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We used to talk about things we couldn't change — and we still do

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Posted: Monday, May 17, 2010 12:00 am

When I was a kid, there was as much politicking in the daytime eating establishments in Lodi as there is now.

The difference is simply the subject matter and the age of the persons engaged in the conversation. When we were kids, we talked about the kinds of kid stuff we couldn't change; now we talk about grown-up stuff we can't change.

Ironically, the people in both instances are still the same people. The other morning, a bunch of 75-year-old Lodi High punks were in the Avenue Café discussing such things as the installation of water meters, or why in the hell they are tearing up Lodi Avenue again for the 10th time, especially when they still pave over man-hole covers that they will hafta dig up again in another coupla weeks, and the handicap-based restructuring of the Grape Bowl and the finer details about what makes that issue an issue in this burg in the first place.

Fifty-plus years earlier, a bunch of us Lodi High punks were in a daytime restaurant plotting the havoc we were about to visit on Stockton High, its kids and its real property.

Far as the Grape Bowl is concerned, you can imagine the basic attitudes a bunch of growed-up squareheads had about having some out-of-town Jasper wanting to sue Lodi because he had a client that needed wheelchair access on or about those premises. Not all of us had animosity for the kid in distress. What we really wanted was to give that hustling lawyer a little "what fer."

It seems as though it was just yesterday when the younger high school girls, all dressed in their pastel prom dresses, at least I think they were prom dresses, came promenading down from the Grape Bowl east end zone, singing and swaying in time to the music and looking beautiful as they brought flowers and flat little bottles of booze to the girl graduates, who were all poised to listen to the words of wisdom from some great civic leader (yeah, I know!) as he threw his pearls of wisdom to a bunch of ungrateful brats who had not the foggiest notion what the man was talking about. Or cared, for that matter; celebration was on their minds. The distinguished speaker, however, was ego-convinced that taking his advice at commencement would make us into unmitigated successes if we would but act on every word of his verbal largess. ("Commencement." That seemed the wrong word to use at that time; after all, we had reached the end of our school careers, not the beginning.) I had almost as much schooling left to complete as I had already tolerated, and so did a lot of others.

I honestly thought I knew exponentially more then than I do now. Reminds me of the dad of a 16-year-old who wanted to sell his encyclopedia set: He said he didn't need it anymore because he had a kid who knew everything.

Ironically enough, as we age, we become more aware of the fact we don't know a damn thing. When I was little, I was pretty sure we could go out some clear night and accurately count the stars. I also thought there were only three kinds of tomatoes: Round ones, not-so-round ones and little ones. I talked to a tomato grower one day and he allowed as to how there are something like 400 varieties. Astrophysics guys suggest there are as many heavenly bodies as there are grains of sand on this planet. That boggles my mind, if you want yours really boggled, just go out, get a tablespoon of fine sand, pour it out on a table, count the grains in just that spoonful and then start multiplying.

These days, the Class of 1949 is still as close as ever and we still meet regularly to eat and complain about how fat we are becoming. And … we still know everything, or at least little things like how to run the country and Lodi.

Ironic, ain't it? We '49ers don't know anything, but we all agree we could run the country better than the guys who don't know anything either but think they do.

I think back to the times when we were in student clubs or in church groups. We would have meetings in which minutes were read. This could be a lot like this quote:

"The meeting was called to order by President Evangeline. The secretary's minutes were read and approved. The treasurer's report showed we have $14.26 in the bank. The president called for new or old business. Robert said he would like to borrow $67,000,000 from the bank to buy some ping-pong balls for the new table tennis set Mr. Schmidtsker left us when he died. The group voted to get the loan. There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned."

This is what the people who are running the government are doing in comparison. Makes you wonder who the reckless ones really are.

Oh yeah, a full breakfast is running around 10 bucks these days. It was 75 cents in the 1940s. The conversation is still free and worth every penny of it.

Bob Bader is a writer who practices chiropractic. You can reach him at

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