Two things are really bugging me this morning, one that in the musical piece above, it is not only preceded by a commercial, but that they interject one too. They actually cut into the music and start talking about f****** insurance! That is about as indifferent to human suffering as anyone I know can be, even my ex-wife.
The other is that line, “How terribly strange to be seventy.” I know, Paul Simon (current age, 79) was only 26 when he wrote it, and from that perspective, being seventy looked like the end of life. His description of old men sitting on park benches in another song, Bookends, has them merely waiting to die.
Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you.
I turned seventy last April, and I have to say it is a real mile marker. I can no longer pretend not to be old. If I were a single man looking for a woman, my being seventy would be a stopper. I could only pursue people that age or older. Younger ones would think “Oh boy, seventy. I’ll end up changing his diapers.” Fortunately, I found my life partner twenty-five years ago, and we have the life we want with the partner we want to be with. True enough, one of us will end up alone, but we have wonderful children and grandchildren who actually enjoy spending time with us. That’s unusual. I was always reluctant to visit my parents and interrupt FOX News. Our son takes it for granted that one of us will end up living with him, and feels it his responsibility to provide for us in that manner. He’s a gem.
In terms of my being seventy, two years ago I attended my fiftieth class reunion. There were maybe four of us guys (not the women) who had aged gracefully. The rest were old. An unkind thought passed through my head, how mediocre children turn into mediocre adults. For all my faults I have a rich inner life, intellectual pursuits and writing ability, and none in that class that I can share these things with. I stand alone, and as my wife and I walked away from them for the last time, my thought was “High school is finally over.”
Do yourself a favor, end high school before you get to that point. You really cannot go home again. I had too many thoughts of high school for too many years. We were just a bunch of kids thrown together due to year of birth, and natural friendships and animosities formed.
The reason I am writing this is my conversation with Ab
– I brought up the Paul Simon line, “how terribly strange …
” and he right away found the song, and used it to close out the session, a nice touch. At one point he told me that I was the “oldest Fakeologist,” and when I mentioned that we lived at 7,800 feet in the foothills above Denver, Marcus Allen talked about how hard such elevations are on older people. All innocent, of course, two very nice men just making honest observations.
It cannot go on forever, but we live at this elevation and are thriving. I know others living up here, and I think we adapt to elevation. Some of the best athletes in the world, in my opinion, are the Sherpa, those who guide people to the top of Everest. Here’s a slice from Wiki on them:
“A 2010 study identified more than 30 genetic factors that make Tibetans
‘ bodies well-suited for high altitudes, including EPAS1
, referred to as the “super-athlete gene” that regulates the body’s production of hemoglobin,
allowing for greater efficiency in the use of oxygen.
Our guide when we hiked a part of the Annapurna circuit, Promand, told us that he was hired by an Italian marathoner to run with him on the entire circuit for training. Promand said at the end of the tour his guest was bed-bound, while Promand felt fine. He lived at Everest base camp, grew up there, and so had adapted to life at high altitude, far higher than 7,800 [17,600]. I think we have too, as we have noticed on all our trips that people coming from lower elevations have a much harder time than us. When we walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a girl from zero elevation, young and physically fit, had to be carried out on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on, as the high altitude got to her. My wife and I felt nothing like that except normal strain and tiredness.
I am off topic. Mr. Paul Simon, you are a national treasure. I matured into an adult listening to your words and music. I love it all. My favorite lines are from your song “Graceland,”
She comes back to tell me she’s gone
As if I didn’t know that
As if I didn’t know my own bed
As if I’d never noticed
The way she brushed her hair from her forehead
Simon is telling us with a visual image something that I know to be true, that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.
I easily forgive him his youthful indiscretion, thinking at age 26 that being seventy is somehow different from 50, 62, or 69. My older three brothers did not live to see seventy. I am privileged to have done so. I wish I could talk to them and tell them it’s not a big deal, certainly not terribly strange.
Sat on their park bench
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends
Can you imagine us
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear
Time it was
And what a time it was
It was . . .
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago . . . it must be . . .
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you