There’s nothing like writing a blog to compress the timeline of your life. I see my birthday has come round again. Forty-nine. One last year of being far too young for the AARP. One last year to wrap up whatever it was I was doing in my 40s. Herewith, a short list of things I was doing in my 40s that I won’t be doing as much in my 50s.
Reading bad books. When I was younger, I was a relentless finisher of books. If I started something, I finished it, damn it, no matter how perplexing/boring/off-putting it was. In 1976, when I was 14, I picked up a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow from the paperback rack at the local Jamesway and I read all 800 pages of that fucker without comprehending a single word. Same with The Tin Drum. And Giles Goat Boy. The Golden Notebook. I could go on. Man, I don’t do that shit anymore. If a book is clearly going nowhere, a red flag goes up in my head at about page 100. At page 200, I’m entering Disengagement Mode. And that’s it. Life is too short for bad books. I should say here that I’m completely immune to most genre books, YA titles (ever notice how all of our parents weren’t reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew when we were kids?), and any book where the author’s name is bigger than the title. I’m also just as likely to be re-reading a book I enjoyed twenty years ago as I am to be reading anything new.
Going to any club or establishment that has hourly drink specials. Op. cit.: Too Old For The Club.
Running. I hope this isn’t true, but I can’t ignore the accumulating evidence. Last week, I was clocking in a typical easy-peasy 4-mile run, when I noticed my thigh was hurting at the 3.6 mile mark. By the 3.7 mile mark, I was completely broken down. Groin pull. I’ll try to rest it a week and go next Friday, but I don’t like my chances. Last summer, it was an inflamed and balky right ankle that checked in after the Asbury Park Half Marathon and lingered through June and July. Isolated incidents? Maybe. But I know that the surest indicator of future injuries is past injuries. That’s how careers end in professional sports. And that’s how running ends, too. I’ve already permanently eliminated my 10-mile training runs and cut way back on 6.5 mile training runs, trying to save everything for the official races. Will that help? We’ll see.
Buying tiny jars of strained/juiced/blended food. Eight years ago, my wife and I had a three-year-old daughter and a baby boy on the way. I did (and still do) all the weekly shopping and that meant a cart full of glass jars of every godawful crap imaginable—mixed peas and guava, strained apricots and sweet potato, mashed ham and jellied lark’s tongues. It was all just future baby poop in a jar. Those days are over now, but sometimes, in a distracted moment as I’m wheeling my cart around an aisle cap of diapers, I’ll find myself musing, Hey, that’s a pretty good sale price on Huggies Baby Wipes.
Collecting things. Everyone reaches that point in their lives where they realize that’s it’s time to stop storing things up (in my case, records and books) and start letting them go. For me, that age was 45. I was surrounded by things that were just gathering dust. I was never going to listen to that redundant 3-CD Grateful Dead live set (University of Northern Iowa! 1978!). I was never again going to lift and crack open that copy of The Sun Also Rises. (It’s Fitzgerald for me, always Fitzgerald.) By the time I met my wife in 1995, it was taking me two full days just to pack up and transport my books and music every time I moved. I don’t move every two years anymore, but all that stuff is gone all the same. The vinyl went first, over three years to a radio station that dumps it at record fairs. Then the books, to the Sea Bright Public Library, which takes books one week of the year, in August. The CDs are a work in progress. They go out to eBay, and I have about 3,000 left. give or take. Old age brings with it plenty of lessons. Here’s one: Everything Must Go.
Reading the news. The older you get, the more the future becomes someone else’s problem.
Getting drunk before noon. This one’s largely out of my control because Rutgers home football games, which once started inevitably at 12noon or 1pm, now start all over the clock. It’s true. There are now so many TV sports stations on cable that even the Scarlet Knights are much more likely to be playing at night or in the late afternoon than under the chill noonday sun of autumn. For decades, me and my fellow RU alumni have gathered on the fields outside of Rutgers Stadium to celebrate the onset of another Knights loss with a cooler (or three) full of beer. In the old days, that meant a 9am tailgate for a 12:30 game. Now, it’s much more likely to be a noon tailgate for a 3pm game. Or 3pm for a night game. Still, though, that freshly popped 9am can of Miller Lite just smells like higher education to me. I have hopes for a Key West Half Marathon after-party in January (in full swing by 10:30am), but we’ll have to see.
Blogging. Christ, this shit is a lot of work. You have no idea. I should transition this entire long-form blog format to something else. Joke of the Day or some crap, like everybody else.