A Matter of Death and Life (Or, Eddie Murphy Please Go Home!)
Wait a minute! Is this another piece about ageing and dying?! Hey Charley — what’s going on?
Funny, I was thinking the same thing.
And then I hear Ron’s (my shrink’s) voice in my ear: If you’re so worried about dying, perhaps it’s a sign you’re not fully living.
I can lose sight of this, because my life is actually quite full. I’ve got an ongoing love affair with my wife; a men’s team that keeps me honest (yeah, we call it a “team” because it’s different from a group; it ain’t therapy; it’s sometimes kick-ass support); a social life full of friends; and a job I love because I regularly make a real difference in people’s lives. So what’s my problem?
It’s simply this: If I don’t have regular helpings of risk and adventure in my life, I’m left hungry. Oh, I like my comforts. And the more so as I age. But I still need, within my well-rounded world, a jagged edge of danger. Otherwise I feel a bit tame and a bit lame; a little too domesticated. Something in me has an urge for newness and exploration. And if I don’t give it to myself in healthy ways, the need will turn dark –like a man who, failing to find a job to feed his family, winds up a thief.
In other words, I believe in the dictum that every now and then a person needs to lose their head in order to keep it. And there’s a wild and mischievous imp inside me who sometimes has just got to let loose.
In the past I’d express this part by going out and getting myself laid. I’d do it now in a heartbeat, but noooooo, I had to get married to a good woman who treats me great, so I can’t rationalize doing something that would hurt her. Damn it!
So without the extra-curricular sex, I’m left with the drugs and the rock and roll.
Take alcohol, for example (oh yes it’s a drug!). With a good Black Russian (or three) I can unleash parts of my imagination I usually keep under wraps. Combine this with good music, and I’m ridin’ the wild boogie beat in ways that amaze me and others as well. Recently we were at a George Clinton (the “Godfather of Funk”) concert at B.B. King’s (speaking of wild!). We found ourselves in a very diverse New York crowd, and I ended up dancing with the brothers and sisters and I must have shook ‘em down ‘cause after a particularly funky song a very cool dude made a point of slappin’ me five. (Hey, to a white Jewish kid from the suburbs in the ‘60s, that’s still the highest form of flattery).
Indeed, I find dancing – especially when I get just a touch outta control – to be a great hedge against ageing and that thing that follows. I mean, as long as you can bounce to a beat, the boogie can go on. Indeed age can even be an asset on the dance floor. Because most everyone else there, in their ageist minds, expect less of you. And they appreciate you showing them that they don’t have to stop when they get older, either. Or, as a young friend once told me: “I want to be just like you when I don’t grow up!”
Which brings me, finally, to Mr. Murphy. Last month, Eddie Murphy was on Letterman, and he was talking about going to a disco the week prior. A young woman there addressed him as “Mr. Murphy”. He turns to Letterman and says, “I thought to myself, ‘when they start calling me Mr. Murphy, it’s time to go home!’”
Here was one of our wealthiest, most creative, and wildly successful entertainers, buying into the poverty of the time-to-act-your-age manure our brains are constantly being washed with.
Mr. Murphy, I’m 61. But if you feel you’re too old (at 49) to have some fun, then go home. But I’m not done.