Birthday! Birthday!! Birthday!!!

Now Imagine This Cake with 78 Candles on It

Over the last few decades, I have become quite blasé about my date of birth. I usually saw I was born on the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month (which is true, as the months wrap around). When asked for my astrological sign, I say, “No Trespassing.”

When you’re young, you get all kinds of cake and presents. When you’re my age, you just get measurably older.

Am I any wiser? Not really, I am probably a little more tolerant maybe up two percentage points. I have definitely noticed I am getting more crabby. (Those kids had better get off my lawn, STAT, or I’ll have to reach for my flamethrower.)

After what I went through with my brain tumor more than half a century ago, I never thought I would live this long. Even as a grade school kid, I looked forward to the year 2000 and thought, “Wow, if I live to that year, I’ll be fifty-five years old!” And to an eight-year-old, that seemed really O-L-D.

My father died at the age of seventy-four; and my mother, at the age of seventy-nine. Though I am minus a few body parts (pituitary gland, left hip), I am still surprisingly healthy. The joints are getting a bit creaky, but I can still walk. As for my mind, well let us speak respectfully of the dead.

I wonder, what kind of crap will I write when I reach seventy-nine?

No Stylist He!

Poet Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Okay, so he’s no great stylist. You won’t quote his poems at length the way you might quote Keats or Shakespeare. But I guarantee you will get what he has to say because it is written to communicate simply and directly. You can read a book of Bukowski poems the way you read a pulp novel, from end to end, with total comprehension. In my book, that counts.

mugged

finished,
can’t find the handle,
mugged in the backalleys of nowhere,
too many dark days and nights,
too many unkind noons, plus a
steady fixation for
the ladies of death.

I am 
finished, roll me
up, package
me,
toss me 
to the birds of Normandy or the
gulls of Santa Monica, I
no longer
read
I
no longer
breed,
I
talk to old men over quiet
fences.

is this where my suicide complex
un-
complexes?: as
I am asked over the telephone:
did you ever know Kerouac?

I now allow cars to pass me on the freeway.
I haven't been in a fist fight for 15 years.
I have to get up and piss 3 times a night.

and when I see a sexpot on the street I
only see
trouble.

I am
finished, back to square one,
drinking alone and listening to classical
music.

much about dying is getting ready.
the tiger walks through my dreams.

the cigarette in my mouth just exploded.

curious things still do
occur.

no, I never knew Kerouac.

so you see:
my life wasn’t 
useless
after
all.

“The Best Is Yet To Be”

I never thought I would be alive at the age of 77. My father died at 74 years old; and my mother, at 79. When I was a student at St. Henry Elementary School, I thought, “Gosh, I’ll be 55 years old when we get to the year 2000.” I passed that milestone at a run.

In the illustration above, I am somewhere between the third and fourth figure. Thankfully, my health is good. I can get about without a cane, though I find going down a flight of stairs to be painful. Kneeling on a hard surface is out of the question.

When I think about aging, I call to mind the first stanza of Robert Browning’s poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra”:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!” 

I see some of my friends fall by the wayside, some dying, some suffering personality disorders as they age, and some just isolating themselves.

This is not a subject anyone likes to think about. There are, however, dangers inherent in suppressing any important subject.

The times are always bad—and always have been. Yes, what is happening in Ukraine is terrible. But so was ducking under my school desk at St. Henry to practice for a Communist H-Bomb attack. So was World War Two. So was … oh … Genghis Khan.

I always wanted to be a writer. And in a manner of speaking, I am one. I don’t care about compensation or fame. Just sitting down around 9 o’clock most evenings and writing this blog is a worthwhile effort. It makes me feel good about myself.

Old Man …

… Who Doesn’t Realize He’s Getting Old

Unless one has children of one’s own, and if one is in reasonable health, one doesn’t really know one is getting old. Yesterday, my friend Bill Korn told me his own interpretation of my posting from a couple days ago, I Don’t Feel at Home Here, Either. The young, when they acknowledge my existence at all, seem surprised to see such a spry oldster doing approved things. Several weeks ago, I was about to enter a Trader Joe’s market when a younger woman flashed a delighted look at me, as if here was a decrepit old man doing the right thing. What was my reaction? I gave her the stink-eye, at maximum volume. She looked infuriated, as if I had stomped on her Yorkie or slipped her smart phone into a sewer grating.

What my reaction was saying was: “Don’t patronize me, you stupid beeyotch! I do not require your approval.”

But then, that’s me all over. I don’t cotton to strangers. When I am traveling in a foreign country and am approached by American tourists, I answer back in Hungarian. I think I’m taking after my Great Grandmother Lidia Toth (born in 1876), who could make a longshoreman blush with her swearing. She was one of those, “Who’re you looking at, Punk?” type of people, except her language was ever so much more colorful.

As a result, I am not likely to initiate contacts with strangers—with several exceptions. When I travel, I try hard to communicate with the locals and generally get good responses. I do not … ever … make … friends …. with …. American … tourists. Does that mean that I am anti-American? Not really, I just find it’s a waste of time. I even go out of my way to help foreign tourists who are obviously stuck in Los Angeles, which is not the easiest place in the world to get around in.

 

De Incommodis Senectutis

Old Man

Old Man

But even then, if anyone does reach old age, his heart weakens, his head shakes, his vigor wanes, his breath reeks, his face is wrinkled and his back bent, his eyes grow dim and his joints weak, his nose runs, his hair falls out, his hand trembles and he makes silly gestures, his teeth decay, and his ears get stopped with wax. He will believe anything and question nothing. He is stingy and greedy, gloomy, querulous, quick to speak, slow to listen, though by no means slow to anger. He praises the good old days and hates the present, curses modern times, lauds the past, sighs and frets, falls into a stupor, and gets sick. Hear what the poet says: Many discomforts surround an old man. But then the old cannot glory over the young any more than the young can scorn the old. For we are what they once were; and some day we will be what they are now.—Pope Innocent III, On the Misery of the Human Condition

An Old Man

It’s the Same Everywhere

It’s the Same Everywhere

An old Man,
Is loath to bid the world goodnight, hee knowes the grave is a long sleepe, and therefore would sit up as long as hee could. His soule has long dwelt in a ruinous tenement, and yet is so unwilling to leave it that it could be content to sue the body for reparitions. He lives now to be but a burthen to his friends, as age is to him, and yet his thoughts are as farre from death as he is nigh it. Howsoever time bee a continued motion, yet the Dyall of his age stands still at 50, that’s his age for ten yeares afterward, and love’s such a friend that like a flattering glasse tels him hee seemes farre younger. His memory is full of the actions of his youth, which hee often historifies to others in tedious tales, and thinks they should please others because himselfe. His discourses are full of parenthesis, and his wordes fall from him as slowly as water from an Alimbecke; drop by drop. He loves the chimney corner and his chaire which he brags was his grandfathers, from whence he secures the cubboard from the Catts and Dogges, or the milke from running over, and is onely good to build up the architecture of a seacole fyre by applying each circumstant cynder. When his naturall powers are all impotencyes, hee marries a young wench for warmth sake, and when hee dyes, makes her an estate durante viduitate onely for widowhood. At talke hee commonly uses some proverbiall verses gathered perhaps from cheese-trenchers or Schola Salerna, which he makes as applyable, as a mountebank plasters to all purposes, all occasions. Hee cals often to the Servingman for a cup of Sacke, and to that end stiles him friend; and wonders much that new wine should not bee put in old bottles. Though the proverbe be, once a man and twice a childe, yet he hopes from his second childhood to runne backe into his teenes, and so bee twice a man too. Lastly, hee’s a candle burnt to the snuffe, the ruines onely of a man, whose soule is but the salt of his body to keepe it from stincking, and can scarcely performe that too.—Wye Saltonstall, Picturae Loquentes (1635)