Posts Tagged 'getting older'

Older but wiser

My son David has religiously organized a biannual fishing trip that had its genesis in 1997 in Baja, California. It has since expanded its horizons to include other U.S. and foreign ports of call.

Named the “Chrysler”, it includes about a dozen loyal participants, all intent on drinking as much alcohol as possible, sometimes to salve the egos of those who didn’t catch fish. Eating large quantities of food often includes the raw flesh of those unfortunate fish who managed, albeit reluctantly, to become part of the bill of fare.

Staying up late is a required component of the adventure, often accompanied by participant music making late into the night, cigars, and more alcohol. Because one’s eyes are larger than one’s ability to retain the libations and sustenance put before them, many a morning has been spent kneeling before the enamel throne while praying for relief and forgiveness. Murmurings of “I’ll never do this again” often accompanies the numerous toilet flushes.

The origin of the event’s name, “Chrysler”, is somewhat hazy. It is emblazoned on the unique designs that appear on cheap tee shirts awarded to the attendees as compensation for the vast sums spent on the event. Other awards are also presented. These include the “Woody”, an ancient wooden erect penis that originally graced some long-forgotten garage sale. Presented to the member catching the largest fish, it often becomes the subject of much discussion. For example, does “largest” mean length or does it mean weight? Much alcohol has been drunk and spilled as the members attempt to fathom the meaning that the Chrysler founders intended.

Other awards such as the Dolan and Fancy Pants also dignify the proceedings; however, the Chrysler award itself is the most coveted one of them all. Cloaked in regal splendor, the Chrysler award is, in fact, a real Chrysler. Not a full-sized, fuel guzzling vehicle, but an eight-inch toy car haphazardly nailed to a plaque. Earning the right to be the current year’s Chrysler winner is no easy feat.

The criteria for gaining temporary ownership of the Chrysler is often compared to winning the Stanley Cup, the World Series pennant or the Vince Lombardy trophy. However, in contrast to those rather well-known and easily understood sporting awards, the criteria for winning the Chrysler is not stipulated. The winner of the award is often unaware why he was chosen from all the others. In some cases, he may have passed out during much of the three-day event and was therefore oblivious to the rationale for his success.

Over the years, Chrysler participants have retained or strengthened many of their characteristic traits, especially alcohol consumption. Along the way, a few lucky women joined the elite ranks previously barred to the fairer sex. Aging has taken its toll as evidenced by graying and thinning hair, a few wrinkles, a bit of a paunch and an increase in worldliness and sagacity. This includes yours truly.

I hadn’t attended a Chrysler for many years but decided to reinstate my membership this year. Approaching my seventy-ninth year, I was more than twenty years older than the average Chrysler participant. With religious fervor and with the event in mind, I have been going to the gym to improve my body and mind. My paunch hasn’t been flatter in ten years and I am able to hike significant distances and elevations without falling on my face. I regularly refuse the help of others who offer to carry my groceries or wish to relinquish their seat to me. I was sure I could keep up with the younger Chryslers. Alas, I couldn’t.

I was able to walk with the best of the Chrysler guys and lift my carry-on suitcase into the Delta overhead compartment without assistance. I stayed up reasonably late during the three-day marathon and had minimal sleep. And that’s where my prowess ended.

For example, walking down the long flight of stairs at our ante-bellum New Orleans home proved to be a challenge. Wanting to look macho as I descended the stairs, I did a poor imitation of throwing caution to the wind. With my Mr. Magoo bifocals adding an unwelcome handicap, I was a sad sight as I bumped along, gripping the railing while doing my best imitation of Walter Brennan.

Cabbing was a problem. Thirteen of us required multiple Uber vehicles, some with a third seat that necessitated clambering over or through the second row of seats. Anxious to show my agility, I usually chose the third seat and managed to squeeze my way in. Exiting was another story. I spent a good deal of time on my knees, and willingly reached out my fingers to grasp at least one helping hand that would prevent me from falling face first into the gutter. So much for balance.

As the trip wore on, I wondered why I seemed to be aging rapidly. After all, I didn’t seem to have these problems in Ojai. And then it struck me. I wasn’t getting older. No, I had just inadvertently surrounded myself with a phalanx of younger people. I was usually with people closer to my age to whom I compared favorably. I just needed to find those older people and reinsert myself into their midst.

So I came home to Ojai and went to the athletic club. I hopped onto the treadmill between two lovely older women and sneaked a furtive look at the speed and grade that they had set on their machines. I set mine a notch above theirs. At the end of my one hour, three-mile trek I smiled and felt much younger. I’ll do the same thing again tomorrow. Hope those ladies show up.


Signs of Aging

The phone rang early Sunday just as I was finishing up my granola, fruit, yogurt and milk concoction. I hate when that happens because I have to stop, answer the call and, if a friend, talk while the whole thing turns to mush.

It was Coleman calling from Detroit. An old school chum who I’ve probably seen twice since high school, he calls every so often. A welcome voice, he occasionally calls about one of my blogs. Coleman is one of those rare individuals who, unlike me, maintains semi-regular contact with anyone who he’s come to call a friend.

“Hi, Fred. I wondered why I haven’t seen one of your blogs in a while.” I suppose he really meant “I wondered if you were still alive.” I appreciated his concern for my well-being and assured him that my health was within reasonable parameters. We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about the status of mutual friends, the pros and cons of retirement, the dismal nature of the news media and things related to one’s declining years. I said good-bye and scraped the remaining mush from the bottom of my bowl. It was still good.

That afternoon Sweetie and I went to the Ojai Playwrights Conference. I enjoy the conference for two reasons. It’s only five minutes from our house and therefore does not require exposing myself to the traffic and noise associated with treks to the big city. And it has some excellent content. The Conference spotlights the work-in-progress of experienced playwrights as they attempt to fine tune their work prior to its appearance in the real theater. The audience performs the role of guinea pigs and, at a somewhat reduced cost, regularly experiences some surprisingly good theater.

This day we were fortunate to be treated to the work of a dozen or so highly talented, still in school, young men and women who presented some amazing original work that included a treatise on being gay, the curse of having too-big breasts and the clever musings of a hungry dog. It was one of those times when you didn’t count the remaining sets while you prayed for a quick exit to a dreary performance.

But, in spite of the enthralling performance, I had to pee.

As luck would have it, my seat was poorly placed in the middle of the top row of the theater. Exiting would require a grand performance of my own, witnessed by some two hundred people who I knew would know what I was going to do. I toyed with the idea of gutting it out until the end of the performance but I found my concentration too often wandering from the stage to my bladder, now in its own red zone. It finally got the better of me and, finding a small break in the action, I began an ungraceful sideways march down the narrow space between the rows, colliding with strangers’ knees and, on occasion, their toes.

I paced off the steps down to the main level, went through the exit, entered brilliant daylight, found the waterless urinal that proclaimed an astounding savings of forty thousand gallons a year and ultimately achieved blessed nirvana. A return engagement to the theater was now required.

I passed the ticket table outside the theater entrance where the young, official looking woman behind the table said “Yes, can I help you? Do you have a ticket?” Because of the prerogatives of advanced age, I ignored the need to hide the purpose of my trip and said “I have peed and now I have returned. Thank you.”

I entered the dark confines of the theater which, for all I knew, could have experienced a power outage. My eyes, which now require about two weeks to adjust from bright light to darkness, forced me to loiter inside the door while I waited for my sight to return to a level that would permit my climb to the top row of the theater. I pretended that I was an usher.

It was now time to negotiate the all too black steps upward and the much too narrow aisle between rows that I’m certain was designed for anorexic theater goers. I negotiated the steps without incident and congratulated myself on not performing an unscheduled backward roll for the audience.

Buoyed by my dexterity, I entered the aisle fully prepared to bang knees and squash a few Birkenstock clad toes. I passed the first seat without incident, then clipped the next person’s toe and began to fall forward. My life flashed before my eyes. But before I could crash, hands shot out from all directions like passengers on a life boat extending an oar to a drowning man. I grabbed arms and hands, interrupted the fall, righted myself, performed the act once again and made it to my seat, uninjured.

A few years ago I would have been chagrined and embarrassed by my performance. But age has a way of moderating those feelings. And it did.


Happy Birthday to me!

I started celebrating about a week ago.  I’m 70 today.

Maybe the early start was just an excuse to abuse my body… more.  Had a cigar and an extra glass of wine last night, maybe two.  Or maybe it’s because I’ve begun to think about the number of birthdays yet ahead.  No sense wasting time.

Harry was 70 in March.  I remember his e-mail on that auspicious day… “I’ve entered my seventh decade.  Who’da thunk it.”  After counting on my fingers, I wrote “Harry, you’ve actually finished your seventh decade and started on your eighth…how does that make you feel?”

I stayed in bed a little bit longer this morning.  Sweetie was there too.  Nice.  I’d be there yet except for the first of a couple of phone calls from friends announcing my advancing age to the tune of Happy Birthday.

My niece, Sharon, sent me a YouTube link to some guy singing a song about getting older.  It’s been viewed nearly 4 million times.  I’m sure she didn’t know it was my birthday but the song sure fit.  I grinned, related to it and felt strangely happy.

As my old Rabbi used to say “Whenever I look in the mirror, I see a young man.”  And, except for the occasional unexplained body aches, and my increasing inability to rise gracefully from a sitting position, I feel pretty good.

It’s a beautiful day in the Upper Ojai.

Happy birthday, me.


Getting older

I remember attending my folk’s 25th wedding anniversary.  I must have been about ten.  It was one of those events that leaves an indelible marker somewhere in your brain.

The party was held at Uncle Al’s apartment on the south side of Chicago.  It was, by our family’s standards, a big bash even if it was in a second floor flat that had three bedrooms and one bathroom.  In my young mind there could have been a couple hundred people there, but I bet there were less than thirty.

My mother once had a diamond ring but my dad had to sell it in order to eat during the Depression.  She never complained about the loss of the ring but my dad must have known how dear it was to her.  So he bought her a new one for the 25th.  There was a cloth napkin next to the dinnerplate at my mother’s place at the table.  My father hid the ring in the folds of the napkin.  It seemed to me that every guest knew about it and waited with great anticipation for my mother’s reaction.  They weren’t disappointed.

I’ve always remembered that day and until a number of years ago thought that twenty-five years of marriage was a long time and that, on that day, my folks were old.  Sweetie and I have been married for nearly twice that long.  And, until recently, I never thought of myself as “old.”

Now I notice some things that tip me off to my age.  A chronic heel problem that stopped me from dancing with my sweetheart last Saturday.  I lost my keys twice and my wallet once in the last two months…now I wear pants with zipper pockets.  My stomach regularly reminds me that I can’t eat everything that used to please me…like last night’s sausage lasagna.

But most of all my temper tends to be a little shorter than usual.  I try not to react to everyday slights like the guy who parks his convertible in two spaces at the bank, the woman who wants to cut in line at Vons, the kid who skateboards down the Arcade sidewalk, or yesterday when a biker left his Harley at the front gas pump in the Chevron station effectively blocking my exit while he sucked on a Marlboro.  And, please, let’s not even think about my reaction to the current stock market madness.

I know I shouldn’t get excited about these things and sometimes my thought process calms me and I exit the situation without reacting.  But sometimes my emotions get the better of me and I rush to judgment.

So what has this got to do with the price of bananas?  More importantly, what’s this got to do with the election?   Think about it.



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