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Trips And Journeys

A Texian's Prayer

O Lawd!

So far, today's been pretty good.
I ain't sworn nor said a cross word,
I ain't hit no one nor even loaded my gun,
I ain't coveted my neighbor's ass nor his wife,
even when they're one and the same.

I ain't lied, cheated nor stolen,
I've honored my folks, too.
I ain't taken your name in vain,
and since it ain't the Sabbath,
don't need to keep it holy yet.

But in a minute here Lord
I'm gonna have to git out of bed,
and then I'll really need your help!

This over-50 stuff is for the birds. 

Oh sure, all the old men warned me.  "Never pass a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never ever trust a fart," they all told me.  Now you may think that's a line from "The Bucket List", but no, old men have been telling young men that for ages.  Now come to find out it's true.  I hate that.

When you start off in this world, you're pretty much immortal.  You can do anything, go anywhere and eat anything, and you are the Man of Steel.  It just bounces off of you.  But somewhere around 30, you start to realize that you've gathered up enough stuff that even a little problem here or there can wipe out all your hard work overnight.  By 40, all you can think about is insurance.  You're willing to pay other people to cover your stuff because you've gotten pretty comfortable in your middle age.

It's at that point that you realize that you are middle aged.  If you get your statistical due, you've got about as much left and you've already squandered, and at least part of the second half will be just like the first half...diapers and soft foods with no spices.  You'll have roughly the same number of teeth, too.

It's about this point that most men twist off.  Women, of course, realize they are losing their ability to have babies, and for that they are happy.  But men, well, we want to take the same liberties we did when we were younger, but we still have the same consequences, and at this point, those consequences won't even graduate from high school before you're being turned into fertilizer.

Back in our 20s, we had nothing but options.  The world was ours and nothing could take away our deep view of the future.  By 50, that view of the future is getting cloudy, and it's not just detached retinas that's causing it.

You look around at all the crap that's attached itself to you as you went along and you start wondering, "What the hell did I waste all that time collecting stuff I can't take with me?"  Of course, you justify it by telling yourself that you'll leave it to your kids, but you look at your friends as they lose their parents and all they do is unload the stuff at an estate sale and take the cash.

Mostly to pay the freaking death taxes.

In your 20s, you didn't much care about your job.  Heck, there were 4 more where this one came from.  Besides, all the job did was give you enough cash to buy dinner and a movie with that hot new chick in accounting, and to buy the latest vinyl from your favorite band.  If you're in your 20s reading this...don't worry, you're kids will think of your CDs the way you think about my vinyl.  And that's only the beginning...

In your 50s, that hot new chick in accounting is showing a little wear and tear, and if you're honest, so is that image in the mirror.  Your 6-pack is now a donut basket, your cheeks are somewhere south of your former pecs, and that firm butt you used to have now pads the heels of your shoes.  Gravity sucks.

There is a bright side to getting old, though.  With each passing year, you give less and less a shit about what anyone else thinks.  The number of times you feel embarrassed slowly declines until you just don't give a rat's patoot about anything but your retirement.  And speaking of retirement...

Your whole life starts centering around that first cup of java and the stock ticker.  You realize one day that you care more about the movements in your portfolio than the movements in your bowels.  At this point, you've got some illusory line in the sand, and when you cross it, there are visions of gleaming bass boats and lake houses, and hour after endless hour of napping in the rocker on the porch, golden retriever at your feet (whose too damn old to fetch any more).

At some point, around your late 40s I think it was, internet porn becomes spam.  Chasing tail is not nearly as much fun as fish in a barrel, and a lot less work.  You start taking up hobbies - gardening, fishing, reading...anything that requires little physical exertion.

The part I really hate is that you start sleeping in 3-hour bursts, with one of the bursts coming right after lunch time while your trying to finish up that monthly management report.  You get to a point where you can't even remember what it was like to sleep a full 8 hours and run-and-gun for the next 16.  All-nighters change from wild parties to insomnia.  And at some point, you've seen more sun rises than sun sets.

Another bothersome part of getting old is that just about the time people start taking you seriously, you stop taking anything seriously.  All your life, you worked for that moment when folks would listen to you and hang on your wisdom, but the problem with wisdom is you see the futility of telling anyone what you've learned.  It's a vicious Catch-22, and there's nothing in the Owner's Manual about that, unless it's buried in the really tiny print that you can't read any more.

One sure sign you've reached old age is when you stop caring how much something is and start demanding quality over quantity.  The massive jug of rot-gut vodka for $5 is not nearly as appealing as that $40 fifth of Grey Goose.  The cheap box of chocolate Ex-Lax just doesn't have the appeal of the new designer pharma that gives you a thorough cleansing.  Ask your doctor.  Some patients experience dizziness, palpatations, kidney failure, and death.

Around the Far Side Headquarters, though, we don't complain too much.  We've always been about the Journey rather than the Destination.

It's liberating when the hormones relax their stranglehold on your psyche.  It's more enjoyable to listen to a cool breeze than Led Zepplin cranked to 11 on a scale of 10.  You appreciate that bird that goes nuts every morning in front of the house as you watch the sun come up...once again.  You appreciate the subtle flavors of a single shot of McAllen's 25 more than slamming a gallon of Jack Crack to impress that hot new chick in accounting.

Seems our culture doesn't appreciate getting old very much.  Us guys spend hours worrying about fading hair lines and spreading belt lines, not thinking about the savings on shampoo and hair cuts or the high-quality food and hooch that built that fine belly of yours.

Back in the States, many of my old running buds are getting mid-life divorces, buying toupes, and having plastic surgery to recapture that glow of youth.  Frankly, I'm happy.  I know how much work it was to get to this point and I show my war wounds with pride.  By golly, I earned these wrinkles and sags, though I'm still waiting for the fading hair line.  I seem to be one of those guys who go the opposite way, with hair growing out of places it has no right to be.

I've always been a Journeyer.  I prefer to enjoy the trip rather than waste my time worrying about getting to the goal.  I have better stories to tell because of it.  And really, that's the point...having stories to tell.

When we finally lay the meat down to rest, the only thing we can carry at that point are the stories.  I envision heaven as being a bunch of folks sitting around the camp fire swapping tales, and the ones that get command performances are the Journeyers who experienced the whole trip.  Hell, all the other guys have to talk about are mortgages, car notes and insurance bills.  In the end, who wants to hear about all that mundane stuff?  What about that cool cave you and your roommate explored where you found that human skeleton and the underground river?  Or the ruins of an indian kiva at the top of a cliff, and all the pottery shards and arrowheads at the bottom of the cliff?

All those stories come from stopping along the way to explore something that wasn't on the itinerary.  And if, because of the injuries you got exploring, you feel like the Tin Man needing a shot of lube every morning, weill you earned it.  And all the little changes at 40, 50 and 60, that's just part of the adventure.

And occasionally, you run into one of those 20-something whippersnappers that will take a little advice because they know you've racked up some experience in your Journey.  With any luck, that whippersnapper is your kid, too.

Won't you feel proud?