BIRTHDAY

As of February 26 I am 24,820 days old…or about 595,680 hours if you prefer. That’s approximately 35,740,800 minutes or 2,144,448,000 seconds. Suddenly 68 years doesn’t seem so bad. My heart has beaten 3,800,000,000 times (give or take a million or two) and I`ve inhaled/exhaled roughly 714,816,000 times. No wonder I’m tired.

I touch on age often in my books. In White Wolf Moon Evan is explaining to Jenn how the years don’t disappear…they remain inside you:

“Sure I’m physically sixty.” He touched his chest. “But in here it doesn’t count for much. When I turned sixty, fifty-nine didn’t disappear. It’ll always be part of who I am. Every year I’ve lived is buried somewhere in this battered old body which means I’m still fifty-nine, and forty and thirty and twenty…”

Yes that svelte and dapper young man still abides in some secret hidden part of this old body. Occasionally he manages to crawl up and out but he finds that the landscape has changed. The lines and weight that 68 years have wrought is alien terrain. Jeans that once required that fashionable Carnaby Street belt now hang in there without any support whatsoever. There’s nothing in the world that can bring back the percentage of human dignity surrendered when your wife tells you to tuck it in and you’ve already tucked. Time is a cruel master.

In the sequel to White Wolf Moon I describe it this way:

Evan leaned against the bathroom sink, listening as the mirror told his tale. The problem is that mirrors don’t write fiction. He could easily forgive the mirror a smidgeon of artistic license; perhaps a little fib or two, even an outright lie…but mirrors don’t do fiction. He stared silently into the realization that the disheveled sixty-something creature staring back at him was indeed sixty-something. His eyes were dark, the laugh-lines of yesterday were annoyingly apparent today, and his hair had become most unreliable. He ran his fingers through the grey shock, placed it carefully then softly sighed as it slipped back down over his forehead.

“Nowadays when I wake up feeling like crap,” he said, “I stare into the mirror and I look like crap. In the old days it didn’t matter how I felt I at least looked good. Sure, I can psyche myself up…tell myself I’m feeling great and do a little yahoo dance on the way to the bathroom but the mirror always shows and tells. It could lie but does it? Oh no…whatcha see is whatcha get Morris. Damn mirrors.”

And he explains it to his wife Marie this way:

“It took sixty years to get this way and it’ll take sixty more to fix it. Hardly seems worth the effort.”

A lot has happened in the last 6.8 decades and I was there. More importantly I paid attention. Through simple osmosis I’ve sucked up a wealth of seemingly unimportant trivia, from housecleaning to simple mechanics to…whatever. I suppose that makes me wise in an offhanded kind of way…the senior. The last time I held this title I was in high school and I really wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t ask to be a senior…it just sort of happened. All of a sudden I had this responsibility to set a good example for all those junior kids, some of which were older than I but obviously not wiser.

That’s how you get to be a senior in high school. Passing. That’s all there is to it. All you have to do to be a senior in life is survive. It’s pretty simple actually.

There’s only one problem with this system of seniority by age. For every wise village elder there is a village idiot. Through the simple act of survival the village idiot could eventually become the village elder. Throughout history many societies have fallen due to an old village idiot.

But I digress and I’m running out of space.

I don’t have a problem with being nearly 10 in dog years, in fact I don’t normally think about it. I can watch quiz shows and answer the history questions not because I studied but because I was there when these things were happening. I’ve gone from one channel on a fuzzy b&w television to a kazillion choices on a big flat screen. I’ve been to drive-in movies perched in the bed of a pickup truck and I’ve watched some of the same movies on Blue Ray whilst parked on my couch. I’ve marveled at so many changes over the years with a sense of wonderment and appreciation that people born in the past twenty years can’t understand. They’ve grown up with the technology and gadgets designed to make life easier. They have no idea what it’s like to head out to the pump to bring in a bucket of water and heat it on the wood stove to take a bath. Times have changed and will forever change but the learning stays the same. Not just book learning but good old fashioned life learning. It’s that basic knowledge and common sense that surrounds us all but so few seem to grasp yet, according to Evan in the sequel to White Wolf Moon, it really isn’t all that difficult:

“It’s no big secret…just pay attention. Eyes, ears, and mind open…mouth shut. Nobody ever learned anything by talking.” Evan squinted and shook his index finger at her. “Listening…that’s the teacher.”

Me2a s

 

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50 SHADES OF BEIGE?

Last week I had one of the regular customers come into At Second Glance Books. She’s Ukrainian or Russian, probably in her late-fifties or older and always dresses up to shop. I’ve known her for a long time and she really is quite a character. Over the years she’s bought many books from me but they have always been cookbooks, philosophy, and the occasional non-fiction science, self-help or health title.

On this day she picked up a selection of cookbooks and, as she was paying for them, she reached across the counter and tapped my shoulder.

“Mikel,” she said, “I moost buy that book of yours before the store closes, yes?”

My book, White Wolf Moon, reminisces about the Sixties and a group of freethinking folk that spent a lot of time at a place called the Bar-Ass ranch where clothing was…well…optional. As such I felt I should warn her that some of the content might not be to her taste but before I could say anything she announced that she was currently reading 50 Shades of Grey.

I’ve always been able to fire back at any one-liner or dig that she throws at me but this…. All I could say was: “Really?”

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “I surprise you?”

Yes, she did. Apparently you can’t judge readers by their covers either. She was definitely one of the last people I would suspect would read 50 Shades of Grey. We talked about variety and balance…that everyone needs a bit of escape now and then. Then she said something that really hit home. She told me that just because she was older didn’t mean she wasn’t young once.

It hit home because this is one of the underlying themes of my book and, with her, I had made the same mistake a lot of people do.

I’m in my mid-sixties and seen by some as a grey-haired grandfather that’s content to sit around and read or watch television…the same way I used to view seniors when I was a lot younger. I was wrong then and White Wolf Moon is my attempt to tell the younger generation that we’re not always what we appear.

In the words of Jennifer MacAvoy, the twenty-year-old journalism major from White Wolf Moon:

“I used to think that sixty was ancient, that it had to be the end of life as I knew it. One day I realized my mum was sixty and there’s a lot of life still in her…thankfully not as much as when she was twenty. I see how all of you are and I can really understand Evan’s theory about being all ages. You carry on with the joking and flirting just like kids. It’s such an eye-opener for me. You are who you are…and I love who you are.”

Believe it or not kids, there was life before you came along. Life isn’t 50 shades of beige…there were girlfriends before Mum and boyfriends before Dad. Take some time to chat with your parents or grandparents about ‘those days’. You’ll may learn a lot…you might even be a little shocked…but you’ll probably end up thinking, to use Jennifer’s words again: “It’s like I’ve discovered a friend that was always there but I didn’t know.”

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