Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ain't Dark Yet (Keep Tellin' Yourself That)

Will Baby Boomers ever just shut the fuck up and slip away gracefully to the Old Folks Home?

Apparently not. Today’s Parade magazine (available in the deep recesses of Sunday newspapers everywhere) brings news that “Life Begins at 60.” This is one of those periodic generational updates from noted fabulist Gail Sheehy, who’s made a career of this sort of facile psychologizing (Passages, etc.) for nigh on a generation.

We didn’t have time to read the entire Parade article, because as a mid-range Baby Boomer* we know that our days are not limitless and the horizon draws close, and on top of that we just realized that we had stepped in some dogshit earlier when we were out poking around in the yard, and we gotta go take care of that business, soon.

Yet we did pause to peruse Parade’s gallery of celebrities who are turning 60 next year (the maximum age of the Baby Boom cohort), and we think that their scalpeled and Botoxed and Collagened faces (OK, not all of ‘em, but lots more than you’d think) argue strongly against Sheehy’s grandiloquent declaration. (Didn’t, by the way, life used to begin at 30? What happened with that?) These mug shots would actually seem to indicate that life is pretty much over at 60, that from there it’s just a quick roll downhill to mere oblivion and the waiting boneyard. Or many hours of plastic surgery.

There’s Reggie Jackson, now truly looking like Mr. October. Guy hasn’t hit a home run in 18 or 19 years, if we’re not mistaken. And Rollie Fingers, still with the mustache thing, but he hasn’t ambled out of the bullpen in a good two decades. Then there’s Donovan---Donovan!---who hasn’t charted a song since 1966 or 1967. Bill Clinton (not president for five years) Cher (yikes!). Sally Field (ditto). Sylvester Stallone, whose face gives us the mean shivers. Crackpot filmmaker Oliver Stone. Connie Chung (is she still trying to get pregnant?). Michael Milken, Tyne Daily and Jimmy Buffett, etc.

All these disparate personages shackled together on Parade’s geriatric chain gang have one thing in common: Their best work is behind them, whether it was relief pitching, singing Hurdy Gurdy Man, enacting welfare reform or using junk bonds to finance questionable corporate acquisitions.

Sheehy calls ages 50 through 75 “The Age of Mastery,” a concept we did not raise this morning when we spoke in the driveway with our 56-year-old (we think) next-door neighbor, who exhausted most of our conversational moment recounting in very fine detail his recent five-day stay in the VA Hospital. His confinement was occasioned by a urinary tract infection of unknown origin that caused, among other symptoms, his “right nutsack” to swell up “as big as a goddamn avocado.” (Maybe it was his left nutsack, we weren’t taking notes.)

He says he’s fine now, but it goes without saying that his longheld dream of dunking a basketball at age 60 has been dashed.

*But not “old.” Not us. No way. Never.

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