So today I turn fifty. That’s just silly. I mean, every morning, when I get up, I’m still fairly convinced that I’m nineteen, then I go into the bathroom and there’s this old guy in the mirror who scares the hell out of me. But today I’m fifty.
My father died of a sudden heart attack when he was 49, his brother, died of a sudden stroke when he was forty-nine, Douglas Adams died when he was 49, vapor-locked on the stair climber at the gym, I’m told. Okay, there’s no genetic link to Douglas Adams, but we have the same job. What if you catch death from typing or something? So, anyway, it’s been a tense year. The last week I’ve been really careful crossing the street. I mean, really careful. Sort of irritatingly careful. Okay, I spent about ten minutes at one intersection on the way to the gym yesterday because I was just sure that no one could be trusted. But right now it’s about ten minutes to midnight so unless I croak in the next few minutes, I guess I’m going to make it to fifty. That said, Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii……………………………
Kidding! Just fuckin’ with you. I’m fine.
So, it all seems like some sort of horrible accident, like the car’s been spinning in slow motion for, oh, forty years or so, and any minute it’s going to hit a pole. I’m not really freaked out about the whole, hitting the pole thing. I’m much more afraid of irony than I am of death. In fact, I’ve sort of been living with T.S. Elliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html running through my head since I was about thirty. (Which he wrote when he was 24, so he was obviously feeling the weight of his years when he wrote that one, all full of wistful regret and tired and gentle self-loathing, or that’s how I read it.)
Now I am a little concerned that I’m not going to get everything done.
I mean, you’re sort of born with unlimited potential (especially if you’re white, male, middle class and American) and as you grow up you hear doors closing as you go along. Some early. Like when you start cranking that C average in seventh grade because it’s much more interesting to think about Mandy’s lady humps than it is to pay attention to, say, averaging fractions — well, the doors to the White House start slamming. This is presuming you want to be a decent president – I realize, with the bar where it is now, I could have probably stolen a car, kidnapped Mandy and made my way across state lines while free-basing coke, beer-bonging Jack, and robbing gas stations and burning love haikus in Mandy’s fishnets with a Marlboro — basically gone owl-shit wild until I had to be lobotomized and sedated just to stop me from auto-humping the sky — and still recovered in time and with enough sense to keep us out of Iraq. But I didn’t know that then.
So, you know, missed opportunities.
Doors close. Okay, eighth grade, I’m third string pulling guard on a team that only has two strings, there is a chance I won’t go in the first round of the NFL draft.
What did you get on your SATs? Oh, you were out all night throwing Frisbee in the Pizza Hut parking lot and slept too late to take them? Good chance Harvard is not going to come knocking.
So it goes, as Kurt used to say.
I got used to doors slamming, and I was okay with letting go of most of the things behind them. So I would never run a load of weapons across the Florida Straits in a jet-powered cigarette boat while two super-models rubbed oil into my massive but tastefully ripped biceps. It’s so humid in South Florida anyway.
Fed my dissection frog, bit by bit, to the fish in the tank at the back of the science room? Yeah, that Nobel Prize in Molecular Biology probably isn’t going to happen.
But now, now I realize that there’s stuff I’m not going to get done that I really wanted to get done. I am not going to read all the books on my list. It’s not going to happen. I have other stuff to do. I could read a book every day until the chilly hand of death grabs my knob, and I’m still not going to read them all.
I am never going to learn everything about art or history that I’d like to know. For one thing, they are going to keep making both. I think old guys watch the History Channel a lot because they are under the illusion that A) that it’s actually doing something and B) they think they can somehow catch up. Nope, not gonna happen.
I’m not going to see all the movies, plays, or old TV shows, I’m not going to listen to all the music, and I’m not going ever get through a whole performance of the Ring Cycle (mainly because I will probably take my own life if I try.) I am not going to eat all the pizzas, drink all the wines, see all the sunsets, or smell all the flowers. It’s very likely that I’m not going to run a Marathon, finish an Iron Man, dive to the bottom of the Mariannas trench, or jump out of an airplane. (I may have said this before, but if I die in a mysterious sky-diving accident, it was murder. Start the investigation immediately. I did not voluntarily jump out of an airplane. I was pushed. I’m just saying, some things need to remain undone.)
Sadly, many, many woman are going to go completely unboned by me. Sniff!
A moment of silence. (Or relief, depending on your point of view.)
Okay, so I haven’t really prepared to be an old guy. I’m still very immature. I look forward to Easter for one reason: Peeps in the Microwave. Does a grown-up guy do that? I still love commercials on TV with talking animals. Shouldn’t I be quoting Proust and snarling at the decline of Western Culture? Nope, I’m giggling at an insurance-selling duck. When someone mentions the great leaps being made by science, my first thought is: “A pill that allows me to eat nothing but peanut butter cups while keeping me ripped and simultaneously grows thick Doctor Dreamy hair.” It’s a reason to get up in the morning.
Tonight I was talking to Charlee, my wife-like girlfriend of many years (and the reason that so many of you remain unboned – well, her and my personality. I know. Shut up.) so we were talking about aging. Someone at work called her a cougar.
”What’s a cougar?” She asked me. I said, “It’s a sexually active older woman who pursues younger men.” “Really,” says she, with a grin, sort of liking the whole concept. “What do they call a guy who pursues younger women.” “A guy,” I said.
We don’t have a cool animal name, unless you count “creepy” or “perv”, which do not sound nearly as cool as cougar. I have no point, except that horny older guys should have a cooler name than horny older guys.
So, back to this thing about aging. I mean, maybe it’s better if I just vapor-lock on the stair climber one day. I know you guys will be sad because I didn’t finish whatever book I’m working on, but isn’t that better than if I get all drooly and you keep reading my books hoping for a spark of my former brilliance (again, shut up, please, people have called me brilliant. Yes, I paid them to, but still…) only to find that I’m turning out the same crap over and over, or worse, I’ve hired a whole shop full of Viet Namese children to write my books for me like James Patterson.
So, I’m wondering when that’s all going to kick in. That aging thing. Yesterday I trimmed my nose hairs and it was like trying to evict a family of Rastafarians from my nostrils, but that’s not what I mean. I was working on my book today, and when I took a break to go upstairs and make myself some dinner, I got to the top of the stairs and there it was – that old person smell. You know that smell, right? Like boiled vegetables. All old people’s houses have it, and most old people have it, but they can’t smell it. I was, all, “Oh fuck, I won’t even be fifty for like six more hours and already old people smell is seeping out of me. Maybe they have some spray of some kind at the Safeway, in a section I never notice before, that will take away old people smell. Maybe I’ll have to wear a sachet of baking soda around my neck, everywhere I go. Soon I’ll be shitting in a bag and eating nothing but strained peas until the nurse has the fucking decency to crank the morphine drip to eleven and let me shuffle the fuck off this mortal coil with my last shred of dignity.” I rant like that sometimes when there’s no one in the house, I think it’s a symptom of dementia.
So, I’m kind of mortified. And I look over on the counter and some chicken blood is dripping down the front of the dishwasher, because when Charlee went to work this afternoon, I pulled some chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them on the counter to thaw (calm down, I know my rock-star life is probably dazzling you) and I threw some broccoli in the microwave to steam, thinking that it would be cool enough to put in a salad by the time the chicken was thawed. I’d sort of gotten engaged in working on the book and had forgotten about the chicken and the broccoli. The old people smell was seeping out of the broccoli, not me. Needless to say, that broccoli did not go in my body, and neither will broccoli or any old-people smelling veggie every be allowed in the house again, but it wasn’t instant aging.
Aging is going to sneak up on me, like a creaky old Ninja.
One more day ahead of the broccoli Ninja may be all I have.
I have shit to do.
What was I saying?
Who are you?
Where did you put my socks?