Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Passages by the numbers lead to a revelation

That's right, it's a Lady Gaga t-shirt and I got it at a concert.
It's about those milestone birthdays, mostly the ones that have zeroes in them.

The first few you look forward to, those big days in the teens; first big one is the year you can drive. That was 16 in my case. The next was 18; you could drink in New York in those days. Of course you could count on getting drafted at that age also. The next is 21, today's drinking age and in some states, pot age. Oh yeah, in my day that's when you qualified to vote but I don't recall particularly looking  forward to that.

Then somewhere during the next nine years that balance shifts and you begin to dread those birthdays with zeroes in them. Thirty, forty, OMG 50, even.

Thirty was fine; I was embarking on a new job and a new marriage and in that period a move to Alaska, so there wasn't much time to worry about life at 30 and being over the hill.

Forty was the best ever. I had reached several lifetime goals in the previous year; my first book was published, I was an established boat captain, I had recently purchased my own little piece of Alaska where I intended to build a cabin and, I woke up on my 40th birthday in the cabin of a 44-foot sailboat 1,000 miles off Cape Mendocino, California, on my way to Hawaii with a few friends.

Fifty went by fairly easily. I had thought I should do something to mark half a century but everything seemed contrived. At the time I had a new family, a 2-year-old son and a new career, so there was, again, a lot to occupy me. One thing I do remember about that birthday was discovering how myopic people can be. There was a small party and I remember from the cards that people younger than you tend to make fun of you getting older. It's like they can't see it coming for some reason. People older just wish you happy birthday, they know.

At 60 I was tangled in a custody battle, still learning to be a single father and learning to be a volunteer with kids' activities. I think it probably passed without much notice.

Seventy came and went without much notice either, although I did take a memorial sailing trip to mark 30 years at sea in one form or another. But 70 brings some concerns; you have to acknowledge you are old. People think they are cheering you up with sympathetic sayings like "it's only a number." The hell with that. Seventy is old. But that doesn't mean you have to give in to it. The only concession I have made was I finally realized I am not going to play major league baseball. The rest I embraced: aging is the next adventure and  the next step toward that last day when I come dashing around third, slide headfirst into home and stand up screaming in the cloud of dust, "that was a hell of a ride."

Since that birthday I am constantly on the lookout for the signs, those things that tell you your age, the aches and pains, the shorter vertical jump (can't quite dunk anymore), a few more seconds off your hundred-yard dash, it gets tougher to throw a baseball faster than 50 mph (we didn't have radar guns when I was a kid pitcher) and of course each discovery means the end. But it isn't.

Something happened in that 70th year. Sitting around after deadline at a newspaper one night I mentioned I was going to be 71 soon. One fellow seriously asked my why I don't act my age. I have a good answer for that question, but the silence was too long  and the conversation passed to another subject, leaving the question unanswered and my friend thinking he had stopped me and made me think about it. The answer was quite simple: first there's the joke if you make it to 50 without growing up, you don't have to. But my answer comes from something Truman Capote said about childish writers. He pointed out that when we are kids every day is different and we wake up excited looking toward a new experience. As adults we outgrow that and take on a much more mundane world. But creative people still look at the world wide-eyed and anticipating new insights and experiences. That makes them seem childish and I think that is the answer I would have given. I think that's part of what's kept me vital.

So with that in mind here we come to the revelation. It developed during the previous month at the East Pole and continues into the woodpile at the other house. As a younger man I dreaded the infirmities that I expected in my old age ­­– meaning beginning in my 70s. But here I am at 73 still taking on the world with some measure of physical vigor, doing quite well alone in the Alaska woods, swinging an axe like I mean it, throwing the snowmachine around when it's stuck and still walking with a spring in my step. The revelation is that instead of moaning about being old, I find myself  bragging about all that I can do. Praise the lord and pass the IcyHot.

So, from the old Peggy Lee song, "… if that's all there is, then let's keep dancing, let's break out the booze and have a ball."

Eighty isn't that far off: Bring it!

1 comment:

  1. Happy, happy birthday, Tim! You and Capote are two of my favorite writers.

    Thirty really bothered me, but no other milestone birthdays have. At this point, I feel if I wake up and I'm still breathing, I'm ahead of the game! I love your outlook and I must say that many (maybe most) people half your age could not or would not have taken on that Denali obscuring birch tree.


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve