Monday, June 02, 2008

Getting Old

Somewhat unexpectedly, I've arrived at the age where my 64th birthday looms in the not too distant gloaming. I didn't expect to get old. I expected to die in some kind of stupidly arbitrary medical emergency — asthmatic attack, heart attack, paranoid delusion, murder, impact with somebody's engine block or whatnot — but such was not to be. Any kind of romantic expiration date with Death, in fact, but not this. Who wants to get old?

Age is not being kind to me. I haven't gotten wisdom. I don't get a great deal of respect. I haven't learned much. I'm not lettered, except for the B.S. In fact my life, my mind is fading. I'm grumpy and disgruntled. My days they are a-dwindling. I haven't accomplished much, except for my family.

On the plus side, if I rattle off the things I like, then I can pile up quite a little trove of bright, shiny stuff my magpie's eye has lighted on and I have carried away. I've read all of Terry Pratchett and most of James H. Schmitz. I read Arthur C. Clarke's Against the Fall of Night ten or twenty times, and found John Wyndham's "Crown of Creation" screed the Jefferson Airplane used. I learned 6502 Assembler and how to program the Apple ][+ with it. I owned an Osborne I and a Kaypro 10. I loved Apple Pascal, then Turbo Pascal which made me read Niklaus Wirth. I was disappointed by DB Master, fascinated by dBase II and MySQL. I fell in love with WordStar, and Open, and SQLite. I learned CP/M and MS-DOS, top down and object oriented programming (in C and C++, Perl and Ruby).

I played Colossal Cave adventure for ten thousand hours, found Zelda, Star Ocean and Final Fantasy, immersed and vanished from this world. Cannot play Go at that level to save my life. Linux: Slackware, Redhat, Ubuntu 6 and 8. I wrote a couple of freeware programs that went around the world (one of them still runs on this Dell Inspiron under DOSBox), and some stuff in Clipper that was anthologized at CERN and referred to during the great Y2K heebiejeebies of late 1999 (I found this out much later. It seems to have evaporated now, though: Information entropy.)

I went to Washington, D.C. and prowled the tunnels under the Cannon HOB. I sat in the gallery when Carl Albert swore in the Freshman Class of the 94th Congress — a couple of yards away, Ralph Nader was annoyed at being recognized. Years later, I lost my ID card; it had an air cushion back with a faded blue photo of the Capital. High tech for those days. I've written some anonymous viral phrases that still pollute odd corners of the internet.

I've made some colossal mistakes in my life — trusting Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception or anything by Carlos Castaneda being two — and I regret my stupidity, and I regret my losses in the heavy games of Lightheartedness, Life and Love — but mostly I deserved to lose those, and I learned eventually why there's honor in that "In your dreams!" I hope I left a little confidence in my wake, confidence man that I was.

I don't regret a single sunset, a single moment lost in my guitars, my cars or my computers; a single rainy day of reading, a single book, a single friend, a single minute with some of you. But yes, I've been a magpie, accumulating a magpie's odd, untelegenic hoard -- just the kind of shiny bric-a-brac, broken marbles, gum wrappers and portable glittering mysteries I like.

A parole officer I once knew, friend of a friend sort of thing, told me I'd wind up homeless on the street. Fair warning. The last I heard he was sailing on a freighter on Lake Superior; I admire the verve, but not the judgement. I never discuss my family in this blog — the web is full of weirdos, and I may be one of them — but I live in a home created by the girls I love, and it's warm inside.



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