Sunday, September 15, 2013

When I’m 64

It was decided about a year ago that the few that remain should do something to celebrate the release of the Beatles album that gave up the summer of love and the song “When I’m 64” since it corresponds with our age. The daughter of one was given the assignment to plan a soiree and we would all agreed to comply.
And time drifted by interrupted by major family events like deaths, operations, weddings, travel and births. Then 2^6 * 5 = A celebration of 5 young people was given a page site and the details began to be worked out. With multiple families and no designed leader most of the communication was more like high school. “I don’t know? What do you want to do?”
A destination was agreed upon and a date, so it was underway. Now these people rarely see each other and certainly not in such large numbers, so there were some fluctuations, but before long the date was written on the calendar as being etched in stone.
On the day of departure the weather was perfect. Checking my communication device there was some sort of encrypted message about “not bringing a cat” or “packing a rat in a sack” or “don’t wear a hat in Iraq”, but we on the road at the appropriate time and all seem to be going as scheduled. Upon arrival we were all to gather to attend a college town activity that included music and of course drinking. That is when the comedy commenced.
Even with all the iPads, emails, Facebooks, texting and phone calls, the assemblage of this band of geezers proved to be more complicated than I had ever imagined. I will clarify for I understand setting an agenda timeline, but that did not seem to work for this crowd. I also am fairly spontaneous since I do not have another family member to agree with or a time schedule to adjust to, but this group wanted some structure.
Upon arrival and checking in to the hotel with little problem, the phones started to connect. One group was already there and waiting, another group was still on the road, the young one who had the tickets was held up. As we started to assemble, more cell calls were made as we continued to move toward our planned activity. In a slow march our numbers grew. As we were directed to the winding line we made another connection and the party was on, but there was still the last remaining member. The one with the tickets was still missing in action.
As our samba line snaked toward the officials checking IDs and assigning Wristbands, faces started getting panic expressions. Would we have to get out of line losing our place that we had butted in and our connection with the rest of the group only a few feet away? I looked around and didn’t see any real tight security so I thought we could make a run for it. Then again we could just say we were with the band. One of our parties backtracked trying to trace his daughter. Time was running out.
As we stepped up to the examination station, the tickets arrived and the day was saved. Now the real fun was about to begin.
Two of our group had decided they would not participate in the Bacchus revelry so they found a shady spot with lots of water to watch the festivities. The rest of us dove into a sea of young bodies pressed together to “sample” different breweries wares, 2 ounces at a time. The movement of these young college types was to press in to the table to get a sample turn around and gather their friends take one step back and start to laugh and talk, leaving no room for movement. Too many people in a tight space for my liking, but having bought my ticket and was there, I joined the circus and followed the flow. The secret was to just squeeze into spots to ask for samples then squeeze through any available gap to the next location. That required the inappropriate rubbing and touching of young eye candy, but I didn’t mind.
After a turn through the variety of tables and overwhelming amounts of taste and flavors, some good, some bitter, some not so good; I decided to join the pair in the air and take a breath. One by one, other members would also come up for air before diving back into the mass of undulating bodies that were getting louder and louder.
The sun was warm, the music just far enough away to be heard above the din of the crowd, a vendor was close enough to offer larger samples from a flirty cute girl in a white t-shirt and shades, and the conversations were informative. 2^6 * 5 is about the people, not the adult beverages.
After a few hours our pack on the hill started to increase their numbers as only the hardcore were still suds diving. With the signs of intoxication showing, a hunger for substance was becoming the chant. Again the coordination of getting all bodies in place, clouded by numbers of samples and the heat of the day, became a prime example of confusion.
In an earlier communication, there was a discussion of finding a dining establishment and making a reservation. Of course no one could agree on the selections given and some did not take reservations. With this crew trying to get everyone in a single place at the designated time would have been a disaster anyway.
Our ever-present youthful coordinator went to one place and asked for a table for ten. A half an hour was the best offer; so one member took watch while the other stragglers were rounded up. Not satisfied, our guide went to another diner that offered us immediate entrance. Again we directed the wayward into the backroom and a table that snuggly fit all.
By now the affects of the consumption of mass amounts of sudsy yellow toxic potions were showing. After sitting down in hard wooden chairs after too many hours of standing, a very smart waitress asked if we had been at the beer fest, as if it didn’t show. Large cool glasses of water were distributed before the next round of alcohol could be ordered. We were in rapture of a total wooden environment and limited conversation to the person next to you.
As our meals were being prepared I acted on an idea. The night before I had wondered why we didn’t get hats or t-shirts that announced to the world we were celebrating “When I’m 64”? I had thought about it but not ever figuring out how many participants there would be or what sizes, I avoided the confusion.
Instead I came up with an idea. I called the waitress aside and ordered ten glasses of champagne. With some confused looks the assembled were asked to raise a glass. “To us who have reached 64, even though we may not have planned it, for those who went before us, for those who never made it; peace, good health, and happiness.”
The plates were delivered, again with some confusion, but all were served a meal to give us the strength to continue. Unfortunately, some could not continue. So we rejoiced in our ability to have aged together, then staggered out into the cool mountain air.
Inevitably our age, whether we admit is or not, is showing. Our pace has slowed, even with a walking stick; the inclines are steeper, and the ability to devour our youthful dreams are just foggy memories. In our dark stroll back to our barracks, the town still had that small town feel of kids trying to beat the stoplight and all travelers chuckling about it.
Back in a foreign room where I was to bunk for the night, it was still early. Notre Dame and Perdue were on the tube, the slow Wi-Fi caught me up to the baby pictures and strange events people participate in, a cup of water and then coffee washed away the dust of the day, and the rumble of the ventilation system created the background white noise. Not really tired but not ready to venture back out into the unknown streets, I decided to start this story.
The bed is huge. It is huge by my standards of a single bed supplying my repose. Lights out and pull up the covers. Sleeping in a stranger’s bed is like no other feeling. The covers are tucked in military folds, the pillows are too soft, the bed is too soft, and there is no music. A constant battle of toss and turn and get up and walk and drink a cup of water and struggle again went on for hours. At some point exhaustion set in and the body rested.
Awakening to sunlight streaming through the window, the clock said I had fifteen minutes to meet my ride downstairs. A quick pee that showed me my liver needed to be cleansed, there was no time for a shower, and so I packed up. A phone reminder got me downstairs in a flash. When you travel light there is not much to carry or pack.
Our morning plan, as best there was, to meet at a coffee/eatery for breakfast. One of our members had left before daybreak and another slept in. Of the group, half showed up for a more than ample but fairly bland breakfast while watching the youts prepare for a long hike in the surrounding wilderness. Our age was showing as the discussion turned to travel, fantasy novels, chores and napping once home.
Arriving back at the pad that was still standing, fond farewells to my traveling buddies and welcomed back by the voices of the yard. Everything was as I left it, so it was time for some exercise to get the body flowing again. Break out a pony and weave through the familiar. The air in the face refreshes, the legs pump blood throughout, the lungs clear up, and all is back to normal.
It was a good celebration of life with friends and their families.

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