While it probably defies the width and breadth of all medical reasoning, tomorrow begins my 59th trip around the sun.
Who’d a thunk it?
Time to take stock and ruminate – prepare what’s left of the mind and body for another chapter of my weird life and times.
I still drink like a fish and smoke like a locomotive – not proud of it, but that’s my style – and largely subsist on a steady diet of greasy cheeseburgers and crinkle cut fries drenched in malt vinegar and salt – normally obtained by screaming into the clown’s nose at some fast food drive-thru. . .
Inexplicably, nothing seems to phase this hearty vessel of mine.
When I was a much younger man than I am now, I went to see an old Creole Queen in a Central City neighborhood near the Calliope housing project of New Orleans. The octogenarian was a renowned traiteur who was said to not only possess the healing gift but also the supernatural ability to foretell the future.
I found her sitting behind an altar of sorts in a dusty room surrounded by the ointments, unguents, gris-gris and hoodoo paraphernalia of her ethereal craft.
The elderly seer motioned for me to sit in a cane back chair as she lit a series of candles, mumbled strange incantations and waved the smoke of a strong-smelling herbal concoction she kept in an oily sachet around her neck before gently laying her arthritic hands on my head.
The old woman instantly recoiled in horror – as if she had touched a red-hot stove.
When she regained composure, the priestess took a bottle of dark Haitian rum by the neck, took a long drink and swallowed hard – then explained in a quavering voice that I possess an ancient spirit and strong aura – blessed by the Karmic Board eons ago – an everlasting soul in direct communication with The Great Divine Director.
Worse yet, she feared I might live forever. . .
And it scared the hell out of her.
Probably all bullshit, right?
Despite my physical appearance, I don’t feel like I’m pushing 60.
Don’t get me wrong, I have all the aches, pains and physical infirmities that gentlemen of a certain age experience – for instance, my prostate is the size and consistency of a Honey Baked ham – and my hips and lower back are perpetually sore from three-decades of carrying around the weighty physical and psychological ephemera cops are required to strap on.
I’m still gainfully retired – irredeemable and unemployable because of my often-caustic views on this alternative opinion blog (which is hotter than a rocket, thanks to loyal readers like you, with thousands of pageviews each week) something that remains a point of immense pride.
The benefit? I can grocery shop at 10:00 o’ clock in the morning, shuffling through the isles with the other Old Fogeys – a torturous, sloth-like process that would bring most of you rushed working stiffs to your knees. . .
Remarkably, my rational mind is still reasonably intact.
My long-term memory? Not so much.
I sometimes run into people who see beyond my bearded disguise and recognize me from my past life.
Invariably, they begin effervescently reminiscing about a time I arrested them, investigated a crime they were the victim of, let them off with a warning or helped with a family crisis – usually (fortunately) with a big smile and a hearty embrace.
In most cases, I have no independent memory of the incident that had such an indelible impact on their lives – but I act like it was yesterday. . .
If I have any advice for those of you behind me on the trail – it’s that the whole “with age comes wisdom” trope is a cruel myth.
However, one benefit of getting older is the power of hindsight – the collective experiential lessons that allow us to see, as Alphonse Karr said, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – “the more things change, the more they stay the same” – meaning that time merely cements the status quo.
For instance, three years ago on my 56th birthday I wrote:
Meanwhile, back at Barker’s Sideshow of Ugly Realities, we can no longer afford to repair our roads or rebuild crumbling infrastructure, our drinking water supply is stressed to the max, our schools are struggling, we’re charging people to access the beach, stealing ECHO funds for parking lots, have yet to develop a comprehensive plan to assist our homeless population and the council just voted to approve – unanimously and without discussion – a 1.8% tax increase on a county budget that has swelled to almost $850 million dollars.
That grammatical nightmare of a run-on sentence is as true in 2019 as it was in 2016.
As I reflect on the year that was, I fear that Volusia County residents remain trapped in a political Groundhog Day.
While the faces on the dais of power may periodically change – the true forces that shape public policy here on Florida’s Fun Coast continue to push a mysterious hidden agenda – a weird vision that will ultimately serve their economic interests at the expense of our future – and that of our children and grandchildren.
It seems the majority of those currently holding office in DeLand are infinitely more interested in preening, posing and posturing – taking personal credit for mediocre efforts to restore our horribly damaged environment – suppressing political oversight of a horribly bloated bureaucracy and kowtowing to the needs, wants and whims of their political benefactors.
And that bothers me.
I have hope that we – the great unwashed masses out here making a life on this salty piece of land – will remember that positive change is possible through the incredible power of the ballot box.
By electing and supporting strong, honest, ethical and civic-minded stewards – good men and women with an agenda beyond their own self-interests – servant-leaders who are not beholden to the rich and powerful forces that have no qualms about sacrificing our collective quality of life for their personal enrichment.
Until then, I’ll be out here wandering the political wilderness, sharing my jaded thoughts on the news and newsmakers of the day – holding firm to the irrefutable truth that We, The People deserve better.
Keep the faith, kids.
Who knows, maybe that crazy old witch was right?