richard M. Nixon.


I had turned eighteen just a few days earlier, a senior in high school, and playing drums in an all-city marching band from Tulsa. I expected to be wide-eyed with wonder at being in the Nation's capital, and playing "Oklahoma!" for our newly-elected president. What grabbed my attention though and held me spellbound were the anti-war, anti-establishment protests dominating the scene.

It is not hyperbole to say that it all oozed in to my psyche. In retrospect it is not surprising either. Just a few days before the inauguration, I had registered for the draft (the Selective Service). Ironically, I could not register to vote, because, although at that time an eighteen year-old was old enough for armed service, he was not ______________ enough (fill in the blank: mature, intelligent, responsible, informed, serious-minded, etc.) to vote. Already at just eighteen that kind of stuff became a seed of suspicion toward the "establishment" for me. Of course the reigning zeitgeist made for very fertile ground for those varieties of seeds. 

In the months before all of this, my "life" as a drummer had taken me to Detroit, Montreal, Quebec and New York City where protests and riots were everywhere. A Time magazine reporter writing about the era said, "America seems to be verging toward a national nervous breakdown."

I can remember on one of those trips sneaking out of the hotel where our group was staying in NYC and going to Greenwich Village to hang out in the music clubs, hoping to see the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and so on. I didn't, but the experience was heady; in a drug-free way (at least for me).

1969 still seems larger than life to me: The Jets (with Joe Namath) won the Super Bowl, The Beatles gave their last live performance (on the roof of the Abbey Road Studios)*, the secret bombing of Cambodia, student takeover at Harvard, The Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, July 8 the first withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, Easy Rider released, Edward Kennedy drives off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, The first man of the moon, the Manson "family" killed actress Sharon Tate who was eight months pregnant with Roman Polanski's child, Woodstock: 3 days of Peace and Music, The Brady Bunch premiered, the Amazing Mets won the World Series, Sesame Street made its debut on PBS, the first draft lottery since WWII was held.

Not that it ranks with these noteworthy events, but in May of 1969, I graduated from high school and in the Fall started school at Oklahoma Baptist University. Why OBU? Apparently they had a dearth of drummers and offered me a percussion scholarship.

At OBU, I was a part of the weirdly-worldly (not an official designation, in fact, I just now made that up). It wasn't hard to qualify for this label; OBU at the time was in a bit of a bubble: intentionally and strategically, protected from the rising counterculture. I guess it was because I had the privilege of travel and experience, plus the overrated mystique of being a drummer in a rock and roll band, or maybe it was all in my head. I had already been a part of a few minor protests and moratoriums: seeking the change of the voting age from 21 to 18, some anti-war stuff, etc.

There was one though: it seemed profound at the time. 

The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds on unarmed college students on Monday, May 4, 1970, killing four students and wounding nine others.

As a result, a student protests were organized across the country. Hundreds of universities cancelled classes and locked down buildings. I was proud to be a part of the event at OBU. But as we sat through the day and overnight on the OBU Oval, wearing black arm bands, discussing the state of our country and world, and wondering whether we could make a difference, it all seemed a little silly and isolated. Maybe we did make some difference though. At least I was different. I wanted to DO something. I still do.

Don't skip this part. Back then, no doubt I had delusions of importance and occasional altruism. The fact is I was pretty self-absorbed; oh, not in a Justin Bieber brand of narcissism kind of way, but in a way that dictates at least this: for all of those who knew me back then, please forgive me. Maybe the Washington Elite was right--maybe I was too stupid to vote at 18. The dean of students who encouraged me not to return to OBU for my sophomore year certainly would agree with that.

My intent here is not to romanticize those days, but if I have, well... After all this was my first Coming-of-Age. It should be a bit romantic, right?

*Have you heard the rumor? Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are re-uniting at the Grammy Awards this year.