The Double Nickel. Stay alive, drive 55.
The 70’s called – they want their slogans back.
I’ll go with ‘Thrive 55.’ No copyright or datedness issues, plus it’s mine and I am. Thriving, that is.
For the most part I am. My health, and that of my family, is good; we are all happy and in relatively good spots in our lives. I am keenly aware of this blessing as many long-time friends struggle with a myriad of different chronic ailments. Even the dogs got clean bills of health from the vet this week.
I am blessed.
Approaching this mid-decade birthday, I have been paying extra attention to my health and well-being. Having dropped thirteen pounds since January the first, I can honestly use my new, self-appointed nickname: Lean, Mean Aw-What-the-Hell? Machine.
O.K. it’s a bit clunky.
I am generally of the just-another-year mindset with birthdays, but this year seems to have a lot of quirky numerical significance of milestones and anniversaries.
It’s a busy year. My daughter Lindsay turns thirty in June, and is getting married in July. She does not wish to be reminded of the former and eagerly anticipates the latter. Her two-and-a-half year old son – my grandson – Felix plays a prominent role in the festivities and I am greatly looking forward to it all.
Felix is a bright kid; he has figured out how to call or Skype me when he gets his hands on his mom’s phone. We pick up where we leave off whenever we can.
Meanwhile, youngest son Sam is wrapping up his freshman year of high school on the upswing after hitting a few fairly typical first-year-of-high-school rough patches. He now begins the process of flying more solo than he has had to up until this point in life. Daily life without his brother around to torment, nurture, harangue, bicker with, cajole and love (in all directions and all combinations) will be an interesting transition for all of us.
I recently realized that fifty-five is a big deal in part because of all the stuff that happened 40 years ago, when I was fifteen, which I have been thinking about a lot because that’s how old Sam is now. Looking back, fifteen was filled with all sorts of good stuff.
Driving legally comes to mind.
By the time my driving privileges were codified by that little yellow paper permit in 1974, I had been behind the wheel of various vehicles for a few years during my summer sojourns to Horseshoe Lake in northern Minnesota. I had driven Ivar and Lila’s ’64 Jeep pickup, in which I had learned to drive a manual transmission (though for the first few years, Ivar had to work the clutch from the passenger seat) which I proved my clutch prowess with by mowing down a sapling at age thirteen. I had also driven their ’66 Plymouth Valliant, a zippy little automatic transmission number that was compact enough for the smallish, pre-teen me to handle effortlessly.
Fifteen was also the age at which Ivar let me use the Homelite chain saw, and it was also the summer I occasionally (VERY occasionally) got a full bottle of beer to myself. A story for another (and from another, very different) time.
2014 is also the 40 year anniversary my first job…of the approximately 72 different employers I have worked for to this date. Unless you include all the different things I did and places I did them while employed by five different temp firms. And of course, there was all the stuff I did on the side and sometimes off-the-books. Add in all the fun and funky stuff and the number of gigs I have actually been paid for easily tops 200. (see my poetry blog for more on that: http://markluckerpoet.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/walking-down-sesame-street-with-studs-terkel-at-graduation-time/)
As Sinatra sings in my was then/still is now theme song, That’s Life, “…I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet…a pawn and a king…..”
If it is not illegal, unethical or immoral, there is a good chance I’ve dabbled in it.
Fifteen, the summer of ’74, was also when I discovered that girls were…? Aww hell, that they were girls. Different but still the same girls as in previous summers. They were something entirely new and familiar.
Fifteen was also the age when I began filling notebooks with teenaged profundity on solo cross-country Greyhound jaunts from Denver to Minneapolis at the start of the summer and back again before school reconvened. At fifteen, I was old enough to roll solo. Add in shorter Greyhound hops from Minneapolis to Crosby, Minnesota and back, and I put a lot of miles on those spiral notebooks. That was over two-thousand miles a summer of life and writing about it, experiencing a wide array of people, different places. Big city kid soaking in small-town stopovers and all-night truck stops. Best scrambled eggs and link sausage I’ve ever had were at a truck stop in North Platte, Nebraska, somewhere around two a.m. on a June morning surrounded by bus vagabonds and truckers, great conversationalists and monologists straining their necks to see just what I was writing down in my green steno book.
I had seconds on those eggs from the truck stop buffet, more sausages, too. They were great eggs.
When I wasn’t writing, I was watching and listening. Sometimes to my fellow travelers, sometimes to Sinatra or Dean Martin on the little Radio Shack cassette player with the single earphone I had squeezed into my travel bag. Now and then I listened to all of the above simultaneously, and I vividly understood how movies soundtracks really enhanced the flow of a story.
Forty years have passed. An anniversary of a coming of age.
Fifteen was a crucial demarcation point for me. Now, here I am, some forty years hence.
“I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king;
I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing –
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face…
I just pick myself up! and get back. in. the. race!