Living to 75


“Every day you’re alive is a special occasion…The challenge is to remember, day in, day out, the specialness found in the ordinariness of our lives.”

pp. 247, Everyday Serenity, David Kundtz

I recently discovered that a former colleague, friend, and my oldest son’s godfather died. We had worked together in the seventies at a television station and had once in a blue moon kept up with each other after I left. I last spoke to him ten or eleven years ago when I was on the east coast. We were supposed to connect in person then, but time and our lives disconnected us. I’ve tried to connect with him over the years, but it was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth. If he had lived, we would have been about the same age, seventy-four, 74.

Not to be a downer, but I’ve noticed the ages of people in the news and friends who have died recently. When their ages are 74 or less, I get nervous. I get twitchy, conscious of all the health issues I’ve had and have, and wonder which one will do me in. I mean, forty-five years of drug and alcohol abuse and the ups and downs of obesity and threats of diabetes, breathing lousy air from the San Diego Freeway nearby, convinced the Hepatitis C that was “cured” will suddenly come back to bite me in the ass or scared stiff that what killed my parents (father-cancer, mother-Parkinson) is sneaking their way through my DNA soon to dive into my veins to wreak destruction on my body.

Or I may be overreacting to the news of my friend’s death (Ya think?).

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

But seriously, as I roll forward (because life doesn’t let you roll backward) toward the momentous age of seventy-five, 75 years old, later this year, you get to think about the inevitabilities in life, whether you want to or not, about its fragility, about aging (I’m taking Gerontology 401 at the university so that doesn’t help) and what happens to your body as you pile on those years, about your past lifestyle and the one you find yourself in now where you act like you’re 50 and even sometimes, in a moment of fantasy, you delude yourself into thinking you are 25 again. But you’re not, and this is where you are.

I can’t help but think about the long ass journey to 75 and how easy it is to overthink all the mistakes I’ve made and wallow in self-pity about them while wishing I could apologize to everyone who has ever been at the end of one of my mistakes. I think about the millions of apologies I’ve made to myself trying to live my life as a better human than I was yesterday or fifty years ago. Then, I wake up from self-pity and think, enough of the apologies. Just don’t do it again.

Live in the present and prepare for the future. Your past is yours; you’ve learned many lessons for the future. By the way, there are more good things than bad things that should make yourself proud and should be the lights ahead for the paths you will walk toward 75.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

My life partner, Sumire, recently reminded me that many of my life stories seem to be about all the harmful acts in my life as if that is all that defines me. My entire life seemed limited by how many drugs I took and how much alcohol I drowned my liver with. Yes, there was a lot, but damn it, Sumire reminds me that I should not go out believing that’s my only story. I am a three-dimensional human being who has lived (and is still living) a life full of lucky breaks, determined paths, and accomplished goals.

If you exclude the crazy in my life, I’ve done well. Whether being the only person of color in a seminary (talk about what I learned), graduating from high school with honors, or being accepted at two of New York’s best universities on full scholarships, all before my eighteenth birthday, that ain’t bad. From there, I’ve had nothing but a run of accomplishments that took me from the South Bronx to Washington, D.C. radio and television and the halls of Congress and the White House to New England local news to being on the ground floor to bring cable television to Washington, D.C. all by the time I was thirty-five.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Then, I changed the coasts, east to west. I taught myself to ride a motorcycle (courier) when I had no idea, how to bartend (you do what you do to pay the rent) and was accepted as part of a national competition into an American Film Institute television drama workshop by writing a script when I didn’t know how to write one. Then, I met a guy who gave me a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be on the ground floor of a new cable network which then grew up to become a cultural icon about celebrities walking down a red carpet into a building and stopping to tell the world what they were wearing. Hell, proud of it. I was there as an Executive Producer, and as much derision is thrown at that ritual, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a big hand in it.

The last fifteen years have been a roller coaster of mentoring young and older, publishing a glossy magazine and its online version, and organizing a diversity festival, Color Me Long Beach. My best accomplishment to date is graduating from Community College in my seventies with an associate degree in English, and now, only fifteen units away from graduating from a University with a bachelor’s degree in English, Creative Writing while working toward attending post-graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in the same. Okay, a little tired (a fast lane life can do that to you), but able to hold my own against people half my age, and did I tell you my overall GPA is 3.94?

My Television Life

Yeah, I feel good as I live toward December 8 and mark the close of seventy-five, 75 years, ready to push to the next phase of my life. Not bad for a kid from the projects in the South Bronx. I got this, and I’m damn proud of myself.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”

Colette (quoted in pp. 278, Everyday Serenity, David Kundtz)

Closed Eyes

Image by Natálie Šteyerová from Pixabay
I see nothing
	because I don’t want 
	to see.
It’s easier this way
	then I don’t need 
	to think
	to ask questions
	to receive answers
	I don’t want 
	to hear. 
I admit
	pain is sometimes
	too great
	too blinding
	what is the point
	will I learn anything
It’s torture
	to face the truth
	to admit that there are
	nails in my heart
	mud in my veins
	pins in my soul. 
It’s easier
	to throw a dark cloud
	over my eyes
	smother them shut
	sew them tight
	so I can never
	know the truth. 

Birth Days

December 8, 1948-December 8, 2022

Birth Day
Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay
A time to measure
	looking back ain’t so bad
To celebrate	a memory 	a thought
	hanging out there
Wondering if I could have 	should have
	done it differently
	or maybe it’s better than expected
Birth Days
We were all young once
There are days	forgotten
	and those are the ones I 
	wonder about
What lessons did I miss
What moment of happiness
	did I not savor	relish enough
Birth Days
Father and Sons
I am taught that I am supposed to be 
	measuring 	reflecting
	making long lists
	of resolutions that we promise
	ourselves will make us
	better	than last year
	so we can celebrate
	next year
Birth Days
My Television Life
The Birth Days	pile up
	like so many memories
	year after year		
		74 years
	months after months
		887 months, 1 week, 2 days, 
		21 hours, 13 minutes and 19 seconds
	weeks after weeks
		3858 weeks, 3 days, 23 hours, 
		59 minutes and 59 seconds
	days after days	
		27010 days
	minutes after minutes
		38894400 minutes
	seconds after seconds
		2333664000 seconds
	heartbeats after heartbeats
Until I cannot see through them
	around them
	behind them
Birth Days
The Older You Get
And all I see	is what is in front of me
And all I want to see are unclaimed moments
	opportunities to create
	new moments
of happiness peace kindness cheers laughter
	much laughter
	hope serenity 
	so next Birth Day I will feel
with a smile that it was all right and I can 
begin my next path around the sun knowing
that it will be full of good feelings. 

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
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