Dean Porter and I skipped school that year to go see A Fistful of Dollars at the Wichita Theater. We lost Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in a senseless fire during an Apollo 1 launch test, and countless thousands of American women lost Elvis to Priscilla Beaulieu. That was the year that brought us Julia Roberts, Faith Hill and Moon Unit Zappa, the year that would live in history as the Summer of Love and the year I bought my first Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Oh, yeah. I was graduated from S.H. Rider High School that spring of 1967 as well. Talk about coming of age. The cruel war was raging, I had no immediate plan to enter college and my high school sweetheart had another year to do before her graduation.
When I’m 64 seemed an amusing little ditty at the time. Actually being 64 must have been beyond comprehension from the perspective of 18. Back in 1957, I remember the 9-year-old me wondering if I would make it another 43 years to witness the Earth’s odometer roll over to 2000, but I hadn’t the foggiest notion as to what those four decades would bring.
Now, five decades on, the fabled 64 Sir Paul wrote of (at the ripe old of 16) is here. I can tell you, friends and neighbors, it has been one hell of a ride.
Besides the kids, grands and greats, I am pleased to report that AnniePie still needs me, still feeds me in ways too numerous to mention here and never forgets the valentine and birthday cards. The desire to do up a garden and dig weeds still sparks when spring comes ‘round, but summer’s fire all too soon burns away the want to, and the only way I could manage staying out to quarter of three these days would be to camp out!
I still like those old spaghetti westerns (although Clint is on my shit list) and the music of Hugo Montenegro. Remembering Grissom, White and Chaffee gets my tired old eyes runny. And while I could not escape River City’s gravitational pull to make it out to San Francisco, my San Francisco flower child eventually found me. Some things are worth waiting for, indeed!
As the late Eubie Blake reportedly observed, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Looks good on paper, but rarely deterred this grasshopper. So it goes. I suffer the physical stings and pings of physical aging. My get up and go did, leaving me pretty much in granny gear these days. I am proud to report, however, that slower ain’t necessarily worster.
Beyond the body and inside my head still resides that smart-ass kid who crossed the stage at Memorial Auditorium all those years ago. My hope is that he is a little wiser (’though I doubt it). Certainly he is better educated today, and little of that education came from a classroom.
One thing, however, I must credit to those precious few teachers at Rider who did the best they could with what they had. They taught me, above all else, to think for myself and to think critically; they taught me that textbooks aren’t necessarily the best obtainable version of the truth, and they taught me to ask my own questions and seek after my own answers.
I find that lesson invaluable as we head into the home stretch toward a national election, embarking on my 65th lap around the sun.
AnniePie and I have decided to pack up what possessions we need and return to the Pacific Northwest where we will be considerably nearer the kids and grandkids and well removed from the hundred-and-hot Texas summers. In this era of extreme changes, we also expect to find a more moderate cultural climate on the left coast. So as I pause to mark a milepost, life itself really does march on.
And my thanks to Sir Paul. I really do like the song. Always have.