Today is my 62nd birthday. Sunday spring was calling but still a bit chilly. I went out on my fire escape and watched a cloud on the horizon and this synapsed with an old mental picture of looking at a cloud on the horizon from my roof on E. 11th Street. It was back in the spring of 1969 when the world was young (well, my world at least) and Russell and I and others were living like wide eyed innocents in the appendix of the gritty city.
Now I feel the existential tables have turned and I’m an old man in the middle of a young, sanitized town.
Where did the old town go? And my past? Where did my self from yesterday disappear to overnight? This feels like a mystery to me. I mean, exactly when did now just end and become then? And where the hell did it go? Melting away in our memory like so much snow on the water.
What I’m trying to say is, it all whizzes by so fast and I don’t want it to end — this life I’ve grown to love and cherish that I clutch like a rich man with his gold. After all these years I’ve grown attached to living and to my life. It’s mine and I don’t want anyone to take it including God. I love what I’ve made my self into, crafting my personality and parsing away the baggage of past wounds and ungraciousness. I’ve faced down my demons one by one, or have at least battled them to a draw. I’ve worked hard and once tore myself (cue the sound of slowly ripping Teflon near an ultra- sensitive mike) from a dying marriage and swam for 8 years in the single sea until I made land with another refugee and built a little island paradise.
I’ve been busted, bankrupted, beaten and bummed out. When I drove a cab, one of my passengers taught me that the trick to life is to learn how to turn anything it throws at you to your advantage. Well, I’ve learned a lot about how to do that; and I’m really starting to hit my stride and I don’t want it to end – ever.
The Grandmother Tea Spirit (some of you know what I’m talking about) taught me last year that really, most of what I came here to do this time around, I’ve done: Completed karma; learned much of what I needed to learn; became who I was meant to be. I don’t know if I believe in past lives, but if they’re real, I believe I’m an old soul. And so what about the last third of my life? (Grandmother also told me I’d live to 92). Well, I guess it’s up to me to create it. I’m at a loss about that, like someone who strikes it rich and suddenly finds himself with time on his hands and is restless and bored.
My impulse is to take a year off and read all the classics I’ve never gotten to, and all the biographies and the history books as well, and also travel and write. But while that sounds like heaven, I also itch for something deeper and bigger. Perhaps a spiritual adventure. In the past I would know what to do when I felt restless like this — mainly hunt for pussy or get into other kinds of trouble. But I happened to have found the perfect woman, so my restless soul needs to find a new game to play.
So today, the beginning of my 63rd spring, I feel old and also young. I mean, I’ve never been this old before. Yet, if I can accept that I’m old, well, compared to those 10, 20 and 30 years ahead of me, I’m a young old. I like that idea.
Another thing I’m noticing: Lately, I’m starting to feel more entitled — to speak with authority; to assert myself and ask for what I want; to walk into a room full of people and impose my desire for fun or attention. I’ve earned the right to do things my way, and to not care so damn much about anyone who doesn’t like it. And frankly, I’m getting too old to pretend I’m not everything I am. When I die, they tell me I will stay dead for a quite a while. So exactly how authentically, and how fully and how boldly would I like to live out the remaining moments?
So last Friday night a small group of us boomers (three of us, to be exact) go to a local underground party. It’s the kind where you have to be on the list to get invited and it goes till dawn. We enter and It feels like we’re crashing the place, as it seems like we’re the oldest there by like 75 years. The music starts; the 20 somethings and 30 somethings stand around with their drinks, trying to look good. But I want to dance. I would care, and would worry about how I appear, but I’m in my 7th decade, dammit, and I’ve earned the right to not give a shit.
And for a while, I’m the only one on that dance floor. Which just means I get to boogie a bit longer than the rest of them.
Later, maybe it’s 2:00 am, when everyone’s on the floor, I must be dancing like no one’s watching, as they say, and one girl who’s dancing with her friends turns a bit to include me in their circle, and then others start joining in. Soon there’s one of those large circles that can form on dance floors, where one person at a time jumps in the middle and struts their stuff while the others (hopefully) cheer them on. Some hot shots do just that, and do it well, rejoining the circle when they’re done. And then someone beckons me to the center, and so I boogie for them, and they dig it! In a few minutes, a beautiful young girl from the circle comes over to me and invites me to go again! I say, “Only if you join me!” So now the two of us are wildly cutting loose for all to see, and after that the guys are high-fiving and fist-bumping me the rest of the night.
And you know what? For one who grew up all nerdy and self-conscious and uncoordinated, I believe the way I behaved that night to be a sign of maturity.
Or at least of spring.