Flight of the Trojans

(Photo: I’ll have fries with that…)

So today begins the last year of my youth, and I’m trying to handle it. My body has long told me that year came some time ago. Chronic pain in my right hip and the old man “Uggh!” I groan upon standing suggest a chronological age a bit beyond my newly current 39.

The last age I took so hard was 25. Back then, launching into the latter half of my twenties without having achieved richness or thinness had me feeling like a big loser. Luckily, my self-confidence has improved since then. Now launching into my final 365 days before middle age without yet having achieved richness or thinness just has me feeling old.

“You have to remember, you’re only as old as you feel,” Sole Man Donn told me this afternoon. He meant well.

“I know,” I said. “And I feel old.”

“Well,” Donn continued to the well-worn punch line, “then go feel a 20-year-old.”

Last month, when my newly arrived mid-life crisis first began its sneak-attack, I noted the fallacy of the phalluses of twenty-somethings to adequately assuage the angst of advancing age. Not that I’d throw a fresh, nubile grad-schooler with a high libido and two working hips out of bed. But he’d have to be okay with leaving by eleven–a body this old can no longer survive on six hours a night.

Besides, those youngsters have little respect for their elders these days. Eight days ago, a new friend, the recent Oklahoma-expat, Overly Frank, showed little pity for the quickening pace of my deterioration. Guys who are too young to remember the first run of Star Wars–because they weren’t born yet–rarely do. The blood was spilled in I.M. land…

10:33:38 PM Mike: I’m facing the last 8 days of my life before I begin the last year of my youth.

10:33:56 PM Frank:
That is one way of looking at it. Or it could be that your youth ended 3,279 days ago, give or take.

10:36:19 PM Mike: I will, of course, remind you of that smart remark in a few months when you finally turn 30…I believe my card will read, “My condolences to your youth.”

10:38:28 PM Frank: Well, my card to you will say that “age is just a number… expressed, in your case, in scientific notation.”

10:57:27 PM Mike: Next time I see you, should I pat you on the head and sniff for that new-baby smell around your soft spot?

10:57:48 PM Frank: Are you making fun of my hair loss?

10:58:20 PM Mike: No not at all. Though I was thinking in regards to your turning 30 I could just send the flowers to wherever the hair went.

11:00:18 PM Frank: Okay. There were gloves. Not anymore.

Then again, fellow advanced-adult bloggers haven’t been any more comforting. The response from Chicago Tech News publisher Todd Allen when I told him I suspected my mid-life crisis was upon me: “You’re going to look mighty funny buying a Corvette and not knowing how to drive it.”

Rimshot. Try the veal. Remember to tip your waitress.

I’m actually grateful for the humor. I’m surprised how much of a shock the realization of 40 being just around the corner has been to my system. Age really is just a number, and I feel happier, more fulfilled, more on track, and more spiritually aware at 39 than I ever have in my life.

None of that made it any easier to suppress the urge to strangle the barista in the coffee bar where I’m writing this when an hour ago he popped a suicide-by-depressing-lyrics mix of songs by artists trying to save polar bears on late-night TV into the CD player.

The Sinatra at Lido’s Caffé in Oak Park at the weekly coffee klatsch last Tuesday night was a lot more bearable. The new rule being I’m no longer allowed to verbally refer to Doctor Dementia, instead Hoosierella, Pastry Chef Chris, and new pastry-chef-squeeze Bearoke opened the evening wishing good thoughts towards the temporarily incarcerated Gay O.J. (no FIB should ever attempt a low-speed flight from Cheesehead fuzz on a suspended license–’nuff said.)

They needn’t have worried, though. My thoughts last week were stuck on impending AARP membership. But I’d already tread that ground the previous Tuesday, so I covered up my angst by asking how everyone else was doing.

Hoosierella never saw it coming. “Hey,” I asked her, “did you and your husband ever find out if the chocolate-flavored condoms you got from Chris really tasted like they were supposed to?”

As her eyes widened to the size of dinner plates, I continued.

“Well,” I amended myself. “Really, did you ever find out?”

“Be careful how you answer,” Chris interjected. “You know where this conversation is gonna end up.”

“Um, no…” ‘Rella stammered.

“You know what?” Bearoke intervened as a palpable sense of relief went around the far side of the table. “I’m pretty sure they did. One day at work, we had a whole bag of flavored condoms, and we were pretty bored.”

Boy, was that sense of relief misplaced.

“Go on,” I said, as I sharpened my inner pencil to take notes.

“We decided to have a tasting flight,” Bearoke continued as I thanked the Universe on behalf of my byline for friends like these. “We sorted the condoms by type, blew them up like balloons, passed them around the room, and licked them to check for flavor. And surprisingly, most of them tasted just like what the package said.”

“Most of them?” asked Chris.

“Well, except for the cola-flavored condom. That just left a nasty, sweet aftertaste in your mouth.”

“You’ve gotta tell me,” I asked Bearoke, barely able to get the next words out as I descended into tear-inducing laughter. “Was it like a wine tasting? Every time you licked a condom, did you have to spit afterwards?”

“Oh my God,” said Chris to the table, “look at his eyes! He’s writing a headline for his blog as he’s sitting here!”

He knows me well. I’ll let the gang know of their most recent turn on Carless later tonight when they fête me for my birthday at Poor Phil’s prior to our regular appearance at Lido’s. The crowd won’t be as large as the surprise party my old NYC friends threw when they thought I was moving back a couple of years ago. But these local guys have my back, too.

Unfortunately, at my age, I have enough back for all of us. Besides suffering through Sarah McLachlan tunes in public places, I also often sit at my dining table to blog. Recenty, when the aches and pains of age came calling once again as they so often do now, I came to the realization I either need comfier chairs or a fatter ass.

No one should worry about quality time with the birthday boy tonight. Thanks to age’s waning metabolism (yeah, that’s it), these days there’s more than enough of me to go around.

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