Old Gray Man Ain’t What he used to be

The prompt, “When did Paul get so cool?” given by Dan Landes

“I can’t really compare the way the city is now to how it used to be without comparing the way my life is now to how it used to be,” I told her.

“Yes,” Madison said, as she stared at the television screen, half paying attention to the conversation. “It’s easy to get lost in nostalgia.”

I nodded, knowingly. “Look at me,” I said. “I’m old and I work full time, so my life is pretty boring. Back then, when rents were cheap and you could still get a drink for $1.50, I was in college and I only worked part time. My rent was only $250 a month and my only goal was to have as much fun as possible. Plus I always had weekends off and my hangovers weren’t as fierce.”

“Definitely,” she said, making eye contact with me for the first time in several minutes. “And when you’re in your twenties, everything is designed strictly for you: music, fashion, bars. It’s all tailored to your interests. Once you hit your thirties, you’re demographic is dated and all you can think about is the way things used to be.”

“Exactly. I mean, look at this city. Rents are rising, bars are becoming sleeker, cleaner. It’s almost impossible to even find a bar without a television. That’s fucking crazy to me.”

“And 21 year olds look so damn young.”

We both laughed as I agreed enthusiastically. I ordered us another round of drinks and tried not to look at the TV. Just when I was about to add another point to our conversation, Paul came from behind us and embraced us both.

“Look who it is,” Paul said. “My two favorite misanthropes.”

We handed out hugs and greetings as Paul ordered his first drink.

“What are you two doing tonight?” he asked.

“Drinking,” I said. “And talking about how much cooler we used to be.”

“Sounds like a lot of fun,” he said facetiously.

“What are you up to?” Madison said.

“My girlfriend and all her friends are getting a drink here before we go dancing,” he replied. I asked where they were going to do that and he said, “There’s some ‘90s dance thing at Milk Bar.”

I felt dejected. In college, all my friends, including Paul, used to dance to ‘80s music. I didn’t even listen to the radio in the ‘90s.

“Come on, Paul, ‘90s music sucks,” I said.

He scoffed. “Remember in the early 2000s when ‘80s punks told us ‘80s dance music sucked?” I nodded. “Well now you’re a ‘90s punk telling the youngsters ‘90s dance music sucks.”

“Hmm,” I said. I thought about it for a few moments. “Yeah, but that’s different.”

Madison and Paul laughed at me. He ordered his drink and went back to the cool table with his young girlfriend and her young friends who were all kids in the ‘90s.

“When did Paul get so cool?” I asked Madison.

“He didn’t get cool,” she replied. “He’s just not a dick. He’s not bitter. He’s open to new experiences.”

“Well how do you do that?”

She shook her head as she laughed at me again.




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