Old Vice

     As of this writing, I have reached the age of fifty. Old age is rapidly approaching, like the speeding of a comet destined to wipe out the woolly mammoth, which I suppose in this case is a metaphor for bone density or something. I’m too old to care if I’m writing good.

     I find old age suits me, hurtling towards death being a much more relaxing idea than I’d assumed in my hypochondriacal youth. I’m embracing the regularly-scheduled naps and medication doses of senior citizenship, successfully avoiding hard labor, remaining housebound, and keeping expectations of my mental and physical agility low. Occasionally, I take the time to peer at the outside world and scoff at the witless parade of youth culture gumming up the Ethernet. These kids and their iTunes. They don’t know the sheer sonic beauty of Jethro Tull on 8-track, etc., etc. Time for a nap!

     Naturally, I have been accused of being a cranky old man since I first voiced an opinion on modern popular culture, which would have been around the age of four (I’d had it up to here with Helen Reddy). I have always projected the air of a world-weary, cantankerous pensioner because, deep in my heart, that’s who I’ve always been. In my desperate hurry to reach maturity, I always longed for a life of quiet routine, to swaddle myself in a contemplative, pedestrian, and thoroughly dull existence, like a patchwork quilt made of Zane Grey novels and C-SPAN.

     The signs of premature aging were already there in childhood: a preference for Mike Wallace over Scooby Doo, a fascination with Vaudeville, rejection of Skittles in favor of rhubarb pie. This rejection of all things kiddie continued throughout my snotty teens as I avoided my be-zitted contemporaries, sneering at their pop fashions and rock star worship. I spent my high school years discussing health insurance and lawn mower repair with any adult who might humor me. My girlfriends sat in their rooms alone while I attempted to woo their parents with my obvious maturity, feigning knowledge of surgical procedures and schoolboard referendums. The illusion was shattered when I had to call my mother for a ride home, but I’m sure I looked all grown up in my little fedora.

     On becoming an actual grownup, I fled my juvenile peer group to go to college. I packed up my Reader’s Digests and Ben Gay and moved into a crumbling, bug-infested apartment of my very own. It was the first residence in which I lived alone, with no glue-sniffing roommates to scarf my Ovaltine. And it was here, in solitude, away from the chirping Nintendos and Pearl Jam CDs of the other students, that I truly began to realize the extent of my disease.

     I tuned my radio to an easy listening station, filling the air with the lilting tones of Mel Torme and Julie London throughout the day. My TV ran classic films almost exclusively, the tedious exploits of Esther Williams and Burgess Meredith soothing my jangled nerves. I began haunting the antique stores, alone, looking for Edison cylinders and Tom Swift first editions. Occasionally I would venture out to the nearby drug store for any required ointments, hot water bottles, or hard candies. Left to my own devices, I instantly became a senior citizen. My diagnosis was not simply introversion in need of quiet or a desire to appear mature beyond my years. It was a full-blown, textbook case of elderitis. I was very happy.

     But now, decades later, legitimate old age is finally creeping in. And it’s a relief to finally embrace the old man inside me, like the gays who come out to their friends late in life, even though their Judy Garland obsession tipped everyone off ages ago. It’s a relief to finally be able to say “back in my day” and have those words represent a considerable span of history. The Knievel Age recedes far into the distance, and I find myself the ambassador of a vanished century, a better century. A century without these newfangled Fitbits and Alexas. I can regale the young people with stories of the old country, telling them the legend of Kojak, detailing the day Reagan was shot, or acting out the Thrilla in Manilla blow by blow. The kids will ignore my history lessons and remain fixated on their apps, which is as it should be.

     Turning fifty is a relief mostly because the culture at large no longer cares what I think. I am no longer a target demographic for the advertisers enticing the young with their Hollywood features and gaming platforms. No one admonishes me anymore for not knowing what John Wick or K-Pop are. Of course, I don’t know. I’m an old man. The trends of the day fly below my radar, and I no longer have to justify my resentment of them invading my airspace. I can shake my cane at the youth culture with confidence, not as a thrift-store-dwelling hipster in grandpa’s sports coat, but as grandpa himself.

     Because that’s the other strange turn of events that has catapulted me into geezerhood. I am now a grandfather. Granted, I’m actually a step-grandfather, or as I like to call myself, Grandpa By Proxy, but grampy nonetheless. This was an ideal development; I skipped having kids myself, then married a woman with grown children who began having children of their own. I flew right past “because I said so” and went straight into “got yer nose.” It feels right. When someone’s calling you grandpa, those aches in the knee joints and lapses of memory don’t feel so out of place.

     And so, embracing my inner Methuselah, I settle into an orthopedic chair, fire up the heating pad, and commit my musings to virtual paper. I write for the grandkids, who may one day thumb through a volume of my collected works before tossing it into the Salvation Army bin. My message for them is one of hope for those old before their time: “It doesn’t get better, but it gets older. And that’s better.” I document the inner musings of a Gen X refuge of the pre-digital world, a land of New Wave, New Edition, New Coke, New Kids on the Block, and all the other new things I despised. I’ll reach out to the young people of the future to say what I’ve been saying since I was an old man of twelve. “When I was your age, everyone was exactly as stupid as they are now.”



Vest Pocket Holtism

You, the addled, tweet-stuffed denizens of social media, grimace at the conglomerations of excess wordage we once called "books" and proclaim, "TLDR!"

To you I offer this tiny slice of gourmet paragraphy, this smidgen of typeset delight - slightly longer than a drunk-text of angry emojis, but significantly shorter than Cervantes.

And this slender volume, this pocket digest of wit and wisdom, written and somewhat perversely illustrated by my own self, is but a mere $5.

A quick click of the link below, speedy delivery to your door, swift consumption of these memorable essays, and you're right back to flame wars about transgender bathrooms while you binge-watch your Cumberbatch whathaveyou.

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Order this vital-yet-semi-disposable book of knowledge here


Will Work for Fools


     During high school, in the depths of the 1980’s, my friend Gnat got a job working at the Guitar Exchange. It was a local retail establishment, a music shop about the size of a storage shed, which served as a hangout for teenage stoners with Van Halenian aspirations. Gnat being just such a guitar-shredding, heavy metal acolyte, this seemed the perfect environment for him to pretend to be gainfully employed.


The Accidental Purist

     Gnat showed up in a van he said he’d been driving for two weeks, but it looked like he’d owned it for twenty years. It was covered with dents, dirt and debris on the outside, and the interior contained fossil layers of convenience store and Burger King refuse, covering the once-pristine upholstery. He’d driven this monstrosity to visit me while I was pretending to get a college education in Savannah. In a weak moment of nostalgia for our hobo high school years, I had invited this dumpster diver to spend a few days with me in my new apartment. I was taken aback by his malodorous condition.


The Known Unknown

My math teacher, Mr. Pseudonym, gave us some fatherly advice back in 1984. He accessed the collective intelligence of the assembled hopeless in his classroom and said, “The older you get the more you realize how stupid you are.”

Thinking this might be on the test, I wrote it down next to my ballpoint drawings of exploding robots, in a notebook otherwise devoid of scholarship, and went back to my sketching. I’m sure he felt compelled to give this advice to us because we were in summer school, which, for the uninitiated, was required of students who had flunked a class or three the previous year so they and their lazy, drug-addled brains might advance to the next grade. It wasn’t exactly a think tank.


Invasion of the Body Rockers

     You missed the Eurovision Song Contest. I know you missed it because, if you’re reading this, you’re most likely an American. And last Saturday you were watching reruns of Mama’s Family or barbequing Hot Pockets or shopping for plastic tumblers at Walgreens or some other typical American activity, while all of Europe and affiliated nations were glued to their state-sponsored televisions, watching Eurovision. Shops and offices closed so they could gape at this multi-billion-Euro musical extravaganza, a cornucopia of pop music, with enough sequin-festooned glitz to make Liberace wince, and you weren’t invited.


The Cars That Go Boom

     I’ve seen my share of accidents along this dangerous stretch of I-85 in upstate South Carolina. What I wasn’t fortunate enough to witness myself has been conveniently photographed and printed on the front page of the Gaffney Ledger. I’ve seen tractor-trailers overturned, crushing unsuspecting convertibles and sporty hatchbacks. I’ve seen minivans ripped in half by trains. I’ve seen delivery trucks dislodged of their fruit pie deliveries by the sudden appearance of unlucky white-tailed bucks. But I can honestly say this was the first time I’ve seen a car entirely engulfed in flames.


Irregular Joe

     As should be obvious by my reflective bloggery and general childishness, I am of the Nostalgia Geek Generation, those early Gen Xers whose lives revolve around the pop culture they ingested as kids. I’m not proud of it. I’ve long been critical of those who overindulge in pop culture junk and fall victim to the nostalgia-based marketing of Hollywood, K-Tel, Cartoon Network and Pez. I stick my nose high in the air as they stuff their juvenile craniums with Scrappy Doo and Gilligan reruns, Transformers movies and the oxymoronic Essential Marvel Team-Up reprints. But sometimes I am weak. Sometimes those bastards hit me right where I live and recycle a favorite childhood token that I can’t resist. They did it with the Ultraman ’66 DVD set, they did it with the Captain Atom/Blue Beetle/Question Archives, and now they’ve really done it with Hasbro’s reissue of the 1974 Adventure Team GI Joes in all their kung-fu gripping glory.


A Few Beer’s Resolution

     There seems to be a psychological trifecta in the American holiday season, not unlike the Stages of Grief or the twelves steps of Hollywood networking (aka AA). On Thanksgiving, we show our gratitude for the bounty of hot tubs and elective surgeries we have available to us with a traditional feasting of the gravy-laden. Having properly thanked Papa Jehovah for our gruesome overindulgence, Christmas unleashes a bacchanal of retail consumption for which we may be thankful the following year (especially the eternal blessings of refunds and exchanges). And after all this thankfulness and further greed-a-palooza, we have New Year’s, in which we promise to never, ever do it again. 


The Music is Reversible, But Time is Not

Like so many other podunk dirt farmers of their generation, my newlywed parents were eager to leave behind their rural childhoods of chicken beheadings and outhouse hosings and embrace the dream of 1950’s suburbia. They had visions of two-door Frigidaires, multi-speed cuisinarts and full-color Philcos in a ranch-style Levittown castle. There would be backyard barbecues and baseball practice, birthday piñatas on the patio and late-night cocktail parties with boisterous neighbor couples. This last shindig would require the feature every suburban dweller knew he couldn’t live without: the hi-fi.


Generation Wrecks

     Somewhere in 1987, my friend Chuck and I were hanging out in his unfurnished apartment, waiting for that evening’s episode of Webster to begin, when we saw a TV news broadcast profiling “Generation X.” This was a new media buzzword - a label for the upcoming batch of young adults, who were, as usual, completely different in their values and priorities from their parents. Gen X, it was said, was a disillusioned bunch. They had little or no faith in the future, they had an ironic relationship with our corporate-run culture, and they were emotionally unprepared to cope with the struggles of adulthood. Rather than becoming the next wave of innovators, Generation X, they told us, were far more likely to be found watching the Brady Bunch and thumbing through old comic books. Chuck put down his copy of Richie Rich #118 and looked at me sheepishly.
     “Where did this ‘Generation X’ stuff come from?” he asked.


The Agony of the Cleats

     As of this writing, the United States soccer team has been eliminated from the 2014 World Cup competition. This leaves the usual futbol suspects like Germany and Brazil to stomp each other’s toes in a quest for glory, and it means Americans can officially go back to not caring about soccer. We can feel relieved about this since, as I understand it, the World Cup matches will continue for at least the next eight months (with additional time added, depending on penalties and injuries) – or maybe it just feels that long.


Internal Combustion: The Talkie

I hear what you're saying: "Sure, that Internal Combustion book is a literary masterpiece. But what about the illiterates among my friends and family? How will they enjoy the heartfelt humor and self-righteous wit of this amazing work? Should I just forget about them and let them keep on watching Season One of Mannix?"

Heavens no! Mannix is butt-awful! As always, I'm here to help. Now there's Internal Combustion: the Audiobook! Three compact discs for one low price, featuring impassioned readings from The Book straight from my very own gargling larynx. Not only unabridged, but with additional blather! Plus an attractive booklet containing all the illustrations from the original book!

Is that not enough for you? Well, it wasn't enough for me, either. That's why, in addition to writing, illustrating, and recording these readings from the book myself, I also created original music for the audiobook production. I'm like Orson Welles and Yanni put together!

Click below for sample snippets of audio. And note just how easy this miracle product is to order! Want to forego that pesky, 20th Century plastic artifact? Then choose the digital download option for half the price!



Too Cool for Drool

I envy you people who say you have no regrets. That is, I would envy you if I thought you were being truthful, and not simply living in denial about all the disgraceful lapses in judgment that blot your permanent record.

Regret could be considered my primary character trait. My life is a rich tapestry of bad jokes at funerals, lampshade-clad party gymnastics, and anger-fueled outbursts of “I don’t need your stinking job!” when clearly I did. My body itself is a testament to regrettable actions. I’m covered in scars received not from acts of orphan-saving valor, but from double-dog dares that I couldn’t catch a Nerf football from the back of a moving moped and similar adventures. If I did it, it’s likely that I regret it.


Prattle of the Network Stars

As much as it will pain me, I may have to defriend Kalamity Kate. I know the accepted term on Facebook is “unfriend,” but seeing as the age of texting has abolished the rules of grammar, I feel I should be able to deinvent the language to my own satisfactioning. I also think wine and tubs should be decorked and declogged respectively, in case you were wondering. But I ungress.


Zen and the Art of Throwing Away Broken Junk: The Movie

Yet another reading from the book "Internal Combustion," written, illustrated, and clumsily read by our own esteemed Ashley Holt. Feel my pain come to life through the magic of 19th Century technology.


Still Only 25 Cents: The Movie

Well, it's technically a video anyway, even though there's only one image. Think of it as a talisman for meditation, this single image. It's a nice break from the usual online blinking and twitching, don't you agree? This sad tale is, of course, from my wildly successful new book, Internal Combustion.


To Cough in the Face of Danger

It should come as no surprise that I’m a bundle of nerves. I was raised by a bundle of nerves. From the time I was born, my father was feverishly intent on imparting to me one, all-encompassing lesson: life is full of danger. Life, according to my father, consisted entirely of electrocution, puncture wounds, rattle snake bites, and vehicular homicide. Being pathologically anxious by nature, he saw his children’s activities as nothing but preludes to hospitalization. He saw the world as a mass of rusty nails and combustible liquids, and his offspring as a gaggle of hyperactive mental defectives, who would swallow fishhooks or lock themselves in abandoned refrigerators for fun. He had splints and peroxide ready at all times.


Halloweak: The Movie

An oral presentation of "Halloweak" from my new book, "Internal Combustion." Read about the book here: http://thrdgll.tripod.com/internalcombustion.htm


Like Reading a Blog, Only with Paper Cuts

Delivered from my very own knotted gut, the musings and doodles which chronicle my anxious existence, collected in what scholars of ancient civilizations refer to as a "book." Click hereabouts to find out more: