A lot of things have conspired lately to make me feel old. To make me fear aging. It’s a little discomforting to see Celtic-garbed Shaquille O’Neal practically hobbling across a basketball court at the age of 39 when I can still remember him wearing an Orlando Magic uniform. Far too many of my friends are having kids (this number well exceeds four, for those curious). The new soldier in our office is my little sister’s age, which is weird because my sister shouldn’t be old enough to be considered a real person yet. And yet she’s graduating high school next week. My mom’s basically retiring this year. My grandparents recently moved into an independent living facility, which is several steps above retirement home, but still one step closer than they were a year ago. Things that you know are going to happen eventually, but find yourself surprised at how quickly they did.
And then there’s folk club.
Folk club, where I’m usually the youngest guy in the room by half. Folk club, where the people I talk to when I get there early talk about their kids who are my age, their grandkids who are my age, or their medical problems. Folk club, where my love lies waiting silently for me.
Okay, that last one might be a Simon and Garfunkel lyric. Chalk that up to the 30%.
I haven’t made it to folk club in a while, something I was reminded of when the first thing someone said to me yesterday was “I had a job for you two weeks ago, but you weren’t here, and since then the relevant person had a heart attack.” Ah, folk club.
This weekend is the Jacob’s Ladder festival up in the north. It’s kind of a big deal for folkies, but expensive as hell, and as such is ridiculously inappropriate for a guy on a soldier’s salary. It attracts interesting people from all over the world, though, and they like to perform outside of the festival in the lead-up time. We had a few of those last night.
One of the performers, from California, started out by saying, “Well, here we are. In Tel Aviv.” She said it with this whimsy. Like she was talking about a magical place that she never really thought existed. And yet here she is. I used to be like that, didn’t I? When did I transition? Was it while I was living a few kilometers north in Herzliya, or was it some time in the last year when I started working in Tel Aviv on a daily basis? Do I have any magical places anymore?
But then she and her partner started to sing. The guy’s voice sounded like it had taken a beating after decades of regular drinking and smoking. But he managed to be heard while keeping tune and adding feeling to the words.
Then Tel Aviv became a magical place again. Not because of the city itself, but because of these strangers. There’s something amazing, something alluring, something beautiful about old people doing something they’re good at. They’re not trying too hard or pushing themselves, because they’re past the point where it matters. They’re just plateauing, doing the same things with greater ease because of experience, and there’s definitely a magic to that.
Although, yes, my grandparents are a reminder that the plateau falls off eventually, the people right in front of me are a reminder that it can last much longer than I’ve even been alive. So yeah, things are moving forward faster than I’d have expected, but I’ve still got plenty of time left in this life.
It makes me think of some song lyrics.
Slow down, you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only so many hours in a day
But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
When will you realize: Vienna waits for you