Monday, July 10, 2006

Midway Between a 49er and a 69er

The other day a local newspaper sports columnist wrote an article on Leroy "Satchel" Paige, the great Negro League baseball pitcher who went on to a newly integrated Major League toward the end of his career. Among sayings attributed to Paige are, "Never look behind you. There might be somebody gaining on you." (Here at the Paranoia Strikes Deep blog we like to say, "Always look behind you, because there is somebody gaining on you.")

But that isn't the only thing Paige said. He also said, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" Hmmm. Fair question, and my answer would be, sometimes I feel twenty years younger than my years, sometimes exactly what I think I should feel like at my age, and sometimes I feel more like my mother's age.

My 59th birthday was Saturday, and the annual ritual of cards, birthday presents, a little party with pie and ice cream (we're iconoclasts here…no birthday cakes). I enjoyed my birthday, except it was the last one of my fifties, and now I'm facing--choke, gag--my sixties. There was a big deal made out of Bush turning 60, and the others of us baby boomers of the 1940's hitting that 60 mark. They like to point to people like Bush and Clinton, actresses like Cher, Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, as examples of people who look great in middle-age. Ah, bullshit. Those actresses have lots of plastic surgeons to thank, lots of time with personal trainers, too. For the rest of us who can't afford plastic surgery or even time in the gym, 60 means a paunch in front, bags under the eyes, lines in the face, gray hairs where the dark hairs used to be…if we have any hairs left, that is.

I went to see my dermatologist the other day. After years of working in the sun I go to him about once a year to check for any suspicious growths. I'm pretty good at keeping up with things like that. My doctor is a few years older than me and like me has hair growing out of places where you wouldn't think it would grow, and that's despite losing hair where it's supposed to grow. As he put it, "I am convinced we're all turning into werewolves."

We boomers like to kid ourselves. We like to say, "Sixty is the new 40!" but I seem to remember them saying, "Fifty is the new 40!" so I guess it will follow that as we move along however many decades we have left we'll be saying things like, "Seventy is the new 40!" or "Eighty is the new 40!" Did I say we kid ourselves? No, we lie to ourselves.

I guess we have to keep track of our birthdays. It's important to keep a record. People need to know birthdays so they can judge when a person is an adult. The watershed year when I turned 21 was 1968, which was a pretty eventful year in our country's history. By far my personal best decade started when I turned 40, and according to my fellow boomers I'll get a chance to repeat it when I turn "the new 40" at age 60.

Right now I'm sort of hanging on by my fingernails, not wanting to give up anything I've gained, especially knowledge or whatever wisdom I might have collected in the dusty file cabinets of my brain, and not turn into a memoryless person like my mother. That's true paranoia, folks. My wife's family all worry about cancer, which I admit is a pretty big worry (and why I go to my dermatologist every year), but I'm paranoid about getting Alzheimer's…

…where was I? Oh yeah. We were talking about aging, weren't we? About losing our minds? Jeez, my short-term memory has gotten shorter. Anyway, if we can say that "Sixty is the new 40!" then it should follow that "Fifty-nine is the new 39!" So I've joined the Jack Benny club, and if you remember Jack Benny it gives you automatic membership in that club with me.

Ciao for now, El Postino

A really fun card done by my talented pal, Dave Miller. For a large image click here. Through the marvel of modern special effects, Thrilling Birthday Stories features El Postino as the Evil Elves!

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