Cocky vs Creaky
“People ought to be one of two things, young or old. No; what’s the good of fooling? People ought to be one of two things, young or dead.” – Dorothy Parker
As the ultimate purveyor of all things caustic and cute, Dorothy Parker is paramount among my Wit Idols but I would argue with her that there are more than two options along the road. In fact, as we wander down the paths of our lives I would contend that we have a thousand little choices to make, moment by moment, day by day, and yes, phase by phase as we age and evolve and garner wisdom and strength. As another of my doyens of doom, Bette Davis, once said; “Old age is no place for sissies”. Truer words were never uttered, or actualized.
I grant you, as a “glass ¾ full” personality, I have had a somewhat rosier take on the process than many can muster but I have always contended that we never truly learn anything unless we approach things that frighten us (like aging, for instance) and simply dive into the deep end of the pool. By the time we surface, we have learned to swim.
As a young spud of twenty-something, I fled the homeland, literally a continent away (read; back east) for the sunnier, freer and infinitely more fascinating life that was San Francisco in the 1970’s. I was in possession of a college degree, of sorts, a free plane ticket and an infinite amount of hubris. All things were possible and, in fact, quite probable. Mecca beckoned.
After crashing on my forever cousin’s couch for a few weeks, I landed, of sorts, in a “classy” (we’ll get to that later) two flat combined household with five other guys, sharing space, creating havoc and doing what all twenty-something’s do in the big city when unshackled from prying parental eyes and controls….party. Life was good.
Until the rent was due.
Reality, as they say, bites.
It became abundantly clear quite quickly that my part time chef gig across the Bay was not going to support my bed and board no less my intense compulsion to sample all the things that Cosmopolitania dangled like carrots in front of my starving soul.
So I took another job. And then a third.
I commuted back and forth across the Bay daily, sometimes twice, the country boy in me learning what city men must know. Bus lines and schedules, BART trains and delays, long walks when there were the inevitable breakdowns, strikes, and scheduling conflicts. I was young, I could do anything…and still go out every night.
I learned quickly that amongst all these various jobs there coalesced the basics. Get the rent got paid, make sure there was peanut butter and jelly in the fridge, flirt with bartenders, tip well and you got free drinks, sit down theater, front right, at The Castro and you were likely to get a joint passed to you sometime during the double feature which included a live organ recital during the intermission! This, for $3, was the deal of the century.
This was cocky.
This was youth.
This was living!
Fast forward close to 40 years and I now face smaller though no less daunting daily decisions. Attack the weeds or read a book? The hips and knees are a tad troublesome today so the book wins out.
This is creaky.
This is aging.
This, too, though, is living!
As I look about me at the various friends, family and acquaintances that I encounter, I see a vast swath of opinion and practice as to how each of them approaches these changing times, their changing bodies and their diminishing capacities.
Some are freighted down by life and are older before their time. Some are hobbled by illness and infirmity and yet remain bright and vibrant even though less active and lively than they once were. Many, at times, are both.
I contend that this is the nexus of the issue. Those that muster their reserves and plow new fields of interest and expertise with a deeper understanding of time and a serenity of place, exhibit a new age of Cocky. They scoff at Creaky, even though they creak.
Cocky vs. Creaky
I alluded to my “classy flat” earlier in the post. A note about that. Coming from the farmlands of Maryland I thought any semi-restored Victorian in the heart of San Francisco was classy, hip, cool. One particular night after a long day of shifts and an endless safari amid the parking challenged environs of The City I had landed a spot mere blocks from home. As I wearily trod up the streets around Duboce Triangle to my flat I heard a sparkling thud of reports. My misspent youth said M80’s. My new-found je ne sais quoi told me …………….duck…..hit the pavement………..that was gunfire.
And, indeed it was. Far from the urbane and cosmopolitan city I was thinking I was living in, my neighborhood was, in fact, a ‘hood. The gun battle was real. It was on the stoop of my house. For further and more exacting proof and detail, read David Talbot’s breathtakingly beautiful new love letter to The City; Season of The Witch.
I military-crawled under and around the parked cars finding safe haven until the shooters dispersed, the cars fled and I could continue up and into my flat. Pour a drink, change clothes, venture out to the bars and regale my friends with stories of the Urban Jungle, laughing with abandon and forgetting for the moment that I had yet to traverse the same battle ground to once again find my bed sometime later on.
As Scarlett once opined “Fiddle-de-dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow!”
That was Cocky.
I am now a lot more Creaky.