Mi, Mi, Mi, Mi

When I’m 64

On his putative birthday, Our Man in Boston puts down the book and offers a buffet of thoughts.

As it is a birthday of sorts (there is a story here, but you will have to wait for the publication of my memoir-in-progress, Just Talking: How to Have Fun With Words), I am taking an opportunity to offer some personal observations (as opposed to the barely disguised morsels normally found here and other places around the known universe) on, well, this and that, as it comes to mind.

What seems to be a constant in the rowdier chambers of the flea market that one might call my consciousness is Richard Pryor’s character Mudbone, an aging black shoeshine man, who in one extended monologue opines, “There are no old fools. You don’t grow old being a fool.” This, of course, runs counter to conventional wisdom and practices.

Being 63 (gee whiz, just the other day I was pinned up against the wall at Chicago’s Conrad Hilton, watching people being shoved through plate glass windows by Chicago policemen), Mudbone’s observation may be self-serving (so what) but it at least functions as a personal pep talk. Additionally, my sense of the temporal is calibrated by an ability to live the immanent moment (not a philosophical choice, more a pathology) and so as I look at the world in its splendor and despair I haven’t (as far as I know) succumbed to resignation and disappointment.

It should not go unsaid that I am very grateful for a number of things—many people call such blessings (my people call them mitzvahs). On the top of that list is my (now) 12-year-old son Cuba, who, by all indicators, is growing up to be a soulful, funny, compassionate person (who, in many such areas, is a better person than his father). I am fortunate also to have avoided any major afflictions or plagues—I am barely limited by more than a creaky knee and an old sports-injured ankle. Not bad, huh?

Cuba at bat
Cuba at bat

And, I have been more fortunate than I can express to have somehow found a calling that provides me more in this veil of tears than I have ever expected. I know this in part as I look around, chat with innumerable fellow humans and others, and read and encounter the sad narratives of people who are not living the lives that they expected or hoped to live. Terrible. The past 30 years I have spent yakking away with a well-populated menagerie of creators, mostly writers. It strains my cognitive faculties to think of much I’d rather do. Oh yeah!

Cuba at bat
Cuba and author Geoff Dyer

One more thing: Although I’d like to think I could have gotten to this point in my life by myself, I am more than happy to point out that I didn’t have to. To my friends, living and absent (you know who you are), and family, all I can offer is my gratitude and a resolve to try to avoid conviction and incarceration.

And as the immortal Chicago Cub Ernie Banks was fond of exclaiming, “Let’s play two.”

Lastly (as a tribal elder, I feel entitled to be prescriptive), let me pass on an insight of Aldous Huxley’s:
It is a little embarrassing, that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to try to be a little kinder to each other.
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