Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

Today’s my birthday, and it promises to be the loneliest of all birthdays. Not only will I be spending it on the road, away from the comforts of home, but it’ll also be the first birthday in as far back as I can remember that I won’t be celebrating on Facebook.

Granted, I’ve only been on Facebook for about five years – but that also happens to be as far back as I can remember! Ha! That’s right, we’re dipping into that deep, unexplored comedic well of “I’m getting old” jokes. It’s gonna be a long ride, folks, so don’t forget your, uh … whatever thing it is that old people wouldn’t want to forget. You know, the one that’s funny. Geritol, or whatever.

Anyway, as superficial as I once thought it was, I’ve grown fond of the outpouring of cut-and-paste emotion that used to flood my Facebook wall each birthday. But since I’ve recently pulled the plug on my Facebook account, this year I’ll have to grow one year closer to death without the loving support of a cadre of passing acquaintances. And it hurts. It truly does. Which means that, after 46 years on the planet, I still haven’t learned how not to be emotionally dependent on the acknowledgment of others.

But that’s certainly not the only thing that I haven’t learned. In fact, there’s an enormous list, far too lengthy to print in this space.

Here are some highlights.

“Things I Haven’t Learned (Excerpt)”

• The difference between “sure up” and “shore up.”

OK, technically, I have learned this, but I just learned it late last week, so I haven’t had a chance to cross it off the list yet.

It’s not like I used this phrase often, but each time I’d feel it bubbling up in my speaking I’d realize that I had once again neglected to do any research. Could be shore, could be sure. I didn’t know. I’d try to fudge it each time, to pronounce it in such a generic way that I wouldn’t be held accountable. This may work in some parts of the country, but when you have a Southern accent there’s a vast, oil-drenched gulf between the pronunciation of those two words.

I finally broke down and looked it up last week. Turns out the correct phrase is to “shore up.” Oops.

“Sure up” is meaningless, unless it’s in response to me asking you, “Is there any particular way you’d like for me to shut?”

• How to “hambone.”

See, the thing is, I really should be able to hambone. It’s in my blood. My Uncle Satch could hambone. I bet all my uncles could. I’m from Mississippi, for God’s sake. I was born to hambone! But I’ve yet to learn.

On the off chance that you don’t know what it means to “hambone,” it’s a musical technique that involves a rhythmic slapping of various parts of the body (your own), with emphasis on the thighs and shoulders. Imagine an overly caffeinated session of mosquito swatting. Or a seizure in 4/4 time. Only folksier. There have been so many opportunities in my life in which throwing down some skillful hambone would have really improved my situation – like last month, during a trip to Washington.

But instead of really mastering it, I can only demonstrate what it “sorta” is. And noncommittal hambone is an ugly thing to witness. Not only that, it’s also apparently on the Transportation Security Administration’s “prohibited musical expressions” list.

• How to come up with a memorable quote.

You know, like Patrick Duffy’s “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” or Gandhi’s “I have a dream.” Something that would really be mine, sum me up, make me live on forever on one of those quote-a-day calendars. I have some pretty good ones, such as “Grow up or throw up” and “Noncommittal hambone is an ugly thing to witness,” but I don’t think I’ve quite nailed it yet. If I don’t pin this down soon, I might have to snag one that’s lapsed into the public domain and claim it as my own.

“Let my people go.” – Barry Smith

• How to turn a year older without focusing on the negative.

I have so many good qualities: I can type; I consistently choose better Netflix movies than my wife; I don’t contribute to the depletion of the planet’s natural shampoo resources; and so on. So why do I always have to celebrate each birthday with a list of shortcomings and failures? Ordinarily this is a question I’d put forth to my Facebook friends. Sigh…

• How to play the banjo.

(See explanation for “hambone,” above.)

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