Dir: Nicholas Steele
In a past life I was Jacques Cousteau, traveling the globe in search of adventure. Just a short baker’s dozen years ago, I spent no less than 28 days a month abroad on skateboarding tours. I was home so infrequently that I opted to no longer rent an apartment, but rather slept in any stranger’s bed for a night or under my desk at the legendary, defunct skate mag Big Brother. At some point I met my wife, moved back to New Jersey, had two sons, and settled into a peaceful life of domesticity in the suburbs.
Yet not one day passes that I don’t crave the open air of a strange and new place, wanting to find myself in inexplicable predicaments on foreign soil and barely escaping with my life. To try and spice things up, I’ve gotten myself into three car chases in the past two years, and on several occasions have just gotten in my car and driven for hours with no destination in mind. I try my best to take the family on the road a few times a year, but those adventures are different. The adrenaline rush tends to center around if the kids are going to break something or if we can pull over fast enough to avoid one of them shitting his pants.
In the immortal words of Clark W. Griswold: “I wanna paint, I wanna sculpt something massive… I want to… God, I just have a creative urge.” One that only a road trip can quench. Lucky for me I work for Vans, the greatest skate-shoe company on earth, and they’ve been kind enough to take me on a three-week European vacation. I’m writing this on the eve of my departure, and as excited as I am to mix it up overseas, I am beginning to stress out.
This will be the longest I’ve ever been away from my sons. I’m missing my firstborn’s first day of school and his fourth birthday. Worst yet, what really has me sick to my stomach is that I won’t be getting laid for 21 days. I haven’t gone that long since I first discovered the fuzzy britches of a woman. I don’t know that I’ll be able to handle it. So, I sat my wife down and discussed my options. I told her the tour had a one-night stay scheduled in Amsterdam and that I needed closure. She understood, gave me her consent, but feared for my safety.
The story goes that 11 years ago, in the early stages of our courtship, I found myself in the red-light district of Amsterdam. Not wanting to cheat on my new lady, I instead opted to buy a bag full of oblong vegetables for a prostitute to use as sex toys while I masturbated: no touching involved, and I’d gladly pay full freight. Turns out girls over there don’t care much for veggies. Every gal scoffed at the proposition; one sex worker got so angry that she called the enormous Moroccan security guards and nearly had me beaten senseless.
Just over 100 years ago, Tel Aviv was inhabited by a huge number of people from Europe and the Middle East. These people, only ten percent of whom were actually born in Israel, now make up the oldest section of the population.
Most of these immigrants had very particular lives growing up in Tel Aviv: their youth wasn’t all about being carefree, their adulthood was punctuated by continuous wars, and they were constantly adapting to new cultural environments. They speak the common language, Hebrew, with different accents, but although they identify as Israelis, their strains of German, Yemeni, Slovak, and Hungarian heritage are still hugely important to them.
The “Tel Aviv Grannies” photo series shows this elderly segment of Israeli society. During a six-month stay in Israel, I decided to seek them out and follow them as they went about their everyday lives. I walked the streets, visited the beaches, and joined them in their play and sports activities in order to capture them on film.
How to Totally Ruin a High School Reunion
Most people who bother to go to their ten-year high school reunion have an agenda. Some are looking to impress fellow graduates who tormented them. Others are hoping to have a sexual encounter on or near campus, preferably with someone who tormented them. One or two people actually want to have meaningful conversations. No matter when or where these gatherings take place, they’re all the same collection of highlights and lowlights.
Three basic types of reunion exist:
1) The Romy and Michelle Reunion
In this scenario, you lie about your success without remorse. This deceit feels good. It starts to take hold of you and you believe your own fabrications. Your recollection of events from school is colored by your own myopia and you still dress like a fucking idiot even though you are now 28.
2) The Grosse Pointe Blank Reunion
You attend your ten-year reunion begrudgingly, primarily because you are still pining over a lost love or unfulfilled attraction. Regret compels you to do something potentially embarrassing. Also, you are John Cusack and you don’t look 28 at all. You look closer to 38. Whoever thought Cusack was a good casting choice is a moron.
3) The Zack and Miri Make a Porno Reunion
You are a huge loser, and can’t afford to live an adult life. As such, you hope that your reunion will be a chance to recapture past glory. After it’s over and you’ve made a drunken fool of yourself, you forge a pact to finally achieve some measure of happiness. Instead, you end up getting penetrated on camera. You decide to never go to another reunion again.
These events don’t have to be as depressing as the ones above, but invariably, they end up being a boon to the pharmaceutical and liquor industries anyway. The cycle of shame continues without end because not enough time is spent explaining exactly why reunions suck. It’s not just because you’re shallow, self-pitying, lazy, or fat. It’s those things, plus all the mistakes made in the planning of the reunions.
If we can all just work together to stop doing the following, we might be able to make revisiting puberty pleasurable.
“Sometimes he will just come up to my mother and do his best to hold her and he will say thank you or I love you. Then he will go back to knocking his fists against the door’s glass.”
—"I Asked My Dad, Who Has Dementia, to Annotate Jonathan Franzen’s How to Be Alone” by Blake Butler is a thing you should read right now.
Being in Your 20s Is Great
See? Being in your 20s is hella fun.
Cracked.com—the compendium of list-based articles that proves literally anything is publishable online as long as it’s laid out as a countdown—recently ran a piece entitled “Five Reasons You Don’t Miss Your 20s When They’re Over," by a man who may or may not exist named "John Cheese."
I realize that there must be a couple of benefits that come with exiting your 20s and hurtling ever faster towards death, but I’m in my 20s and I’m in no rush to find out what they are. It’s a bind, but I guess the Friday nights spent at home, wallowing in self-pity and The Killing box-sets, while everyone younger than me is out, partying, fucking, smiling, and having the best time of their lives, will have to wait for now.
So, I’m calling bullshit on you, your article, and everything you stand for, John Cheese—and in true Cracked style, I’m gonna do that by writing a list.
#5. YOU’RE IN THE LAST STAGES OF COOL
Basic premise: All new music suddenly sound shitty and all new fashion trends suddenly look dumb.
Choice quote: "There is no maintaining the illusion that you’re young and cool. I’ve got to say, it feels good to finally let go of it. But damn the actual act of letting go is hard."
Is it really that hard, though? John paints an image of young people being mercilessly exiled from the realms of cool by people who still have school uniforms and a set bed time, but why would any self-respecting adult care about what children thought of them? It’s your teenage years where the Heathers of this world get to sneer at your shoes and make you feel like burying your head under a mountain of lead blocks. Not your 20s.
Your 20s are when you realize that all the playground rules dictating what was cool were complete bullshit and, unless your adolescent insecurities have spilled over into real life, you forget about actively trying to be cool and just enjoy yourself in the disorientating smog of drugs and alcohol you now have the money to buy and the freedom to use.
#4. YOUR EGO GETS PUNCHED IN THE DICK
Basic premise: Society stops caring about you as soon as you leave compulsory education. Any residual feelings of happiness or self-worth from your school days will be extinguished by people who are older than you.
Choice quotes: "I guess that’s when you know you’ve gotten past it: the embarrassment. Just remembering how at that age you were positive that you had everything locked down and figured out. You figured you were educated and smart and awesome and there wasn’t much left to learn. I wouldn’t live through that again if I were forced at gunpoint by time-traveling Time Rapists."
This one is essentially a hugely convoluted attack on how you’re optimistic in your 20s and haven’t yet realized that the first ten years of your career are going to grind you into the same tortured, bitter Scrooge that is every middle-aged office worker who hates their life and everyone around them. I don’t think I have to explain why being excited about your life is better and probably more conducive to getting anywhere with your time on this planet than being resigned to a depressing lifetime of clocking in and once-a-year birthday blowjobs.
THE VICE GUIDE TO ADULTHOOD
We are so sick of you full-grown babies running around aimlessly—with your shoes untied and overdraft-fee receipts falling out of your pockets and grease stains on your cut-offs and employment-repellant skillsets and inability to party and go to work the next morning—that we’ve gone ahead and figured it all out for you.
In the early 2000s, 20- and even 30-somethings could eek out a passable existence as abhorrent, unabashedly selfish, microwave-dependent, and wholly unproductive members of society. Today, somewhat due to the grievous irresponsibility’s of our baby boomer parents, we know that such behavior can only heap insurmountable debt being foisted upon future generations, and, if you really give it your all, the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians worldwide and other atrocities.
Chances are your parents were selfish and didn’t raise you correctly. Like, at least one-third of the people reading this have no idea how to fold a T-shirt. What the fuck is wrong with you? Did you just not show up to that day of life? But it’s OK. We will show you the way.
It is quite possible that your parents didn’t teach you certain things about hygiene while you were growing up. It’s quite possible that you didn’t even have parents, and were perhaps born from a turd similar to the ones you continuously leave in the bowl without flushing after visiting a public restroom, like a DNA stink-abortion for the next person to discover. Hate to break the news to you, pal, but if you haven’t managed to tackle how to properly deal with your fecal waste, everything else in life is going to seem like an insurmountable challenge.
PAY YOUR DEBTS
Hardly anyone has a credit card in Germany because the word for “credit card” there literally means “debt.” The Germans, culturally, do not live beyond their means, mostly because they tried that once and a lot of bad things happened. That’s sort of like America and Europe now, don’t you think? The only difference is that instead of Hitler we get a bunch of religious extremists who bunker down in the worst places in the world and figure out how they’re going to kill us over here. Bad things are happening, for sure, and a lot of it is fueled and funded by people (the West) living well beyond their means. Start by doing simple stuff like, you know, paying $100 a month above the interest owed on your credit card instead of buying drugs twice in one week.
You’re probably OK with pot and mushrooms and some psychedelics, but the reason you’re able to buy coke and heroin and most of the other shit (especially in the States) is because a lot of people are dying in Mexico because of it. And not just drug lords—entire families of innocent people who happened to live in the wrong town, and increasingly lots of children. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, but if you feel like you might have a bad drug problem coming on, subscribe to a few Mexican newspapers so you can look at crime scene photos of piles of body parts and headless corpses the next time you feel like taking a bump or plunging a needle in your arm.
Now that my grandma is gone, my grandpa lives alone in their little tin-roofed house, where they lived together for fifty years. It gets lonesome. He says he misses her.
He gets up at four in the morning and goes to bed around eight. He subsists mostly off of boiled turnips and collard greens. He refuses to accept help from elderly assistance organizations like Meals on Wheels, but when I come to visit him bearing a big bucket of KFC chicken, he devours it ravenously, looking like those Andean mountain climbers who lost themselves to cannibalism.
His days are spent in the service of that most underrated and important of life skills—the passing of time. He flips on the TV and watches the NASCAR races. He goes out on the front porch to check on the weather. He takes potshots at the groundhogs that are eating up his garden. He’s 91 years old and still keeps a six-pack of Coors Lite in the refrigerator. Mostly though, he just stares out the window. The arrival of the mailman is the most eventful ten seconds of his day.