Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Apps and Facebook and Twitter and who knows what all else stand evidence to my advancing archaism, if that word is not too archaic. Usually, like any person of advancing age, I try to keep my mouth shut and not remember with voluble critiques when "things were different" and my assumptions were part of some wider social flow. Usually, my lingering assumptions are good enough for me, even if they go increasingly unshared. But sometimes they get up in my face and underscore the passage of time ... honest injun: Time passes.

"Honest injun" ... well, shit!

Leaving "honest injun" out of it for a moment, consider the bastards of Valley Street -- the street on which I live or, more properly, the street whose environment I create and assume and mingle with. I am Valley Street and Valley Street is me, in one sense. I rest on this unannounced presumption. I'm not pushy about it: It is just a pillow on which to lay my metaphorical head. But that head carries with it archaic stuff, which occasionally, as with the bastards, gets called out.

An Internet definition of "bastard" includes:
archaic derogatory
 a person born of parents not married to each other.
synonyms:illegitimate child, child born out of wedlock
Across the street, my neighbor Joe's daughter is preparing for her second child. Another earlier child, I believe, was born out of wedlock. She is achingly bulbous at the moment and Joe told me yesterday that the medical professionals are guessing the birth will take place "within 20 days" ... and the two of us old farts laughed at the ludicrousness of medical people who tell expectant parents ... something. "Twenty days," my ass! Or maybe it will be 20 days .... who knows? The relationship between Joe's daughter and the baby's father rests unspecified in my mind. And Joe's method, as a good Christian, of addressing another bastard in the family is beyond my willingness or even desire to find out. The daughter spends much of her time at home with Joe and his wife. Where the father is, I have no clue, but things seem, somehow, to be amicable.

And then, a couple of doors away, there is Mike and Doreen's latest grandchild, Tucker, offspring of their son Matt and a woman whom he plans to marry, and perhaps, for all I know, already has. Great name, Tucker. I would like to meet him at some point and to congratulate Matt and Tucker's mother, whose name I don't know, but Matt's visits from Rhode Island appear to be occasional.

When I grew up, the sanctimony surrounding matrimony -- nourished largely by a widely-adorned Christian constabulary that was abroad in the land -- was buried in social understanding and the word "bastard," as indicated by the archaic dictionary definition, was derogatory, no matter how many bastard sons and daughters the kings of England sired. At a minimum, when appended to an "illegitimate" birth, it was a reprovable offense. It had a "tch-tch" implication.

I kind of like the fact that beloved bastard children -- if they are -- are on the rise. Clearly marriage has a minimal impact on whether anyone can or will get pregnant. There's biology ... and biology trumps social and/or religious niceties. It's nice to have that fact reiterated from time to time.

But it also leaves me with a hole in my long-standing assumptions. It's not that I feel that my morality, such as it might be, is under assault. I don't want a soap box from which to declaim or even complain. It's just that I have to revamp and reconfigure the jigsaw puzzle of assumptions. I feel delighted on the one hand and strangely left out on the other.

And as it goes with "bastards," so it goes with other stuff as well ... a shape-shifting of emphasis and meaning and from there, infusing whatever position I might hold on the human stage. What was my "Valley Street" is still Valley Street (the road sign says so), but who lives there and how their status is asserted varies. As American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin observed on The Daily Show the other night, there was a time when people wrote letters and kept diaries and historians had something to hold in the palm of their hands. Now, all that's left is Internet offerings and occasional tapes. Writing? Who bothers with or is capable of that?

I guess that now, I am someone's "old bastard of Valley Street," but that too is outside my knowledge. So many things seem to be "outside" these days that I find it more taxing than it's worth to rest on what's "inside." It's lonlier than before, but isn't that as much as anything due to my inability/unwillingness to take a closer look?

I don't know, but I do know that from time to time it can be a needling "bitch."

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