Riddle me this Batman. What is the difference between an angry young and a grumpy old man. Come on guys, it's not a difficult question. Think back to when you were seventeen years old and you found yourself spouting off about any old crap that pissed you off. And let's face it, when you are seventeen just about everything in the known universe pisses you off. Bad songs. Show business smiles. Lame haircuts. Feeble-minded politicians. Rules. Fools. Schools. The cool and the uncool.
We formed our punk bands and wrote our fanzines. We sloganeered, defamed and desecrated. We marched in demonstrations and fought with cops. We got drunk and puked in alleys and bent prescriptions within an inch of their tired sad lives. We went to parties and argued with anyone too stupid to flee the juggernaut of our rage.
The thing is, when you are seventeen, you are still vaguely attractive and there is at least a hope in the back of that reptile brain of yours that you will be going home at the end of the night with somebody. Anybody. They don't have to be pretty or even hygienic. This is why God invented the condom.
The grumpy old man has no such luxury. Suddenly, he has looked in the mirror and become that silly old fuck who once fought in the war for people like him. The hope that springs eternal has finally dried up completely. The well is not only dry; it makes the Sahara look coolly inviting. But the mind is still willing even if the flesh is less so. He cruises the bars and provides much comic relief for all the bright young things. The cycling trends of fashion have once again fooled him into believing that he is relevant. The young just smell death in the air and wonder who had the bad taste to bring their Dad along for the ride.
Despondent at this lacklustre response, he dips into the wine lakes of the world but lacks the courage to go the whole hog and drown his damn sorrows. The grumpy old man has learnt that death is actually inevitable and may not be all it is cracked up to be in the "Live Fast" literature of the good old daze. The wisdom that comes of age is frequently unwelcome to those who find it.
Worst of all, the dude is going home alone because that is where the grumpy old man lives as he dreams. No one is even going to throw a sympathy fuck his way unless he's buying and not even the grumpiest of grumpy old men wants to go there. That would be salt in the wounds big time. Besides, the credit card is already maxed out on baldness cures and bar tabs. The grumpy old man prays for sleep and a stronger bladder.
Don't bother him with e-mailed ads for penile enhancement or cheap Viagra. The last thing he needs is a fucking erection. All dressed up and nowhere to go? No thank you. My friends, that unfortunate turn of events will turn even the most pacific of personalities into Grumpsville Central.
Luckily, this is not my current problem -- though, I have been there, friends. I have seen the yellow lights go down the Mississippi. I have heard the chimes at midnight. I've seen the shit hit the fan and a whole roll of pennies drop. I have seen the middle age spread and the brewers droop and it has not been pretty. I've seen the hairline recede on a one-way tide. The ice age is indeed coming and the world is at an end. I've seen it writ large in the bad horoscopes of the lowliest of tabloids. Been there, done that. Thrown up all over it. Can't advocate, recommend or prescribe.
But today, I am in love. Yes, you heard it here first. So you can forget about grumpiness. Forget the impotent ravings of a man past his sell-by. Today I am renewed. Today, the spring flowers blossom. Yes, my friends, today I am an angry young man once again. Bring forth your huddled windmills, your piss poor excuses for dragons and your tired old ways that I may tilt against them. I'm gonna kick their arses.
But before I do, there's a rumour going around that I have to clear up. Despite everything you may have heard, I'm not psychic. Just because I know the end of movies I haven't seen or the chord changes to songs on just released albums doesn't infer paranormal activities. Nor does my uncanny ability to spot a politician's pratfall well before the event or predict the latest celebrity outing or break up months before Who Weekly.
An ex-girlfriend was convinced otherwise. She couldn't understand how I was able to spot the absolute bloody obvious. She threw out lines and verbal clues as though she thought that they were going to sail right over my head and then looked for divine intervention when they didn't. It wasn't as if the hints and the love bites were not plain enough even to my fading eyesight. Forget the noir clichés and don't bother the detectives. It comes to something when you're vouched with supernatural powers just because you are not a frigging moron. This is the modern world. The witch-hunts begin next Tuesday.
Still, no sane person would want anyone to know that he or she was psychic. If you're psychic, no one is going to want to have a relationship with you. Everybody needs a bit of free headspace. Even if you have no desire to commit adultery, perjury or some good old-fashioned bigamy, it is a basic human need to maintain a tiny realm of possibility. This is the tiny well of hope that divides the angry from the grumpy.
I might not be psychic but I swear my record collection is. I dump Lucinda Williams on the compact disc player's feeble excuse for a turntable. (Look: laying a disc in a tray doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?) She's off and running with a tale about car wheels on a gravel road. She lies back and goes into graphic detail about having a wank out of loneliness and longing. When the phone rings back in the real world, you have to expect trouble on the line.
"I'm seeing someone else."
"How do you know?"
Rather than play the psychic card, I have to tell the truth. You see, even the most cursory glance will reveal that I wasn't born yesterday. I may be a raving idiot but I haven't just got off the boat. I also have one or two Clash CDs in my collection.
But I digress (or maybe not if you're paying any kind of attention at all). That was then and this is now. I've got some mix CD pummelling Pete Townsend power chords in my general direction. Mr D tells me that the new boss is much like the old. The phone starts ringing and I shoot an accusatory glance at the stereo. If I'd been bitten by a radioactive spider, my senses would be tingling but I live in Australia. If any of our motherfucking arachnids bite us, we wont be sensing nothing.
It's a council job, with me pointing the camera at the mayor as she delivers a pep talk to the youth of the local area. If kids want services, they have to go out and fight for them. She launches into tales of the good old days when she and her radical feminist, anti war, anti apartheid brothers and sisters fought the law and they won. Around the room, old lefties dab tears from their eyes. They light candles and spontaneously burst into a quick refrain of "The International". The kids are confused. They didn't know it was Christmas time at all. That's what's wrong with the kids these days. We fought in the revolution for people like them and how do they repay us? They buy Britney Spears records.
A familiar line.
Or, to quote the Ramones, second verse same as the first. I want to go out and see The Fireflys play down the road at the Marquee. It's not the real Marquee. It's just a copyright infringement waiting to happen. I've seen the guitarist play and on this fragmentary evidence assume the band must be beyond cool. I squeeze into leather boots and leather coat. Alas, all my fellow giggers are looking somewhat worse for wear courtesy of outrageous alcohol consumption. I walk through the gate in time to see real-life projectile vomiting that makes The Exorcist look like a tea party. I take a seat and get myself entertained. I'm not going out by myself. There is something seedy about a man of my advancing years prowling a night club full of teenage vixens.
I'm neither angry nor grumpy. Life is too fucking funny.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Short claims he has not only heard the chimes at midnight, he has stayed up past dawn to hear them again the next time around. Before being old enough to drink, he haunted Sydney's beer barns with proto punk band Filth. Later on, he gained some notoriety in the UK with the band Blood and Roses when he was described as everything from a "shambolic messiah" to a "long, tall streak of piss". He has been a DJ and worked in a sex shop, the civil service and as Musical Director for a theatre company. He claims the only thing ever to surprise him was seeing his thirtieth birthday. Currently, he lives in exile in the penal colonies of New South Wales with his son, Billy. There he has makes low-budget films such as Makers of the Dead, Kings' Cross Vampires, Lone Gunman Theory and Bad Animals. He is also working on a novel entitled "Red".