To all of those youngsters out there who believe that life as they know it ends at forty, the New Year's Eve tale I'm about to relate may make you think, "Dear god, don't let me live until sixty!"
However, this 62 year old is here to tell you that he's had a pretty wild day so far, by old geezer standards, and the evening is still young.
(Of course, the evident fact that I'm blogging clear-headedly at five hours to midnight, not imbibing more potent psychoactive substances than the french press coffee I just made, says more about my New Year's Eve proclivities than the words I'm writing.)
So if you're wondering how a typical Social Security recipient spends the last day of 2010... look elsewhere. But if you want to know what sorts of excitement this feeder at the wealth transfer trough has had on December 31, prepare to be enlightened.
My wife and I were off to town bright and early this morning: 11 am.
That was shocking to my retired psyche, as I try to avoid doing anything before noon other than looking over the newspaper, drinking coffee, reading some science or philosophy books, languidly meditating, and eating breakfast.
But today we were off at that irritatingly AM hour because our athletic club was closing at 1 pm, and we wanted to get a workout in on our usual Friday.
What was unusual, though, was my wife, Laurel, getting her keys and warming up the car before we left. (It's cold here in western Oregon -- no snow, just damn cold.) When I walked out she was sitting in the driver's seat. I opened the passenger door and heard, "Do you want to drive?"
"No," I said. I lied, because I much prefer to be behind the wheel.
But I figured it wouldn't hurt me to swallow my male pride and let my wife take control of the car, since this happens rarely and New Year's Eve also is rare (chances are 1/365 it will happen on any given day, 1/366 on a Leap Year).
The twenty minute drive into Salem was white-knuckled for me. I couldn't relax. We got behind a slow dump truck on the winding two lane road that snakes into town. Laurel could have passed it at one point if she'd floored the accelerator, but she's a much more cautious driver than I am, which, well, drives me crazy.
I felt like precious seconds, maybe even minutes, of my life were slipping away as we poked along behind the dump truck.
(If you're tempted to contrast that feeling with my habit of doing not much of anything before noon, please don't; instead, remember Emerson's saying: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.)
So my heart was pounding from the tension of having to passively sit in the passenger seat while Laurel drove cautiously at or below the speed limit all the way to the athletic club. Nonetheless, I still figured that I should do some cardio exercising.
Which I did, on a stairmaster, while listening to a Philosophy Talk podcast on my iPhone. See, us 62 year-old guys can get wild and crazy on New Year's Eve. The subject was "disagreement."
Being a blogger, I liked the part where one of the philosophers said that one epistemic approach is to consider that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot. Or maybe it was the voice which talks inside my head which said that.
Anyway, it made sense to me. If you don't agree, you're an idiot.
Meeting up with my wife in the athletic club lobby just before closing time, I made a show of taking out my car keys and walking briskly to the driver's side door. Back to normal. In control. I felt a lot better as I drove to the vet, where the family dog, Serena, had a brief appointment to get some shots.
Or so I thought.
Laurel had said, "We need to take Serena with us so she can get her vaccinations after we exercise." "Fine," I replied, visualizing a ten minute or so stop before I could tackle the really important things on my afternoon to-do list: eating lunch and napping.
I'd forgotten that in a country where 45 million Americans lack access to health care, and my own family doctor usually only sees me briefly once a year at my annual physical, our veterinary clinic gives Serena vastly superior treatment.
Each and every time our dog comes in for any reason, the vet and her assistant ask loads of questions about her well-being, then check her over in excruciating detail (especially excruciating if it's well after 1 pm, I haven't had my lunch yet, and we're nowhere near the ostensible reason for bringing the family pet in: vaccinations).
I played with my iPhone for a while as Laurel answered the vet's questions, but decided that this made me look as uninterested in the excessively obsessive inquiries into Serena's health status as I actually was.
So I put it away and tried to bring as much attention as possible to the examination of every square inch of our dog's 70 pound body, a difficult task given the ever-increasing distraction of my ever-emptier stomach.
When the talk turned to "anal gland extraction," I found this simultaneously intriguing -- since I have no idea what a dog's anal gland is good for, other than occasionally stinking up our television watching -- and disturbing, since this didn't seem like a procedure I wanted to view on an empty stomach.
Fortunately, Serena was led out of the exam room by the vet's assistant and returned all extracted, seemingly none the worse for wear (our dog, though, likes to smell and nibble on poop, so I suspect that having her anal gland handled is, if not fun for her, right up her sensory alley).
Eventually the amazingly thorough vet visit came to an end, proving that if you want to enjoy the best health care in the world, make sure that you are an American dog with a comprehensive "wellness pet" insurance plan at our veterinary clinic.
After a few additional stops on our in-town errand list I was able to get to some exciting high points of my New Year's Eve: the aforementioned lunch and nap.
Serena and I then went on our habitual two-mile evening dog walk, the duration of which was lengthened today in accord with one of the cardinal rules of canine behavior: the colder it is, the more often your dog will stop and sniff enticing scents along your dog walk route, and the longer each scent will need to be carefully examined for each olfactory nuance.
Since the temperature was right at 32 degrees, and my hands were freezing, Serena instinctively recognized that this was a day to dawdle. Given that she'd had to suffer through that lengthy vet visit, I didn't feel like denying her any dog walk pleasures.
So I froze while she sniffed, even though I was wearing new Glacier's Edge gloves I'd proudly bought the day before at Fred Meyer when a 50% off sale caught my senior-discount attuned eye.
I was excited about the deal I got on insulated ("thinsulate"!) waterproof gloves. Carrying my shopping bag into our kitchen and pulling out my purchase, I couldn't wait to say to my wife, "Guess how much I paid for these gloves."
"I don't know. How much?"
"You have to guess. Come on, what do you think insulated waterproof gloves would cost?"
"I have no idea. OK...$5"
Jeez. I couldn't believe it. What a downer. The day before New Year's Eve, and my wife is being a bummer. The gloves were regularly $16, so I paid $8. That's a great price. I had to ask her why she said $5.
"Because I knew you wanted me to guess a higher price, so I came up with something lower." Such is life after twenty years of marriage.
Anyway, I survived the dog walk, started this blog post, and am now finishing it after going to see The Social Network. We were two of about ten people in the audience, none of whom appeared to be under forty, which shows... something or other.
Maybe that the hardcore Facebook crowd isn't watching a movie about Facebook on New Year's Eve, or blogging about their New Year's Eve at 11:50 pm.
Well, I did. And I am. That's the sort of mildly wild guy that I am. Happy New Year!!!