The first time I drove out West was early in 1971. I went with my high school friend in the 1966 Buick Special convertible I drove at that time. We drove as directly as we could, which was basically, go north to I-40, turn left and keep going. When we got to New Mexico, parts of I-40 were unfinished, and traffic was dumped onto the old highway.
Route 66 is a historic highway these days, sometimes a local road and sometimes completely abandoned. It’s mostly kept around out of nostalgia but not much use for anything practical.
And, speaking of that, today is my birthday. We’re not really going to a party party. Our plan is to go to Los Portales, our Mexican restaurant of first choice, for huevos rancheros. It’s our normal practice to have huevos rancheros for lunch on Wednesdays. We have been doing it for long enough that the waitress doesn’t bother giving us a menu and usually brings out our drinks without our having to order. She brings one sweet iced tee, one unsweet, lemons, a bowl of regular salsa and one of ranchera sauce. Then she asks, “The regular?” And we, of course, say, “Yes. Suave, please.” That ensures the yolks are soft and runny.
If we happen to mention that it’s Leah’s birthday in March, or mine in May, they usually bring a complimentary sopapilla in the Eastern style (a flat toasted tortilla with sugar and cinnamon, topped with ice cream and whipped cream — not the puffy New Mexico style eaten in one hand with a squeeze bottle of honey in the other hand).
Back when I was younger, in my 30’s and early 40’s, I didn’t expect to live past 50. It wasn’t that I was in poor health or anything like that, it was just that I thought of myself as a young(ish) person. A young person is not 50 years old, so I couldn’t be 50 years old. I have since figured out that no one actually is a young person. They may be at a young age, but they’re only passing through; age is not a destination.
I see it kind of like we’re all falling from the top floor of a very tall building. As we age, we pass lower and lower floors. So as someone passes the 20th floor, it’s ridiculous for someone who’s just now passing the 99th floor to look at him and say, “Ha ha! Look at the old guy. He’s almost reached the ground now.” We’re all headed towards the same end.
So now I find myself at an older age, an age that I thought of at one time not as “older” but as flat-out old. People older than me probably think, “Why, that young whippersnapper, he thinks he’s old. He’s not old. I’m older than him, and I’m certainly not old!” Just like I do when someone turns 30 (or 40, or 50, or even 60 …) and moans about getting old.
My body is old. My knees are bad (Bad knees! Bad!). My shoulder is bad (Bad stepladder! Bad!). My eyes are kind of bad, bad enough that I need reading glasses and a little bit of long-distance correction, although I can read highway signs without glasses, not to mention the writing on the wall.
But I’m not old. The me that’s looking out through my somewhat bad eyes remains pretty much the same me as it ever was. Maybe a little wiser. Probably not much, but enough so that when I look back on some of the things I did or said at a younger age, I cringe.
What idiots young people can be. I’m glad I’m not one of them.