I just turned sixty five a while back, and one thing stuck out in my mind, “I done got Old!” Not like ‘you’re not a little boy anymore’ old. Although I’m trying to challenge that assumption on a daily basis. Nope. But the real deal. Like your Mom and Dad type old, or what is more commonly know as just plain fucking old.
Now I really don’t feel old, especially when I’m properly medicated and drawing. When I’m doing that, it’s just like getting back to where I left off as an adolescent. But 65 is a milestone. not a round number but a biggie. In the US, that’s when you become eligible for Medicare, our version of socialized medicine. That’s cool. But what wasn’t, was getting a shit-load of mail everyday, for six months, from a ton of insurance companies, trying to get ya to buy their form of supplemental health care before ya turn 65. Gotta love capitalism.
So I suppose I ought to share some thoughts on turning 65. But instead I’m gonna share some thoughts about turning on in ’65. It’s what made me the man I am today.
I graduated from high school in 1965. You think things are crazy today with all the right-wing nut cases trying to bring things back to the good ol’ daze? Well, let me tell ya, 1965 was no cake-walk. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and during the summer of ’65 things erupted when the predominantly black community known as Watts exploded.
It started with the arrest of a black man by a white cop, but soon escalated out of control. Rage was sparked and five days of rioting, looting and businesses in flames ensued. All of it , of course, being broadcast on local TV news. The National Guard was called out, a curfew imposed, and order gradually restored after 34 deaths, 1034 injured, 3438 arrests and $40 million in property damages (much of it arson). Who would have ever guessed that black folk were pissed, and didn’t like the status-quo. What really blew my mind was not so much living in the curfew zone, but seeing an Army Tank rolling down Florence Avenue. Damn! That shit was supposed to happen in places like Hungary or the godless Soviet Union. Not America!!!
Not America? Gotta remember that all this race-riot shit happened, 1) After we thought out collective young asses were gonna get incinerated during the Cuban missile crisis, and 2) After the President of the United States was assassinated in Texas. Again, Shit like that was supposed to happen in Latin America. Not our America.
I don’t know about you, but I think that was some pretty wild stuff to live through; tends to make an impression on ya. Well at the end of that summer, I was off to college for four years. I went to a small private college (Lutheran) and lived on campus in the dormitories, as did much of the student body.
I’d have to say, that despite having to study and pass classes so my ass wouldn’t get drafted, college was the best time of my life. And now, in retirement, after being in the workforce, having a career, and all that bullshit. I’m back! and it’s sweet. Not working is great, and getting paid for it is even better.
Guess what I majored in? Yep….Art. Probably the easiest “liberal arts” degree one could get. No tests, no papers to write, just paint or go to the life-drawing class. Lot’s of interesting folks came to our campus: Dick Gregory, Father Malcolm Boyd, Eugene McCarthy, and even Alabama Governor George Wallace ( what a fuckin’ hayseed). But by far the most popular guest to make their appearance on campus was Mary Jane. Us boys and girls went wild with reefer madness. And slowly things started to get more and more beautiful on campus. A liberating time of questioning not only authority, but moral standards, with an air of openness and experimentation.
At last….I’m back. Where I left off at graduation. Getting old may be about your body starting to crap out on ya, but for me, it’s about staying young at heart.