Monday, March 1, 2010

Older Than I Want To Be

Hi Folks!

Welcome back! I hope you've all managed to dig yourselves out from under all that snow! Spring is in sight, now, so we just need to hang in there a little longer!

I debated whether or not to blog about the subject I'm going to write about today. It has nothing to do with animals - which, as you may have guessed from the "Kelly's Critter Talk" name, is what I usually write about. But there was a Thing that happened yesterday, and I have a hard time passing up opportunities to write about Things, so I hope you'll bear with me, and I promise I'll get back to blogging about critters in the near future!

I went to my very first rock concert when I was 18. It was the Rolling Stones, and I sold my beat-up Gremlin with the radiator leak to pay for the tickets. I took my buddy Sandy Winscott with me - she was almost as big a Stones fan as I was - and we mooched a ride up to Detroit with a couple of guys we knew from high school, Dan and Dave. We all smoked some dope during the drive, drank some beers when we got there, and generally had a fine time, even though the Stones '81 tour would later be remembered as one of their most lackluster performances on record. But hey, it was the Stones: we were practically breathing the same air, so who cared if they weren't quite up to snuff?

We were young, then. Dumb. Innocent. We all had a lot of learning to do, and we all had hard times ahead of us that we couldn't possibly have anticipated at such a dopey age. Twenty-nine years later, Dan's a good-lookin' lawyer type in Cincinnati, Dave's heart is shredded from too much steroid use in the '80's - or so I hear, and Sandy's down in Florida with the old folks (not that there's anything wrong with that!). As for me, I've gained 20 pounds in the intervening years, and hopefully a little wisdom, as well. Some days, it's hard to tell!

So this concert came to my attention a few months ago. Three bands were scheduled: 38 Special, Styx, and REO Speedwagon, all on one ticket. All three had their heydays back in the '70's, but all three continue to draw crowds to this day and, in fact, they managed to sell out the brand new arena in Whoville for the first time since it opened last year. Not bad for a bunch of old guys!

Since fiance John has been a professional musician for 30 years - his specialty is searing guitar licks on his Strat - I asked whether he'd be interested in attending the concert. He immediately went on-line and got us a couple of decent seats, and we went last night.

As a writer, I'm always looking at the details that no one else pays attention to. I was having a field day with my people-watching as we made our way through the arena to our seats. Wide-eyed with wonder, I noticed that the place was full of baby boomers: middle-aged men and women with paunches, saddle bags, dyed hair, no hair. "Man, look at all the old folks," I said under my breath. I was starting to feel like a kid by comparison, until I realized that most of them weren't much older than me, and that I'm catching up pretty damn fast!

So I don't know why I was surprised to find that all three bands were fronted by white-haired men. Even Kevin Cronin's dark, curly, uber-70's mane had been replaced by a bleached-blonde buzz-cut. All the bands played well, and Cronin's voice, in particular, was in fine form, but where had the time gone? How was it that I - the skinny little Stones fan from just a few years ago - was now sharing audience space with a bunch of folks on the cusp of geezerhood, cheering on bands full of guys who have probably already had their first colonoscopies? WTF???

The problem is that I have this unfortunate telescoping memory, in which things that seem to have happened a few short years past actually took place decades ago. I understand - on some vague, intellectual level - that Sandy Winscott and I haven't partied together in almost three decades, but it seems more like just a few years ago. Most things that happened in the ensuing years feel that same way. Jimmy Buffet concert (1988)? A few years ago. Divorce (1991)? A few years ago. First trip to London (1995)? A few years ago. It's a strange repository for all my memories, whether I want them there or not.

I read recently that Journey's Steve Perry has had hip-replacement surgery. So this is what we've come to.

It's going to sound more than a little naive when I say that I didn't realize we were all going to get old. Seriously. My ability to conceptualize the aging process breaks down somewhere in the 30's. That is to say, I was never able to imagine life after 30-something. If you held a gun to my head, I still wouldn't be able to conjure an image of Sandy Winscott as anything other than how I remember her at 18. The same goes for all of my high school chums.

The fact that those chums now have children of their own - some in college, no less! - is beyond anything I can fathom. We weren't supposed to get old. We weren't supposed to fall apart, get flabby, get serious, get staid and boring. We were supposed to be ageless, timeless, somehow, and rule the world while we were at it. I'm not laughing as I write that. In fact, tears have come to my eyes at the sudden awareness that life is not going to be those things for us. We're not going to be the exception to the rules; we're stuck being mere mortals like everyone else.

How depressing.

And so I found myself, in the midst of a really good concert last night, vacillating between my pleasure in the moment, and my anguish at realizing that Sandy and I will never be dope-smoking young hoodlums again, that the things Leslie and I laughed about probably aren't funny anymore. That laughing with Dawn will never happen again because she died last year from breast cancer at the age of 46.

There will continue to be private agonies for me, as time goes by and some of the things I really wanted in life - things I had counted on happening, assumed would happen, probably never will. Every day, it seems, some of my hopes and dreams die small, quiet deaths as I become a middle-aged stranger in my own life. While I'm starting to look every inch of my 47 years, I certainly don't feel it: when the Stones come on the radio, I still crank the volume, every time. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" just never gets old!

In the midst of all this introspection, I'm pleased to report that REO Speedwagon played one of my all-time favorite songs last night. It's a song I've used over the decades to rally myself in times of hopelessness and despair. When I play it, I'm reminded that there are still possibilities. For those of you who need the same reminder, I offer the lyrics now for your consideration:

I used to be lonely, til I learned about living alone.
I found other things to keep my mind on.
And I'm gettin' to know myself a little bit better.
I keep pushin' on.
Goin' through all the changes, I made so many mistakes,
trying to leave behind the heartaches.
And sometimes I think I was a little bit crazy.
I keep pushin' on.
Well, it's comin' together, I finally feel like a man.
I never thought that I'd be where I am.
Every day I wake a little bit higher.
I keep pushin' on.
Keep pushin', keep pushin', keep pushin' on.
You know you've got to be so strong.
Keep pushin', keep pushin', keep pushin' on.
Even if you think your strength is gone,
keep pushin' on.

- lyrics by Kevin Cronin

That's all for now, folks! Thanks so much for reading this entry anyway, even though there weren't any cats, ducks, or horses in it! I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for the next great animal story, so until then, please be kind to all the critters!

P.S. Hey, Sandy! Thanks for the memories!


Bob Tarte said...

Kelly, I'm right there with you. (But ten years older.) You put it into words very well. I still think of myself of someone in his thirties, and it is always a shock to realize how how I've become.

But I remember something really funny that the writer Fran Leibowitz said several years ago. She said that she didn't mind looking in the mirror at her middle-aged self at all, because she knew that she would never look quite so good again!

Bob Tarte said...

Ops, I hit publish instead of edit. I meant to write 'how old I've become.' Hitting the wrong button is another sign of aging.

leslie said...

Your writing is still great and a style all your own. Good to see you are doing well. Dawn who died?

As my mom says getting old beats the alternative.


Anonymous said...

Hey "Spongeye" as I used to call you!! Great blog......Get your ass down to Pcola and we'll smoke some hippie shit together again and we'll try to remember the good ol days!!! All my love;

Winnie AKA Sandy

Heidi said...

Checked in. Left my mark *