Then & Now

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Suggested Audio Jukebox:

[1] Royal House “Yeah Buddy”
[2] Cyndi Lauper “Money Changes Everything”
[3] Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”
[4] Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell & Charles Gray “Time Warp”
[5] Bruce Springsteen “Glory Days”

 

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Time waits for no man. It seems like only yesterday that I begun my tenure as Keeper of The Crimson Quill yet it is now over three years since I spread my artistic wings for the first time and so much has changed during that time. When I look in the mirror, the same person still looks back at me, albeit a tad looser at the seams. Yet I’m almost indistinguishable from the guy who had virtually no belief in his ability and suspected that life had long since passed him by. it’s true what they say about life moving faster, the older you get. Often an entire week will pass in a flash and I barely feel that I’ve felt the earth beneath my feet. Such is pretty much par for the course as you proceed into your forties and I’m assured that the brakes will further fail as I hurtle towards my next milestone. I know I’m not alone here as we all struggle to keep up with the breakneck pace of everyday life and there’s little we can do to halt its relentless march. However, every now and then, things slow down for momentarily and we are able to take stock before the wheels are set back in motion. This is one such instance.

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So I’ve been thinking quite a lot about then and now and have decided to cast my eye over just a few things that have changed considerably since my life entered warp speed. It may sometimes feel as though we are treading water but the world around us is perpetual in its motion and completely different from the place I inhabited back when I was an adolescent. While I generally look back at my childhood through rose-tinted spectacles, not every memory is quite so sweet. My school was one of hard knocks and anyone considered even vaguely different were instantly shunned and labeled freaks. The difference now is that, after banishing so many undesirables, said undesirables decided to team up and outnumber their antagonists. Nowadays, you’re a freak if you’re not one and sporting an Iron Maiden T-shirt isn’t a surefire way to earn yourself a wedgie in the corridor. I’m not suggesting that school is a cakewalk as kids can be mean little bastards when they want and no amount of time will make that any less true. But society is certainly more accepting of our quirks, at least in my experience.

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One thing that has changed but not for the better is snack food. There was a time when a bag of potato chips would be filled to brimming and, somewhere along the line, some sneaky bastard decided to relieve us of around half of our quota. To the untrained eye, they appear no different, and this is true until you open them up and feel the wind in your hair. That’s right, a bag of potato chips now comprises mostly oxygen and you can count yourself lucky if actual content reaches the halfway mark. Prices may stall but it’s all just a cunning ruse to make us think we’re still getting a bargain. I’m expecting an amen from any smokers amongst us as twenty Marlboro Lights now equates to eighteen in the U.K. Granted, the government have set a new law into place that will return them to their former glory but, if we think we have won the battle, then think again. The moment this happens, prices will soar accordingly and we’ll feel every bit as shortchanged as we are now.

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The film industry is an entirely different kettle of fish than previously and, being a lifelong devotee of horror, it seems almost recognizable now. Pound for pound, more movies are being made now, but fewer actually find themselves an audience. Studios ruled with an iron fist back then and the monopoly is still very much theirs thirty years on. But being an independent filmmaker is a thankless task and requires an incredible amount of persistence and personal investment to stand out from the crowd as investors are even more unwilling to take risks or put their money where their mouths are. Granted, there are numerous streaming sites and social networking outlets at our disposal but, without the necessary marketing push, chances are that you’ll struggle to make a notable return. The thing that really grinds my gears is that there is a way to get the attention of potential backers. That said, the deal you will be offered generally amounts to peanuts and involves you relinquishing control of something you have put your heart and soul into. This needs to change as there is a wealth of talent out there right now not receiving the attention it deserves.

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Retail is much the same. I remember the local high street was rife with independent stores and the honest, hard-working little man could make a decent living. Indeed, I worked in the video rental trade from the age of thirteen through twenty and my verbal contract only terminated when losses were simply too significant to fight the tide any longer. Sky television emerged at the turn of the nineties and suddenly folk had no reason to vacate their comfortable armchairs to plan out their Saturday nights. More recently, huge multi-national corporations have tightened the screws further and supermarkets are a prime example of this gluttony in action. Long gone are the days of mere groceries forming our shopping lists as they just couldn’t resist broadening their horizons and buying in sufficient bulk to offer prices which smaller outlets had no hope of competing with. Of course, the general public were only too happy to jump ship and can hardly be held accountable for the death of the independent retailer as purse strings are tighter than ever before thanks to the governing bodies that run our countries. But small businesses are now regrettably a thing of the past.

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Television is every bit as insipid now as it was back then, perhaps even more so. When I was growing up, there were four channels at my disposal and that number has multiplied to the power of a hundred now. So you would expect to never be found wanting for decent entertainment right? Not the case, I often skip through the available options out of vague curiosity, and my soul is destroyed by the time I hit the children’s networks. We all know that is where our journey’s end unless masturbation informs our decision and, even then, the pickings are decidedly slim. It boggles my mind that I cannot locate a solitary diamond in the rough with so many options seemingly at my disposal. No wonder YouTube has proved such a success. The internet has bailed me out on more occasions than I care to mention as, without it, I’d be stuck watching reams of home improvement drivel and reruns of ancient sitcoms that sucked donkey balls first time round.

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One thing that time has no intention of treating kindly are ageing rockers. Many bands surfaced during the late sixties and early seventies when experimentation was commonplace. A fair share of them are no longer with us and those that remain are now paying the price for years of self-abuse. I guess it comes to us all eventually and you can’t really expect to approach your twilight years without appearing just a tad jaded but life in the fast lane can certainly take its toll and it is hard looking spritely after a hip replacement and pair of new kneecaps. Actually I kind of dig that The Rolling Stones are still making music after all this time and more power to them for their refusal to throw in the towel. Granted, they may need to take short restroom breaks between tracks just to empty their colostomy bags in unison and check that Ronnie Wood still has a pulse, but I love that they’ve not lost that passion for performance. Like them, I have no intention whatsoever of growing old at all gracefully.

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The weather has definitely taken a turn for the more unpredictable in recent years. We’re all aware of the ozone layer, global warming, and the damage decades of abuse has dealt to our planet, and are reminded in no uncertain terms as the four seasons have now decided to merge into one. When I was a boy, summer was a hot and sticky affair, Christmases were white affairs, and the rest of the calendar year was more than content just towing the line. Not the case now, I struggle to remember the last time snow felt where I reside, September has become the new July, and there seems little rhyme or reason to the weather. If you live in Los Angeles then this one isn’t applicable as that place has only one setting and that is hot as fuck balls. But the climate is changing year on year and I’m guessing it will only get more unruly as natural resources continue to dwindle. I eagerly await the day that Santa Claus sets off on his annual errands in a red mankini. Something tells me that kids won’t be quite as receptive to that particular sight dropping down their chimney stacks.

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Garbage day used to be a cut-and-dried affair. One’s weekly refuse would reside in a single bin and every kind of surplus imaginable was welcome to slum it together. Nowadays it is a veritable mindfield sorting our waste and, should we fail to discard something recyclable in the corresponding receptacle, then said trash will be flat refused and remain under our ownership for another seven days. Given the ever more relevant green debate, I’m not about to bitch about this one as it is the least we can do to save our beloved planet from imminent foreclosure so I treat it like a game of chance instead. Should garbage day arrive, and I step outside to be greeted by three empty dustbins, then I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and step back inside with additional spring in my stride. However, should I not make the grade, then the walk of shame is customary while my neighbors look on in disgust.

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I no longer possess an automobile but regularly fire up my mother’s gas guzzler whenever necessitated. Driving used to be a reasonably effortless endeavor but, increasingly of late, it has become anything but. I live in a rural area and speed bumps and cunningly concealed cameras have become commonplace. Again, I can have no complaints here as I’m all for preventing road accidents. However, a pleasant run can be rudely interrupted, should you fail to spot any humps on the horizon. Those who engage in a spot of nose picking while mobile are placed in sever jeopardy in such instances as it can all end in tears one thud later. Then, as the nearby speed camera snaps them clocking 40/mph in a thirty zone, they are further humiliated by the incriminating photo that arrives in the post, depicting them in the midst of nasal rummage. As for road works, well they have always been a bugbear of mine and little has changed there. I’m sure we’ve all been stymied by sealed off exits, only to find no actual labour taking place whatsoever. Meanwhile, traffic is every bit the arthritic bitch it was when I first obtained my license. I have no objection to spending thirty minutes stuck in a bottleneck but every gripe against emerging from said jam, only to find that there was absolutely no valid reason for the obstruction. Some things will never change.

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Another thing that remains timeless is flatulence. Farts were funny when I was ten and, lo-and-behold, can still raise more than a chuckle thirty years on. I am aware that not everyone will share my enthusiasm for such puerile audio but I happen to be rather easily pleased. Should we know anyone elderly, then we will be more than accustomed to the sound of slackened sphincters. There comes a time in one’s life when it is no longer under our jurisdiction and a simple act such as lifting one’s buttocks from the armchair is accompanied by an involuntary toot.

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This becomes all the more amusing when the senior citizen in question prides themselves on acting dignified as betrayal is unavoidable by that point. Is it just me or did farts smell worse in the eighties? I may be imagining things but it is years since I last sucked up anything truly potent. I guess that all depends on the company you keep as vegetarians can take things to an entirely new level after a healthy enough quota of roughage. Brussel sprouts provide maximum fuel here and, considering they taste so wretched, I guess flatulence is their sole bargaining tool.

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National statistics suggest that our lifestyles and diets are far less healthy now than they were back in the day and the average body mass has apparently ballooned in recent times. This is particularly prevalent in the U.K. where it has been suggested that standards are slipping to perilous standards and will result in all manner of long-term health issues. I may be missing a trick here but I haven’t noticed any great transformation in personnel on my personal travels. Granted, children can be prone to spending large chunks of their days glued to the screens of their iPhones and less likely to engage in more energetic pursuits as opposed to obtaining those high scores on Candy Crush Saga but obesity doesn’t appear to be getting out of hand. I get that statistics don’t lie and am sure that there is some degree of truth in these findings but, if bags of potato chips continue at their current rate of shrinkage, then I’m sure the population will be just fine. I guess it’s easy for me to say that with my super-fast metabolism, but I don’t foresee gastric band sales taking off in the foreseeable.

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Speaking of personal appearance, it appears that acne is no longer quite the teenage threat it once was. Unless I’m mistaken, pulsating pustules have been on the decline for some time now and it is rare to find an adolescent afflicted by such blemish outbreaks. I was fortunate enough not to suffer with skin complaints growing up and, aside from the occasional angry-looking whitehead and a noseful of their blackened associates, had no reason to ever don a balaclava. However, there were a few unfortunates for whom facial whelks were a constant drawback and every day provided a fresh intake of potential eruptions. Perhaps skin products have become more effective or maybe I just don’t get out enough. I actually miss waking up in the morning to find a furious pimple set to detonate as there can be no denying the gratification that comes from decorating your bathroom mirror with airborne secretion. Likewise, running my thumbnail across the bridge of my nose was never less than a pleasure. Puberty wasn’t all bad, you see.

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What about pubic hair then? Now that has certainly changed since I was a boy and this one I’m damn sure not imagining. Seventies bush I believe was the term and its eighties equivalent was every bit as prevalent. We had a name for it back then and that was minge. Flange was what lay beneath but minge would ensure that any undercarriage remained well shrouded. I grew up without the faintest clue as to what a vagina actually looked like as pubic growth upheld its anonymity with a great sense of purpose. Even a dash of pruning wasn’t compulsory then and fallopian foliage was allowed to simply run free. Then something unforeseen occurred and I believe the nineties signalled the death of pubic hair as we once knew it. Suddenly it was considered unthinkable to possess bush and nary a haven was not shaven.

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I’ll hold my hands up to being rather partial to a smooth finish but, what disturbed me most, was the new-fangled fascination with “going Brazilian”. Also known as the landing strip, this seems neither here nor there to me and it gets worse too. Tram lines and insignia soon followed and, while back street barbers coined it in, minges worldwide were in disarray. Mercifully, bush appears to be making something of a comeback of late and, while that means a little extra flossing guys, I’m sure you’ll agree that it has been greatly missed.

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Being in my early forties, I have passed the point of no return with regards to cell regeneration. Having smoked since I was around twenty, I’ve been only too aware of the cut-off approaching. Any damage dealt up until now has been short-term as the human body has a marvellous knack for regeneration until we reach this particular checkpoint. That makes it time to start sweating as any desecration now will likely be permanent and could result in all sorts of trouble in later life. My knees are both shot to pieces and, by my estimation, that gives me around ten years before they finally give out on me. The prospect of emphysema or other respiratory ailments paying me a visit isn’t particularly inviting either and even more pressing given that old habits have a tendency of dying hard with me. It’s very much in my thoughts and I’m fully aware of what I need to do and the reasons for its urgency. However, it’s one thing to know and entirely another to show, while those pesky receptors can be blighters when they want to be. Should the penny drop before the point of no return arrives, then I will have outfoxed my most persistent demon. Regrettably, there appears no surefire way of halting the gradual descent of one’s testicles. Let’s hope I have some fresh aluminium kneecaps in place before the wrecking balls approach.

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It is a myth that reaching forty is a somber affair, at least, in my opinion. Wisdom is a gift most precious and, while my shell is starting to weather some, my mind has never felt so in on the joke. Life experience comes with the territory but it is what you do with this intelligence that matters most. Bitterness is for suckers, misplaced faith a thankless pursuit, and suspecting that you have it all sussed ultimately results in narrow sight and ignorance. One thing I will never give up on is trusting human nature, no matter how times this should blow up in my face. Selection is key here as leaving your valuables with a tweaking crack whore is only every going to end badly. However, good people aren’t as hard to find as many would have you believe, and having your faith repaid with interest is a transaction well worth shelling out for. If offered the chance to step back in time two decades and do it all again then I’d be unable to resist the allure. That said, I’d request I could take what I know now with me. Ignorance may well be bliss but there’s plentiful rapture in knowledge.

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This extends to my writing also as, while my wild imagination was very much present back in the eighties, I couldn’t have dreamed of harnessing my talent back then in the way that I do now. Plummeting to the foot of my personal abyss is not a memory I have fond recollection of and neither do I have any intention of ever reacquainting myself with the solitude. That said, the process I take when I scribe owes everything to my fall from grace and, indeed, is the whole reason for my eventual rise. My true gift may have always been inside me but could never have been accessed at such tender years as such human insight wasn’t high on my pecking order then and it was some time before I learned the advantage of being solution focused. Granted, applying it to myself is not my strong suit, but empowering others to spot potential pitfall happens to be a key strength of mine and I’m happy to settle for that. My main goal in life is to spread good feeling and, through prose, I have found my true calling. So if you ever suspect me to be selfish, please consider that as every last word that vacates the Crimson Quill does so with magnanimous intention.

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As I said at the start, time waits for no man. Alas, I’m not getting any younger, but every day I learn something fresh, and that alone keeps me keeping on. My knees may not last forever and my lungs remind me of their bemusement on a daily basis but my soul is in better shape now than ever. It has been around a decade now since my father passed and no pill I have ever been forced to swallow has been as bitter as that. However, right now I have never felt closer to him. I know he wouldn’t wish to take credit for my achievements and would request that I own them myself but just his constant presence and empowerment is sufficient to continue my growth as a scribe and, indeed, as a human being. Anyone who knows me will be only too aware of my partiality towards then and few fly the retro flag as enthusiastically as I. But even when life appears to be rather adept at dishing out those unannounced kidney blows, I’m never more content than in the now.

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Click here to read Retro vs. Hereafter

 

 

 

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