This is a rerun of a blog that ran last September.
Little has changed, but it’s been updated and edited a little more with some new photos added! •••• •••• •••• ••••• •••• •••• ••••
There’s nothing like Frank Zappa to get you up in the morning. Zappa’s music isn’t much of a sleep aid, but getting out of bed, that’s something else. “Sofa” from the New York album is a good way to ease the eyelids into the upright position. If your consciousness isn’t fully engaged 90 seconds into it, you will be as the large band rises in an ear-splitting crescendo behind Zappa’s guitar solo that, though short, is a thing of beauty to behold.
So you program the iPod dock-slash-alarm clock to click on at 5:30 a.m. every morning and away you go. By the time you swing your feet to the floor you’re into “The Black Page Part 2, the Easy, Teenage New York Version” and it’s time to go gargle and brush your teeth. Then it’s the morning cocktail, starting with aspirin and then the really heavy-duty pharmaceutical aids: Metoprolol, Metformin, Omeprazole and Furosemide.
What’s changed in 30 years, other than the names of the drugs and their designated purpose? Not much really.
“Holly wants to go to California … Hollywood.” The iPod is in shuffle mode so Funkadelic follows the Zappa.
There was a time when you thought you could tell a lot about a person by what kind of music they listened to. Well, maybe someone would assume the owner of this iPod was an aging hippie with too many health issues.
You look in the mirror and the face is old. There are wrinkles of course, but those brown spots from not putting sunscreen on your face all these years; the eyelid over your right eye droops; the hair that continues to recede and looks more gray today than it did yesterday. Even the stubble of your beard is gray — the stubble! — it all makes you look … old and tired.
If you ever look at that photograph of Abraham Lincoln, taken just a month or so before his death, after four years of war, he looks old and tired and one of his eyelids droops. It’s from too little sleep and too much worry, at least from where you sit. Technically, where you are standing as you look in the mirror above the sink.
Back in the day the U.S. Marine Corps used as its slogan, “We never promised you a rose garden.” That was in reference to boot camp primarily. It was hard and could make a post adolescent young man cry. The day before you go into Marine Corps boot camp you feel like you’re ready to kick some ass. On your second day in boot camp you come to the realization your ass is going to get kicked 16 hours a day, every day, for the next 11 weeks — physically, mentally and emotionally. The intention being that when it’s all over you’ll be a lean, green fightin’ machine. Some time in the first week you had the thought, “What the fuck did I do?”
It isn’t a rose garden.
Sometimes though, when you were out in the Fleet Marine Force (the FMF), the good people in charge of it all would see fit to deploy your ass to some godforsaken spit of land mom and pop never heard of where you have to eat cold C-rations and dig trenches to take a shit. Those were the days before Meals Ready to Eat, the famous MRE’s.
On the way back from that spit of land the Marine Corps would drop you off in some adult male Disneyland like Subic Bay, Philippines for some R-n-R: rest and relaxation, except no one ever rested or relaxed. We just drank like fish that had been out of water too long and fucked like rabbits on boner pills. And if you were unlucky enough, or dumb enough not to use condoms, you get a whole different cocktail — in the ass, by way of big needles!
Bringing us back to the morning cocktail. We’re lucky to live in an age when health issues can be controlled or cured — well, rarely cured — by the correct dosage of whatever medication suits the condition. The flip side of that being: if we were to take care of ourselves, get enough exercise and eat right, we wouldn’t need half of this morning cocktail. Or the evening cocktail. Ah yes, the cycle of the day ... That task is completed so it’s on to the next steps in the morning routine: shit, shower and shave. No more digging trenches. In fact, there’s no more heavy labor at all. Any job you might have has to be sitting behind a desk these days, thanks to the messed up heart. Thanks to a life filled with too much stuff that was illegal, immoral and fattening.
The illegal activity can easily be kicked aside and the immoral stuff, well, just because it’s immoral doesn’t necessarily make it bad. But it’s the fattening stuff that will kill you in the end, if you live long enough to regret it. Did you ever try doing crunches after laying off exercise for over a decade? Your abs cramp and it’s so painful all you can do is roll around the floor wincing in agony, trying to stretch the muscles long enough so you can eventually stand up. It’s been nearly 40 years since you had anything resembling six-pack abs but goddammit! “I’m gonna get into boot camp shape if it kills me!”
And you know, it just could!
Then there are the pushups. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the doctors have all said no more working the upper body. For exercise you should go out and walk for an hour every day and if you want to work the arm muscles, use light weights sparingly. No more bench pressing 200 pounds. But the pushups, gotta do some pushups, if only for the ego.
Ego, of course, is the root of most personal trouble. Especially if you’re trying to prove something to someone, usually, if you’re a guy, that you are brave! Or still in the great shape you were in as an 18-year old graduate of recruit training. If it goes well people will just consider you foolish. If it doesn’t go well … well, it could be messy.
At this point in life it’s time to stop proving things, but pushups aren’t showing off, you think. It’s just getting in shape, staying in shape. It’s not like you can do a lot of them anyway. You can lie and say you can do 50, but would anyone believe it? What if someone asked you to prove it? You could prove ten, with considerable effort.
And what about the Carlsbad Century Ride? You pedal a bicycle 100 miles in a day. Seriously, how hard could that be? At this point you rarely do ten a day, but with some training …
As you look at your scraggly hair in the mirror, off to the side of your droopy eyelid, the idea that just a few years short of 60 you could be as vigorous and youthful as you were even 10 years ago is ridiculous. But you’re going to give it a whirl, one more day, one more time. For what is reality but the perception of what we aspire to be? That’s your reality.
Everyone else, they can see whatever reality in you they want. And you never know it probably isn’t as bad as you might imagine. It actually might be something good.
Now it’s time to get in that shower, do that little “Morning Routine” that sets your mind in a good frame: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” and all that. Time to get on top of the world, time to prove that despite your age you’re not an old man. Time to put on your game face — it’s almost show time.
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Saw my buddy Alan today and he’s a regular reader. Loves reading this blog and always has some commentary. Sunday he was concerned about the relative lack of lovely young women lacking clothing. True, I’ve been cutting back on my baser proclivities, but for you Alan — and the others who enjoy these distractions from time-to-time — a double dose today.