We decided to go driving Saturday to look at the changing foilage again. Bored with Amish country, we headed southeast and drove to Beaver Creek State Park, near the Ohio/Pennsylvania/West Virginia border. It was beautiful, and I’m sure there was an added bonus for Beloved: no place to shop. We’d been gone maybe four hours when we headed home; The Young One was alone, unsupervised, and that was about all the excitement my poor old bod could handle.
On our way back, we were listening to the radio, not saying much, when Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” came on. I listened to the lyrics for the first time in maybe 20 years. By the time the first chorus of “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo” started, I looked up, and saw Beloved had a slightly bemused expression on his face – I was pretty sure I had the same look, myself.
“How did that song ever get airplay in the 70s?” he asked softly.
“I dunno, ” I replied. “It’s just so…wrong. On so many levels.”
“Yeah it is,” he agreed.
The longer I listened to the song, the more it occurred to me how much I’ve changed since my early 20s. I’ve been a fan of rock and roll since, well, forever, and I was just as aware of the meaning of the lyrics at 22 as I am at 45. While I never cared for the racist undertones of the song, the idea of someone singing about transvestites performing oral sex for money never struck much of a nerve with me.
I mean, the subject itself doesn’t necessarily offend me – I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination – but someone singing about it while “colored girls” doop-de-dooed in the background? It just seemed…tacky, to say the least.
It’s not just music, either. Maybe it’s because I’m at the tail-end of the Baby Boomer generation, but the whole aging process just keeps smacking me in the face. Sally Fields is doing commercials for osteoporosis medication – is it just me, or does anyone else find the thought of Gidget with a hip fracture amusing? Dennis Hopper is shilling financial planning services. The other night while we were watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when I wasn’t marveling at the complete crappiness of the film, all I could do was wonder where the hell Harrison Ford’s neck had disappeared to. I saw a recent photograph of Christopher Walken in New Yorker Magazine and wondered when, in the last 15 years, he’d turned into a prune. But the worst of it is that Kevin Costner – Kevin Costner!!! – has been on the cover of AARP Magazine.
I can accept that I am aging – I have to; the evidence is staring at me from the bathroom mirror every day. The fact that I am in the throes of perimenopause and am old enough to be a grandmother can be dealt with. I am perfectly okay with the understanding that my consumption of oat bran and garlic have become intimately intertwined with my serum cholesterol levels. I am perfectly at ease with the concept of drinking red wine for the taste and health benefits rather than being able to brag that I have no idea what happened the night before.
But when Michael Jackson celebrates his 50th birthday and Jamie Lee Curtis makes a living eating probiotic yogurt on national television, something is seriously wrong with the universe.
Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide. Sid Barrett died of complications of diabetes. George Carlin suffered a fatal heart attack. Paul Newman succumbed to cancer. This isn’t like Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin or John Belushi living hard and dying young, or even John Lennon, whose life was so rudely interrupted – these people were more or less old when they passed away. Relatively speaking, they weren’t that much older than me when they died.
They are the icons of my youth. And as much as I may hate to admit it, my youth is a thing of the past.
Don’t get me wrong – if given the opportunity to go back 20 years, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it. I like being 45; it has all sorts of advantages over being 25. It’s just that…I don’t know, the whole mortality thing is kind of frightening. I’m not ready for bingo and barbituates.
Hopefully, I won’t be for a long time.