Some time ago, I went to a city called Nice to purportedly study French. The time was October 1971. That’s me sitting at the edge of an abandoned pier on the plage of the Prom.
More recently, I went back to that same beach. I did not, this time, clamber up and sit at the edge of that pier. In fact, I noticed that the pier was now further out in the water. The beach had receded, much like my hairline. The Gallus signage was gone, and the concrete had been painted over a trashy white.
That was just last year, in September 2017.
When I sat at the edge of that pier in 1971, I was 20 and full of zip.
So were you, at that age.
Most of the time, I spent my days and nights hanging out in bars, and chatting up girls, and feeling that I was destined to achieve great things.
So did you, maybe.
You met That Girl, and then that other one, and the one after that, and maybe you drank and smoked a little too much and had sex like a champion stallion and did some crazy things and read important books and played guitar and did bongs and had heavy conversations deep into the night and Life seemed so full of promise.
But now, you are old.
You’ve lost that ambition, that drive to succeed, to achieve — what Bergson called l’élan vitale. All that you might have been able to accomplish is now behind you.
There will be no more young women in your bed now, unless you pay them or Cosby them or abuse whatever position of workplace privilege you may still have, no sense of adventure, no more reaching for the infinite possibilities that a young life has to offer. You’re almost at the end of the last chapter, the one titled Out of Gas.
And so you retreat.
Maybe you play golf, or go fishing, or — if you have the money — retire to that summer place you were able to scoop up when things were so much cheaper.
And there you sit, in your summer villa, brooding, as you ruefully gaze out at the blue water, and you suddenly notice that same pier, and visualize yourself as a young man sitting at the end it, but only for a moment, for you are a Stoic realist, a survivor, grounded in the factual here and now, so to speak, and accepting of the reality that henceforth your life — what is now left of it — is only to be lived in the small.
Your empty days now consist of tedious chores and mundane little worries and trivial pursuits.
There are no big things left for you to do, you think.
There will be no more beautiful girls looking at you in that particular way.
Most of your big dreams turned to ashes long ago — for you never became that great guitar player, or a famous writer, or even a Big Swinging Dick on Wall Street.
You turned out to be just an ordinary person, trying to scratch out a living in a world that doesn’t give a shit about you, nothing more.
But not all reeks of the stench of defeat and crippling disappointment.
You look around you and see the apparently well-adjusted men your age with their red baseball caps and their silver Mercs and their floozies as they tool about town.
They seem so smugly satisfied; their 401Ks are flush, their mortgages paid up, their children grown up and out of college, and maybe even there’s a pension that keeps them from having to rely just on Social Security.
You see other men — the majority — to whom Life is not so good nowadays.
These are the broken down sad sacks who stand, muttering under their boozy breath, in line at the Pharmacy at Winn Dixie for their meds, with their 3-day grey stubble, their ill-fitting cheap clothes and shoes, and the look of haunted desperation in their eyes.
So where do you stand in all this?
Well, the truth is there is no regaining the body you had at 20.
The truth is that to think you have a great novel in you in your 60s is one of the profoundest delusions of all.
The creative river bed, if you ever had it in you, is now bone dry or shrinking rapidly, like a Salton Sea of the soul.
Fixing the chassis and giving the engine inside a tune-up and oil change is usually only a prelude to another road trip to nowhere in particular.
For example, to Egypt, where I spent the last seven months, and took this pic of the Nile River from the balcony of the apartment where I grew up.
I think the key to survival in old age is not looking back at all.
The truth is none of it matters, and nobody cares what you did back in the day.
By all means go gluten-free, like Djokovic, but above all avoid the Pepe Imazes of this world.
For example if I’m going to survive, and indeed, thrive another 10 or 15 years, I have to ruthlessly accept that much of my past life is one gigantic write-off and that when I die, game’s up, and there’s no do over.
By doing so, I no longer have to take, say, Metoprolol, and drown in an ocean of daily lamentations or kneel on Sundays at the pews of desperation. It’s enormously freeing, especially if you’ve tasted success, however minor, in the past. That championship season is long gone. Deal with it.
This morning, my BP was 138/68 and my heart rate 62 bmp. I’ve also lost another 2 lbs this week and am now at 223 lbs.
I am taking care of the necessary small stuff, keeping physically active while varying my exercise routines, and look forward to paddling my SUP board in the Loxahatchee River after the scar on my knee heals.
I may write that novel, yet, or I may not.
In the end, it does not matter. The libraries are full of unread books by writers who toiled for years to produce masterpieces that now are gathering dust.
And so, I’ve narrow my scope: it seems trivial, but can I get to 195 lbs? Can I lose the moobs and flatten my belly at age 66?
Can I ignore Trumposis and the perpetually angry right-wing neighbors and trivial nonsense such as the packs of costume party aging bikers I frequently see in FLA and simply enjoy life on my terms?
Yes, I can — albeit with the kind of Absurdist outlook that Camus wrote about in The Myth of Sisyphus.
On that basis, living Life as an older dude is a piece of cake.
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Free the glutens!
This campaign is part tongue-in-cheek, as it were, and part serious business: for being grossly overweight (as I was), or having Celiac disease, is no laughing matter. All proceeds from this campaign will go to the Celiac foundation. Please note that I will not be shipping you a package of gluten-free brown rice following your donation!