Goddamn, 36 – 36 years and at least 11 more than they thought I’d get. What sordid beast have I become? A news writer, clawing through headlines and press releases, official statements and voicemails, like a feral cat in a Captain D’s dumpster – a dying man in a dying industry. And what are those headlines today – that cretinous buffoon still haunting the White House is going about his daily routine of spewing lies and vitriol and being shit on by Democrats, even when he ends a conflict – and calls for an end to another – that they’ve long bemoaned as foolish and unnecessary. I don’t like The Man, and find him quite unfit for any job that requires even minimal intelligence, but the hypocrisy of the Neoliberal Left is just as detrimental to the national conversation and, in large part, why this fascistic nuisance was even allowed to grab the reins of national power to begin with. In other news…
The musical well has dried up and, if I were honest with myself and everyone else, I’d say it dried up years ago. We survived on digging through the mud, getting by on shots of dirty groundwater for the last half decade or so. But our bodies have become atrophied and the need to feed mouths other than our own has led us to all but give up the fight and surrender to the Capitalist Armies that demand from each all he can give before crumbling into the earth, the same armies that have all but crippled the American Body from cultural deprivation that has deepened with each passing year.
Bored and Lonely in Alabama’s Queen City, with no idea of how to find relief or what that relief would realistically look like. How one can suffer from such a debilitating illness in a home overflowing with activity and life, in a job that abounds with action and suspense, is hard to comprehend, but I would wager that it’s a disease that many of my generational siblings live with each day – silently, aside from the sound of alcohol sloshing down an otherwise dry gullet.
I still have the libido of a high school athlete, but that comes with its own degradations – a married father of two, working a full-time job and plagued with body aches and bills and indigestion and worry, bad skin and the inability to breathe through his mouth as he sleeps, hardly paints a toothsome picture. How does one cope with such a condition? Again, the bottle – the liquid from which still clouds my brain but is thankfully indiscernible to the breathalyzer attached to my engine since I was arrested for drunk driving in January. I was supposed to have defeated that demon by now, but it’s amazing how the battles lead one to sympathize with the enemy.
It’s been a long year. It’s been a long life and it’s not over yet – the kids will get older and, as they do, the most important reason for maintaining some semblance of masculine energy and vitality and health will pack its bags and move away. They tell you that this is what happens if you’ve done your job as a parent, but they must surely know that even an expected outcome can still be crippling and shocking to the senses. They don’t know shit.
And what is there past that? Past the inevitable departure of my children, past the inevitable decay of own body and mind, past the inevitability that I’ll work til I die, past the reality that I am, for all practical purposes, a waste of immense talent and potential? The dying American Dream, just like Hunter and Scott described it – I am the living, breathing, drinking and shitting embodiment of it. The American Undead.
But enough with the bitching and moaning so stereotypical of an anguished mind staring down the barrel of old age, loss and debilitation. For all its stumbles and shortfalls, this life is a good one and seeing one year end and another beginning to dawn is both a time to mourn and celebrate. While the things that have meant so much to me in earlier years must be packed away and filed for what they were and may never be again, the hands of time allow for new challenges to be conquered and learned from, complete with the scars and broken bones that may well accompany the lessons. But who’s afraid of a broken tibia if it’s sustained in a pleasurable pursuit? Surely, a shattered bone resulting from a fall is only evidence of how high one has climbed.
For whatever reason, when I pictured myself in my own mind, I never envisioned the ways that age would play upon my skin and my muscles – somehow, the 22-year-old picture of virility and optimism that I was sustains in my mind as if I’m some sort of Peter Pan, forever young, only passing through London to take a glance at those old sad bastards falling away in flakes. But I couldn’t sleep on the floor of a school bus careening down a desolate desert highway again even if I wanted to, no matter how picturesque the vision remains in my mind; I can’t stay up all night with a head full of drugs and a belly full of booze to see the sun rise anymore – I’ve got work in the morning and I’ve got to get some sleep before the kids come calling for breakfast; I can’t fuck like I used to, can’t sing like I used to, can’t write like I used to…so we beat on.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? With each passing year – hell, with each passing moment of each passing day – we can’t do anything the way we did it before because, in fact, we are no longer the person we were before. We’re something new, something different, and the way we live each moment – the singing, the fucking, the breathing, the working – is different too. It necessarily has to be or else we’d all still be consuming mashed vegetables and shitting in diapers.
And while that may seem like the defeated admission of a man whose best days are behind him, it is true that the things of youth fade away with time and make way for those things which can only be appreciated in old age.
With age comes wisdom – the wisdom to draw power from my wife’s weary smile each morning; the wisdom to sustain on the happiness in my children’s voices and faces; the wisdom to celebrate the memories of times and people past, both of which made me the man I am today – for better and worse. Indeed, old age brings with it all of the things we fought so hard to avoid, but it also brings with it countless joys we never knew could be achieved, reached for and grabbed and possessed with power and grace. I’m not so old, after all, and the existential crisis that comes with turning another page will surely cease after another hearty meal, another solid drinking binge, another night of comfortable sex…all followed by another morning of sunshine, another morning of salutations from tiny voices so similar to my own, another morning of headlines and Coca-Cola classic.
Goddamn, 36 – older than I was but, with any luck, not the oldest I’ll ever be.