Corie Skolnick

Communiqués From Geezerville: Where/What Is Geezerville?

(Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash)

Corie Skolnick’s newest column for her series Communiqués From Geezerville is about defining what Geezerville is and the types of people who live there.

 

This question was inevitable: “Where is this place called Geezerville?”

Indeed.

First, a comprehensive examination of “Geezerville” as both a place and as a state of mind dictates the necessity of parsing our terms. For this exercise, let us turn to Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary (“a dictionary prepared according to the principles of Noah Webster”). Webster’s defines “geezer” succinctly (and with just a touch of cruelty) as “n. an old man.” Since this edition of Noah’s “modern” dictionary (circa 1984) is hardly “woke” enough to include half the human race in its definition, I think we can, nevertheless, in 2021, extrapolate enough to say, “any old person, male or female.” Allow me to point out here that nobody who isn’t a geezer would “consult a dictionary” unless maybe it’s an online dictionary. Screens, people. The youngsters get all their info from a screen now.

Nevertheless, let us proceed. “Ville” is actually not even in Webster’s, probably because it’s derived from the French language and Webster was no Francophile, not even close. He despised Europe and Europeans. In France, a “ville” means “town” or “village.” So, if we’re going to be literal, “Geezerville” is a town occupied by old people. There are many in the United States, and more every day, primarily because there are more old people around every day. In 1950, the year I was born, a mere 8% of the US population was over the age of 65, or what some say is the demarcation of “old.” By 2019, that percentage had doubled to 16% and it’s predicted that by 2050 fully 22% of the US population will qualify as geezers. (This is a pre-COVID prediction, so, maybe, maybe not. Accuracy of prediction will be predicated on the ’rona.) Whereas the median age in America was only 29.7 years back in 1960, today the median is 38.3. If ’rona doesn’t decimate the population of older folks, you can see this trend continue as the birth rate trends down and people live longer.

Some of these “towns” are organized purely around the principle of age. A “55+” for instance is a town or community that restricts residence by fiat to people who have survived fifty-five years or more and who don’t want their daily lives sullied by anyone any younger than that coming around. Except for the considerable army of Amazon drivers delivering the daily Prime shipment, and UPS guys, and Uber eats, and Grubhub, or Instacart personnel. Those guys? Come on in! But NOT to live. In terms of living, these are sundowner communities and everybody under 55 better skedaddle out the gates when the moon is nigh. (I’m not even kidding here.)

Then there are the NORCs, which happen more or less organically. “Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities” are really indistinguishable from “55+” functionally except there is no particular enforceable legal code about who can live there. Most of these either exist because the inhabitants raised their families and then just stubbornly refused to downsize and move on or out when their kids left the nest, or they are locales that seem particularly attractive to the senior set. (Weather and “amenities” seem to be on top of that list. But you have to wonder if a dearth of younger people around isn’t also a natural attractant for this crowd.)

There’s a lot of talk of “like-minded people” in these “retirement communities” and I have yet to decode that nugget. As far as I can tell, the one unifying mind exercise in Geezerville is the pre-occupation we all share with the certain knowledge that we’re in the chute waiting more or less patiently—because, really, what is our option?—for the grim reaper. Other than that last frontier, the “D” word, not too much unites us, much less makes us “like-minded.” My personal experience with the “over-65 crowd” sometimes leaves me slack-jawed. I have determined that there really are only two kinds of people in this world and by “this world” I mean the one populated by “senior citizens.” I can break down these two kinds of geezers by any category you might suggest. Here’s just a few, the categories that monopolize our time and 90% of our decision-making: 1) what we’re going to eat, 2) what we’re going to drink, and 3) what we’re going to do to entertain ourselves.

 

Food

There’s the kind who go to any random food-centric event, (happy hour, potluck, community supper, any holiday deemed worthy of traditional foodstuffs and what have you) and they show up with a box of cheap-ass Trader Joe’s crackers. Opened. Previously opened. Maybe, maybe not stale. The other kind, the polar opposite of Mr. Cracker, has spent the better part of a whole day slaving over homemade appetizers featuring expensive ingredients from Whole Foods and requiring intensive labor to assemble. Everybody knows who Mrs. Gorgeous Canapés is and her arrival is met with joyous celebration. She is set upon before she reaches the table and her offering to the communal exchange is G O N E in seconds as if the attendees have all been in some kind of detention and fed only gruel or bread and water. (Crackers and water?) I am told by those with more experience with such things that Mrs. Canapé will soon weary of the meager attention and praise that her extraordinary efforts garner and she too will be reduced to bringing some kind of stale processed product that makes her feel less exploited. (So far in my G-ville, luckily, there are a few who keep on keepin’ on, god bless ’em.)

 

Beverages

In a category related to yet wholly different from food is libations. The “two kinds” rule is tricky in this category, especially when it comes to wine because the inherent need of some people to flaunt their wealth and their worldliness is in dire opposition to their inherent cheapness. Hence, one kind (let’s call a spade a spade here, these guys are blowhards) is keen on everyone perceiving them as true wine connoisseurs, so they show up to BYOBs with some expensive-looking stuff. They might even hold forth on how expensive it is and how great it is if they can get anyone at all to listen, but here’s the thing … they don’t share. They never let go of the neck of that bottle and they drink every drop of it themselves. These are not good people. The other kind (and who can blame them?) are more generous and they come with one or two bottles of Charles Shaw and these get donated to the stash at the end of the bar where all the swill is located. I myself have become something of a hybrid of these two kinds of geezer. I bring a cheap bottle of something to add to the swill pile, but I also bring my own little sippy cup full of a better-quality wine just for moi. Because god forbid some unkind neighbor accuses me of a lack of generosity, but, hey … my liver isn’t getting any younger like the rest of me and my liver prefers the good stuff. The two-buck Chuck is always gone when night falls so it’s all good in the hood.

 

Music/Entertainment

This category hits home in a particular way. Let’s just for a moment entertain a hypothetical. Let’s say that a resident (no one you know and no one we’re going to name) has an “in” with a locally celebrated (three-time—most recently this month—nominated at the San Diego Annual Music Awards) musician. Said young musician, by virtue of his kind heart and generous nature, has responded to a request by the “social committee of Geezerville” and has agreed to put on a small outdoor concert with a few friends. Gratis. Pro Bono. Freebie. No dinero, muchacho. Bear in mind, good folks, that no single occupation has been hurt more economically than that of the performance community due to COVID shutdowns. No venues, no shows. No shows, no paychecks. Did I mention that these kind young people came to entertain us in Geezerville FOR FREE?

Now, one kind of geezer gets an invitation to this soirée and says, “Wow! Live music! An outdoor concert! And FREE! I’m there!” But then, there’s the other kind of geezer. A petty, small, miserly (heaven forfend there’s going to be a tip jar!) individual who hears the glad tidings and responds to the HOA board with their “concerns.” Mind you, “concerns” almost always involves “liability” issues and avoiding any. Bottom line, this over-arching concern, my friends, is why we can’t have nice things. Old people are terrified of liability. Witness the recent demand here in Geezerville proper to have children sign liability waivers to use the kiddie park. (Remember children? Short people. Extremely self-obsessed. General operating principle is “I want what I want when I want it.” The littlest ones are not too sure on their feet. They fall a lot. Not to be confused with their grandparents who have mostly regressed to this stage, too.)

Anyway, long story short, the above-mentioned free concert was held. It was held in the kiddie park. And I’m happy to report that it was fairly well-attended, minus a few Scrooges, and that tip jar was stuffed in a very generous way. Thanks to the other kind of geezer who hears after a very long spate of silence that there’s going to be live music in the park and they spend half a day locating their long-forgotten dancing shoes. Bravo to the dancers! (I want to be one of them!)

The key to a happy last chapter wherever you live, I’ve decided, is to maintain a healthy sense of humor. No doubt about it there’s just no avoiding this final exercise in human development, confronting the inevitability of looming death, and accepting that these lives we’ve lived are not just finite but imminently terminal. Erik Erikson, the famed developmental psychologist and researcher told us that to complete our final developmental stage, and to find “wisdom” as the end draws nigh, it’s imperative that we contemplate our lives and determine we’ve accepted life in all its fullness, both victories and defeats. Erikson tells us that having a guilty conscience about the past or failing to accomplish important goals will eventually lead to depression and hopelessness.

Here in Geezerville, wherever your Geezerville might be, being a happy geezer will depend a lot on which kind of geezer you choose to be. Me? I’m gonna go to the concert and I’m gonna dance. No regrets. Come to think about it, I may even pop for that good bottle of vino at the next gathering. You can’t take it with you, right? (Something we geezers say on the reg and sometimes even mean.)

 

Corie Skolnick

Corie Skolnick is the author of two novels, ORFAN and AMERICA’S MOST ELIGIBLE, both published by india street press the publishing subsidiary of indie record label, Mannequin Vanity Records. She is a contributor to the non-fiction anthologies, ADOPTION REUNION IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE and ADOPTION THERAPY. Her essays have appeared in THE BIG SMOKE AMERICA and NAILED MAGAZINE. She writes regularly for the travel website, DESTO3.com. She is a San Diego State University/Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series selectee. Her first novel, ORFAN is in development as a feature film.

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