Gen X or Millennial?

I was one of those folks born in the year 1980. I’ve read articles and Wikipedia pages citing that I could be seen as the youngest member of Generation X, and that I could also claim to be among the oldest of the Millennials. Neither of these options is any reason to celebrate. There are pros and cons to this sort of debate for both sides, and I’ve even seen the moniker Gen Y tossed around for people like me (which has always seemed so lame). It’s all so tiring and silly. But I digress. I got to thinking the other day and I truly wondered… what are some of the things that could act as a generational test for those of us stuck in the middle? Are there questions that could be answered in an attempt to help one reveal his or her true generational association to the world? I mean, I guess you could just pick one but that doesn’t feel like science. And then it hit me. The Smashing Pumpkins.

If you were at all into alternative rock music in the 1990s, and you straddle the line between Gen Xer and Millennial, answer this question: What would you consider to be “your” Smashing Pumpkins album?

It is my assertion that the youngest Gen Xer will most often cite Siamese Dream as his or her defining Pumpkins album, while the oldest Millennial will overwhelmingly go with Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness. I’m still working to unpack the “why” behind this occurrence, but in the handful of case scenarios I examined, the idea seemed to hold up.

What do you think? Am I hitting on something here?

Maybe We Just Need to Stop and Listen

As I left for work yesterday, I came upon a guy walking his dog along the side of the road. We live in a neighborhood lined with sidewalks, but for some reason this guy decided to walk his dog in the street. No worries, I thought. I simply veered to his left a few feet and went by at what I assumed was a reasonable speed. Then something unexpected happened.

In my rearview mirror, I saw this man take the cup of water he was holding and sling it at my car. I immediately hit the brakes and sat there for a second watching him. Maybe it was a coincidence and he just happened to bail on his beverage as I passed by? Could that have been directed at me? As I thought this over, I saw him do the classic “bring it” gesture to my stopped car, and I knew at that point this guy was pissed. At me.

After witnessing the guy “bow up” like that, I couldn’t just continue on into the office. Instead, I slowly drove down the road a bit until I could find a place to turn around. As I did this, our eyes met and he seemed a bit stunned. I mean, who expects a guy in a Prius to come back and confront you when you sling a cup of water all over the back of his car? I took a deep breath, pulled alongside him, and rolled down the window. I asked if something was wrong in an attempt to let him do most of the talking. He immediately went off about how I passed much too closely, being careful to cite that countless other drivers in our neighborhood disrespect him in much the same manner each day. He wasn’t at all happy about my car’s proximity to his body, specifically stating that he could have reached out and touched my vehicle as it passed.

I’ll be honest. In that instant I wanted to eviscerate this poor guy. I wanted to tell him to get his ass on the sidewalk or at least walk against traffic. I wanted to tell him that I gave him several feet of room, and honestly in my judgment, I thought that was plenty of space to provide for his safety. I wanted to call him a big ol’ baby and several other unflattering terms. But for some reason, I decided to hold my tongue. I just sat there and listened to him talk about how every morning people drive like maniacs. And after a minute or two, I realized I kind of agreed with him.

I realized that lots of people drive recklessly. I walk in our neighborhood daily and stroll my son through those same streets. It has gotten to me at times too. I realized that some people find it easier to walk in the street because the pavement might be easier on their knees and ankles. For some, the sidewalk is an uneven tripping hazard. Maybe that was the case with this guy? I also thought about the fact that the roads were pretty much dead that morning and he wasn’t hurting anyone by choosing to walk in the street. What did it matter? Also, my Prius makes no sound whatsoever. Seriously, golf carts make more noise. So I did pass by too closely. Heck, I probably scared the crap out of him.

So there I sat, lost in my head for a minute as he ranted and raved, all of those justifications for his anger bouncing around in my head… and I just stopped. I stopped, and I apologized. He was clearly having a crap morning, and this outburst might not even be about my car “almost hitting him” at all. Now, I’m by no means a saint. I have my own anger issues I work on each and every day, but just this once I stopped to hear the other person out, and it actually ended well. We parted ways that morning, and I think things were cool between us. I looked for him again today as I headed into the office. I didn’t see him, but I did give anyone I passed a little bit more room to roam. I mean, that’s what I would want after all.

I’ve Become a Walker

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve lost weight. A lot of weight. Over one-hundred pounds of me has slowly melted away with only one or two minor setbacks along the way.

My success came through the usual means, eating less and moving more. I became a runner, because that’s what serious-minded cardio lovers do, right? There were 5Ks, 10Ks, and even a half marathon that took place over the years. I did it all and became obsessed with how far I could push myself while simultaneously avoiding a crippling injury. Don’t worry, that’s as far as I’ll go with the humble bragging. This piece isn’t about how many miles I run each day or week. It’s quite the opposite, actually. I’m still working toward my ideal body weight, eating well, and moving more… only nowadays I find myself not running. Somewhere along the way I said goodbye to that world, left the house, and just started walking.

Walking is fantastic. It’s the cheapest therapy I’ve ever come across. Walking gives me time to think and decompress at the end of the day (something essential for an introvert like me). It’s much more sustainable as a form of daily exercise too. My joints are rarely left sore and achy after a long walk. I can even find the energy for a short walk when I’m somewhat sleep starved.

So yeah, I’m a walker now. I’m in no hurry to return to running and that’s ok. As I near 40 years on this planet, I find that I care less and less about appearing tough or projecting this image to the world of me being a badass. I’m fine with slowing things down, treading lightly. And if I burn fewer calories, so what?

The Wolfen

Whitley Strieber’s The Wolfen (1978)

Whitley Strieber is best known for his 1987 work, Communion. In that book he detailed the strange occurrences surrounding the night of December 26, 1985. Using journal entries as his guide, Strieber described how “visitors” (possibly from another world/dimension) came into his bedroom and abducted him from his family’s remote cabin in upstate New York. Several other non-fiction works would follow Communion as Strieber attempted to further unpack what the heck actually happened to him on that fateful night.

With all of his interesting non-fiction works to explore, it’s easy to forget that Strieber actually began his writing career as a fiction writer specializing in the thriller/horror genre. Recently I got my hands on his first published novel, The Wolfen, and quickly devoured it in a matter of days.

The Plot

Two detectives, George Wilson and Becky Neff, are tasked with figuring out how two police officers were torn apart by some sort of savage beasts. Thanks to some help from Dr. Carl Ferguson, they learn that the grizzly killings were committed by a previously unknown pack of wolf monsters affectionately dubbed, the Wolfen.

The big shots in the police department don’t believe any of this junk, and sell the press a pack of lies (pun intended) about the killings being committed by dogs or perhaps a serial killer pretending to be a werewolf. Meanwhile, the Wolfen know that George and Becky are onto them, and they wish to hunt the detectives down and kill the humans before the they can expose the existence of the Wolfen to all of mankind.

In order to get some protection from the higher ups, George and Becky decide they need photographic proof of a Wolfen in action. They gain access to a special night vision camera, thanks to Becky’s husband, and take turns watching for Wolfen on the rooftop of the apartment building where Becky lives (a place where Wolfen have been known to stalk). Needless to say, things go south during the mission and bad things happen to the good guys.

Main Characters

Becky Neff: Up and coming, young detective on the force. She’s tough, smart, and doesn’t put up with any crap.

George Wilson: The clichéd (in many ways) “I’m gettin’ too old for this” detective, who was forced to partner with the “lady” (Becky), because no one else could stand to be in his presence. He acts like he hates Becky at times, but he’s secretly in love with her. The Wolfen really freak him out which sucks because he can’t smoke cigarettes anymore.

Dr. Carl Ferguson: He’s the science guy in the story. He desperately wants some scientific proof regarding the existence of the Wolfen. He reluctantly agrees to work with Becky and George as they try to acquire this proof.

Top Brass (Commissioner, Chief of Police, Medical Examiner): These guys pretty much deal in politics and spin. To varying degrees they all think Neff and Wilson are nuts. Oh and one of them becomes a bloody smear in the back seat of a patrol car… guess he believes now.

Dick Neff: Becky’s crooked cop husband. He did some bad things, and their marriage is strained to say the least, but he has a good heart. He gets them the special camera.

The Wolfen: Super fast, super smart, super deadly. These cunning creatures have lived alongside man in secret since the beginning of time. Now choosing to hide in the shadows of major metropolitan areas, they feed on the weak and those who may wish to spread the news of their existence. We get a decent understanding of how packs are structured and how they hunt because several chapters are written from the Wolfen’s point of view.

My Thoughts

I went into this read expecting a seedy detective novel with horror elements and that is exactly what I got. It hit all of the notes that a typical pulp would hit. It was dark and gritty, at times sexist, characters tended to be a bit one dimensional, and the plot was fairly simple. I say all of this, mind you, not to tear the book down. There are times where I need a book like this in my life. It’s like a bag of Sweet Chili Doritos. One can’t live on corn chips alone, but every now and then that sweet, glorious body poison really hits the spot.

Oh and I was honestly more creeped out while reading this book than I thought I would be. It takes a lot to unnerve me, but some of the scenes made me leave lights on in rooms of my house that had no business being illuminated at night time. The scene where the detectives walk through a dark abandoned building as the Wolfen hunt them from the shadows comes to mind. Also, wow. The gore. I’m not really a “gore” guy, but when the Wolfen come for you… it’s bloody. They love ripping out throats for some reason. I don’t know, guess that would be a quick way to do the deed. So, thank you?

I will most likely add another Strieber book to my “to read” list. At the very least I may go back and give Communion another read. I remember reading it back in the early 2000s and it was just as disturbing as Strieber’s fiction. In Communion, Strieber never flat out says “aliens came and took me away”. He just uses the word “visitors” and even leaves open the possibility that his mind manufactured the whole experience. I can appreciate that kind of open mindedness and self awareness from a writer.

Moonwalker Cover Art

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Sega 1989)

A man enters a poorly lit warehouse. He lowers his lily white fedora and throws his right hand high into the air. Suddenly, and without effort, he launches a quarter across the room activating a jukebox that hasn’t rocked in years. Then it happens. Pop star turned action hero begins thrashin’ to the tune of his latest hit “Smooth Criminal”.

The Game

Jacko’s arsenal of moves is limited and doesn’t include a moonwalk at all. His offense consists of one kick, one punch, a spin move, and an interesting hip flare. These attacks are nothing more than enchanted dance moves, and Michael delivers each with a signature “whoo” as only he can. The objective is to save Annie (I suppose) as she pops up throughout many stair case ridden structures. The only highlight being the guest cameo from Bubbles after the completion of each stage. As for the ending, I assume it’s just a big Pepsi commercial or something. I should know, but after the third level I realized I had a pulse.

Fun Links

User Guide for Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Sega Master System)