Tuesday, June 15, 2010

a pirate looks at forty


This is the forty-eight-hour period when Kristina turns twenty-two and I turn…well, you know. (The pic here of the two of us is from a few years back, on the Upper West Side, I think. I was still in my "fat Bauman" phase, yikes. But Krissy looks fierce, in the best possible way. I love it.)

My title above is a slight tweaking of a Jimmy Buffet title (“A Pirate’s Look at Forty”). Love the song, but always thought Jimmy put an “s” in the wrong place. Stronger this way. Not that Jimmy asked me. But it’s my post, so I’ll put the “s” where I please. Jimmy will understand.

As a brief aside, I always liked Jimmy Buffet. Back in the day, Jimmy was an ass-kicker, and still somewhat obscure. We loved him, down at Fort Eustis, Virginia, back in the early 1990s. Can’t think of a better songwriter for a bunch of slightly crazed waterborne soldiers. This was an environment, after all, where lines like “This morning, I shot six holes in my freezer” (from “Boat Drinks”) and “I have been drunk now for over two weeks” (the aforementioned “Pirate”) held no shock factor but were simply straight journalism about us. Jimmy was singing about how we lived, and we didn’t think much about it.

Eventually, I left behind the sea dogs and pirates of army life and fell in with a different group of ne’er-do-wells. Musicians and artists, and those brave or unfortunate enough to live with us. The violence slipped away, but the alcohol consumption didn’t decrease much. We moved in expanding and contracting circles with a magnet somewhere in Massachusetts holding our center of gravity loosely in place. We were very young and had no idea we were very young.

Who among us thought -- did any of us have even an inkling of premonition -- that the age of forty was a possibility? Did any of us see us at forty? That would have been hard to see, us gathered in a cold apartment kitchen on a Northampton morning, tousle-haired and sock feet with sweaters layered and bacon sizzling and coffee pressed so strong. The Story on their second album, from a cassette deck on the counter, those harmonies and alternate tunings floating behind our brave and limitless winter. Could any of us in that room have cut through the thick-pad gauze of slow collective hangover, still wrapped in the fumes of the night’s tequila, cut through to see us at forty?

Us, pulled apart and pulled back together over and over in the fifteen years of future to come, passed through madness, sadness, marriage, divorce, death, childbirth, babies.

And could any of us been so prescient as to know that this music we were hearing for the first time, this music that pointed us toward the future, would someday point backward, that all of us in the kitchen so alive would be ghosts soon, and this music would speak not of the tomorrow we were desperately trying to channel and control and own but a yesterday we would desperately be trying to remember?

Of course eventually we do gather in kitchens again, in smaller groups, those of us who made it this far. Our popcorn turned to pasta, beer turned to wine. In quieter conversations, and more averse to risk. I used to laugh the frenetic laugh of the perpetually nervous. That, thankfully, has changed for the better. Although I’m not sure any of us are any less scared; simply afraid of different things.