Say What You Really Mean

There are a couple of Facebook pages set up for people who attended my high school, brand new in ’62 and still a little shiny by the time I showed up 10 years later.

Spring-boarding off the original Levittown model, John F. Long created this textbook suburbia on the west edges of Phoenix, a city that has never stopped expanding.  I suppose it’s still considered west, but when I was growing up I could ride my bike a few blocks and be in farmland, probably not too different from when my grandfather knew those fields.

It’s an old story, expansion and deterioration, enough that I don’t have much interest in ever returning to the old neighborhood and absolutely zero at night.  Some areas have done OK, others less so, and it happens.  Maybe there’ll be a rebirth at some point; the high school has been remodeled, at any rate, enough that I have little interest in returning there, either.

The FB pages are mostly about nostalgia, which I’m all for.  They also seem to lean heavily towards a crowd 10 years older than I am, so I mostly just dip in, see if there are names I know and read some commentary.

A thread took off the other day, some mourning the loss of their old neighborhood to crime and time, some defending it, and a few hackles were raised in a polite way.  That didn’t particularly interest me either; give enough people enough time and a place to spout, and spout they will.  There was a whiff of racism or chauvinism or some ism (old white people complaining that the community was now majority Hispanic, not a surprise in Phoenix and not racial in the sense that Hispanic is not a race; mostly just us vs. them, same old same old) but it was civil for the most part, giving me some insight I probably already could imagine anyway.

There’s irony, though, in glancing at these pages from time to time.  Most of the “those were the good old days” comments come from, again, those graduates who were close to the original students, back when the neighborhood was new and pale, and while they go on (and on) about how grateful they are for their wonderful memories and how bad everything is now, I note that some of the worst spelling and grammar I see online (which is saying something) comes from these slightly older alumni.

Dunno.  It’s such a small relative sampling that I can’t honestly and intelligently even speculate, but there it is.  Normally I wouldn’t even pay attention, but since these are sites dedicated to a high school, and since the commenters are mostly going on and on about what a fine time they had while attending, the fact that they seem to have forgotten to actually learn some stuff while there is odd.

And one of the regulars is truly amazing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read one of her posts, and then re-read.  An example, copied and pasted as it appeared on the “going to hell in a hand basket” thread:

It been since 67 was the last time,folks bought on Oak an 34 st now it a getto both was folks died had pass before it came then move to Scostdale, I was In Apache Junction it was 85&Winter visit: kids were more scared off the wild off snakes human our crawling!

I take it that she’s disappointed in the neighborhood.  I have no idea how the neighborhood feels about her.

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I have three days without much on my plate in terms of a schedule, although there’s plenty to do.  After a bunch of hours a few weeks ago on weed/vine detail, the morning glory and blackberry brambles are off and running again, so there’s that.  My son needs some attention, as does the basement.  And I start my weekend off with another trip to the dentist, finishing up our reclamation project started last month, this time with a filling that needs refurbishing.

I also have some idea about making this last stretch of blogging a little livelier, but it can wait until tomorrow, when the numbers line up in an interesting way.  Now I just have to find a way to be interesting.

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Lessons Learned

““The difference was particularly notable among participants over 55.”

The closer I get, the more I see it, waiting for me.  Something drastic must happen at 55, some sort of separation or culling or actuarial jolt.  I’ll let you know when the day comes, but it makes me nervous.

This was from a NY Times article on walking v. running, looking at various studies and trying to come to conclusions.  This is moot for a lot of us.  I spent some time running a few weeks ago, just experimenting.  I ran a fair amount when I was younger, at first just because I could and then at different times for the usual reasons: I wanted to get “back in shape,” I wanted to lose a few pounds, someone I knew was running and we decided to do it together, etc.  The last time I did this seriously was just before John was born, so my little adventure a few weeks ago was spinning the roulette wheel and putting my knees on black.

I survived, with some sense of accomplishment but mostly a sore back and legs, and a feeling that I wasn’t all that interested.  It’s great exercise but completely different than walking, with less time spent letting my mind wander and more time focused on wondering why exactly I thought this might be a good idea.

There were a couple of surprises from the data in that article.  Both routine runners and walkers have a diminished risk of developing cataracts, for example.  And as far as the usual suspects such as hypertension and diabetes, walkers even have a slight edge on runners, for unclear reasons.

On the other hand, runners seem to do much better at controlling their weight, even when the energy expended (i.e., calories burned) are the same, and there apparently is some sort of peptide thing going on with runners that decreases their appetite.

None of this matters to me; as I said, I realized that I wasn’t interested in becoming one of those guys, those over-55 running guys.  Keep your peptides.

——–

My wife is finishing up school, once again giving me an up close and personal view of the teacher’s life.  I can see the pleasures and joys, the chance to interact with young people just heading out into life, to give back some hard-earned lessons and learn some things yourself, but if I had to grade 40 papers along with 40 journals and 40 quizzes and 40 reviews of concerts attended, it would have to be in a room with no firearms and mattresses nailed to the walls.  I’d guess that she spent 20 hours grading papers over the holiday weekend, plus four hours at church on Sunday and a bunch of private students coming over.  Not so much the holiday.

My wife is extremely qualified for her job, with a Masters in music and another in theology; given that she’s a professor in the music department of a private Methodist university, where certain religious elements are mandatory, it’s pretty much a perfect fit.

You should be qualified, though.  It should be hard to be a teacher, in a perfect world, and competitive with commensurate salaries and blahblahblah.  That will never happen, and I can’t figure out why, except that maybe something about familiarity and contempt should go here.  We’ve probably all had mediocre if not lousy teachers, and much of what they do is behind the curtain anyway.

I get to look behind it, and as much as I bitch about having to do mind-numbing work in order to bring in some bucks, I think they couldn’t pay me enough to spend a weekend grading papers.  And I know they wouldn’t.

Go walk now, or run.  Beat cataracts in our lifetime.  And I’ll tell you what happens in July, when the speedometer clicks over 55 and I become somebody else.  Not a teacher.

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Wednesday Archives

Wednesday has been Column Day for 12 years, and over 12 years some stuff will happen. My rule of thumb is that one should not re-read oneself unless one is willing to pay the emotional price, which usually involves groaning, but at least it’s some sort of record of what I was thinking, or not thinking. Some of these are collected in my books, but I’ve decided to ignore that for the time being and just find one from the past, every Wednesday, and post. If not for your edification, then mine. Groans are acceptable.

From May 26, 2004

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For his 67th birthday, I sent my father a book about the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  When I spoke to him on the phone, he seemed a little puzzled.

“But I don’t like the Dodgers.”

I didn’t try to explain much; talking on the phone then was hard for him.  He had almost no voice and ran out of oxygen fairly quickly.  I just hoped that he’d get a chance to look through the book and maybe understand why I’d sent it, but there wasn’t enough time.  He passed away four days later, maybe never understanding that my intention was to remind him that I always listened to his stories.

He was a fan of the Dodgers in the 1960s, when he lived inSouthern California.  I’d talk to him about this sometimes, trying to find one more connection, this time baseball.  I’d ask a lot about Sandy Koufax, a mystery man to me, a stunning pitcher who quit in his prime rather than risk the injury he saw coming.

I thought maybe the pictures from those days and those teams would be nice for him to look through. 

I’m not really good with gifts.

We did make a baseball connection, though, finally.  After he moved on to other sports, mostly football, in the spring of 2001 my parents moved from New Mexico to Arizona for retirement, and Arizona, it turned out, now had a baseball team.  So Dad watched.

Trying to explain passion for baseball to someone not interested is like trying to explain algebra to a 3-year-old; they see your mouth moving and hear the words, but that’s about it.  A six-month season divisible by 154 meaningless but eventually important games, little gains and little losses, a game made for radios in the garage while you’re doing something else. 

And, if you’re fortunate, if you love a team and follow them regularly, at least once in your life you’ll experience an honest-to-God pennant chase, when baseball rises to another level and antacids are in order.

Mariners fans got this for the first time in 1995, our first glimpse of hope, our first whiff of October in August.  I went to the first playoff game in Mariner history, sitting behind the bullpen, watching Randy Johnson warm up to face the Yankees.  We were down 0-2 in a five-game series, but we were home and we had Randy.  We won, we won the next one, and then in Game 5, when things were tight and everything was on the line, with our pitching collapsing and the end in sight, everyone looked toward left field.  There, on two days’ rest, walking toward the mound, was The Big Unit.  And we won, Edgar Martinez hitting a double deep and Ken Griffey scoring from first, and I was done.  They didn’t make the Series and I didn’t care; I’d had my baseball moment.

I’d watched Randy Johnson for years, watched him as a 20-something wild man, a tremendous fast ball but not much else, whose strike-outs were matched by his walks, and saw him grow into what he would become.  I watched him pitch a no-hitter in 1990 and saw him get close other times, including one nearly perfect game.  Afterwards, he was calm.

“I’m not a perfect pitcher,” he said.

We eventually lost him, sad but grateful.  And my dad got him, and we had another connection.

As I say, you can only hope that once in your life you get a chase, a spectacular season.  In 2001, the year my parents moved to Arizona, in his first season back to baseball, his new team, his newly acquired interest in this strange but wonderful game, my dad got a champion on his first try.  The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series, and he became a believer in Randy Johnson.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad lately, since hearing the news last week.  At the age of 40, 14 years after his first no-hitter, Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game.

A few years ago, back when he was still a Mariner, Randy lost his father, and he began a tradition.  When he wins a game, he points toward the sky.  This is for you, Dad  As he did Tuesday night.

It’s been five months since my father died.  Grief turns to something else in five months, begins to mellow, settles in for the long haul.  There are moments, though, when I still want to reach for the phone. 

I apologize to those of you who aren’t interested in baseball who’ve read so far.  I would only say that it’s not all about baseball.

It’s also about fathers and sons, complicated relationships, struggles to find something in common, and finding it, maybe, in simple things.  A 98 MPH fastball.  A whiff of a bat.  A giant of a man, thrusting his arm toward the heavens, remembering his father.  I remember mine, too.  All the time, but particularly on a Tuesday night last week, when, for a few hours, Randy Johnson was finally a perfect pitcher.

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The Days of Whines and Roses

I haven’t had a weekend like this in a long time, although I guess if I look at it as just three days it feels more familiar.  Still, that’s hard to do when my wife is actually home and not at work, and the neighbors have guests over, and the boats come out and power tools warm up and people look…off.  From my window, as I keep adjusting my chair and try to remember to get up from time to time and stretch.

John: What’s wrong?
Me: Oh, I just have sort of a sore butt. I’ve been sitting so long lately and I keep forgetting to get up, and now I’m sore. When I work on something, usually I’m good about getting up every 20-30 minutes, but lately–
John: Stop. You had me at “sore butt.”

That was Memorial Day weekend 2013, then.  Screen time all day, some Bluth family at night, passing family in the hallway, crappy food and little exercise and going to bed without taking a shower because I’m just too tired.

This was also the weekend the roses and rhodies started blooming, right on time.  We planted those rose bushes six years ago, hoping for some sort of hedge, and we have it.  Every year Julie plans on trimming them way back and every year she’s way too busy, and now they look a little scary and pretty and totally an independent lifeform.  I’ll take pictures when they go crazy, and compare them to the ones from 2007, but this is nothing new or shouldn’t be.  Things will grow here, even things planted and left alone, which is my way.

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New video from the Kickstarter campaign, which is approaching two weeks and hanging around 33%.  FYI.  Some big new deal is being released today, in fact, but I’m not in the loop so we’ll have to wait.  In the meantime, some explanations…

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Bluth Bingeing

Once again, I succumbed to peer pressure and just had to have the latest shiny thing, so I watched the new season of “Arrested Development” last night.

Some of it, anyway.  It’s been a busy weekend and it’s not over yet, and holidays are irrelevant anyway; I learned a long time ago to appreciate the occasion but not associate it with a day off unless things just line up that way.  We’ve had plenty of happy Thanksgivings and Christmases when I’ve had to leave the party and suck it up in front of a monitor because that’s where the money is, buddy.

After doing my duties, though, including getting the trash out and making sure the food situation was taken care of, after putting in my hours at the keyboard and making a quick trip to the pizza place, it was Bluth Time.

You either know or you don’t.  You either watched the show during its three-year run on TV, 2003-2005, or you caught up with it years later on Netflix or Hulu or some other venue, or you didn’t.  No big deal.  There are plenty of famous things I never got around to watching.  I’ve never made it all the way through “Gone With The Wind,” for one thing.  Never saw a single episode of “Law and Order,” of which I hear there are many.  Never watched “The Sopranos.”

I did, though, watch “Arrested Development” (after the fact, but not long after; it’s been several years since I first decided to check it out, and then binged through the entire three seasons).  It might seem an awfully silly show to you, or too absurd, or even incomprehensible; taste counts, and time matters too.  Your hours might be best spent doing something else.  I know I sometimes feel that way.

But I was glad to hear that Netflix, trying to become HBO before HBO becomes Netflix, bought a new season of episodes and rounded up the cast (sometimes one at a time, it seems; one of the distractions was noticing what looked an awful lot like the backs of doubles in some scenes).  It was one of those shows that didn’t seem to have its natural run, but never had the audience.  “Star Trek” only had three seasons, too, and that worked out OK for the franchise.

This isn’t “Arrested Development: The Next Generation.”  This is the same Bluth family, with the intervening years not a big deal and maybe not a deal at all.  I was never quite sure what year it was supposed to be, for one thing.  And the actors don’t appear to have aged all that much since 2005, just the usual: A few extra pounds, a few more lines on the forehead.  And even that I might not have noticed except I prepared by watching a few old episodes, just to get ready.

It’s disappointing, a little.  The new show is structured differently, focusing on one character, giving us some flashbacks and scenes from other episodes as seen through various eyes, and the pacing feels off.  Some of the tricks of the original, particularly a nice subtle undercurrent of self-referential jokes, feel overused and worn out.

But the actors all seem true to their characters, and I didn’t watch the entire season, even though Netflix makes it easy to sit back and let them roll by.  So it may all work out in the end, and be a big joke on me, which I welcome.

Netflix, of course, is the main culprit behind episode bingeing, first with DVDs and then with streaming, something nobody probably saw coming.  They know this, which is why they released “House of Cards” and now this new season of Bluths all at once.  They expect us to watch them all in a row, one after the other; they have plenty of information to tell them that this is what we do.  Sort of self-referential all by itself.

And they won’t be the last ones to do it, I’ll bet, and I’ll also bet that other favorites will be resurrected, and that they’ll turn out the same way: Kind of disappointing.  I’m glad they gave it a shot, if only to teach the old lesson that we move in one direction only, forward, and sometimes we don’t want to know how it all turned out, not really.

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Sweating The Small Stuff

Stress has very little to do with your blood pressure level, did you know that?  Yup.  Maybe prolonged periods of stress can raise it a little temporarily, but mostly it’s something else.

Something else has been happening here, then.  Feels like stress, although really that’s just some busyness.  I have to assume it’s missing a couple of days of exercise that’s made those numbers go up the past couple of days, which makes me think I should avoid that happening, and also makes me think I should stop checking the damn thing every morning.  Now it’s a ritual and doing no one any favors as far as I can tell.

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I’ve mentioned our Kickstarter here several times.  So I thought I’d mention something else.

Occasionally I scroll through the list of donors, but with over 200 names and growing, most of whom are strangers, it’s an exercise in the alphabet mostly.  Sometimes I see a name of a friend and smile, but it’s not like I’m keeping track (or could, even).  I’ve let roughly 300 people (I think) know about the project; If I forgot someone I know and have an email address, I’ve forgotten that too.

It’s fun to watch this exercise in crowd sourcing, but as involved as I am it’s also easy to maintain perspective.  A killer tornado just destroyed a town in Oklahoma.  The main highway on the West Coast between Canada and Mexico just got a chunk removed, thanks to a wide load on an Alberta truck and a bridge that has seen better years, which will cost millions in lost revenues and incomes, not to mention the replacement cost.  And oh, just about everything else.  If you’ve got an extra 25 bucks, there are other places to put it.  It’s just an idea for a movie that some energetic and passionate people want to make.  The world will survive without the movie.  The movie, I suspect, will survive if the Kickstarter fails; everyone will just regroup and maybe postpone.  Try, try again.

So I don’t dwell, just watch out of curiosity, even with a stake in the game.  I don’t care if a friend doesn’t donate; I won’t even know, given the broadcast nature of the thing, or if I notice, as I said, I’ll forget.

I do wonder sometimes, though, just little, random, brief musings, if the subject matter makes a difference.  This would be a fascinating conversation, I think, but I’m hesitant to even imagine it because I don’t know.

This story isn’t unsympathetic to homosexuality, but then it’s not unsympathetic at all.  No one is a villain, although mistakes are made and words said that maybe should have been left to bounce around the brain a few more times.  It’s the story of a family but also a culture, and how individuals work their way through that, and then the other things that we all deal with: Love, family, conflict, resolution, faith.  Books.  Camping.  It’s a well-rounded story.

I’ll tell you what it’s not.  It’s not the headline on the otherwise nice Beacon article than ran a few weeks ago: “Local Filmmaker To Tackle Gay Love Topic.”  I mean.  If you have to single out anything, this is about father-son love, but then.  I understand the temptation to focus on the sensational; it’s just that this wouldn’t be the same story if it only was designed to be sympathetic toward love that dared not speak its name.

Some recent data suggests that there are far fewer homosexual people in our population than we used to imagine: Somewhere around 3-4%.  That means that a gay person is a stranger in a straight world, and that the vast majority of us are not attracted romantically to people of the same sex.  Conflict, you think?  Dig into that a little, throw in some trickery and family and culture and generational differences and you might have a decent story.  We do.

But I can understand how someone might look at the synopsis and other material and think, nope, not interested in participating, thanks.  Completely understand.  And I can be completely sympathetic.  As the film is.  As I said.

Again, I have no idea, nor do I care all that much.  I have other things on my plate, including my weird blood pressure, which I need to leave alone, I think.  All sorts of things are happening and it’s not like I’m in any kind of danger or have anything to worry about.  It’s just about numbers and how they change, but it’s probably always a good idea to keep an eye on the big picture.

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It’s Called Irony For A Reason

Sometimes my wife calls me from her commute and has me email her class, delaying the start for a few minutes usually while she wrangles with traffic, which is always a mystery when you start out.  It’s not a horrible trip, 30 minutes in smooth situations and of course more as it gets less smooth.

There’s an accident up north here somewhere on I-5 this morning, closing down to one lane, so she’s taking an alternate route and hoping for the best, which is what Mr. Professor told her students.  Hope for the best.

But there are delays, and then there are delays.  Julie left school around 7:25pm last night to head home, so she saw the first signs, the warnings that the freeway was closed at Mount Vernon (40 miles north of our house).  Looked serious.

Was serious.  Everyone is grateful, of course, that no one died with the collapse of the Skagit River bridge, and that it didn’t happen during a heavier traffic time, etc.  All sorts of counterfactuals to imagine.

But this effectively closes the route from Canada down south (and vice-versa), and not for a short time.  It’s not a routine trip for me; it’s actually been years since I’ve driven that far north, or had a reason to.  But for many people it’s part of their daily commute, and then you just have the fact that this is it: That’s the way you get from there to here and back.  The side streets aren’t designed to handle the sort of traffic that crosses that bridge (70,000 vehicles a day), and a new bridge isn’t going to magically appear.

Infrastructure.  Everybody was talking about it a few years ago, but then there were other things.  To fix it, you need to spend money.  In an economy where credit dried to dust, where companies weren’t hiring and customers weren’t buying, spending tax dollars on things like shoring up bridges would have only provided jobs and put money out there to be spent on companies, who might create more jobs, and so on.  Makes no sense.

Just emailed the class again.  She’s inching her way down Hwy. 99, which is our version of a side street, although there’s no comparison.  It’ll be a long commute this morning, but she’ll make it, and getting home will be a breeze.  Canada isn’t even on the radar.

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I Know You Are But What Am I

A recent poll shows that teenagers are souring on Facebook and moving to other places, particularly Twitter, mostly to avoid the drama.  Most of that, I suspect, coming from their elders.

This is the conundrum of the ubiquity of social media, to get all polysyllabic early in the morning.  Everybody’s doing it, and there are more of us than them.  Your grandma is reading your Facebook posts but she’s also making political commentary, and really isn’t there somewhere else to do that?

Facebook will just be the default setting, I think, from now on, the first question you ask when it comes to keeping in touch: Are you on Facebook?  Other options exist, but Facebook is the mall, where you mingle and look around and then decide you prefer some place quieter.

As someone who’s been using that platform for six years now, watching as it went from one thing to something very different, it’s been fascinating to watch as more and more people got involved and so many eyebrows were raised.  You liked that post?  I’ve said before that 2012 was the first true Facebook election and that’s when I got curious.  I’m sure there’s a perfectly good psychological term I’m supposed to remember from some class to describe the effect, the concept that people who resemble us in superficial and general ways – age, status, neighborhood, what our hair looked like in yearbook pictures – share our tastes in pretty much everything, when of course they don’t.

From my limited viewpoint (limited for all sorts of reasons, but essentially because I only get a glimpse of the 200-odd people who are Facebook friends), there was a gentle backing off when it became obvious that there was conflict.  I could be wrong; I stayed away from politics on that site, and I hid posts from all sorts of people so I didn’t get riled up and/or bored by spouting.  Mostly bored, too.

Television, same thing.  Here I’ve been yakking for years now about the uselessness of cable TV, and television in general mostly, and how I rarely watch anything, and still my tastes seem to be conventional.  The few shows I follow get a lot of media attention.

Or maybe that’s what just catches my eye.  Again, I’m sure there’s a term for this sort of bias toward picking up familiar signals in the noise.  If someone talks about “Sons of Anarchy” or one of those dancing and/or singing shows, I just shrug and forget it; I have no frame of reference.  If I see a “Mad Men” headline somewhere, my eyes are drawn.  I’ve been watching “Mad Men” since the first episode.

But you haven’t, maybe.  You watch something else, or nothing at all.  And I find myself looking for strangers who saw last week’s episode, just to have company and see if someone can explain this or that.

I’m pretty sure teenagers are not the audience for “Mad Men,” either.  Good for them.  There are better things to do, probably.  Maybe they’re on Twitter.

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Not knowing what kinds of obnoxious sentimentality is going to burst out of me and into print with this grandson business, I tried to get a lot of it out of the way with this week’s column, which is now online.

———-

The Winning Dad Kickstarter is clicking along at about $1000 in donations per day, which times out nicely but in a nerve-wracking way.  As I write, here around 9 a.m. Pacific on Thursday, we’re at $7210 with 197 backers, 24 days to go.  In case you keep forgetting.

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Wednesday Archives

Wednesday has been Column Day for 12 years, and over 12 years some stuff will happen. My rule of thumb is that one should not re-read oneself unless one is willing to pay the emotional price, which usually involves groaning, but at least it’s some sort of record of what I was thinking, or not thinking. Some of these are collected in my books, but I’ve decided to ignore that for the time being and just find one from the past, every Wednesday, and post. If not for your edification, then mine. Groans are acceptable.

From May 24, 2010

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The other day my optometrist told me I had young eyes.  Just came right out and said, “You have young eyes.”  I couldn’t wait to tell my wife.

“The optometrist said I have young eyes,” I told her, eager to share.

“Of course you do.”

“No, seriously, that’s what she said.”

“I believe it,” said my wife.

“It was a medical opinion and everything,” I continued, starting to lose my enthusiasm.

“I concur,” said my wife, who I began to suspect was humoring me.  Not that I blame her.

And not that I have good eyes, not by any stretch of the imagination.  I have very flawed eyes, suboptimal eyes, eyes that don’t work the way eyes are supposed to.  They’ve been this way for years, too, although in the last decade or so my near vision has gone into the toilet, like pretty much everyone else over the age of 40.  My eyes will win no awards, if such awards exist.

No, what this nice vision professional meant was that my eyes were relatively healthy, with no optic nerve damage or retinal worries, or macular degeneration.  They’re also hazel, which some people like.

And probably she was just being nice.  Probably she says the same thing to all the 51-year-old men who come in for routine eye exams, but it was still good to hear.  That means one less physical thing to worry about, leaving 138 others.  Not counting teeth.

I spent some time, a few years ago, with a young guy who was funny and nice and started every earnest conversation with, “I’m not gonna lie to you.”  This is a verbal tic, sure, not a Freudian clue, but it was always an interesting way to start a conversation.  A preemptive strike, sort of.

So I’m not gonna lie to you.  I’m getting older and it’s on my mind.

And to paraphrase what supposedly was the wit of George Bernard Shaw or maybe Churchill (or maybe it’s made up), all that’s left is to negotiate the price.  How much is this aging business going to cost me in terms of cliché and irrelevancy?   Not to mention pain and discomfort?

I fight it all the time.  Don’t talk so much.  Don’t reminisce.  Don’t get cranky or sullen or wistful or sentimental.  Wear headphones instead of turning the TV up to 11.  Don’t drive too slowly.  Really, it’s sort of a pathology.

I exercise regularly even though I don’t want to.  My most intimate relationship is with the bathroom scale.  I force myself to eat leafy green vegetables, I worry about refined sugar, I try to manage stress, and I battle constantly to delude myself into believing that years of neglect and abuse can be overcome by a multivitamin and lots of deep breathing.

Mostly, though, I try to observe people who seem to be aging well and do what they do.  A lot of them are 20 years or more older, giving me a little time.  Some of them are famous.  Pretty much everyone has more money than I do, which probably helps.

But doctors know (including, I’m sure, optometrists).  When I was in my 20s and had some trouble with back spasms, a visit to my doctor’s office resulted in a Defcon 5 situation.  Within a few minutes I was being injected with muscle relaxants, given ultrasound treatment, referred to a physical therapist, prescribed serious narcotics and given the home phone number of my doctor with instructions to call if I felt a twinge.

Fifteen years later I went in for the same problem, same symptoms, same pain.  “I hurt my back,” I whined, and my doctor nodded.

“I’m not surprised,” she said, took my blood pressure a couple of times and told me to try stretching exercises if I wanted to, although they probably wouldn’t help all that much.  I was being triaged, in other words.  Even though I had excellent health insurance, no past medical history to speak of, reasonable genes and a winning personality, I’d been gently written off.

“Don’t smoke,” my doctor also said, but I could tell her heart wasn’t in it.

There’s nothing left but the creaking, then, and I’m on my own.  So I guess I’ll just keep taking walks, eating broccoli, and breathing as deeply and often as possible.  I promise not to yell at kids who get on my lawn, buckle my pants at chest level, gripe about loud music or do anything to my hair other than cut it and comb it.

And if anyone asks my age, I’ll just tell them to look at my eyes and take a guess.  Definitely hazel, anyway.

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