Tuesday, September 04, 2007

On Old Men and Making New Stories...

I've been kicking this post around in my head for quite a while, and it never really seemed complete or "ready" to sit down and write. This morning a blabbering old man kind of seemed to bring it all together for me. I might get a little sappier than normal, and I'm still not sure I have a complete or fluid series of thoughts here, but I'll try.

(Part 1) Last spring I remember telling someone that I couldn't wait until I was an old man. I had been driving through the fire lane at Walmart when some crazy, mean, old sonofabitch started yelling at all the cars that drove by about handicapped parking. Waving his arms, cussing, jumping up and down... a regular geriatric temper tantrum. Then he stopped and just walked on into the store to buy his prunes and Metamucil. Everyone just kinda smiled and shook their heads back and forth, going about their business. It suddenly struck me that when I get old, all the things people see as my character flaws will be just another crazy old man going on a rant... What's considered disorderly conduct for a thirty year old, is just a normal day for a crazy old man. They won't even judge me for peeing my pants. Sounds like a fun life...

(Part 2) As most of you also know, just over a year ago I had a little brush with my own mortality. Suddenly, instead of making the logical conclusion that, "I'm too old and fat for this crap" I ended up with a burning desire to climb like I haven't climbed since I was nineteen or twenty. Mentally, I'm back to a place I haven't been in a long time: I'm either walking with a backpack on, or thinking and planning for the next time that I can. I'm trying to figure out how to convince my lovely and very understanding wife that modular holds bolted on the brick wall in our family room wouldn't really look all that bad. (She's not quite that understanding, I don't think.) My ice axe is sitting on top of my desk where I see it every day... a constant reminder of where I want to be and what I need to do to get there.

(Part 3) One of my best friends and I were out at the bar one night early last winter. I started telling her some story she had already heard from me countless times, and she just laughed and said, "You need new stories. You're out of stories." That reverberated in my head for months... and still is today, obviously. I don't wanna be out of stories.

(Part 4) Very closely related to part three above. Not long after the "stories" comment I was listening to some U2 when a line out of their song God, Part II struck me: "You glorify the past when the future dries up." I once had a boss who was the king of this... always bragging about what he had once done, never planning for what he was going to do next. I never want to be "that guy." During this same time frame, I read a book that had a section that talked about people with the "usta" syndrome. "I usta play golf." "I usta go fishing." "I usta be a climber." How many people do you know like that? I don't want to be one of them... doesn't look like much fun.

(Part 5) It's funny where one can sometimes draw inspiration from. I'll never forget hearing part of this David Lee Roth interview when I was in high school. For those too busy or who don't feel like watching to 1 minute and 30 seconds where he says it, Roth says, "I decided long, long ago that if I was gonna make a buck at this biz, that I was gonna spend it having experiences, not buying things."

(Part 6)Finally, this morning after my new morning workout routine, I stopped in to the coffee shop for a big iced mocha (Replacing all those calories I had just burnt, I'm sure.) I stop in there quite a bit, and the stereotypical "old men drinking coffee" are always sitting out front in the mornings. One, who I've been able to gather from snippets of conversation I hear as I walk in and out, is apparently a retired cop, and is always regaling the other old men with stories about his cop days. (Some of the stories are probably even true!)

Suddenly it all came together at once and hit me: I'd rather be the crazy old man yelling at cars and living life by the moment than the boring old man telling stories about his former job. I'd rather spend every spare cent making new stories and gaining new experiences than on "stuff." I'd rather my kids see me approaching middle life with zeal, on the attack... grabbing life by the collar and dragging it behind me rather than letting life lead me placidly along.

I thank God that I'm still healthy and strong enough to head to the mountains, but I know that someday my body won't be able to take it anymore. When that day comes, instead of telling you stories about what I usta do; I'll start telling you stories about the looks on people's faces as I yelled at them in the fire lane, pissed myself, then went inside to buy my prune juice.

It'll be a good story.


Blogger Unknown said...

As always Eric, well said...and so true. Somehow I have always known that you will be "that old guy".

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Always enjoy the blog, unfortunately, I usually don't get a chance to check them until every 3-4 months.

Was glad to at least see a mention from 2 of my favorite bands (U2 and Van Halen-I'll count David Lee Roth as VH)

As today is 9/11, was thinking about you and the guys. I hope you know how much respect us "civilians" have for what you guys do.

Keep on blogging. Love the stories. Take care and look forward to future readings.

Your pal,

Todd in DC

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did pal sound gay? Let me correct...

Your buddy,

Todd in DC

ha ha ha

3:58 AM  
Blogger David Collins said...

I could not agree with you more. Most stories are endured and not enjoyed.


10:47 AM  

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