Do We Have to Go to This Party?
The Old Grey-Hair, She Ain’t What She Used To Be
You know who you are. You are the Me Generation, now newly minted into the We Generation. We are the slightly broader of beam, greyer of hair, losers of keys, groceries, wallets, mobile phones, and bits of fleeting memory that seem to leave us with ever-increasing frequency at every turn.
We are The Olds. And not your father’s Olds.
And like the now extinct (Olds)mobiles of our former lives, we are caught in an ever increasing, precipitously pulling vortex that is circling the drain; a drain which I might add, has no crud-catcher before it hits the final pipe.
We are The Olds, 80 million strong and growing. Has a nice strong ring to it…..until we dig into the real ramifications. But in the meantime, recognizing the folly and futility of protestations against the inevitable; we must stumble forth and keep ourselves amused and amusing if we are to retain any semblance of our former, hilarious, selves. So in the words of Carl Reiner: Enter Laughing………even if only at yourself.
To that point, as our families continue to copulate their way into generations here-to-fore un-thought-of by us, we now face those horrifying, formerly fabulous, Family Functions; where once we were the scintillating stars of the hour but where now, we find ourselves quite suddenly and, in our minds tremendously unfairly, relegated to the status of the Grand/Great-Somethings….The Olds.
Flying cross-country for a family reunion is/was a regular occurrence. I am the Escapee. The flee-er. The Wanderer. The one who friends and relatives alike love to decry when address books were still in fashion:
“You take up 2 whole pages in my book!” As if that was some sort of personal failure on my part, some character flaw to only be corrected by settling down in one place, proving fecundity, and submitting to the status quo as determined by the rest of my personal tribe and society, in general.
I left the fold the week I graduated college, fleeing far and fast to the wildly alluring shores of the opposite coast scarcely a few years after the Summer of Love had bloomed and boomed San Francisco into the throbbing pulse of a nation itching to experience everything.
Here was a place so shining, so bright, so fog-strewn in its raw, untamed will that it forcibly unhinged all who ended their pilgrimages on its craggy hills. It was all wild. The wonder, the wind, the jasmine, and the joints were all pulsing with a low, steady thrum that made hormones mingle with madness and result in a hedonistic high so addictively alluring that Circe herself would have been struck impotent and in awe of the potions that spilled from the very air enveloping us all.
The heady blend of cedar and salt, coffee and croissants, beer halls and bathhouses, all mingled with the wafts of the city sewers on hot September days to simmer an urban stew that made one’s core quiver with nothing more than the hint of potential in the air.
Oh. About that sewer smell.
It was 1977 and California was in the midst of one of its epic, multi-year droughts. But to me, the farm-reared east coast boy-man, it was all new an intoxicating. It was Sunny California in real-time. Forty some years later, it appears that it was a mere foreshadowing of a fiery finality that would be part of the beginning of the end of the luster that was then…but this was still to come.
Even when the semi-dry years ended and the fog returned, blasting over Sutro tower like a tidal wave of tenderness and terror, it was thrilling. We learned to layer, to bundle, to drink…more…and regale ourselves with a prideful-ness that shimmered like the dew left on the Eucalyptus trees every morning. Like the promise of a rainbow, as the sun burned through the velvet layers of grey and warmed the wet leaves on those stately, peeling, sickle-leaved trees, the aroma was almost too much to bear…almost. The bitter bite of those Eucalyptus seemed anointed by the fog and burnished by the wind and became, for me, the scent of The City.
And so my lustiness for living, along with my keen sense of place was formally incubated in my adult soul. It began with my city wanderings, so many neighborhoods, unique, aromatically their own, tricked out to tantalize and temp in a “I must LIVE here” attitude. And so I did. I lived in many of them, some more briefly than others; mistakes were quickly realized at that age and even more quickly rectified. Less shit = more mobility.
The address books they were a’changin’.
Soon, too shockingly suddenly, a pall of war settled over the hills and displaced the glamour and the grime and the glory with a darker more sinister blanket, one that even the winds preceding the afternoon cloud-banks could not, in all their fury, dissipate. In retrospect it was fight or flight.
I could not be there, in that place that I so loved, and watch as the politics and the plague wiped away the place and the people that were mine. The looking-back-glass tells me what I refused to tell myself back then. I was a dead man walking.
And so, the address book began its greatest gains as I maneuvered my battered consciousness from new pillar to newer post. Searching. Running. Diving into the deep end, over and over again, struggling towards the air up above and in the process learning; to swim, to breathe, to live.
And live I did…in Palm Springs, San Diego, Atlanta, Augusta, Salt Lake City, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Portland. All heady addresses for certain and enough houses interspersed to warrant my very own address book. But by now we have devices, and portable phone numbers, and instant communication so the taunt of derision about my wandering ways has died a certain-ish death though I long suspected that it was more born of a bit of envy more than an expenditure of ink and paper to start with.
And so, we reach retirement. Palm Springs. The singular most popular place for gays to retire in the world as stated by AARP 2019.
Let me say from the outset that this is the ONLY place in all of my world wanderings that I have chosen to live….twice.
I hated it the first time around, but then circumstance is everything. The first time I was barely thirty-years-old; HIV+, dying in the 1980’s as was everyone I knew. I chose to remove myself from the fray and seclude myself in a searingly hot (hellish?) desert so that my eventual desiccation might have some sense of natural place. That did not go so well. I did not die. And then I did not die for decades more.
And so; I lived.
The address book racked up more and more incredible places and people. Along the way I found my person, the man I am with today, 26 years later. We have spent a quarter of a century traveling to places we never thought we’d see, rehabbing house after house and in doing so managing to create one slice of Eden after another; but still we wandered. It was mostly my filamental surface roots I suppose, although I never really had to actually drag Dave along to any of the places we have gone. Sometimes I planted a seed of an idea and it grew in his mind and…..poof!…..we were on the move. Other times, this last to be specific, I actually “sold” the house online without having mentioned it to Dave, our realtor, or anyone. Twenty-Eight days later we were in what we both swear and believe will be our final home. Well, probably the final home that we will personally remodel. There’s always life…it gets in the way of good planning.
As an aging Boomer, I am wont to ever miss or leave a party. It’s in my LSD-laced, 70’s DNA. I believed then, and still do, that social interaction is the keystone of a happy and balanced life. Wherever we have landed we have made a concerted effort to engage our new locals, our neighbors, our tribe; and to cultivate those friendships that we intuitively feel will be comfortable fits with our own, albeit a tad cranky, aging personalities.
But this takes work! One must entertain. One must go out! There are a thousand social things per month that we could attend. Literally. Film festivals, Friday happy-hours that are legendary in their attendance and loyalty, Sunday T Dance (we actually never miss this one!), ad infinitum.
Some weeks the devices blow up with invitations, too many to physically manage. A nice problem to have. At this age.
But we are now old-ish.
We have reached the point where we now actually have to assess invites and rank them in some sort of bizarre social order. Not wanting to insult anyone we can only do so many on any given day, although there was last New Year’s Eve.
The invites, many regular NYE events, started popping up and with an oddity that actually felt planned but wasn’t, really; these folks did not know each other and so there could have been no coordination! In the end we had five separate function in two days and managed to get invited to crash a sixth in the middle of all of them. We had to rest-up days before and rest-down days after. Staying socially relevant takes work. A lot of it. But it is what makes our very life-blood get up and operate within us.
If we Sit and Stay, we die. The phrase that now comes to the fore more often these days is “Do We Really Have To Go To This Party?”
There are books that I have stockpiled for years that I really want to curl up with. A cat (or two), a cupa, and a good book and I could literally erase a day…or three. I used to count on rainy days for snuggle-reading. Rain? Here? I literally am conflicted when there is a cloudy day here. But really that is simply an excuse, more reason to remain and become lazy, complacent, boring.
And so, we have to, we must, roust ourselves from bodily and self-induced torpor, where we could comfortably recline and reside with no effort, and put ourselves out in to the world at large. Last night was the perfect example. We had an invitation to a 64thbirthday bash for a good friend (celebrating 64 is the Beatle’s generation saying it’s not 65…yet). The little afternoon cat-nap had sufficiently lulled our brains and our bods into thinking take-out pizza and a movie in and we’re good.
Do We Really Have To Go To This Party?
Let’s be clear here; age does have its prerogatives. We could, quite logically, say after-the-fact, “Oh my foot is still healing and I wasn’t up to it. SO sorry!” or a dozen other perfectly logical and acceptable excuses that would have been fine…as excuses go. The real issue is what this would do to our own mindset moving forward. Does this just add more ennui to an already clogged drain and leave us with more stagnant water and less energy to call the plumber?
At dinner the other night a friend repeated something he had heard recently; that if we, at our ages, did not have a friend, a good, hang-out, confide in, friend under 30 then we were destined to become increasingly and unalterably aged, fast. Our generation, full of the promise, energy, plans, and the enthusiasm of OUR youth was leading the world, then. We changed the world, then. Cultural mores, business models, marriage, divorce, religion…literally everything we now know as current was a direct or casual result of the ideals, we, as young people, held fast and foremost as principles in our lives, then.
It therefore only follows that the same age group of young people are today’s formulators of their tomorrows, and ours. If we, their forebearers, do not actively engage with them, hear their thoughts, take in their theories, and at least try and understand their passions and positions, then we will rapidly become even more obsolete than we already are. And so, yes….
We Have To Go To This Party
And yes, we went to that party with intentions of paying our birthday respects, staying an hour and heading home. We stayed for many hours until the set began to wane, met many new friends, caught up with many old friends, and had the best time at a party that we’ve had in years. Now, we just need to round up those thirty-somethings!