I have many more topics I intend to post on, some may even be considered “deep”, and I’ll get to them very soon. For now though it is a bit of rambling (but with photos!)…
So the annual May 26th forty-five minute drive with my sons to the Margaritaville Cafe in Glendale took place this past Monday. But before chowing down on the heftiest meal I’ve had in three months, I was browsing the gift shop, and it got me to thinking. Jimmy Buffett T-Shirts are pretty much focused on getting drunk or being a tourist “somewhere hot”. That’s just not me and never was. I am pretty sure its not Buffett either since about the year 2000.
Anyway, its the third year in a row that I’ve taken my sons there on my birthday. I know there are hundreds of other restaurants closer than the 40 mile drive to the west side (admittedly many are much better), but it always seems like we’re doing something bigger with the longer drive. Once a year until further notice (probably next year) seemed like a nice idea.
Turning the “BIG FIVE SIX” this year is fairly uneventful, but as my eldest would say, “sux getting old, hey Dad”. True, it does suck, but the alternative is even worse. John Denver once sang that, “it turns me on to think of growing old”. That didn’t work out too well for him, did it?
At first glance fifty-six is a fairly innocuous age, importance-wise. This is not an age with the added gravitas of say 21, 30, 40, 50, etc. Nope, it’s only “sux-to-suck-fifty-six”. Upon closer examination however, my sense of urgency is palpable. In my estimation I have three more years to enjoy life before I’m staring straight at sixty and beyond- at which point there will be no more denying the fact that I’ve become one of the senior citizens in the population. We chuckle when the AARP starts sending out mailers six months before we turn fifty, but when six-oh arrives, it is the real deal.
In my opinion there’s at least a trade-off; a don’t-give-a-damn attitude that one can assume when reaching senior citizen status. The finer version of that attitude, which I intend to take full advantage of (as I am doing now), is having the sense to “…not go gentle into that good night”.
But everything is relative….
No that’s not a ZZ Top guy, nor is it Wille Nelson, Leon Russell or even me. That’s my honorary big brother, Hal. He and I were on our way to his mechanic so I could set up an estimate on my brakes. Hal’s eleven years older than me and while I have only known him about 5-6 years he has made a lasting impact on my life. His life should be a movie (THAT’S what I should be writing). It includes a milieu of Gump-like encounters with a who’s who of folks. Besides lesser knowns like Freddie Neal and Richie Havens, Hal has hung with Frank Zappa and Willie Nelson (those are the people he gives me permission to mention publicly). From his Jersey roots to Coconut Grove, Maui and various hideaways in Colorado, Hal finally settled in Minneapolis before coming to Phoenix a couple decades ago. He’s an artist who creates in precious metals, (and yes he may be “off the grid”) but he’s also, seriously, the big brother I never had. You can see images of him in my website’s home page montage.
Anyway, Hal gets a call from his wife who says we have to swing by the house where she’s helping an older woman and she needs our help too. So we step in to an average middle class ranch home a few blocks away and there’s Lynn assisting an old woman into a recliner. My apologies for not remembering her name but she’s 93 years old and may or may not have broken her hip. Lynn had to head to work so Hal and I were going to hang out until someone from the hospice service arrived.
So there I am, fresh off my 56th birthday…not really a pity party but it wasn’t a pretty party either. But there I am with 67 year old Hal and our 93 year old charge. I’m the kid. By the way, this old gal was lucid, conversant. and frankly, had a really sweet smile. Ten minutes later we were back on the road; lesson learned, point taken.
Since returning to Phoenix on Valentine’s Day, I’ve been living the good life. Most folks would not describe it that way however. But for me it’s been one of those periods in life that define me. I’ve been about as free as a guy can be (especially a full time single dad kinda guy). I work out every day, hike most days, lay out in the sun some days…and ya I work too… my son says “when?”, but I’ve created my life the way I wanted it to be, not the way society wanted it to be. I’m getting ready for grad school in the fall by doing my own research on the subject I intend to focus on in grad school. I have health care, I have food, a nice little apartment and time. Yes, I have plenty of that most precious commodity that eludes so many. It’s not that its “extra” time. Its time for me to do the things I need to and the things I want to WHEN I want to. Granted I positioned my life in this way about 5-7 years ago, but I never ever take it for granted. And while I think I know what I want to do post-Masters degree, I could never go back to punching a clock 50 weeks a year.
I weighed 202 when I got here. I was on Metformin (for Type II diabetics), and something-something for high blood pressure. Oh joy. Frankly I felt like shit. But my all-time favorite health club (Lifetime Fitness) is only two miles away and I made a commitment on March 1st to clean up my act. As three months come to a close I have accomplished what I set out to do. I weigh 177. I was off all meds in mid-April. My blood sugar is exemplary even for non-diabetics. I regrew a full head of hair. Not really, I’m just fucking with you there. My cardio workouts have gone from 6.7 miles in 70:00 to 8.7 miles in the same 70 minutes. My crunches have gone from 82 (and dying) to 380 per session (increasing 20 per week). I am much more flexible. And even though I despise resistance training (weights), Also, I have made significant gains in muscular strength.
My diet has been ridiculously disciplined. My exercise regimen was not missed. Cardio 3x a week and strength training 2x with an added hike, urban walk or mountain climb on those two days as well. Low calorie diet. Usually between 800-1000 calories a day. I use the “Lose It” app on my iPhone and record everything. Low, low and only good carbs (fiber focused). Between 80-125 grams of protein daily. No junk food, period.
My reward/vice? Well okay…. I was substituting a cigar and a scotch for dinner. Not the greatest, but I live 100 yards from a Dairy Queen. I needed a distraction and it worked. But I am already taking the next steps beyond that. My birthday cigar was the culminating smoke for awhile, and my apartment contains no alcoholic beverages whatsoever.
I drink a lot of tea (green & blueberry acai).
I’ve loosened up a little bit on my eating but a “careless” day to me right now would be described as “gorging” on 1500 calories with 100 carbs. As Hal told me this morning, “Dude, I think you have an eating disorder”. He might be right, but I am in no danger of withering away. Truth is I could still lose 15-20 more pounds. But I’ve woken up to the fact that I’m not going to transform myself to anyone unrecognizable, and I’m never gonna be forty again. All I can do is navigate in the best way I can, the twists, the turns and the razors edges that life presents and I decide to accept. To “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, and to never “go gently into that good night”.