Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 30, 2008

Confessions of an Aging Boho

But first another confession: This marks at least my third blog post in which the word “confession” is part of the title – a sure sign that I’m a St. Augustine-aping, whiny, guilt-ridden, post-Catholic, pseudo-intellectual hack trying to catch people’s attention with self-deprecating humor and imitation, half-assed, lazy religious trickery. Nevertheless, here goes…

I went out, alone, for pricy coffee and and a delicious torte after a church committee meeting the other night. I seem to need to do something like this about once a month: fancy coffee and a hipster newspaper, or popping into a blues bar, or walking down to the corner tavern (which for me is about a half-mile away, barely walkable with my arthritic knee). I never plan when I will make these little bohemian excursions — where I act like a carefree single man, or an irresponsible married man, or a down-on-his-luck divorced man who for some stupid reason reveres reckless poets and raging drunks like Charles Bukowski and Arthur Rimbaud. In fact, planning would be in direct opposition to the spontaneity I so desperately need when the urge to excurge hits. (Excurge? Excurse? Play hooky from my boring life? Whatever… you get it.) Plus, I’m multiply disabled in the medulla adultada, that part of the brain where for most people planning occurs.

But my secret fear is that I look out of place when I’m out playing at that bohemian lifestyle. I have no tattoos. No hardware hanging from my appendages. I don’t wear funky hats much anymore. I mostly wear off-brand polo shirts. My jeans are not ripped, nor written-upon, and I don’t wear all black. I do own a classic old leather bomber jacket — one which I can picture the hero of Kerouac’s On the Road  wearing as he immerses himself in some seedy underworld of tenement apartments and broken-down, landlocked houseboats. But the zipper on that jacket is busted, so I often opt for something warmer and more sensible, if less cool.

Out at the cafe the other night, my main clue that I’m getting too old for this sh*t was that I couldn’t see anything in the dim, atmospheric lighting. I had to use my phone as a lame-ass itty-bitty book light, in order to read The Onion, skipping over articles about rock bands I’ve barely heard of, and occasionally puzzling over references aimed squarely at college-age kids. (I still “get” most of the jokes, though I may not think they’re as funny as the youngsters do…) And I cursed under my breath like a crotchety old man when my twenty-year-old waitress moved at the speed of molasses in getting me the check. Doesn’t anybody have pride in their work anymore? (Yeah, I sound like my parents now. It sucks.)

For last month’s excursion, I admit I pushed the outside of the envelope a bit, as I went out late on a Friday, after Sue and Graham were asleep, to play craps on the gambling boats all the way over in Gary, Indiana. I didn’t leave a note. I didn’t ask “permission” (God forbid). And I knew full-well that my father struggled most of his adult life with a gambling addiction, much injuring my mother and yet denying he had a problem every step of the way. But dammit, it was Friday night, I was wide awake and wired, and I wanted to do it. I’d been thinking about it for months, in fact. So I did it. I even won $130. But Sue called me at about 1:30 or 2am, as I was driving back, wondering where I was. When I told the truth she was rightfully ticked off.

So now I have to make confession, to be reconciled to my wife and my life and my boring middle-class, middle-aged existence. Until next month, when I will fall off the wagon again and limp my way through a game of Ultimate Frisbee with kids half my age after church. In a few minutes I will go off to my full-time job, and when I come home tonight I will cook a well-balanced dinner and probably watch Night In the Museum with my family. Between now and Sunday, I have to mow the lawn, the ultimate symbol that I’m no longer bohemian. (Do they even have lawns in Bohemia, or do they just cover their yards with skate parks and cheeky paintings of Elvis on black velvet?)

Plus I probably need to spend some time this weekend looking for work again, as the school I’m teaching at is suspending operations next year due to financial difficulties. Well, at least that’s ONE way I’m still living like a twenty-something bohemian and wanna-be. I have no real CAREER to speak of…



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