Friday, June 12, 2009

Valedictory address in a bad neighborhood

Getting old (I do not say "growing old") is like taking public transportation through a rundown neighborhood that gets shabbier and meaner as you go. Your skin gets tissue-thin, and suddenly there are sharp corners everywhere (like the door latch in your microwave) that bump you and bruise you and bleed you in thin little no-nonsense scratches. Your arms look like they've been blotting ink. Your waistline was a joke in your fifties — now, approaching your mid-sixties, the extra luggage weighs you down like Man o' War's jockey. You have years of accumulated wisdom about stuff the world will never need again. (See above.) Your jokes worry your wife, annoy your Team Jacob grandchildren, and bore anyone else to distraction. Your income shrivels to a meagre weak stream, like your bathroom functions. The old joke about every day above ground is a good day sounds like the barking of your neighbor's rotweilers. You curse your doctor for giving you that pneumonia shot. You know you'll die of some extravagantly exotic phlegma the world has never heard of. House is your favorite TV program. You know he doesn't care, and you want to laugh and whack his leg with your cane. Drat all professional students of human misery, and bless the poppy fields of Afghanistan. You can't afford to pay attention; who needs a mind anyway? Strangers hiss and cross themselves as you go by. Some flee across the street. Some laugh and come closer. Be nothing. Go slow, in fear and loneliness. It's worse ahead.



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