Everything hurts and I’m dying
by Mick Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org
As I tumble into my 60s, it’s becoming clearer with every passing day that “everything hurts and I’m dying” is just the way it’s going to be.
And among the many surprises of aging has been the realization that some of us are just over it, “it” meaning, well, most everything, including going to bars, parties, lunches, concerts, shows, etc. And I get it: it’s hard out there.
But it turns out being grumpy about the world around us is bad for our health.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it this way: “People are by nature social creatures. Social connections are important for our survival. Our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and community members can have a major impact on our health and well-being.”
Despite that earnest, educated plea, a vast, diabolical tchotchke industry has sprung up catering to those of us who would rather not do things, with people, in places. Amazon is awash with T-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers and the like emblazoned with isolationist friendly phrases such as “It’s peopley out there,” “I like my cat and maybe four people,” and “See? This is why I wanted to stay home. This sh$t right here.”
And again, I get it. It takes effort to clean up, put on non-stretchy pants, wear shoes with laces, etc., and venture forth out into the peopley public. “Netflix and chill” is pretty seductive.
But my own wildly unscientific research suggests those brainiacs at the CDC may be onto something. I recently had the unusual experience of venturing forth for not one but two social outings on the same day, and the results — euphoria, smiling, renewed faith in the species — were undeniable.
It began atypically, with me up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Friends Jeff #1 and John #1 came by at 8, and off we went, headed to a convention of rapidly aging weirdos known as the Amigo Vintage Guitar Show, at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Not familiar? Think of a vast hall full of wandering hordes of grey-haired guitar nerds, much like a Star Trek convention, but not as young, or cool.
First though, we met up with my other pal, Jeff #2, his partner Jen, and my other friend, John #2 (for those keeping score, that’s two Jeffs, two Johns, a Jen, and a Mick) at our little breakfast spot near the fairgrounds. Laughs were had over coffee and eggs, then around 10 we headed to the show.
I attended my first vintage guitar show in the mid-1990s. Since then, I’ve bought and sold various treasures at the biannual event, many of which have since appreciated in value to the point of seller’s remorse, which comprises the primary topic of conversation at these things: “I had a mint ’58 Les Paul TV Special and sold it to (insert dealer here) for $1,800 in 1996. Man, I wish I still had that one.” “Damn, tweed Bassmans are $12,000 now. That’s nuts. I wish I had the one I pawned in ’88 for $500.” And so on.
Jeff #1 is a rarity in the hobby: not impulsive, patient, and focused. He was in in the early 1980s, near the beginning of the vintage guitar and amplifier craze, and scored some of the most revered and collectible gear for what was then top dollar, but now sounds like a giveaway. And the kicker is he has held on to most of it long enough to see it appreciate to the point where it has become astronomically expensive for regular dorks like me.
At the recent show, like so many over the decades, we wandered the aisles ogling the rare, the weird, and the pristine. After about four hours of haggling and catching up with old friends — many of whom I have been seeing at these shows for decades — it was time to head home. I’d picked up a very clean Fender Princeton amplifier from 1966 for a great price. A win!
A couple hours later I was off to Long Beach for “boys’ night out,” a tradition among some of my oldest friends. It started more than 20 years ago with us meeting up for periodic bar crawls through LA, Venice, Santa Monica, and Pasadena. As the years piled up these occasions became less frequent, less boozy, more focused on good food, and as one might imagine, less crowded. For our most recent it was the remaining trio: myself, Joe, my best pal of nearly 40 years now, and Ric, another close friend of more than 30, meeting at a fancy restaurant in Belmont Shore.
In fine boys’ night tradition, many laughs were had, but also long discussions about aging, family, career, and kids. We spoke of Melatonin, medical marijuana gummies for sleep and anxiety, and hearing aids. Yeah, we still know how to party.
Unlike boys’ nights of yore, which would sometimes stretch until the fluorescent bar lights came on, this one wrapped up before midnight. I drove home with a smile after a full day of laughter and much malarkey.
And for the first time in a good long while, I woke Sunday brimming with happiness. Why, I wondered?
The CDC again: “When people are socially connected and have stable and supportive relationships, they are more likely to make healthy choices and to have better mental and physical health outcomes. They are also better able to cope with hard times, stress, anxiety, and depression.”
Clearly, science had once again prevailed, and the takeaway was clear: I best get out there now, while my addled/worn but relatively functional mind/body will allow, and soak up a little life.
I’ve always told my kids, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” I guess social connections are like that too. So maybe it’s time to update that adage. How about, “I’ll err on the side of excess when it comes to friends and fun, because I know the couch will still be there when all’s said and done.” Yeah. That’ll do.