“Honey, have you seen my glasses?”
“Yes, dear, they’re on your head.”
“Ah, so they are. Cool. How about my bike keys? Have you seen those?”
“Have you checked the pocket of your riding jacket?”
“Um… which one?”
“The one with the keys in the pocket.”
“Good call. Where’s that?”
“In the back closet with the rest of your gear.”
“Of course. Where’s that?”
And so it went as I suited up for a ride, and I gathered all of my gear except for my boots, which I couldn’t find but wasn’t about to ask about and give My Personal Nurse the satisfaction of insulting me yet again with a flip—albeit accurate—response. So I headed out of the house in the garden clogs I’d inexplicably been wearing indoors and strolled—or, rather, shuffled—toward the garage, lost in thought and making a wrong turn, which landed me on the neighbors’ porch.
Sleepy-eyed they greeted me at the door, he in front, she behind him brandishing a broom. They were, despite the early hour, the very soul of hospitality, graciously inviting me to get the hell off of their porch, and pointing me in the direction of my garage. Once there, I collected myself sufficiently to set about the task of figuring why I’d come there.
Ah, yes, The bike.
Only the bike wasn’t there. So swallowing what remained of my pride I shuffled—or, rather, limped, having somehow dropped a clog in my peregrinations—back into the house to make further inquiries of my know-it-all wife.
“It’s on the patio where you washed it.”
“I washed it? When was that?”
“Back in your 50’s. Yesterday.”
Yes, it was my 60th birthday, and I was setting out to celebrate it in the same fashion as I’d celebrated my 50th, 40th, 30th and 20th—i.e. with a long leisurely bike ride, a ride during which I’d come to terms with the creeping of time and perform something of a life audit, an examination of where I’d been and where I was going and one that has proven invariably short in duration, and just as invariably ended with the conclusion that I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.
Today’s audit would be harder than the rest, since it had long been a matter of semi-romanticized faith that bikers rarely see 50 and never see 60. Perhaps it’s a function of taking Townsend’s “hope I die before I get old” philosophy at face value, but the likelier explanation has been documented as genetic in nature, and is referred to as risk-taking or sensation-seeking behavior by the psychiatric literature. Riding a motorcycle is a textbook symptom of the condition, as are things like drinking, smoking, gambling, sexual adventurism, relational instability and, in some tragic instances, bank robbery, twerking and hogging the remote. The point being, we never had a choice or a chance—the triggers for the character defects reside on a dozen different genes and you have no more control over them than you do over the color of your eyes. It’s a chemical phenomenon in the case of risky behavior, one that has to do with the production of endorphins, adrenaline and dopamine, the brain’s own homebrewed, feel-good cocktail.
I’m far from alone in my plight. Pretty much every single one of my biker buddies are also sexagenarians (a misnomer if ever there was one) and manifest the same dubious character traits as myself, even as the more destructive and illegal habits have been curtailed over time, more as a matter of oversaturation than encroaching imperatives of respectability. Against all seeming odds, we continue to rack up the birthdays even as heavy metal thunder gives way to heavy Metamucil thunder and it’s not unusual for a conversation with a buddy about the performance upgrades and bitchin’ accessorizing he’s been adding to his hog to lapse into a long-winded disquisition on his urologic health. The very pinnacle of TMI. Lost boys, all of ’em, and all utterly convinced, like myself, that mortality is somebody else’s cross to bear, the poor bastards.
There’s a societal expectation that once you hit the Big Six-Oh the red sum line’s been drawn under your life experience and a subtotal arrived at with little expectation of further figures to add to the bottom line. Morbidity is presumed to become a preoccupation, one of retirement planning, the inventorying of assets and resources and all the dreary rest of it. I’m having none of it. I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Robert Earl Keen said it best: “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.”
It’s all right here in the diaries…