Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A View of Old Folks, Monkeys, and Fools

Monkeys as Judges of Art - Gabriel Cornelius von Max (Oil on canvas, 1889)
Click on the painting for a comparative analysis of the piece.

One of my grandmother's favorite sayings was, "God looks out for old folks, monkeys, and fools." Any time someone did something incredibly stupid or some tragic story about the elderly was reported, you were bound to hear this from her. It came to mind as I read and heard the stories that make up this post.

Let's start with the old folks, shall we? One of my favorite memories of my grandmother was how she'd watch my cousins, sister, and I dance. She'd join in, often dancing better than all of us, smiling and telling us how are dances weren't new. "Hell, we did that when I was a kid. That ain't nothin' but the mess around. Let me show you how to really do that!" Then off she'd go, grinning and bouncing to the music, hands on her hips, head thrown back, dancing with unadulterated joy. She danced until she was physically unable to dance any more, but that didn't stop her from tapping her feet in her wheelchair, or singing songs when the mood struck.

I thought about that and teared up remembering how much fun we had watching her show us how to really do that dance when I watched this clip of The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church's anniversary celebration that landed in my e-mail a couple of weeks ago. The dancing starts in about 2:50 into the clip, but you might want to watch this from the beginning for the full effect. If you want to see ageless joy, then pay attention to the ladies in the aisles swaying to Sam Cooke or the deacon putting it down to "My Girl."

Some of the comments on that clip's website talked about how dancing in church is a sin. Come on. There's no sin in moving your body, no matter how old you are. What is a sin is the way we assume that people are too old to dance or be physical. Old folks are just that - folks. They are folks with moods, needs, desires, and drives. If Grandma and Grandpa still feel like slow dancing and getting frisky, then put on the slow jams and light some candles for them. They are living life to the fullest. Not everyone feels this way, and it's led to the elderly sometimes feeling uncomfortable discussing their sexuality. That's leading to the real sin - a growing risk of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV in people over 50 according to a recently published World Health Organization study. This age group is more likely to engage in unprotected sex - there's no fear of pregnancy, so there's no urgency for birth control - and drugs like Viagra are extending sex lives. Screening for STDs is less common for older people because doctors assume that Grandma and Grandpa no longer get busy. Here's the truly sad part - the life expectancy of a person over age 65 with HIV is only four years.

Did you know that HIV has its origins in a strain of a Simian Immunodeficiency Virus? Some folks cling to the foolish belief that man contracted the disease after intimate contact with a monkey. That's not true. There are several theories about how SIV mutated into HIV, from possible contamination of the polio vaccine during testing in the Belgian Congo, to the hunt and consumption of primate meat, to the usual crackpot conspiracy theories. Whatever the case, the disease has its roots in primates.

Have you noticed how many stories there are about monkeys and other primates in the news lately? Primates are pissed off, y'all. Everyone knows the story about the chimp in Connecticut who mauled a woman in a sudden, vicious attack. The woman lived - barely. She lost both her hands, her nose, lips, and eyelids, lost the bone structure to her face, and may possibly be blind and suffering brain damaged. All this from a chimp who was thought to be domesticated and had been featured in TV commercials. The 200-pound chimp had to be killed and the chimp's owner may face criminal charges.

Two Monkeys Stealing Fruit From a Basket - Frans Snyders (Oil on canvas, 17th century)
Click on the painting to learn more about the work.

Many reports and the chimp's owner believed the attack was spontaneous and random. Maybe. Then again, if you believe recent news reports the attack may have been premeditated. Santino, a 30 year old chimp in Switzerland, decided to defend his territory from visitors he felt were encroaching. On a daily basis, he collects an arsenal of rocks and bits of concrete to fling at the tresspassers. He throws the weapons underhanded in rapid succession, sometimes hitting targets as far as 30 feet away. He's been doing this since he was about 16 years old.

He may not be the only one. A report in Newsweek points out evidence of capuchin monkeys sorting through rocks to find the best ones for use as tools. The report even includes a link to video of the monkeys at work. I don't have any video of Santino at work, but that may be due to the fact that while he has a good plan, he doesn't have much follow through. Santino's aim isn't so hot - for now anyway.

Ineffective follow through brings me to the fools, and if you live in Detroit, there's nothing more foolish than our city's government. Between our disgraced ex-mayor playing textual healing with at least five women (none of whom were his wife), his top staff behaving like petulant children on city owned two way pagers, a city council battling to keep control of a decaying convention center the city cannot afford to maintain - much less repair, the council president swearing recent leaks that damaged some hot rods on display at the center over the weekend is a "conspiracy," and another council member breaking into a chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers" during a council meeting, our city's leaders are as ineffective as Santino's aim, and as embarrassing as walking in on Grandma and Grandpa doing something freaky.

On the bright side, watching a council meeting is, as my grandmother would say, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

More later, after I rock with Dr. Zaius.

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Anonymous BB said...

I'm kinda surprised that people over 50 still get down for the wild thing. But in this sex-mad culture, I can see where they draw inspiration from. Interesting post.

5:30 PM  
Blogger TEM said...

I think it's wonderful that people over 50 still want to get nasty. Sexuality is a part of a healthy human existence. Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone has a bit of lust in them. As long as you have the yearn, you might as well burn right? I hope I'm still feeling frisky when I'm on the way to the nursing home.

7:45 PM  
Blogger The Old Man said...

Hey, Tem! I was following your blog for a long time, then you disappeared! I'm literally about to do the same (Or is it figuratively?). Lost the house, bill collectors at the door of the car, life is full of it.

Wanna read about it all? Remember the blog AS I SEE IT?

Good to have you back, Gel.

8:00 PM  
Blogger TEM said...

It's good to be back. Long story short, got married to a cheat, got divorced, got depressed and stopped blogging for a while, got over it and came back because I got tired of being depressed. The biggest lesson I learned from my marriage was that life is what you make it, and I don't want to make my life one full of depression and darkness.

Glad to have you back, too. Everybody needs friends and I missed everyone. I'll check out your blog and I promise I won't go away like that ever again.

12:45 PM  
Blogger The Old Man said...

Yeah, if dark poetry doesn't bother you, you can feel free to copy my poem on to your site -- hope you could find time to give me the credit for it.

I'm about to pull my book from Lulu...it's not doing well enough for any good use.

Maybe I can get "Who's calling Please" to out perform "Special Times, Special Summers"...and I guess that wouldn't be too hard.

Must vanish for now. Need some sleep before I have to go back to work.

9:18 AM  
Blogger TEM said...

You've published? And have a book out there for sale? I'll have to look this up. Someday I'd like to write and be published, but I don't know where to begin. How did you do it? And of course I'll use it in a post and give credit where credit is due. It's all about sharing you know.

2:33 PM  

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