Tomorrow, I'll be seventy-fucking-five years old.
Twenty-odd years ago, sitting on the City Council dais listening to some crusty old guy telling us how we should vote, one of my colleagues leaned over and murmured a message that has stuck with me ever since.
"Old white men!" she whispered. "Don't you just hate them?"
And now I am one. Thursday, Nov. 5, I'll be seventy-fucking-five years old.
Karen and I together have six kids, 19 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. I can no longer pretend that I'm a promising young man. Should I transmit whatever I've learned and do the wise elder statesman thing?
Nope. I'd rather tell stories.
Fall 1947. I'm walking from our home on Tejon Street to Steele School, hearing the leaves rustle beneath my feet, loving the day, my neighborhood, my city and my life. I thought I was the luckiest little boy in the world.
Summer 1956. All I wanted was a girlfriend. One day I ran into Susie, who lived up the street. She was a senior, a cheerleader, a prom queen — so out of my league! But she liked me, and wanted to get away from her abusive football player boyfriend.
So we kept it on the down low until the boyfriend found out and swore to kick my ass. We didn't go to the same school, so I managed to avoid him. Like so many of my friends, she's gone now, Susie of the dark hair, sparkling eyes and slow smile.
Fall 1958. I'm a freshman at a second-tier men's college in New England. Big news: Jack Kerouac is coming to participate in some half-baked literary weekend. I had loved On the Road so I followed him and his entourage around campus like a lumbering puppy dog. We ended up crammed into a dorm room, where Kerouac took out a baggie and rolled up an enormous spliff. At first I thought he was rolling a cigarette, and then I realized that it was — oh my God! — marijuana. I'd read about it, but never seen it, smelled or smoked it. Kerouac took a big hit, held it, exhaled and looked at me.
"Hey kid," he said, "you want some reefer?"
So Jack Kerouac turned me on to dope — talk about counterculture cred!
January 1963. I'm the owner/skipper of a 40-year-old wooden sailboat, the Paisano, four months into a voyage around the world. West of the Galapagos, we sailed close to an enormous school of dolphins — tens of thousands of these beautiful creatures, swimming alongside for hours. It was a joyous sight, one that Charles Darwin might have seen on the Beagle. I thought the rush of industrial civilization would end such beauty, leaving polluted seas and crowded lands.
That's why I had gone to sea — to experience a world that would soon pass. The circumnavigation ended six years later in Barbados when we crossed our outbound longitude. I was broke, directionless and without marketable skills. I chartered Paisano for a couple of years and eventually went to work as an investment banker in New York.
October 1974. The investment banker thing wasn't working out too well. At a party one evening I met an attorney who represented the family of Danny Seymour, a fellow sailboat wanderer. Danny had been murdered by the drug smugglers who stole his boat. The boat had been seized by the authorities in Martinique, who refused to release it to his estate. I made a deal to buy it for a note and sneak it out. With the aid of some pals I did just that, spent the next few years in Grenada doing sailboat deliveries — and suddenly I was the married father of two. Time to join the reality-based community.
June 1981. Back where I started in Colorado Springs. I was 40, not rich, not famous and still without marketable skills. My then-spouse and I get it together to raise good kids, build careers — and eventually break up.
A third of a century later, I'm still here, rustling the fallen leaves beneath my feet as I walk out of our west side home. Our two unruly dogs tug at their leashes, golden leaves swirl around us as if in benediction ... and I smile.
I love my family, my friends, my job, my city and the shining memories that come, unbidden, in the midst of life.
I'm the luckiest old man in the world.
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