In The Third Place

I just finished reading a story titled, Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal, Jim” by Norman Maclean, the man that wrote, A River Runs Through It. The story tells of a contentious relationship between two guys who work together as lumberjacks. The older one is pretty much a career lumberjack, the other, the narrator of the story, is a student who works in the logging camp during the summer. The older seems intent on breaking the younger one by wearing him down, but the younger is determined to stick it out until his set quitting date. Day after day they each worked the end of a saw without speaking. At the end of a particularly long hard day:

After Jim disappeared for camp. I sat down on a log and waited for the sweat to dry. It still took me a while before I felt steady enough to reach for my Woolrich shirt and pick up my lunch pail and head for camp, but now I knew I could last until I had said I would quit, which sometimes can be a wonderful thing.

One day toward the end of August he spoke out of the silence and said, “When are you going to quit?” It sounded as if someone had broken the silence before it was broken by Genesis.

I answered and fortunately I had an already-made answer; I said, “As I told you, the Labor Day weekend.”

This blog, About POPS is written by a guy, “Pops”, who is now 65. It’s theme is about living the life of a “man of a certain age,” or what I like to call my Second-Coming of Age. Now that I’ve reached that chronological point when, in American culture we think retirement, I’m asked that question from time to time: “When are you going to quit?”

I assume that those who ask are talking about vocation, cutting down trees so to speak. The answer is, I don’t know; yet. I have the privilege of working in a role, for an organization, and with people that I enjoy a great deal. And while there are likely some in that company who will feel some jubilation when I do retire, for the most part, at least to my face, people seem to enjoy having me around or at least tolerate me; something I struggle with myself from time to time.

The truth is though, as the end of the workaday world draws near, I find myself more easily frustrated and sometimes discouraged. Sometime my thoughts run like this:

I could fix that if I still had time.
What does it matter now?
Let the youngsters worry about that.
I won’t have to put up with that crap much longer.
Is there still time to leave this in good hands.

I love this line from Maclean’s short story: “It still took me a while before I felt steady enough to reach for my Woolrich shirt and pick up my lunch pail and head for camp, but now I knew I could last until I had said I would quit, which sometimes can be a wonderful thing.

Mostly now I try to imagine what my place in life will look like after the job is done.

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of “The Third Place”. She explained that while we have home and work, we need a third place. I first thought of the neighborhood bar on the long-running TV show Cheers, a place where “everybody knows your name”. For some people their third place might be church or Lion’s Club. I’ve been observing the behaviors of old geezers some. Apparently, McDonalds or any place that has cheap coffee can be a third place. Somewhere to hang out, piss and moan about politics, tell stories, and remember the past better than it was.

Pops' Amazing-Missus at our Third Place

Pops' Amazing-Missus at our Third Place

Starbucks, unofficially proclaimed themselves the third place several years ago. And really it is for a lot of people. In a recent article in Wired magazine about Starbucks opening a place in Italy, the home of the latte, the reference came up. The writer, in trying to explain why Starbucks might actually succeed in the birthplace of espresso struck a resonant chord with me.

It’s because Starbucks performs such a service for its customers, because it essentially provides a vessel into which they can pour themselves and then buy themselves back, that Starbucks has been so successful. While its coffee may actually be better than most Italians are prepared to give it credit for, it’s nonetheless likely that this coffee is incidental to the paying for the privilege of going somewhere in public where we’re able to relax and be who we think we are. Thanks to its reputation for furnishing its patrons with “atmosphere,” Starbucks has become a global “third place” away from work and home. — From Wired Magazine.

When will I “quit” the 9 to 5? Maybe not until I find a place “to relax and be who I think I am.” In other words, how can I quit my second place (work), until I have a legitimate third place?

For while my Amazing-Missus is truly amazing, if I don’t find a third place after leaving my second place, she might become so weary having me around the first place that she’ll find me a fourth place.

And they lived happily ever after.

WHEN ARE YOU REALLY AN (A SENIOR) ADULT?

In 1964, Mick Jagger wailed, “Yes time, time, time is on my side, yes it is!” in a song The Rolling Stones covered called, “Time Is On My Side”. And at 14 years-old; that’s how I felt.

Today, as I turn the Big Six-Five; I have different feelings.

Back in college, I wrote a paper called “Adolescence: A Social Construct”. As I was thinking about adulthood and more specifically, “senior adulthood”, that paper came to mind. It dawned on me: don’t despair old man, you’re not being put out to pasture, this is nothing but a social construct (“a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice." —The Dictionary)

There are some points of time in our lives that seem more significant or notable than others: milestones, rites of passage, coming-of-age moments that we really look forward to and celebrate. For new little humans, we mark as important all their “Firsts”: first words, first steps, first tooth, first birthday. From there we sort of jump to things like the first day of school, then kindergarten graduation, complete with a ceremony, “diploma”, and a minature cap and gown.

Before long we’re finishing grade school and life throws us a mean curve ball: puberty and Junior High, and more firsts—first shave, first zit, first kiss, first dance, humiliation, awkwardness and all. Soon though, we get a handle on all of that and get on to the work of establishing our freedom and independence (sort of like when we were two).

From here we can see the adolescent holy grail: the driver’s license. Is it the license that makes Sixteen so “sweet”, or is it another social construct. I think if I could roll back the clock and do it again, I would go back to Sixteen, in the 60s, not now! I would not want to be a 16 year-old in 2016. I wish teens today could know the joy of being a kid without a mobile phone. But I digress, that’s what 65 year-olds do.

Soon we reach the “age of majority” where we are no longer minors. My age group was one of the first to be able to register to vote at 18 as opposed to 21. The main argument was that if we were old enough to be drafted and go to Vietnam, we were old enough to vote. In Oklahoma, in my day, only girls could buy beer at 18. Guys had to be 21. 

High School graduation! This is a big one. In a recent article I read in The Atlantic Magazine, called “When Are You Really An Adult”, the author likened the ceremonial “moving of the tassel” to flipping a switch assuming people move instantly into some form of adulthood.

“In fact, if you think of the transition to “adulthood” as a collection of markers—getting a job, moving away from your parents, getting married, and having kids—for most of history, with the exception of the 1950s and 60s, people did not become adults any kind of predictable way.

Karlee in her Mimi's shoes.

Karlee in her Mimi's shoes.

And yet these are still the venerated markers of adulthood today, and when people take too long to acquire them, or eschew them all together, it becomes a reason to lament that no one is a grown-up. While bemoaning the habits and values of the youths is the eternal right of the olds, many young adults do still feel like kids trying on their parents’ shoes.”

Some of us feel like adults who would love to try on our kids’ shoes. Not that I’m having regrets or have resigned, retired and given up. Not at all.

But, sometimes I feel like I’ve checked the boxes, like I need another passage to look forward to, other than the big one that is. You know, the one that goes through the valley.

This year I resolved to not make new year’s resolutions, but I did make a list of things I plan to do everyday this year. Maybe if I reach my goal, I’ll have a graduation event of some sort. If I do, I’ll invite you to the after-party. We’ll party like it’s 1969!

Oh, here’s my list if you care to join me:

  • Walk
  • Eat properly
  • Pray
  • Laugh hard
  • Love
  • Meditate
  • Stretch
  • Do something good
  • Do something well
  • Read
  • Hug & kiss
  • Turn off the TV sometimes
  • Drink
  • Play
  • Sleep
  • Learn
  • Be amazed

While time may not be on my side, I wouldn’t trade the journey I’ve been on for all the joy and angst and hormones of youth again. Social construct or not, I’m embracing my senior-adultness (sort of).

And now a quote from one of my favorite fellow travelers, a senior herself:

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.” 
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Beyoncé & Me

IF THERE WERE A TOP TEN LIST of people that I am not likely to be confused with, Beyoncé would probably be on the list. However, I do feel a certain kinship with her when it comes to being productive. Well, at least we’re both self-certain in our productivity, well-deserved or not.

Maybe you remember the viral Tweet, “We all have the same 24 hours that Beyoncé has”. The Tweet and its various iterations “took the web by storm in late 2013 as the megastar became the figurehead of not only having it all, but being able to somehow do it all too.” — www.infowetrust.com

One of my favorite books of recent days is called “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey. Here’s a description:

How do creatives – composers, painters, writers, scientists, philosophers – find the time to produce their opus? Mason Currey investigated the rigid Daily Rituals that hundreds of creatives practiced in order to carve out time, every day, to work their craft. Some kept to the same disciplined regimen for decades while others locked in patterns only while working on specific works.

Making the most of our time is daunting. I have a friend who posts and reposts some of the funniest stuff. Recently there was this:

I’m at that awkward stage between birth and death.

Let’s see if we can think of life in smaller, more manageable chunks, say a day at a time. In Currey’s book he uses his research of journals, biographies, letters, etc. to put together a picture of the daily routines of creative, productive people. The info-graphic folks at www.infowetrust.com illustrated it for us. Here’s an example:

So, I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about hobbies and how important it is too have one. Someone commented to me, “It seems like a hobby could be just a big waste of time.” I suppose there is a danger of that, especially if my hobby were, let’s say, watching reruns of “Law & Order”, a pastime I happen to enjoy. That’s a funny word—pastime.


Time is precious, and despite all the advice to “save time”, we really can’t. We have to make the most of it as it comes. The more I’ve looked in to this whole hobby idea, the more I’m convinced that a hobby can be a very good use of our time.

Saturday, for example, we took the Grand-Girls out on a hobby idea I’ve been looking in to. It’s called geocaching. We had a great time for a long time. Before I knew it four hours had passed. It was a wonderful four hours, with three of the most special people in my life. I highly recommend geocaching with your kids or grandkids.

Back to the time topic. Just for the fun of it, maybe you would want to track a few days of your life using Mason’s model. See if you notice some rhythms. Does your daily ritual include an investment in the things that are really important to you? If not, change it. It’s about time. And, just like Beyoncé and me; you have 24 hours every single day.

About Time

RECENTLY MY AMAZING-MISSUS AND I SAW ABOUT TIME, a new film by Richard Curtis. We're big fans of his films. Judging by the fact that we were two of about six people in the theatre, not enough people saw it. I hope you were one of them.

If not, raise your right hand and repeat after me: "I promise I will rent and watch About Time as soon as it's available."
[Note to all the "Pops" out there: the DVD release date of About Time is February 4, 2014. It could be a smart thing to get it and watch it with your significant other(s).]

I am fascinated by time. It's mysterious and precious. It is the basic rhythm of our lives and we need rhythm. Let that little ticker in the center of your chest stop and see what I mean. Check out my post on the autumnal equinox (it's better than it sounds). 

Time is weird. We talk about "saving" time, but we know we can't. Try stuffing a few hours in a piggy bank and you'll find out those hours aren't there when you go back to get them. You can't even get back the time you spent pondering how fast the time goes.

Each year for the past three we've taken our oldest grand-girl, Karlee, to see The Nutcracker. I was looking at the photos I took of her next to the nutcracker at age four and this year at five. I commented that before long she would be able to look him in the eye. And then I thought, "NO! Slow this all down."

Karlee at 3,4 & 5.

Karlee at 3,4 & 5.

We have a friend named Traci. She is originally from Keyes, Oklahoma. Traci is one of those people that when you spend time with them you feel like a better person and that the world is a better place. She has a sort of eternal youthfulness. I think I've figured out why. 

If you're in Keyes, Oklahoma, Traci's hometown, you can jump in the car (or more likely, the pickup), drive an hour, then check your watch. You will find it is the same time as when you left. Really. It's like the hour didn't pass. Maybe Traci did that--a lot.

Saturday, December 21st is the Winter Solstice. If you live, as I do, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the shortest day of the year. Well, that's not exactly right. It will have 24 hours just like all of our other days. It's just that more of those 24 will  be dark than any other day of the year. So if you're a bat or vampire, this is your day.

What makes something timeless--not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion?

To me, many stories are timeless like To Kill A Mockingbird. But I don't know why. Songs like: Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Amazing Grace, and Silent Night are timeless; but why?

I don't need to be timeless, but I do want to make the most of the time. I once told my muse, Kathleen, that one of the words and realities I hate most is squander. Squandering is as ugly as it sounds.

I wouldn't mind living long, but when it comes to death, I agree with Woody Allen: "I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

A couple of years ago, I had a surgical procedure. I guess it was sort of elective--it's not like I had a heart attack or anything. During the surgery, they stopped my heart. I don't know for how long, but it seems to me that I shouldn't have to count that time. Right?

It's kind of like Traci from Keyes. By now, you no doubt have figured that puzzle out. If not, Keyes is out toward the end of the Oklahoma Panhandle. If you drive west from Keyes for about 50 miles you go from the Central Time Zone to the Mountain Time Zone where it is an hour earlier.

From here you can be in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, or Kansas in less than an hour.

From here you can be in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, or Kansas in less than an hour.

Maybe it's just that in places like Keyes, Oklahoma, time moves more slowly. Traci is the only person I know from Keyes, but if folks out there are anything like her, they laugh more, they live in the moment a little more, they don't squander time or friendships.

So Saturday at sunset maybe we'll raise a glass to the Winter Solstice. Do it early though: night is coming fast--literally and proverbially. So let's make a toast to timelessness. And whatever you do, slow down and savor, don't squander.