June 2011

the Send Off

The first night of our road trip was spent camping in Petit Jean State park, near the Arkansas Ozark mountains.

The park was named after a French girl whose real name was Amanda, or Anita, or something like that, but it doesn’t really matter, because she changed her identity.

You see, her boyfriend, a French Nobleman, had petitioned the King to go to America to lay claim to some land for France. Permission was granted, however, not being married, the chick was not allowed to join him. (He refused to marry her before such a “dangerous” mission-do you think he was being noble or just being a dick?)

Petit St. Jean Overlook. (see HK in R of frame)

Anyway, Annette or whatever her name was disguised herself as a boy and was alloed to sign on as a “cabin boy”. She obviously did a great job, because even her lover never caught on. They dubbed her/him “Petit Jean” (Little John) and he was very popular.

Upon Arrival at the beautiful bluffs in what would later become Arkansas, the group of early explorers befriended the Indians (we all know how THAT later turned out.) They spent the summer there and the day before setting sail back to France, Petit Jean fell ill. Very ill. Upon her death bed, it was discovered that he was a she, and I guess the Nobleman got all torn up and shit. Anyway, she requested that she be buried in the mountain she had come to love. So, that is the story of where we stayed our first night on the road.

After a 7 hour drive, our second night was spent lakefront on Foss Lake State Park in Western Oklahoma.  Oklahoma is really a beautiful state.  Did you know it has more shoreline than the Gulf and Atlantic? That’s what the brochure says, anyway! It was 97 degrees at 6:00 pm, but it was a “dry” heat. Being from Atlanta, we’re used to soupy heat. So we pulled our lawn chairs into the water and watched to boats go by. It was the 21 June, the summer solstice, and a very pleasant, if long, evening.

Foss lake, OK at sunset

In the campsite down the hill from ours was a family of 5- Mom, a robust woman with a mouth like a sailor, Dad, even more robust, with a penchant for cheap beer, and their 3 tow-headed sons who, upon being locked out of their RV, spent a lot of time fishing.

Around 5:30 am, after steppin outside to squat behind the one tree at our site, I was about halfway back to sleep when I heard a loud, long, deep groan coming from the direction of the neighbors RV. Another groan, and another, this time with a higher tone and heavy huffing. What the….DISGUSTING!!! that perve is nailing his wife with the kids right there! I had a mind to yell out something like ‘Knock it off, Pervert- get a room!” But, being the level-headed and censored person that I am, I just laid there and listened.

Upon waking up, HK asked me if the cows in the field beside us had woken me up. Oh, that;s right, we’re in Oklahoma.

Foss lake, OK at sunset

It's 50 time!

My favorite show is back on for the summer. Have you seen “Men of a Certain Age?” It’s about 3 men facing midlife and the everyday life crises, both good and bad. If you haven’t watched it, give it a try.

Anyway, recently,  a very good friend of ours celebrated his 50th birthday at his and his partner’s beach house on the Florida Panhandle. They invited about 30 of their closest friends, and organized all kinds of special events, including a beach bonfire and a catered shrimp boil with dancing, a day of beach olympics, and more…

In looking around at these people, all hovering around the mid-late 40’s to late 50’s, it struck me how youthful “midlife” has become.  It seems that life has not worn away the physical or mental facilities as it once seemed to.  I remember seeing my friends’ parents whenI was a kid and considering them fossils.  My own parents, on the other hand, were way cooler, Mom in her long blonde fall (clip on hair) and mini dress, Dad in his Nehru shirt and glue-on mustache.

Although I am now a card-carrying member of AARP (and carry their group health insurance for all us old farts), and have, unashameadly, nodded my head when asked if I get the Senior Discount at the grocery store on Wednesdays, I consider myself a far cry from “Old”.

Hearing aides? Got ’em! NOT because I’m losing my hearing in Old Age, but because my brother had a rock band that practiced  in our rec room next to my bedroom, and I’ve been partially deaf since high school. Besides, my “little helpers” are neon green (the green meanies) and I consider myself a trend-setter with them.

But I digress. Back to the birthday weekend. I look around at this group of physically fit, perfectly groomed, emotionally stable guys and girls, and it is obvious that life is what we  make it, we’re as young (or old) as we feel, yadda yadda yadda.

"Sarong 40's"

So as I helped  my friend say “Sarong 40’s, Hello, 50’s” –yes, sarongs were mandatory for all on the last night– I was struck by how young we are in our middle years, and how numbers just don’t seem to mean that much anymore.  Samuel Ullman once said  “Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.  Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

I love this quote! Love It! And I, for one, among many of you, I suspect, refuse to let a calendar dictate how I feel, act, or think. In fact, 50, for me, marked a rebirth of enthusiasm for life, for living, for enjoying what is yet to come.  What are your thoughts on aging? Will you allow time to kick your ass, or will you kick back?