Old farts and Facebook

by Brian Clarey

Rightnow I’m traveling through time. I’m looking at a version of myself fromdays gone by, a photograph taken a long time ago in a bar where I usedto work, long since closed and the reopened by someone with a touchmore business savvy than my old boss. I’m young, just about 21, withlong, flowing hair and a face not yet made heavy by the rigors ofresponsibility and time. I’m drunk in the photo, of that I’m certain,with one hand on my crotch and the other flashing a peace sign, a wide,delirious smile pasted on my face because I was laughing at something.Back then I was always laughing at something. It was probablythe winter of 1992, which doesn’t seem so long ago, but long ago itwas… a lifetime ago, maybe longer. I was still in college, pullingthree or four shifts a week to keep up with my expenses and dozingthrough my morning classes. I was dating a girl… a crazy one who onenight tried to smash a beer mug across my face. I remember the bar’smoney guy, a rich boy from up North who played championship levelsquash and had a taste for Jagermeister and rock cocaine.

Iremember Kevin, the guy who taught me how to make drinks, and the barfight that went down one night in the atrium, so crazy it looked like aBurt Reynolds movie. I remember standing on the bar to watch theRadiators play an acoustic set on our stage and being lewdlypropositioned by one of New Orleans’ many queens of soul — all of thistriggered by a single image of a younger, more drunk version of me. I’dlargely forgotten about those days, but an old friend came across theseshots last week and posted them on her Facebook page. My circle offriends has been buzzing about it ever since. Yeah, I know…maybe I’m just a little bit too old to be cruising the Facebook. Andwhen I signed up a couple years ago, you probably would’ve been right.I rationalized it as a business thing, a PR vehicle, a tip sheet or atool to find hard-to-locate people. But really I wanted to snooparound, find out how the story ends for all the people I used to know.And they make you get an account before you can properly parsesomeone’s page. Back when I joined, there weren’t too many of us oldfolks on the Facebook — all I could find was a few friends from mycollege newspaper and a kid from the old neighborhood who has sincechanged the spelling of his first name to “Dug.” But in the last couplemonths I have witnessed a virtual Facebook population boom of old fartslike me who are not, shall we say, the networking site’s targetaudience. And I’ve got news for all you little punks: We’retaking over, and we’re gonna ruin it for all of you, just like the BabyBoomers ruined Social Security for us. Facebook began just a few shortyears ago as a way for college kids — sorry, Harvard kids — toconnect during the summer. It expanded to include other ivies, then allcollege kids, and then they opened it to high schools. They didn’t letthe old folks in the gate until September 2006. And at first, we didn’tknow what to do with it. How do I do the e-mail thing? Why can’t I see this one’s profile? Vampires? There’s Vampires on Facebook? But as our ranks grew, Facebook hooked us up with some new features. The New York Times quiz?That one was for us. The I Have Kids application, too. Books I’ve Read,Cities I’ve Visited, the Huffington Post feed… all of these werecrafted for those of us who really remember the ’80s and don’tquite understand when someone, say, “tackles” you, gives you the“stinkeye” or “troutslaps” you on your Superpoke. As we speak,I am cultivating a small virtual city that I’ve named Baldwinia, inhonor of the Baldwin brothers of Long Island, NY. There are 50 citizensso far in my eight square block metropolis, and I see a Mobil gasstation has recently sprung up in the north, across the street from amixed-use high-rise. The citizens come from all walks of life— from drunk rugby players to neurosurgeons to plumbers. There’s even aflying terrorist, a depressive math teacher and five Clooney-stylemovie stars. The people are happy by all measurable standards, and Iexpect my city to flourish and prosper. And there… I’ve justhired an aircraft mechanic — I get to add one new citizen every day.It’s extremely satisfying. You see: We appreciate Facebook more thanthe young stuff already, and we haven’t even warmed up yet. Honestly, Idon’t think the young people need Facebook, although I can see how itcould increase the frequency with which you get laid. But they’reyoung! They should be out going, seeing doing… all the things that wecan’t be doing because of careers, families, mortgages, tender livers.They should be out there, taking big bites out of life, laughing awaythe hours, sleeping around indiscriminately. And they should post pictures of it all on their Facebook pages, to remind us old farts of how it used to be.

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