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Pushing 30 (Into Open Traffic)

By Tom "old dirty bastard" Waters
May 1 , 2004

I could jog and slim down and work out and get my body in better shape. I could also win an Academy Award, get a Nobel Prize for being an asshole, or film a documentary about midget go-cart races...

There are a lot of misconceptions about getting older. I thought that the world would make sense in one blinding flash of light some time in my 20s. I'm still waiting on that moment. I thought that I'd get my shit together, get married, get a house, and have kids by 30. It's not looking that way. I thought that pimples, blemishes and other dermatological hazards would go the way of the dodo after my teen years. That's three strikes. Youth is wasted on the wrong people, and getting older only means that you have less free time to listen to music that pisses other people off and more time to slave away under The Man's employ. Let me share a few secrets with you whipper snappers and maybe you'll learn something.

My body is falling apart one joint, one bone, and one day at a time. I bounced my right knee off of a playground pole when I was 12, and that knee has never forgiven me. Five years of bouncing around in a projection booth didn't help, either. Now it pops horrifically, making me wince in anguish and swear in truly inspired ways at least once a day. Sometimes I crack my back and it sounds like an encore for the Blue Man Group. After an eight hour shift at work, I need to be wheeled out to my car. Your body can't hold up like it used to. I could jog and slim down and work out and get my body in better shape. I could also win an Academy Award, get a Nobel Prize for being an asshole, or film a documentary about midget go-cart races, but that's not going to happen either. I'll wait until my first heart attack or stroke when the doctor tells me to clean up my act or else, and then I'll get in better shape. Your metabolism disappears and you can't handle hangovers like you used to. Once upon a time, I could party like a rock star, pounding beers, shots, and small funnels of potato moonshine until five in the morning and bounce into work a hundred percent better. A few years later, I partied like an adult contemporary soft rock star. I could drink a twelve pack with friends until one in the morning, get eight hours of sleep, and, provided that I drank a lot of water before and after bed and gobbled down a few aspirin, I'd be all right. Those days are over. There is no more bouncing back. There is crashing, burning, recovering, and rehydrating. A hangover is a day long progression. And don't get me started on diet and exercise. When I was eighteen, I could pound ten dollars worth of tacos and keep a washboard ab. These days I eat two meals a day (mostly healthy), drink tons of water, and I'm still fighting uphill. I used to walk everywhere when I was younger, though. Now I walk to bed, the fridge, and the car. Habits change.

One thing I've really turned into an art form is napping. I come from a long line of passionate nappers. On a day off, I'll typically nap from one to three hours. It's good to get a good running start into a nap. You've got to set up a separate area, find the perfect pillow, throw a drink and a phone next to you, and go to it. Or listen to a cd with the volume barely audible and drift off. Or turn on the tv, roll over, and conk out. Napping is like poetry; it's a forgotten art. You really can't appreciate a good one until you get older. After a full rest, I'm almost at a hundred percent. You can pull off the partying like a rock star thing if you go into a small coma during the day.

The average attention span becomes extinct. I can focus on a tv or radio commercial from start to finish. Anything else takes superhuman concentration. My junior year of high school, I used to chew through three books a day, no lie. One biography, one short story collection, one science fiction novel. Books take months now if they don't have pictures. This might explain my renewed love for comic books. You don't have to read a comic book for long before an explosion, nudity, or violence of some sort snaps you back into the storyline. With books, you have to trudge through character development, background, mood, etc. It's a big commitment. Unless someone pokes me with a fork every five minutes during a conversation, I'll drift off. If I'm taking driving directions from people, I'll zone out during the most crucial part of the navigation. Names, places, and memories that were really important to me five or ten years ago often take minutes and sometimes days to drudge up out of the toxic muck that resembles my brain. People I knew from high school, old girlfriends, and distant relatives will come up and start talking to me and I'll float the conversation while I try to figure out who in the hell they are. You laugh now, but you'll see. Your day will come, grasshopper.

The world speeds up and your mind, body, and soul come to a grinding halt. There are a lot of pros to aging (moderate aging, mind you), but there's no need to go into that. You have a lot more money for your toys but less time to enjoy them. You can drink and smoke and huff all the airplane glue you want but you just can't handle it anymore. Your brain is full of years of useful and trivial information alike but it's a maximum effort trying to access it and adding new information is problematic. The average male stops developing all of his new brain cells by the age of 23. That was a good thing at the time because I flash fried brain cells by the millions and needed a few for a rainy day. There's no escaping age, but I can still complain about it. Old people like to complain. What the hell was I talking about? Where are my glasses? Who the hell are you? The nurses are stealing my money! Anyways, I'm going to throw on a sweater vest to ward off the cold and put on some tea. The weather channel is coming on soon and I don't want to miss it.

Getting old really sucks.