Sometimes I think the world is a mess. It’s falling apart. People are mean. And intolerant.
I try to have faith in humanity, and remain positive, but once in a while I think it just isn’t get any better. Watch the news. Read the papers. Does anyone read the newspapers any more?
I know Charlie does. (Pronounce this as Cholley. With attitude. Like in The Pope of Greenwich Village.)
Charlie is my 93 year old father-in-law. He is also a guru. When he speaks, I hear history. I hear a very different point of view. We don’t always agree. Especially when it comes to politics. But I respect his wisdom and his experience. He has lived a long time, and seen a lot of things.
He came from a much different time and place. Hell’s Kitchen. The Great Depression. Cold Water Flats. CCC Camps. The stuff of gritty black and white movies. Where people say things like “He was a freakin’ mutt, dat guy.”
I’m happy to have him here visiting for a few days. Happy to debate about politics and to listen to all of his stories.
Today he told us a fantastical tale about a friend of his.
Tommy Fitz was a fellow steamfitter (in the steam, as Charlie says), and godfather to one of Charlie’s 12 children. One night Fitz was at an uptown bar (a tavrin as Charlie calls it). Fitz bet someone $100 that he could land a plane on the street right outside. There was $200 sitting on the bar as Fitz walked out. Within the hour, a plane was on the street outside.
Of course I had to google it to see if it was true. He is, after all 93 years old. He could make up all sorts of stories and I might believe them. This is a real one. Read about it.
Somehow, along the way the conversation turned to kids these days. As it often does. We were talking about how Maggie went to a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) meeting yesterday, and about how kids openly talk about being gay or straight nowadays.
“Everything is out there. It’s all out right out in the open.” Charlie says. “Nothing is hidden. Like it used to be.”
By the look on his face I wasn’t quite sure where the conversation was going. Was I going to have to debate about this?
“You know”, Charlie says, “when I was a little kid there was this family. They lived up the block. They had a son. He was born all white. With really pale skin. and pure white hair and pink eyes. What d’ya call that there….?”
“Yeah. He was an albino. And they kept him locked in the house. They didn’t let him out. He couldn’t go nowhere or do nothin’. Just locked in the house his whole life because of the way he was born. Was that right? We didn’t know. We didn’t even wonder if it was right or wrong. It was just the way it was back then.
But that wouldn’t happen now. Because people realized it was wrong. People are still realizin’ what’s wrong. But kids today already know what was wrong. Things change. Things are still changin’. Things are gettin’ better.”
Charlie says things are getting better.
Maybe we’re not such a mess. Maybe change is just coming a little slower than I would like. Ask me again when I’m 93.
Pop’s first experience with Face Time. “Holy cow. Wouldya look at dat. Hiya!”