Going Like 60

     I can’t possibly be 60 years old. I’m way too immature.
     My idea of a good time is to ride my bike and sing songs to my dog. And hold hands with my girlfriend.
     I tell dumb jokes. I think politics is stupid. Not unimportant, but stupid.
     I think it would be cool if one night I could drink a whole six pack.
     I can’t be any older than 14.
     Apparently, however, I am 60, if today is Saturday.
     Is today Saturday?
     I am writing this so that 10 years from now, if I make it, I can read it and see if I’m still as dumb then as I am now.
     I suppose I will be.
     Oh, I may have picked up a few more facts, and forgotten a few others, but facts don’t seem to matter anymore in our country. I suppose they will matter even less in 2021.
     But for the record, here’s what I’ve learned since I was 14.
     I have learned that just about every sad or bad thing that ever happened to me was my own damn fault, from my own stupid decisions.
     I’ve learned – make that “accepted” – that my mom is usually right.
     (My mom told me, among other things, that the best three things in life are a drink before and a nap after. Sorry, Mom. But I think the secret was out already.)
     I’ve learned that my 80-year-old Uncle Al was right when he told me years ago, both of us drunk in his apartment in San Miguel Allende, “Every day is a gift. So what the hell, live life and enjoy it.”
     I’ve learned that resentment is poison, and a waste of time. And that most of the good things that happened to me were just luck.
     “Luck is better than brains,” Uncle Al said. “You don’t need any brains if you’re lucky.”
     (“Oh, Albert,” my Aunt Ruth said, covered with shawls, sitting by the gas heater. And Uncle Al said, “It’s true! You don’t need brains if you’re lucky. And we’ve been lucky.”)
     I’ve been lucky: in where I was born, when I was born, who my parents were, the schools I went to, who my teachers were – that I had teachers and schools at all.
     If I had my druthers I’d be writing books for a living today. But I am lucky to earn a living editing the Courthouse News page – a thing that exists only as a conglomeration of electrons, and briefly each day upon the computer screens of a few thousand people whom I will never meet.
     I believe I was born a bit too late to survive by writing books – though I’m not complaining. I’ve written about 30 of them and managed to sell only four, all of them “over the transom.” I just write them and send them out.
     I believe I sold those four books – none of which made me much money – because they’re good books. But I could have sold none of them. Four editors liked them, so they bought them. Using the verb “bought” in a rather loose sense. But I am lucky I lived to see those books in print at all.
     The worst days in my life were when I was unemployed – the only time I was unemployed, 17 years ago. I was out of work for nearly a year. I still haven’t recovered from it.
     Every morning, even now, when I go to work at 4 a.m., I think I am about to be fired. Some of my best friends, gainfully employed all of them, feel the same way, every day. I felt that way yesterday and I will feel it on Monday. I think millions of Americans feel the same way.
     And speaking of reality, the 200 million pets in the United States have cleaner water, better nutrition and better medical care than 90 percent of the 7 billion people on our planet. And what do we hear, day in and day out, from the citizens of the United States?
     Whining, threats, and blame.
     Figments of ignorance.
     Figments of monolingual imaginations.
     I don’t have to imagine what 15 million unemployed Americans feel like today because I know what they feel like. They feel like shit. Some of it is not their fault, but some of it is: what they’ve done with their lives, what they did in school, who they followed around, the decisions they made, who they voted for.
     But enough. I did not want to write about politics today. I wanted to write about being 60.
     I want to thank Johann Sebastian Bach, and Franz Josef Haydn and his students Beethoven and Mozart. Aside from those cats, and Charlie Parker and Shakespeare, and a certain girl, the best things in my life have been a few wild streams where water falls over rocks, some long runs in deserts and woods, the fierce eyes of hawks, the smoky smell of a parrot, a moose that emerged from an Oregon lake 40 years ago as I rode my bike, and the red fox and the goldfinch I saw on my bike ride today.
     And dogs.
     Money? You need money. But money is blood. Too much of it, just like too little of it, will kill you. Or kill someone else. It happens every day.
     Money is blood.
     So. Happy birthday to me. I get today off. Paid. I like that too.

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