When you face an age milestone, you can get all melancholy and stuff. I just passed one of those milestones and, to be completely candid, it’s no big deal. I don’t feel my age, and I don’t look it. Being mistaken for someone who actually is my age has never happened to me. I spent this most recent birthday working and riding my motorcycle. I’ve had my motorcycle endorsement for forty four years, and I don’t have any intention of completely giving up riding, but I do it a lot less these days. The only reason for that is the seat on my Triumph Bonneville. It’s uncomfortable so you can’t do a three or four hundred mile day. I limit it to sixty or seventy miles, and I’m just fine. I have this beautiful six hundred dollar custom Corbin seat that fit a Suzuki sport bike I had a few years ago, and I may try to modify it to fit the Triumph. So, no, age isn’t the reason I don’t ride as much.
Regular readers of this piece know that I just bought a boat. Not all people my age take on a whole new activity. I’m doing it in my usual way, I bought a used boat that is small and came with a trolling motor. I think it’s best to dip a toe into the waters first, if you catch my drift. Once I tried the boat out, I said to myself "there has to be more." So I went out and bought a much more powerful gas engine for it. After we figured out how to make it run at full throttle, the water filled barrel test proved to be a success. Now all it needs is a new throttle linkage part, and by next week I should be out on some lake blowing doughnuts and creating enough wake to capsize a party boat. I’m no stranger to doing stuff like that. As a sixteen year old kid, my dad and I visited his employer’s camp on Mascoma lake. The boss, who was also our next door neighbor back at home, just happened to have a hopped up Chrysler inboard/outboard boat that would really go. He tossed me the keys and said "take her for a spin!" So I did. The man knew exactly what he was doing. For years I had mowed his lawn just as fast as I could get his Cub Cadet to go. He was constantly coming out to tell me to slow down. I also had it on good authority that he would sit on his glassed in porch and enjoy the show. That’s what he did this time with the boat. I got as close as I could to the Shaker Bridge, cranked the wheel, pushed the throttle full ahead, and proceeded to whip up a wake guaranteed to elicit some phone calls. By the way, it was my birthday.
If you are able to look advancing age in the face and laugh, I think you should do it. My biological father turns eighty in a few weeks. He was nineteen when I was born. We both look young for our ages. When he was seventy eight he went out and flew a bi-plane up on Grand Isle. Maybe he’ll take a page from the George Bush Sr. story and do a parachute jump. Hey, you gotta live. I once knew a guy who said he wanted to die in the arms of a beautiful twenty year old lady after being shot by her jealous husband. OK. I suppose that’s a goal of some kind.
I’ve never felt that age means all that much. It’s more about what you can do, and if you are able to do what you want. There are all sorts of things I saved for later in life. Mostly because I couldn’t afford some activity or another, and some I just didn’t care to do. I’d like to be able to get enough experiences into life to actually be able to say that I’ve truly lived. I’m not talking about running with the bulls or eating that dangerous Japanese blow fish delicacy that could kill you, or climbing Mt. Everest. I don’t want to fly a small plane solo or jump a bunch of school buses on my motorcycle like Evil Kneivel. I just want to keep moving forward.
I have a cousin who is three years my senior. He is currently in a metropolitan hospital recovering from a lung transplant. He never smoked, drank, or breathed in dangerous vapors. He simply contracted a lung disease that progressively diminished his breathing capacity. He has a mint 1964 Pontiac GTO convertible that he’s had since he was a teenager. He used to drag race it. In fact, that’s how he met his wife, on the drag strip. In all the time he’s had that car, I have never had a ride in it. I’ve made it very clear to him that when he is recovered we are going to take that freakin’ Goat out and flog it down the highway, leaving plenty of burnt rubber on the pavement. There’s no point having a toy like that and not using it. Since he was twenty five, I bet he hasn’t put a thousand miles on that car. C’mon, it isn’t that valuable anymore... so let’s beat on it a little, huh? While we may feel that when we reach a certain age it’s all downhill from there, fine, I get that. However, if you have to go downhill, why not raise some Hell on the way?
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.