Gazette About Books Archives
The Thaddeus Gazette

When I'm 64


I always contend that I'll live to be a hundred, fully cognizant of the unlikelihood of that event. Even in our current advanced state of medical knowledge (yeah, right), our beloved forebears of the Greatest Gen seem to be reliably popping off in their mid 90's. While more and more of them are cranking their way up the slope to that lucky double-oh, the aggregate is still perishingly small (no pun intended).

But every year the wheel grinds around again and I find myself one revolution closer to my glorious centennial, and I prefer to stay cautiously optimistic about the whole affair. So far, as the man falling past the 50th floor said, so good.

In my case, it's falling up, and the floor in question is the 64th.

Unfortunately, while my current annual accumulation has its rather obvious face-value directly linked to a beloved old boomer anthem off that vinyl edifice of culture Sgt. Peppers Etc Etc Honk, it's sadly lacking in much depth of field, woowoo-wise. Apart from it being a power of 2 (1000000, if we must be drearily binarily exact), there's not a lot of there there. For all the reassurance I can wring out of the obvious will you still need blahblah question to my Frens on Frenbook, 64 is a bloody boring age.

Clearly, 64 is overshadowed by its just-over-the-next-ridge elder, 65, cosmic year of eternal R&R, Social Security, gold watches, Medicare and, for all too many of us feckless ex-hippies, a declining lifestyle of top ramen and Seinfeld reruns. Despite our fond expectations of a peaceful grass-fed future in some kindly pasture of moderate plenty all watched over by machines of I can't bring myself to say, the dirty economists and their dismal gizmos were right again: if you can't inherit money, you better marry it. Otherwise, it's lotteries all the way down.

But wait! It ain't over til it's over, and sometimes not even then. I may be 64 but I damn sure ain't 65 yet. I'm still shooting the rapids of the market economy, not yet released into the slush pond of obsolescence. In that respect at least, 64 is a pretty heads-up number: here you are knock-knock-knockin' on Ree-tirements door, but the whole world is still wagging away like a puppydog's tail, inviting you to go back for just one more ride on the ol' WHEEL! OF! FORTUNE!, one more taste of riotous excess.

Of course, it ain't exactly like I've got some big screaming choice here. As a gainfully self-employed artist who hasn't managed to find anyone to sell out to, I'm painfully familiar with the options I have towards working less and playing more, namely slim, none and why would I want to? And that last ain't no sour grapes (yes it ain't too). My work already is my play, so why should I give it up for vanilla pudding? Given that a) the economy doesn't turn over like a tourist standing up in a canoe and drown us all and b) things don't start falling off the boy, I could be giddily and impoverishedly strumming off into the foreseeable future.

Besides, I've worked mighty hard for a mighty long time to get myself into the deplorable state of proficiency at my chosen profession that I now exhibit. I mean, it's not easy to devote your life to vain pursuits like peace, love and art, not to mention runamuck slacker profligacy. I've reached a truly admirable level of professionalism here, and I'll thank you to remember that.

And don't think it was all selfish egotism. Whether it cares to admit it or not, the anthill of society needs a few scroungy grasshoppers like me loping around, if only to serve as horrible examples. I've been tempted for a long time to work up a t shirt that says IF IT WASN'T FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME, PEOPLE LIKE YOU WOULD BE BORED STIFF.

I'm a member of a cohort faced with a monumental identity crisis, worse than adolescence or midlife. We bear the Age That Cannot Speak Its Name. We're too old to be middle-aged, too active to be put on the shelf. An army of grey-haired ghosts stalks the land, and we don't even know what to call ourselves. The Lower-Middle Aged?

And increasingly we're being cashiered out of cushy middle-class jobs to make way for the young, the cheap and the compliant. Statistics show that if you get laid off after 50 you probably won't find a career job again, and the only consistent assistance you get after the unemployment insurance runs out is dead-end benefit-stripped meatbag service gigs and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps optimist propaganda from well-meaning libertarian sociopaths, convinced that if one guy can merchandise a stupid little idea into a multi-level marketing scheme, why can't we all?

So in that respect at least, I'm damned lucky I never drank the kool-aid of Your Fabulous Future In Plastic and stayed feral and at least moderately free. Even a broken clock or a dirty hippie is right twice a day. Sometimes the money sucks and and sometimes I actually tread water, but I live more on my own terms than 90% of the folks I encounter. I'm also fortunate in that I can fix my own cars and replace my own water heater and find ways to entertain myself without $100 tickets to screaming mass social events. Between my cussedness and my skill set, I successfully occupy a limited ecological niche in the breadcrumbs and lint at the bottom of the empty pockets of the 21st century.

I'm under no illusions that I'm a self-made rugged individual though. I depend on the rest of society as much as anyone. I'm just not as beholden to one or another of the myriad subdivisions of The Man Inc.

Jack Benny famously decided to stop getting older at 39. I'm thinking 64 might be my Benny Limit, though of course Medicare will still be aware of the truth. You can't fool Mom.

Gazette | About | Books | Archives |