Okay, here's the thing. To age is to be a participant in an ongoing magic trick where, right before the world's very eyes, you get to slowly disappear. And trust me: it's no mere illusion.
But even more fun is that while you are in the midst of permanent evanescing, things that are vitally important to you are slowly turning to mist as well.
Often it's people at first: friends, relatives and then suddenly it's the supposedly immortal, super megastars: the roaring lions of pop culture that are turning to vapor dust, bound for permanent extinction.
Celebrities like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson all the way back to the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin don't just become vague memories. They simply cease to exist as if they have never existed before.
That, I suppose, is called forward motion. As a veteran TV/film writer I often watched this phenomena first hand in Los Angeles. Personal dynasties ruled supreme, only to crumble and be replaced by this year's cheaper model. No movie theaters in LA are called "The Garbo" or "The Hepburn" or "The Gable." Instead, stars fall, only to be walked over on Hollywood Boulevard in the shadows of a once looming Derby.
Now lest you think that this is only an LA thing, let's extend this theory to life itself. I read that cursive writing was no longer being taught in most of our schools to be replaced, I suppose, by our computerized opposable thumbprints. So now our paths will begin with the imprints of our tiny little footprints and then pretty much stay on that course for the rest of our lives. Autographs? Gone. Pens? Gone. Paper? Gone. Can you imagine the Declaration of Independence littered on the bottom with thumbprint images? And best of luck to you all when a solar incident throws us off the grid. Welcome to the real chaos theory.
Now of course this makes me sad personally. But what does it really matter to those who have never fondled a Bic (or chewed on its cap), used White Out to correct any number of mastakes...er...mistakes? What is actually missing from your life if you have no frame of reference for it?
Which leads me to this: how important was it in the first place?
The answer is very. Whatever exists in our everyday lives is what naturally interconnects us to each other. We are as different as we are tribal in this country and we do love our rituals whether it's watching The Tonight Show or having ourselves one collaborative seventh inning stretch.
Right now, you are all reading this and I thank you for taking the time to ritually participate in my head. And look: you all fit in.
But here's the thing I'm really aiming for: books:
When I was young, so much younger than today, sometimes my family would all read the same book at the same time ("The Godfather," "Rosemary's Baby") and then we'd have ourselves a literary pow wow in the kitchen to discuss our experiences and thoughts.
Can you even imagine sitting with your family for most than five minutes today without everyone's head bowed towards their lap device like they're praying during Ramadan?
Books, like record albums, were a tactile delight. They were something that we fondled, smelled and carried like newborns into the world with tenderness and care. Books were a secret escape during a sweaty summer subway ride or in the middle of the night when the life terrors of the day would not let you sleep.
Books bonded people. They helped us recalibrate our brains and souls. They brought us to the fount of knowledge, made us understand our fears and prejudices. They personally escorted us into unimaginable action, stirring sex and romance and sometime, sheer lunacy. The voices of so many characters became ours. How many of us heard Holden Caulfield's voice and claimed it as our own? How many of us were suddenly primitive members of "The Lord of the Flies" tribe or strutted our jazz cool to the cadence of Neil Cassidy and Sal Paradise in "On The Road?"
I'm always slackjawed at times when, during a New York Times Book Review, a celebrity like Bill Hader will discuss the upteen million books that are on their nightstands. Who are these people and where do they get the time or discipline to do that anymore? Do these people not own an iphone to distract themselves with Angry Birds like the Bronx Zoo monkeys that we've all become?
But do not despair. We are not illiterate. Not yet, anyway. We've just changed the course of how we receive our ideas and language.
It's called hour drama TV.
That's right. That's what I'm saying. Hour dramas are the books of the 21st century. Watching shows like "Game of Thrones," "True Detective," "Lost" "The Good Wife" "Fargo" and the greatest book of all, "Breaking Bad" are all the great novels of our lives now.
We're just not reading anymore: we're being read to. TV (good TV and not anything that has either a bachelor or a hair pulling housewife or a Kardashian in it) is stoking the flames of brilliant ideas, emotional conflicts and religious thought and are throwing open the door to all kinds of national debate. We even refer to them as "my shows."
Hollywood has long abandoned intelligent, artful, adult films and has entirely replaced them with 300 million dollar reproductions of Marvel comic books. Look, Hollywood has long been the grand illusionist, the slippery Harry Houdini who is fast making all those things vital to you disappear. After you are 49, no one on the West Coast gives a rat's ass about your entertainment needs. Remember: you look at TV as shows interrupted by commercials. Hollywood looks at TV as commercials interrupted by shows.
So I suggest that you go forth and rejoice in the new books of the 21st century: the skillfully written, emotionally compelling, brain twisting hour drama. That's what is on my nightstand now---as well as the 10,000 books a year that I buy, stroke, fondle and never seem to have the time to read. To ignore them today is to be, well, illiterate.
I heard somewhere that housing developers are no longer including bookshelves in their designs for the homes of tomorrow. But don't despair: there is probably a really smart show coming that will be all about that.