Auld Ang Syne

Random notes on turning 60.

Of note. Of late.

I have stopped eating. Okay, not stopped. But for someone who has pounded three large meals a day plus snacks for his entire 60 years (subtract 8 months for baby formula – I then graduated to sirloin), the sudden demise of vacuum cleaner like intake is surprising. Is this due to age or disinterest? I don’t know. But I seem to make due of late with Trader Joe’s roasted chicken breast and peanut butter. Obviously I need an in house chef. I think a good cassoulet or a Setzuan broccoli beef or even a Carnegie Deli pastrami sandwich might restore my appetite. In fact, the thought of all three, preferably served together, just did. Disregard previous paragraph.

Lexapro, which is an anti-depressant and Lamactil, which is a mood stabilizer, take the edge off your sex drive, which, at 60, does you no favors. Actually it sort of blunts that edge with a sludge hammer. The problem, of course, is that it does nothing to blunt your imagination. The mind is still willing – even eager – but the body is not. At times it seems hardly worthwhile. Obviously one needs a partner who considers this a creative challenge. One who will take the bull by the horn. Grease the joints and crack the whip! Once more into the breach, dear friend! All right, all right, enough. Besides, wasn’t it Mark Twain who said that too often in life, sex is overrated while a good bowel movement is unappreciated. He was, when he wrote this, I think – yes – 60. And there is light. A friend who is now seventy five tells me it was such a relief hitting seventy four years, eleven months, three weeks and two days because he finally lost interest in sex altogether and for the first time in his life got some work done. Just another thing to look forward to. Not. Disregard previous paragraph.

At 60 you sleep less. You are more restless. Often, knowing it’s going to be difficult to fall asleep, I go to bed early to give myself lots of extra time to do so. Once asleep, I wake up a lot. Someone is snoring and this disturbs me. It especially disturbs me that the someone is me. The lovely wife has a remedy for snoring. She puts a large fluffy pillow over your face. If that doesn’t work, she sits on it. One thing hasn’t changed. I still dream insane dreams. Crashing airplanes, lost subway cars, trains going in the wrong direction, cab rides to nowhere, abandoned apartments and deserted houses I seem to be living in but have no memory of. I tried describing my dreams to a therapist one time but I could see she was growing more and more nervous by the moment so I stopped. At the end of the day it’s probably all just symbolic of sex anyway. Or bowl movements. On the plus side, thanks to the knee injury, I don’t sleep walk anymore. The neighbors are happy too. As are the dogs who were getting tired of being peed on in the middle of the night. Now I’ve embarrassed them. Please disregard previous paragraph.

One thing about getting older is, if you’re being completely honest with yourself, you have to admit you no desire to be young again. This is not to say you wouldn’t mind the energy and indestructability of youth, it’s just to say there’s a growing feeling of “thank god, I don’t have to go through that again”. You lose some of the idealism of youth – lose the feeling of “it’s all going to work just fine in the end”. Because you know now – from painful experience and lessons hard learned – that a lot of the time, it won’t. Actually I never had any youthful idealism. I might of thought I did but I didn’t. What I had – and this was just me, I’m not speaking for others – was youthful obliviousness.

A middle class white kid, I grew up in the shadow of Viet Nam and Watergate. People marched in the streets. What I remember now is great rock music and a lot of partying. Oblivious.

In 1973, there was a gas embargo. Lines at filling stations went around the block. Drivers of vehicles with license plates having an odd number as the last digit were allowed to purchase gasoline for their cars only on odd-numbered days of the month, while drivers of vehicles with even-numbered license plates were allowed to purchase fuel only on even-numbered days. Unlike the older generation who felt aghast and betrayed, I remember feeling slightly inconvenienced. Yes, there was no car available for date nights but I had no dates so it hardly mattered. I was oblivious.

In the 1980’s, developing countries across the world faced economic and social difficulties as they suffered from multiple debt crises. Ethiopia and other African countries witnessed widespread famine. There was major civil discontent everywhere. Violence occurred in the Middle East, including the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet-Afghan War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the Bombing of Libya in 1986, and the First Intifada in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Guess what? I was in my twenties through all of it, beginning the most unlikely of careers, having a good old time and none of it seemed like that big a deal. I was totally oblivious.

In the nineties there was the first Gulf War, the first and second Chechen War, the Congo War, the Kargil War, the Kosovo War, the Ten Day War, the Croatian War of Independence and the Bosnian War. Among others. Others being the Ethiopian Civil War, the Somali Civil War and The Tajikistan Civil War. And let’s not forget the Rwandan Genocide. And the Srebrenica Massacre. And the Los Angeles Race Riots. And the Oklahoma City bombing. And the World Trade Center bombing (not to be confused with 911). I was in my forties now and guess what? I started paying attention. Maybe because I now had a wife and a house and children, I wasn’t quite so oblivious anymore

At 60, I now lose what little sleep I do get over shit like this – shit I would have shrugged off in my youth. Why? Because regardless of whether or not the world is going to go on, pretty soon it’s going to be going on without me. Why sweat this stuff now? But I do. I worry about the environment. About the inequalities and questionable values of capitalism. About the smug intellectualism of the modern theatre. About vapid movies and insane video games. I worry about the Ukraine and Nigeria and the air quality in China. I worry about gun violence. I worry about the future of my children. The future of all our children. About the world we are leaving them.

So much for oblivious.

Do not disregard previous paragraph.

Ah, but your sixties is not a time to get so serious. Let’s put on a show! On NPR this morning they did a story on the Palm Springs Follies – an old fashioned review of singers and showgirls and dancers and comedians and magicians and jugglers all of whom are in their sixties, seventies and even their eighties. They do show tunes, they do Vegas lounge act entertainment, they do Tom Jones – geriatrics in sequins sing What’s New, Pussycat? A master of ceremonies gets out there and makes Don Rickles like small talk with the audience – all of whom are in their sixties, seventies and eighties as well. “You! How old are you, darling? Seventy-five? You don’t look a day younger than ninety! Is that your goiter or are you happy to see me? Don’t make me laugh, I’ll mess my pants – literally!”

Oblivious!

Only not really.

At the end of the show, they do a salute to any veterans that are in the house. They ask them to rise. There are as fair number of them, both men and women. A few are WWII vets, most are veterans of Korea and Viet Nam. The lights flare, the cast takes the stage, balloons fill the air. And then everyone sings Auld Lang Syne.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon; The flames of Love extinguished, and fully past and gone:

Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast of thine; That thou canst never once reflect On Old long syne.

At 60, you begin to think about the past a lot.

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