It all began with a chance meeting at the local Social Security office. Although I’m no fanatic on the matter, I scrupulously avoid such places. Not because they are the very embodiment of the welfare state, but because they smell awful. It must be the combination of aging people sitting in decaying surroundings.
Because I failed to fill out some Medicare form, my private insurer stopped paying my dental bills. The only way out of the morass was to go to the Social Security office and sign the paper. That should read, go to, get in line for several hours, and sign the paper.
I first noticed the gent sitting 40 degrees to my left because he appeared to be smiling at me. There was something familiar about him, but the smile I remembered contained more teeth.
"Say don’t you remember?
They called me Al.
It was Al all the time.
Why don’t you remember?
I’m your pal,
Say, buddy can you spare a dime?"
He didn’t sing that refrain from the great Gorney and Harburg, 1932, depression song, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," recorded by Bing Crosby. But, Al did remind me that we had downed a few Coor’s 50 years earlier at an Air Force base in Colorado.
He insisted we share the afternoon and suggested the following choices:
- We can sit and watch the stock prices at Merrill Lynch and the coffee is free.
- There’s a soft ball game in the park and sometimes the winning team buys hot dogs for everybody.
- At 2 o’clock there’s a juicy custody case at the Court House in Redwood City.
- We could go to the movies. u2018Seabiscuit’ is playing and the afternoon rate for seniors is $4."
I signed Medicare Form 6829, and fled the scene, advising Al that I had already seen the movie and, anyway, I was late for my break-dancing lesson.
Meeting Al confirmed why any and all "Reunions" should be avoided like the plague.
I have no desire to see Greta, she of the flaming red-hair, and the first to break my heart, looking, not like her mother, but like her grandmother.
Maybe I should be at peace, mooching free coffee with my fellow codgers, or playing Bocce Ball at the Commons, but such is not my fate.
I blame Rockwell. Between LRC and the Mises Institute, I seem to be bumping into young people much of the time.
I’m not complaining, mind you. The kids that show up at Auburn for Mises U. each summer are dazzlers and I don’t have to tell readers at LRC about the quality of some of our columnists who are barely pubescent.
There is no doubt our culture is obsessed with "Youth." Women endlessly seek the elixir that will undo the years, and eventually, many succumb to the surgeon’s blade.
Now the shameless hucksters have turned upon the male. "Whiten your teeth, seed your scalp, and take this pill to restore your manhood." Repeated often enough, messages that were once offensive become amusing and, finally, just another consumer option.
But I was caught up on the wave of youth much earlier. Brooks Brothers was of another time. I now find my clothes in the Portly department at Banana Republic. And although the hair stylists at Supercuts used to draw straws when I entered the door (the loser got me), they now enthusiastically cut my hair, all the while regarding me as an oddity.
But all this was nibbling at the edges. If I truly wanted to make the supreme sacrifice to youthful fashion, it was time to be decisive. It was time to get tattooed.
We are surrounded by tattoos. Almost every young woman I see has colorful birds, flowers, or insects permanently stenciled on every available inch of skin (not that I’m looking, mind you). Some athletes have even taken to selling their exposed skin areas to advertisers.
Surely, I could find some up-to-date, yet tasteful defacing that will mark me as "cool." Something my wife could tolerate, but at the same time, would win approval from the crowd at Starbucks.
Finding a reputable Tattooer was next and the Yellow Pages seemed the appropriate starting point. I was attracted by the candor of one company. They called themselves "The House of Pain," but I decided upon "The Indelible Tattoo" with their clever motto, "Our Tattoo is forever. At least through your first marriage."
It was clear "Charles the Artist" was the owner as he carried a needle like device that was constantly buzzing even while he ate his lunch. The blood stains covering his white tee shirt were merely evidence of his commitment to his craft.
The following dialogue ensued:
Charles the Artist: "Old man, if you are looking for a restroom, or change for a parking meter, you’re in the wrong place."
Blumert: "I’m no tire-kicker, Buster. I’m in the market for a tattoo, and it might be more than one if the deal is right." (calling him Buster lets him know that I’m tough as well as cool.)
C the A: "If you must know, I figured you for a cop from Weights and Measures checking on the purity of our vegetable dyes, but you sound OK, old man. I promise not to use the blunt needle."
Blumert: "I’m feeling more confident by the moment. What do you recommend? What’s cool?"
C the A: "You want something smart, but not pretentious. Colorful, but not loud. A tattoo you’ll be comfortable with during the day, or for evenings."
Blumert: Well, maybe something a bit more masculine. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a fa–, you know a ho–, uh, one of thoseu2014"
C the A: "Say it, old man, you mean faggot."
Blumert: "I didn’t say that, you did. Why, some of my bestu2014"
C the A: "Forget it, nobody could ever mistake you for one of — them."
"Let me tell you about our Special for September. It’s a barbed-wire arm bracelet in light purple and you get your ears pierced free. The bracelet is our best seller. It’s from the Alan Iverson Collection."
Blumert: "Maybe something less contemporary. Something classical."
C the A: "Well, let’s look at my u2018golden oldies’ file. Let’s see: WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, the 60’s. Anything strike you yet?"
Blumert: I was in the Air Force during the Korean thing, but I try to forget all of that."
C the A: "Tell you what, I have something perfect for you. As you walked through the door, YOUR tattoo flashed in my mind. Let the artist prevail. Let me pick your tattoo. You’ll not be sorry."
Blumert: "I respect the artist in you and you can go ahead, as long as I get my senior discount,"
C the A: " Take off your shirt."
Epilogue: Blumert is having his tattoo surgically removed next Thursday. He has been silent about the design, but, knowing Blumert, he will be blabbing about it as soon as he heals.