“Oh, come all you people wherever you are
And please hurry up because death ain’t too far
And don’t you look so happy, I ain’t passin’ out cigars
For today I have become 30
And bein’ 29 was much nicer than this
Oh it hurts to see that first digit changin’”
— from “Thirty,”
a Mark Sherman parody of a Bob Dylan classic
Just before I turned 30 I wrote a take-off on Bob Dylan’s great song to help me deal with the upset I felt over hitting that age. After all, this wasn’t long after a time when one of the slogans of young people was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Being upset over turning 30 seems rather silly now, but there is something unneverving about hitting a new decade, and since writing that song I have hit several. But the one coming up is especially disconcerting because it seems to signify “old.”
Yes, by the time you read this I will be 70.
I thought writing down the number would help, but it hasn’t.
Yeah, yeah, I know, 70 is the new 60 and all that stuff, but 60 doesn’t sound so great either. Thirty sounds really good. Ah, if I’d only known then what I know now, and was George Bernard Shaw right when he wrote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” (I couldn’t find how old Shaw was when he wrote it, but I assume he was at least 18.)
Actually, I was doing pretty well as I was approaching this milestone birthday, until I happened to catch the tail end of a CBS television interview with actor-musician Jack Black. The interviewer, Lee Cowan, age 47, said to Black, age 43, “I read somewhere that you said you wanted to die on the eve of your 70th birthday?”
To which Black replied, “I did say that. What I was thinking at the time was, you rock in your 20s, you rock in your 30s, you can rock in your 40s, you can rock in your 50s, you can rock in your 60s — but I’ve yet to see someone really rock in their 70s!”
Easy for those two guys in their 40s to joke about this, I thought. Haha.
But suppose the interviewer was Morley Safer, who is 81. Would Black have been so cavalier? Or what if it were Paul McCartney, 70, or Bob Dylan, 71? And what about Mick Jagger, who’s about to embark on another tour; oh, that’s right, he’s only 69, so I guess he can still rock. But what about his drummer, Charlie Watts? He’s 71, so I guess he can’t rock any more.
Hey, Jack Black, rock this!
Of course, my anger at Jack Black is just another way of denying the reality of the fact that I am about to enter my eighth decade. Okay, I do appreciate the fact that people tell me I look and act quite young, but the Federal government isn’t in to these kinds of encouraging comments, but rather has its ways of letting you know that it doesn’t expect you to be around much longer. Do you think they’d let you start Social Security at 62 if the average lifespan were 120? And similarly with Medicare starting at 65.
And just when I thought it was safe to come out of my lounge chair, I find out that the year you turn 70 ½ (for me aka next year) you have no choice but to start taking out money from your pension. They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes, and so the Feds want to make sure they collect some taxes before you kick the bucket.
And then there’s the Bible, which doesn’t talk about rockin’, but does say something about this age I’m reaching. Granted, the Bible was written well before Lipitor, but still, it is somewhat chilling to read (in Psalm 90): “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Granted the psalm gives you the outside chance you might get to 80, but still there’s all this “labor and sorrow” to worry about, and then the “fly(ing) away.”
Okay, okay, maybe I can’t rock the way I did when I parodied Bob Dylan’s great song at 29, and wrote and sang many of my own well into my 40s (and occasionally even into my 50s); but I’m not ready to fly away. Okay, maybe to California or Paris, but that’s about it.