Old(er) American (Beginning Part 1)

Image by annca from Pixabay

One in a series of essays about being American.

I sometimes do everything possible to stop from getting old(er) denying the truth in front of me and trying to make life stand still while finding that life is just too exciting to stop my body and mind from getting old(er) through all my years and its been difficult to stop the aging process when one grows up like for example in a place like the South Bronx from the ages of birth to thirteen years of life with all its urban stress of living in the projects compared to let’s say Middletown New York in the sixties from the ages of thirteen to fifteen years of life where I was living in the most rural country as rural could be and there was unobstructed land as far as my mind’s eye could see and the air was clean as clean could be out in the country compared to the big city and I could see there in the country at night more stars that I thought existed shining their lights down on my eyes and whispering that they were as old as time could be and were now probably dead since the time they first threw their light down at me and now they are old because they are dead and I’m just getting old(er) because I had not died like them (yet) instead of focusing on living that almost pure life I focused on leaving all that clean air and unobstructed land and more stars that I thought existed back to twenty-one story projects in the South Bronx compacted with so many people and urban stress but by this point in my fifteen years of life I faced painful memories of a catholic seminary and the catholic church and priests who reeked of sour wine and cheap booze while showering me with too much grace and sins and mystical powers that no one can describe or point out but being asked (no told) that I just had to have faith and with that faith I could learn to live in a place like the South Bronx happily ever after with a smile on my face as I grew old(er) dreaming of another life far from the South Bronx like that rural area called Middletown New York with its clean air and unobstructed land and more stars than I thought existed when I told myself and my parents and anyone who would listen that what I loved most was the freedom that came with imagination where I could dream and create my own view of unobstructed land and more stars than I could imagine in my head and that through the freedom I created for myself I could live more of life and learn to be old(er) in a more inspiring way than I could ever find there in the projects whether it was the Patterson’s or the John Adam Houses or that apartment building just south of Crotona Park where my first marriage was dying and the air in the Bronx was choking me and I had gotten tired of the junkie life (but not drugs) and I dreamed to live as many dreams as I could whether in a new big city like the Washington DC or Hartford Connecticut New England of the seventies where on a clear night I could look up at the sky of rural Connecticut and inhale clean brisk air on a cold winter night and see unobstructed land for miles and see more stars than I thought was possible and then to go back to Washington DC after the purity of New England history to live again in a compact city with history and legends and I realize that I am now at thirty years of life wondering what the hell happened in between birth and thirty years of life that it went so fast or lived so fast that I never stood still long enough to absorb it all like the fresh air in Middletown New York or New England and realize all those years are more than a number they are a life if only I had stopped long enough to realize when I was young(er) and full of vigor and ambition and I didn’t need to fear getting old(er) while thinking aloud that life will be special and exciting and it’s all there ahead of me with no care in the world due to this innocence or naiveté or blindness that they taught me in Phoenix House about no matter where I go there I’ll be and no matter how far I go how far I run I cannot hide from me so I’ll always be there with all my faults and wrinkles and holes in my soul and a little old(er) and I fool myself into thinking I know so much when I don’t because what else is there to know about life except I was born and I get old(er) and then I will die (trust me I’ve tested that and I tried more than once) but at that young(er) age so long ago when the idea of old(er) was so far away so distant as the stars above me are so far away and life just goes on and on through thirty years of age and there are plenty of mistakes and remorse (not always) and plenty more mistakes and remorse (not always) because I think I will live forever and not get old(er) so I fill myself with more drugs and alcohol than I thought possible and had ever thought was possible and I crash at thirty five and I keep hoping that there are better days ahead when I will be much old(er) and wiser and I swear that I just need to get away and everything will change and I will change and then I remember what they told me in Phoenix House about wherever I go there I am because there is no guarantee that getting old(er) will make me wiser if I could only move somewhere else anywhere else but I learn quickly as I run all the way from the east coast of this here United States of America to the west coast of this here United States of America that getting old(er) is not just an ongoing physical degradation of the cells in my body and mind but something else is happening in my present and future inside of my consciousness and I will get another chance to get it right or wrong or whatever it is that I want of living and getting old(er) at thirty five as I stand on the edge of America on a cliff overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean and look up at the sky on a clear brisk night where the breeze of the Pacific Ocean humbles me and the stars above me are more stars than I ever imagined overwhelm me while pointing me in a new direction toward an old(er) self and I wonder how far do I have to go and how much time will it take while wondering if I still have time to get there.

(End Part 1)

Image by giselaatje from Pixabay

Author: Antonio Pedro Ruiz

Antonio Ruiz is an ex-junkie-alcoholic, former seminarian, one-time radio host-producer, past community organizer, continuing to be a media advocate, retired television reporter, ex-commission executive director, once a street vendor of jewelry and gloves, waitron (waiter to you), a former bartender who drank too much on the job, an ex-motorcycle courier who learned to ride a bike just for the job, ex-airport shuttle driver, former Entertainment news director-producer, the best time of my life, one-time live TV events red carpet producer-executive producer, ex-small business consultant, ex-youth media and journalism mentor, and now a college student who also has been married three times (thirds the charm), and just couldn't help living with two other women because well, that's part of my story.

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