Friday, July 30, 2010

Geez, it's been 20 years since 10 years got behind me

Aging is a disconcerting thing, I'm told. I agree, because it's one more damn thing to illustrate how bad I am at math.

When I was in my early 20s, I subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine, which had a feature in the back listing music that was popular 10 years prior. Those songs and albums were ancient. Sure, I liked some of them, but in a distant, oldies sort of way. Then they started listing ones that I had rushed out to purchase when they were brand new.

One of them was Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." That remains one of my favorite albums, and it includes "Time," one of my favorite songs, and one line from "Time" remains one of my favorite guideposts:

"… and then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun"

When I first heard that, I thought it was as preposterous as it was profound. Ten years? No way could that amount of time just get behind you. Reading that those thoughts were suddenly, exactly, 10 years old rattled me.

I guess it didn't rattle me too much, though. Seven years later, Iggy Pop released "Brick by Brick," with a song called "Candy" about a long-lost love. How long lost? One of the first lines goes, "Geez, it's been 20 years," and there I was again, confident that I'd never see that kind of time slip between the cracks.

Tomorrow I'll go to my high school class' 30-year reunion. Now, though, thirty years sounds accurate, and more to the point, it sounds just about right. Apparently I'm over the whole bad-math issue. Or not. When I was busy not believing in time passing by in 10- and 20-year chunks, time meant deterioration. Going back to Pink Floyd, each day was supposed to put me "shorter of breath and one day closer to death."

Okay, Pink Floyd is great, but that song turns out to be a lot of crap. For one thing, death is not a scheduled event. We don't know when it's coming. The best we can do is study large groups and make actuarial tables for it, and as we've established, I'm terrible with math, so the hell with actuarial tables. For another, I'm hardly shorter of breath, literally or figuratively. I'm still pretty quick on a bicycle, I run a little faster, and I swim, uh, at all. I weigh the same. I still draw silly pictures, but they're a lot better now and I get paid a living wage for them. I still don't date teen-age girls, but now it's because I'm a happily married non-pedophile, not because I'm pathologically shy. I still don't drink Budweiser, not because I'm underage but because there's no point when there's perfectly good stout, porter and ale out there. My funny hair has merely been replaced by a funny tan line.

Satchel Paige famously warned not to look back because something might be gaining on you. I took his advice but not his point. I've never been much for looking back, but because I was always afraid there'd be nothing there at all. Or at least that the future was much more interesting.

Talk about crap. They're both full and they're both interesting. In fact, the future and the past are pretty close to the same thing, except when you try to change the one it's called "ambition" and when you try to change the other it's called "lying."

When you try to change them both it's called "writing."


La Professora said...

One sure-fire way to feel the years gone by is to greet the college freshman each year. They get younger and younger....

Not sure if you're still doing the five words a day thing, but here's mine: Age is in the mind.

Teamfubar said...

I was just thinking about this same thing the other day. I remember in 1987 listening to "Sgt. Peppers" and particularly the line that says "It was 20 years ago today" and thinking that, shoot, it was 20 years ago that this album came out.

Now, here we are 23 years removed from THAT day and the song doesn't have the same sound when you say, "It was 43 years ago today".

Jerry G said...


I really identify with Frazz as a platelet donor, having given 128 donations and 73 whole blood myself to date. (it will be 129 platelet donations on Monday at the Puget Sound Blood Center, Seattle, Washington )

Thanks for spotlighting it!!

Are you aware that the Seattle Times spells your name "Jeff"?

Liz said...

Is that guy in the left-hand picture you in high school?

I think every grown-up has a little calendar in the back of their minds that always reads the same decade, regardless of how much time passes. Mine says "It's the 1990s, life is fine... what do you mean that was 15 years ago? What's this little matchbox everyone is carrying around, and how can it possibly hold a roomful of tapes? And what is that strange person doing in my mirror, looking like an older version of me?"

I'm a little afraid to see what the calendar says in 30 more years.