Friday, March 13, 2015

Gettin Old

The other day a couple of months or so ago I was out with the boys.  Out with the boys?  My son and son-in-law, plus my grandson.   A few decades ago out with the boys would have meant I was running errands with a few of my homeys, no doubt misbehaving and exploring the limits of alcohol and other ethereal substance consumption.  There are glorious, hallowed stories that could fill a shelf.  I almost remember some of them. 

All us fellas were out picking up a wood dining set my son had purchased on Craig's List.   It was around the holidays and I think we needed to get out of the house and do some guy stuff.  Like flex our muscles and pick up some furniture.  Eat beef jerky and tell third grade jokes.  You know, guy stuff.

My son went in the house and did the deal while the other three of us waited respectfully outside.  After the money exchanged hands it was time to get the oak set into my son's truck.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that and the table and six chairs were almost in the back of his truck and tied down.  Around this time the former table owner came out of his house to inspect our handy work.

Some chit chat ensued and then the former table owner inquired, "Is this set for the older gentleman?" referring to me.


Granted, I hadn't said much.  I had carried out a chair or two, but I left the heavy stuff to the younger generation.  At 60 I've earned that right.  I've moved a lot of stuff.  Heavy stuff too.

My hair isn't totally grey.  It's salt and pepper, a little more salt than pepper, but it's still got some pepper.  I'm in pretty decent shape.  I can do a sit-up.  And a push up.  I can still converse.  I'm reasonably articulate.  I wasn't drooling.  I can still answer a direct question and do not need to be referred to in the third person.  Yet. 


I'm a San Francisco Giants baseball fan.  I have been since 1962.  I'm also a Grateful Dead fan.  Have been since, uh, well, I can't rightly remember.  It's quite possible I was stoned the first time I saw them.  What decade was that, anyway?

When a T-Shirt appeared combining these two wonderful by lines of my life it was a natural fit for me.
So I was wearing my T-shirt a couple summers ago when a guy I would put in his mid-40's happened upon me in a grocery store.

"Wow, great shirt," he said, nodding in affirmation and pointing at me, "I was there.  I was there too."

"Like what, when you were two?" I was thinking.

He was getting excited, you know, like maybe he was having a flashback or something.  And then he turned, calling to his son, "Hey, Jimmie, come here.  Check out this old timer's shirt."

What The Fuck.

I will turn 61 later this year.  I sure don't feel like I'm going to be 61, at least mentally.  I'm locked in somewhere in my early 30's, and when I see folks with grey hair I think they are old.  Then I look in the mirror.  I see way graying hair and I see my father's neck when he was gettin old.  Damn.  What the hell happened?

My poor, old, tired, used and abused body, that certainly feels much older than the early 30's.  Of course, when my appendix burst last October, that also knocked the wind out of me.  I'm still not quite up to 100%.  I keep on thinking I am, then I really push and my body says nope.  Stop.  Cut it out.  I'm still within my three to six month recovery window, so hopefully I'll grow out of it.  If not, then, I guess I will have to accept that little slice for life permanently slowed my roll a bit. 


How do I feel about gettin old?  Melancholy mostly.  Now that I'm on the downhill side of things it means there's less time to laugh and love here on the planet.  And I so don't want to leave my children and grandchildren with a heartache, which I know I'm bound to do.  Sorry gang.  

They make pills for boners now.  I'm hoping somebody develops a pill soon for that other type of longevity savored by man, you know, life.

On the positive side, I had a vision that I am going to peak at eighty, so I got that going for me.  And them.  Some folks peak in high school, I'm gonna peak when I'm a real dirty old man.  Plus I just figured out what it is I'm supposed to be doing with my life, I should be allowed to do that for a little while.   

Actually, I never thought I'd live past forty.  See "Late Night Letters to the Moon".  There were at least three times I should have bought the farm before that tender young age, but somehow I survived.  Lucky me.  Lucky you.  If I wasn't here, how the heck could you possibly be so mindlessly entertained at this particular juncture in time?

I'm not afraid of "death" either.  I've already danced in the bright white lights, it was ecstatic.  Or maybe that was the acid.  Whatever.  However I got to where ever I was I found it to be profoundly limitless.  And unbelievably euphoric.  There's more than a few dimensions out there, enough room for a wastrel like me to bump, grind and shine for eternity.  Probably enough room for you too.  We'll surely get down when the time is right.  

You know, there's not a whole heck of a lot of stuff I urgently want or need to do, no bucket list per say.  I am happy to be here, on this planet, breathing.  I want to be here with my family and friends, to share in their stories and further exploits.  Don't need to climb a mountain.  Don't need to jump out of a plane.  I wouldn't mind a little more travel, it's a pretty big planet.  See and experience a few more worldly treasures.  There's eternity for the rest of the universe.

I like to witness my lovely wife when her face lights up looking at a work of art in a museum.  That makes my heart sing.  The laughter of my kids, my grand kids.  That'll make my heart sing.  A great tune will always make me think that this is More Than Just a Dream.

Snow capped vistas, high mountain meadows, cool, clear meandering streams.  The piercing cry of a hawk on the wing.  The melodic tune of the Canadian Geese as they traverse their ancient course on high.  A pristine sunset.  Or sunrise.  The purr of a cat, the wag of a dog. The clean, fresh smell of the earth after a rain.  Cookies.  These are a few of my raindrops on roses.

I first kinda knew I was getting old back in my early forties.  It was another place in time, around the corner, up the bend.  It was around the holidays, I was out on our acreage looking for mistletoe.  The twenty acres we lived on was scattered with oak, many of which also harbored that parasite, mistletoe.  I found one with a huge patch that looked accessible and began my ascent.

I have climbed a lot of trees in my time.  That's one of the best things ever for a young boy to do.  I'm not that afraid of heights and my target was probably only twenty five feet in the air.  But as soon as I got myself contorted into the initial bowel of the lowest branches, I found I could not un-contort in a plausible fashion as to further my ascent.  I was able to descend, fortunately, which I did.  It's called jumping.  Four feet on to soft dirt.  Then I went back to the house to get the .22 rifle.  Upon my return to the tree, I banged off a half dozen shots where mistletoe met oak.  The mistletoe fell, defeated, and I ended up with a wheel barrow full of the stuff.  So, you know, now I can add "Mr. Mistletoe Hunter" to my resume.

There was a time in my life when I was actually trying to look older.  That would have been back in the high school era trying to score beer.  Somewhere along the line I found an old dress suit, probably at the Good Will or Salvation Army.  I had also scored a greying fake mustache at a costume shop.  Sporting that stash with the old, ill-fitting suit and tie, and further emboldened by some of my mother's talcum powder splashed on hair and sideburns, a few of us tried the ruse.  I don't think it ever worked once.

A funny, underage, youthful scoring story:  One of my best buddies and I were waiting in line overnight for some George Harrison tickets.  Ya, this was in the days before the internet.  Jobs, Woz and Gates were still tinkering in their garages.  For really big shows, sometimes it was necessary to wait in line overnight at the ticket outlet to ensure tickets.

We, of course, brought some beer.  But silly us, we probably thought at some point we might actually put our bodies into our sleeping bags and close our eyes.  Nope.  This was becoming an all nighter.  So somewhere around 3:00 AM Miguel and I went off in his jalopy in search of some hops.  We found a 24 hour convenience store, went in and tossed a couple six packs on the counter.  $1.29 each.  The checker, a recent transplant from New York, rang us up.  We paid and were on our way.  Sort of.

We walked out and jumped in his car.  Mind you, we were both decently buzzed with at least a six pack, if not more, each, under our belts.  As soon as we sat down in his car there came a knock knock knock on my passenger window.  Probably on his too.  I looked over and saw the cop's badge.  What the?  Where'd they come from?  There was one of them at each door and they ever so politely ushered us out of the car.

"What's in the bag, boys?" one of them asked, taking the bag out of my hands.

"Uh, beer?" I think maybe I might have said.

"Let's go back in the store and sort this out," one of them said.

So back in we went.  New York was dismayed.  Being a recent transplant he wasn't used to California law which forbade commercial alcohol sales from 2:00 to 6:00 AM every morning.  And that seemed to be the only thing on the cops docket that morning.

We laughed and joked with them as they ran New York through the ringer.  My friend Miguel asking at one point, "Hey, are those bullets real?"

The final upshot of the entire deal was that the store was in trouble for selling alcohol during the forbidden hours.  The cops NEVER looked at our IDs.  Otherwise they would have known we were both under 21.  New York even asked us that, off the cuff, during the procedure.  We lied and said of course we were of age.

The cops didn't give us a drunk test either.  We were, apparently, funny golden boys.  We weren't allowed to take our ill purchased beer with us, so we lost a couple bucks there.  But considering what could have transpired I think we were pretty damn lucky.  We certainly would have lost our place in line, that's for sure. Fortunately we still had a few beers left in the ice chest when we got back.  That allowed us a cool down period before we actually slept for a while.

The George Harrison concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1974 was excellent by the way.  In case you weren't there. 

One thing I have found as I get older is there seems to be more story reminiscing than story creating.  You know, like, I'm not going to spend the night in line for concert tickets anymore.  I don't care who's playing.   And I doubt I'll be going mistletoe hunting again either.

Life seems to be slowing down a little.  Invitations to weddings have dwindled, while obligations to funerals have been on the rise.  At this rate I'm going to know more people in hell than I will here on the planet.

By the way, I don't believe in hell as far as an after life is concerned.  That is of our own personal creation here on this planet, in this dimension.  Been there, done that.  Heaven, in case you're interested, is not a mythical paradise in the sky possibly accessible sometime in the future.  It's a real paradise in your heart.  Accessible now. 

I've discovered a few other things along my life's journey here.  Discovery seems to happen if you're open, honest, receptive and alive long enough so that enough repetitions of whatever it is smacking you upside the head sometimes allows for some semblance of understanding to sink into your soul.  That and buttermilk.  

As I previously mentioned, I have also recently discovered, with complete abandon, what it is that I am supposed to be doing with my life.  This, writing.  Being whimsically silly.  I've always written as a hobby and being silly has always been kind of a full time preoccupation.  They combine so naturally for me, just like my T-Shirt.  As long as I stay crazy and my fingers stay in shape, I should be able to doodle for a long time to come.  Another major benefit of my chosen golden age career, I don't have to climb any trees to do it.

Homestead Update 

Things are just rollicking along here on the hill.  Speaking of trees, Tarzan, our tree guy, was out just yesterday.  One of the things he did was to complete the view by slicing off a big branch from the last large oak in front.  That action also required the rope swing to be elevated another 10-12 feet, now making the overall fall about 40 feet.  It might be possible to go supersonic once I get the seat back on.

That cut should also allow us to view sunsets unobstructed all year long.

One thing I have noticed is every time I get that dang guy out here he leaves me an almost insurmountable mess.  I've probably got about 3-4 cords of wood on the ground right now, all over the place.  That means brushing, burning, bucking, hauling, splitting, and stacking, thousands of pounds overall.  Who needs a gym?

Besides all that wickedly fun stuff, I have also embarked on a number of major exterior improvement projects that must be completed by mid June.  Here's a pile of stuff I'm going to deploy over the next couple months.

Ambitious?  Hell yeah.  But, as I've been saying since we got here, I need to get all this heavy stuff done while I'm still young.