Posts Tagged ‘men’
On Sunday, August 23, 2009, Vince Force, of Argenta, Illinois, attended the Allen Crowe 100 stock car race at the Illinois State Fair, where he displayed his epic mustache.
I was shooting architectural detail at an old Detroit movie palace on Monroe Street when Kenneth Moore happened along. It was still early on that Saturday morning, August 1, 2009, but he was out for a stroll. After I answered his question about what I was up to, he commented about this and that and soon informed me that he had retired in 2007, after thirty-one years at Chrysler, and now had been downtown for a couple of weeks, whatever that meant. He said he is currently dating “a Mexican woman,” and she has him going to church. It seemed natural to ask him to pose. At first he looked ill at ease but then spat out a large white orb. Seeing my reaction, he pulled a clear plastic wrapper from his shirt pocket; inside it was a red, white, and green peppermint jawbreaker: his backup supply. Now he was better able to smile. He had new teeth and was still learning his way with them and his smile had to be set carefully. But he was a quite the showman and improvised a posture. After I finished shooting and showed him the results on my camera’s display, he accepted my card. I promised to email the picture if he sent his address. He looked at his phone and mused that his son had told him it was possible to receive email on the thing. In parting he said, “Have a blessed day!”
In Detroit the other day for an early morning photo shoot, the subject being the city’s early movie palaces, I encountered some characters who asked what I was doing. To one man who had volunteered a bit of information about a crumbling old theater, I said that I liked his hat. He said I could get one just like it around the corner, where indeed there is a haberdashery. Then he moseyed along. After he got a couple of hundred feet down Monroe Street, I wondered what the hell I was thinking, so I set off running and asked him to pose for me. “Why would you want a picture of an oldtimer?” he said. I shot four frames and then asked his name. “They call me Pops Oldtimer,” he said. “Thanks for being my friend.”
David May, of Walker, Michigan, caught my eye Saturday night at Berlin Raceway. You just don’t see a fine gentleman like him on the infield of every racetrack. I stalked him down near the concession stand and asked him to pose. Looking close, you’ll notice the earplugs.
A 1992 Subaru Loyale station wagon wasn’t an everyday sight in 1992 and sure as hell isn’t today, in 2009, so I had to ask the fellow about it at the gas pump near Joliet. He was of slight stature and florid complexion, animated and friendly, wispily white-haired and speaking in an accent I pegged as German Alpine. In fact, he might have been the type of guy to open the liftgate of his wagon and try selling me a cuckoo clock.
The car had cost him $4600 used, and he had supervised mechanical upgrades such as new wheel bearings. I think he also mentioned replacing the engine. We agreed that the body looked great. The only bit of rust was at the rear corner, and he attributed this to a poor job on the respray.
“Say,” he asked, “do you know how to get onto Interstate 80 West?”
I turned over my left shoulder and looked at the big green sign with white letters that said Interstate 80 West, but because of a traffic island it wasn’t possible to turn left out of the station. Instead, he would need to turn right and then pull a U-ey. Now noticing the Montana license plate, I asked what part of the state he was from.
“Helena, the capital city,” he said.
I observed that it was a long ways to have come.
Oh, he explained, he already had been to Allendale, Michigan, to visit a relative. Now he was on his way to Aurora, Nebraska, to see his son, and thenceforth to Oakland, California, where his sister lives. To my response that he was making quite the tour, he said, “You never know about next year. How old do you think I am?”
I thought he was about eighty but said, “Sixty-four.”
He thumped me on the chest and said, “Seventy-nine years old. I have my good health and my Subie.”
I wished him happy travels and this morning am kicking myself for not having thought to get my camera and grab a shot of his red mug with that silver Subie.
My grandmother used to tell me to enjoy my youth, because the fun stopped with the coming of adulthood. “Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity,” by Gary Cross, defines the phenomenon of “basement boys” or “boy-men”—the guys who move back in with mom and dad to play video games and watch violent adventure movies. Cross’s thesis is that men’s traditional roles were transformed because there were no longer farms or home workshops that enabled the father to participate in child-rearing; mass industrialization made men into mere breadwinners and turned over child-rearing to the mothers. Dads were to be pals and engage their sons through hobbies or Boy Scouts, this way teaching manly values. But boys, having already won the Oedipal struggle by default, rejected traditional masculinity. This fostered first the aimless howling rebellions and boyish Hefnerian self-indulgence of the 1950s, followed by 1960s radicalism. Cross cites a number of sources from the time that pinpointed the root of this activity in individual narcissism. He actually mentions the Weather Underground; an acquaintance of mine who, believe it or not, dated Bill Ayers in college here in Ann Arbor, says he had a smoldering hatred for his parents—his father was a busy executive at Con Edison in New York—and this contributed to his radicalism. Anyway, all the “New Man” stuff of the 1960s degenerated into consumerism. Meanwhile, cultural models such as “Gunsmoke” and “Father Knows Best,” as well as rugged John Wayne westerns and genteel Spencer Tracy comedies, became obsolete. Cynicism prevailed, and we’re left with gross-out humor, fools like Homer Simpson, and the comic-book violence of “Rambo” and “The Terminator.” Not to mention “Doom” and the whole culture of violent video games. Magazines like Maxim assert that it’s cool to remain an adolescent.
“Men to Boys” is quite absorbing. (But for a book from Columbia University Press, there sure are a lot of typos.) Cross’s explorations and analyses of popular culture are awfully persuasive. Once or twice I thought he would be unable to make his argument hold together, but he manages to do it. In answering a lot of questions, this book is particularly timely, as the 22-year-old son of some friends has just moved back home, into the basement, after flunking out of college. I told my wife that the kid will live with his mother till she dies. Or he dies. (The father isn’t going to make it that long.) And in my own family, there’s always the example of my Uncle Mike, who was lifted along on that first wave of 1950s teen culture and has devoted himself to preserving his youth by salvaging 1930s cars and generally espousing hot rod culture; he never married, nor even dated seriously, and lived at home with my grandmother until she died. He remains in that same house. My grandma was right, and Uncle Mike, now in his late-60s, continues to heed her advice by not growing up. “Men to Boys” makes me glad I never lost myself in hobbies such as model railroading or muscle cars. It affirms the instinct that kept me away from the action-adventure movies and the video game consoles of the 1980s. And I can now say I was right to have turned off “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” after fifteen minutes and sent the disk back to Netflix.