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The opposite of Friday, I pointed out some columns back, is Monday. Of course I'm talking about the old Friday of the mind and conversely Monday's mental set. This past Monday, the 11th, I turned 56. If there's a birthday you don't want past 50, it's 56. Later, but not later enough, there'll be 60. Fifty-six, though, is undesirable in that you can just barely still say, "I'm in my mid-50s." Technically, yeah, but really you've already arrived somehow in your late 50s in accordance with the Grimmelheim Time Congealment Theory. Grimmelheim apparently was more than usually bothered by the phenomenon of time condensing/speeding up, ergo, congealing as one ages; and he sought to get at the heart of it in his book (an Oprah Selection) How Matlock Improves in Syndication. He postulated that time is like chicken fat or pudding skin in that, over specific durations as potentially gelatinous substances (like muscle or tapioca) are exposed to cooling air (again, our bodies and brains with progressively failing circulation), the vistas or horizons of our experience, as well as, say, our butts -- physical and mental reality -- become slightly rubbery, elastic. Alternately constricting, then, to a lesser degree, expanding in a distorted fashion. In some cases, the substance at hand, whether material or immaterial (flesh, mind, or memory...or split pea soup with ham), will resemble something scummy. This is my layman's interpretation of the GTCT, but it will serve our purpose for the time being.

The good news here comes under the heading of "time flies when you're having fun." It seems that as we get older, even in spite of ourselves, we learn to enjoy our stay here more -- or at least learn pretty much what we like and when we're happy. "Old age isn't for sissies," Grimmelheim said, "but we can get away with murder when you think about it." The bad news is that "while the supply of what we don't like seems to increase exponentially, They invariably make us stop doing what we like to do, such as wearing bell-bottoms and eating Quaaludes."

At the bus stop Monday morning, I reflected for a moment that my bus pass is not only a disabled one (allowing me to sit in those seats at the front full of old people, non-survivor types in wheelchairs, and the genetically impure) because of my bad heart, just like Dad's, God rest his soul. I was overcome with a deep depression momentarily until I realized that movies would now be cheaper, though we're still getting screwed on anything with Adam Sandler.

At Burger King, again Monday morning, I was automatically given a cup of coffee for 25 cents, the seniors' rate. The girl behind the counter (and I say girl rather than young woman because she was no older than nine) did not even ask me my age. After mixing Metamucil into the watery, "Hard Working Joe," as BK touts it, I took the stuff into the bathroom and stared at my white sideburns. I read somewhere that adult men usually carry around an image of themselves as ten years younger than their actual age. This is roughly true in my case; it has taken me more than ten years to catch on to the fact that I turned 45 years old. When I did, it wasn't so bad. I've heard it said recently that 40 is the new 30, 50 the new 40, etc. Yeah, well, we have kind of contrived it that way with Madison Avenue's help. But in the end, or rather on closer examination, this is a pure crock. At any rate, here I am, 11 years later, accepting the fact that I have passed the midway point in my 40s, only I'm 56. Say it's the new 46; it's still too late to say I'm 45, even the new 45.

Photographs do not seem subject to the same (sometimes) kind magic. Looking at some recent digital snapshots, I see that discounting the few angles where it is clear I could use a tuck (and can they do anything about that gin blossom?), the 25-year-old lunatic is still in evidence. Still, overall, if I am now the new 46, I'm the new 46-year-old guy who spent years drinking like swine.

The idea of being a senior anything is foreign to me. I always hung around with people roughly ten years older than myself, and today some of my friends are in their 60s, even 70s. From this I've learned that many of life's problems, so urgent at the time, are self-correcting. The correct-tape or whiteout of life is exhaustion. Romantic anguish, in retrospect, is clearly a kind of self-inflicted wound; and success, out of necessity, redefines its own bad self. A successful day for me now involves avoiding any errands to places where I have not long ago checked out the locations of the bathrooms and that Lawrence Welk has yet to move me in any previously unsuspected and hideous way.

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