By Jay Kerner
It has always been mankind’s plight to contemplate his own existence. The great philosophers of the ages have all aimed their collective intellects in that direction. “I think, therefore I am” and all that.
But it’s not a subject limited to scholarly pursuit. In fact, it’s always been popular fodder for pop-culture.
“What’s it all about, Alfie?” “Does anybody really know what time it is?” “Have you ever been experienced?” (Well, I have!)
I’ve been churning over the same old chestnut, myself, looking for an angle that hasn’t been exhausted.
You’ve probably heard someone described, posthumously, as a “Man of his time.” I’ve always liked that turn of a phrase, but it’s most often used to excuse traits or behaviors abhorrent to current sensibilities.
So, if I’m a man of my time, how much of it do I claim? How much of it forms or defines who I am?
There are all those sites online that will tell you the number one song in America on the day you were born, or on your 12th birthday. Both are supposed to say something about you. I don’t know what Danny (or any of the Juniors, for that matter) were trying to tell me with At the Hop. BJ Thomas on the other hand, may have known something with Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, but then, much like BJ, “I’m never gonna’ stop the rain by complaining” so let’s move on.
I could probably put together a playlist for a cheesy Lifetime Channel version of my story, but I doubt many would buy the soundtrack. Too diverse for most audiences. Too perverse for some, especially the Zappa selections. (Sorry, but no mixtape of my life would be complete without Broken Hearts are for A**holes.)
Maybe you’re defined by your mode of transportation. Like, when you think Hannibal, you think elephants. When you think Mark Twain, (coincidently from Hannibal), you think steamboats.
I’ve had so many cars, trucks and motorcycles it’s not easy to pick just one as my defining ride. Ok, it’s not. Much as I’d like to choose one of my favorite German sports cars, I know who I am. I’m a 1958 Chevy pickup with a broken frame. Hand painted with a brush and roller. Wish I still had it. Bet it’s still running somewhere.
Maybe you’re the music delivery system that mostly came and went, during your lifetime. If grandpa was a wind-up phonograph, I guess I’m an under-dash 8-track tape player. My stuff comes unwound now and again, but in the right hands…
Maybe you really are, as they say, what you eat! If so, I’m Chef Boyardee Beef-A-Roni. “Hooray for Beef-a-Roni!” Either that or I’m Hamburger Helper.
Maybe I’m the movies of my time. I’m not Gone With the Wind, but I lived in the Animal House. I’m The Jerk and Young Frankenstein. I’m Big Fish, Chill and Lebowski.
Maybe I’m the books I’ve loved. If so, I’m Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, The World According to Garp, and Mad Magazine’s Cradle to Grave Primer.
Some say clothes make the man. I spent far too many years in suits, but I think it’s been long enough now to say I’m more of a tie-dyed concert T. With Levi Big Bells or Big Smith overalls. Hmmm. Lotta “bigs” in my story.
Maybe you can “know” a person, by the spouse they attract and the children they produce. In both cases I come out looking far better than I deserve.
But no matter the course of your life and times, you’ll leave behind traces of your existence. The lives you’ve touched in ways you’ll never be aware of. The subtle influences on everything left when you depart. The stories told about you after you’re gone. Big lives and smaller ones all leave a mark on humanity. Hope yours is a good one!