fifty is the new forty-five

When did I become that guy?  Seems I was this…other guy for a lotta years. But now I’m that guy. And it’s not like I miss being that other guy, the guy I was in my thirties and forties, it’s that I don’t even recognize him—it’s hard to realize I ever was that guy. There are things I did when I was younger that I can’t imagine doing now, not because they’re all that wild, but because just remembering doing them makes me tired.

So I’m that guy now. I’m the guy who…

says he’s been “sitting too long”—How is that even possible? Sitting is not an activity—you can’t do it ‘too long’!

hears a song on the radio and says “but you can’t understand what they’re singing”!

has so many body parts that pop and crack that when I get out of bed it sounds like an Afro-Caribbean percussion section

goes to a restaurant and says “I need to order something bland”—Seriously? I used to go to a Sri Lankan restaurant in Minneapolis and order level four spiciness , dammit! Level four, do you hear me people?! Now, what,  I have to make sure the mashed potatoes don’t have any…basil because that might not agree with me?

Somehow, I’ve acquired a bunch of twenty-something and thirty-something friends, which definitely makes me feel younger. Although I don’t think they find me cool or hip so much as–intriguing. “He’s really talented…but kinda troubled too…wonder if he’ll snap some night when we’re just hanging out…”

I’ll party with the kids, but it’s different now. I can drink as much as I used to, but I don’t recover as quickly. And I forget this when I go out—maybe bars should require you to check your own ID so that you realize how old you are before you start drinking.

So, the night of my birthday, a group of the ‘kids’ threw me a party at a local Thai restaurant attached to a mall (I know—I’m out of control—pad thai level one all around!). And I was home by the age-appropriate hour of 11:30. Turned on the iTunes, opened a box of cabernet, and realized that I was sitting in a one-room apartment drinking cheap wine and listening to merle haggard, and that I had in fact turned into a country song.

Don’t misunderstand here—I can still rock…I’m just choosing not to. Some cable channel I’d never heard of and didn’t know I had was airing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies from a couple years ago. The highlight had to be Iggy Pop, who was introduced by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (quick aside to Billie Joe—if you can write a three minute song, maybe you could write a three-minute speech? I swear he mentioned every band that ever recorded an album as being influenced by Iggy). Anyway, Iggy comes out, still visceral, raw and shirtless at 63. I’m only 50, and I catch a terrible chill if I don’t wear my AARP hoodie—meanwhile Mr. Pop is rolling around on stage without a shirt—that’s a good way to catch a cold, mister!

Not sure why, but the other significant act in this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class was Abba. Iggy and Abba. Headlining for eternity at the Opposites Club. Now, as creators of the kind of sterile pop fluff that sticks to the brain like Cheetos dust sticks to your fingers, I love me some Abba, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? That’s like giving Jerry Bruckheimer a Lifetime Achievement honor at the Independent Film Awards. The drop-off in rock and roll credibility from Iggy Pop to Abba was vertigo-inducing. But at least the members of Abba kept their shirts on.

I haven’t been to many live concerts, and now I suppose I’m relegated to seeing age-appropriate music acts. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the Fleet Foxes or Vampire Weekend, but it might feel a little weird to go to one of their shows. Somehow I feel like I’d be harshing everyone’s buzz, like they’d all be looking at me as if I were a chaperone, or a faculty advisor. “You kids get this gym cleaned up if you want to have any more dances.”

A couple years ago I went to see Foghat at the State Fair, and it was none of the same people—I’m pretty sure it was just four guys who happened to own Foghat albums. Last year I actually saw Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Survivor. I haven’t seen that many paunchy white guys in the same venue since the last Republican convention. And that was just on the stage! Thank you–good night! Sorry…I had a little standup flashback there.

So, I’m that guy now. When did I become the sitting-too-long, bland-food-eating, comfortable-music-listening-to guy? I’ll tell you when–a few days ago, when I looked at my ID and remembered that somehow, despite my best self-destructive efforts, I had passed fifty. I actually made it. Sure, I don’t get around like I used to, but on the other hand, I feel like now I’ve got a license to dispense unsolicited advice to everyone I see, because, well, I’m fifty. I may not do a lot anymore, but I damn sure know a lot. And for what I don’t know, I can always just quote Styx lyrics–their stuff was deep.