“See here how everything
Lead up to this day
And it’s just like any other day
That’s ever been
Sun going up and then
The sun going down
Shine through my window
And my friends they come around”
– from Black Peter. Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. First performed by the Dead December 4, 1969 at Fillmore West. Performed 342 times thereafter. Cut 2 side 2 on Workingman’s Dead, released June 14, 1970 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ka6yhEUyos.
I like being old. I’m not a Deadhead. That’s my brother-in-law in California. But sometimes Hunter and Garcia are spot on. From another Dead staple, I like where my long strange trip has led me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pafY6sZt0FE.
I’m getting tired of hearing my boomer friends bitch about getting old. It was hard work getting to this age (68), and I like it fine right here. I’m rid of a job that for years I thought I loved when in truth it was crushing my soul. Good riddance. Thanks for the 401ks. I’ve met a whole lot of people over the years and been fortunate to stay connected to many of the good ones. There are more good ones out there to be met and befriended, I’m sure, but I’m thankful for my base. My knees don’t hurt anymore since I’ve stopped running, and walking everywhere seems to be just fine as a way to keep the waistline down and the mood elevated. I can drink all the beer I want. Whenever I want. Wherever I want. With whomever I want. No one is lurking to report me to my Chief. Of course I’m not free of consequences: calories, mornings mainly. The boo I craved in college and got to use when I had my card is legal now, but I don’t partake as I don’t want to zone out and miss something. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to procreate, after lots of trying. Even if I were to meet some fertile young chika who found graybeards attractive for more than their retirement accounts, the wizened flagellate filled product my blue-pill charged member might propel up her tubes would carry such damaged DNA that any product of conception would carry too high a risk of ending up some two-headed imbecilic deformed thing that it’d be best just not to start. I could volunteer my high-IQ WASP DNA to a bank, justifying a few moments of solitary pleasure, but any recipient might be in for a bad joke. I love my dear wife of 34 years, more than ever. My partner. My equal. My best friend. And the physical part? The emotion and attraction are constant, and let’s say that modern science does keep everything possible. I am constantly in awe of her and thank the good Lord every day for sending her to me.
I paid my mortgage off in April, 5 months early given the little extra I’d been kicking in each payment. Uncle is giving me back a little of the money I started paying him working at the print shop in high school over 50 years ago. The Missus is still bringing in a nice check for doing something she loves and is very good at. Walking her to and from her campus office gives a nice day’s exercise and we plan to do that even on those days when she’s forced to teach her class from the dining room table. I don’t have to see patients anymore, so no one expects me to fix their aches and pains. But young faculty still sometimes ask me for advice and there seems to be an audience for my writing about some things I used to do. Any harebrained idea that comes to me can be turned into a blog post, and I’ve had over 80 since I started the thing up in January.
I have a wonderful relationship with my aged vehicles. I have 2 Jeeps. One, a Patriot blue 2006 Wrangler, I bought in September 2005 with the big bonus I got for having won the American College of Rheumatology Clinical Scholar Educator Award – paid over 3 years – 2 years previously. The other, a silver 2011 Patriot came home in August 2010 to replace our maroon 1991 Cherokee that we’d bought slightly used almost exactly 20 years previously and had finally rusted beyond salvageability. They both look and run great, and Kathy and I love ‘em more now than when we drove ‘em off the lot. One of the Jeep dealers in town used to send a card every year asking if we wanted to sell the Wrangler and get something new. They never got a response and several years ago I stopped getting the card. I’m not sure how much gas I buy each year, but we don’t put a lot of miles on. I dropped the next biggest travel expense after insurance last June when I retired and became ineligible for the Gold parking pass which bled $157 out of my paycheck every month. Now I have a retiree’s pass, which accesses any U of M lot after 3 P.M. weekdays and all weekend, and costs me nothing. I have parted with my 6 2-wheeled vehicles, formalizing the end of a long and loving relationship that ended little Christmas eve 2014 in the lake country of Chile when I braked hard to avoid a little dog and got thrown into a ditch where I broke and dislocated my shoulder while trashing my brachial plexus (see my March 15 post “Bye Bye Bikes? https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/theviewfromharbal.com/311).
Steely Dan, in “Night by Night”, sang “When the joker tried to tell me I couldn’t cut it in a school town. When he tried to hang that sign on me I said ‘take it down’ ” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cxFzHO9lfI. This September it was all but 8 of the last 50 years I’ve done just that. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, except maybe LaJolla (if I could afford it). I still have all my favorite places, add new ones, get to swim among hordes of young students (I think I draw from them like the oldsters in Cocoon did when they swam in the pool containing the alien pods). If I want, I can even play student myself and sit in on a course or two. The two I sampled last fall term, econ of banking and “death and afterlife” crashed when they became boring and/or too morbid. Nothing this term, but half the classes are virtual and the rest restrict contact between teachers and students, taking a lot of fun out of the classroom experience. I’ll take a look at the course catalogue in November to if something looks good for winter term. Until the lockdown, there was an abundance of lectures, seminars and workshops on campus open to the public. I filled my phone calendar from the University Record. Fortunately, I haven’t needed much doctoring. But if I ever do, there’s a world-class medical center a mile and a half away in which many familiar faces are tending to the sick, and would do by me if I ever became one.
David Foster Wallace wrote a book some years ago A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again. At this age, I’ve tried an awfully lot of those sort of things and am pleased there’s no going back: running, ice skating, motorcycles, canoeing, kayaking (especially at sea), cruising (except on small boats), opera, ballroom dancing (much to the disappointment of my mate), basketball (playing, not watching), the NBA, hockey, soccer, do-it-yourself home repair, automobile maintenance (although I can still change my own oil), modern jazz (Miles Davis and beyond), lap swimming, long hair, foreign language films, golf!(I know that was my sole varsity letter, but it’s all been downhill since) , Belgian beers, smokin’ dope, political news (sorry PDJT, but I still and will always love and support you), and bicycles (see “gone, gone, gone” https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/theviewfromharbal.com/587). I suppose there’s more, as life serves up a host of annoying things you’d rather not have to deal with. DTE and AT&T for example. But don’t deal with them and there go your lights and your internet. But overall the pressure not to enjoy all those things is a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. And life still has a lot of fun things, including the 7 Fs. Football is one of them. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the rest.
My high school English teacher Mrs. Pharriss recently wrote me: “When you reach 80, I’ve come to realize as I approach 81, you no longer think long term. It’s odd, that adjustment, but it also heightens appreciation of the Here and Now. Even the smallest of pleasures—like watching the hummingbirds come to the feeder or hearing the four-year-old twins chattering away while playing on their patio next to ours–brings me happiness.” This compression of the future into a keener appreciation of the here and now is something I’m experiencing even at the tender age of 68. I think it adds to an appreciation of the life we do have and translates into happiness. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, partly because so much of the BS that used to bother me is in the past, and partly because I appreciate the present all the more. I didn’t seek this or plan for it. It’s a gift. Maybe God’s gift to transition us from the “useful” to the “landfill”. From the basket to the casket, as Kirchen sings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WThqW7IX21w. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.
Maybe some of this happiness comes from heeding Thoreau: “simplify, simplify”. But I take care not to overdo that, either, lest I end up like Jack, per Louis Jordan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NAUeL0D4SI
So I rest in my blue La-Z-Boy in my living room a happy and contented man. I look forward to sharing with you all the oddball observations my undertaxed brain happens to conjure. As Evita sang “Don’t cry for me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpNy6xqoQa8. Where I am is a very good place to be. Now to just hold on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3PZ-Mju5Hk.