Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Being 60.


Birthday cake knife.


  Of course I'm not quite there yet, or am I?  I was born very late on a Friday night in June.  Doctor Willingham actually asked mom if she wanted to wait a few minutes and birth me on the 14th, instead of Friday the 13th, but she was ready and I was ready, so here I am.

  This is all just stuff people told me.  Hearsay, in court.  Not admissable.  I really have no idea.

  Very fortunate to be delivered into this particular place in geography and history: after antibiotics, as the effects of a planet-wide war began to ease, in Texas with white skin.  It's a moment in history to be envied by nearly all of humanities members.  To those of us IN it though, it just is the way things were and have always been.  And that's not so.  Could have easily been born in China, the way most people are, or in the hordes of India.  Could have come to conciousness in some regressive Soviet or Islamic system, in blighted Africa, in a moment ravaged by the black death, volcanic cataclysm or other systemic disaster.  Instead, there I was in a verdant landscape and booming economy, with historically low infant mortality, good schools, churches and a political system so libertarian that they met only 180 days every two years.

  Nothing stays the same.  We took that system and ran it into the ground.  If you meet a legislature every two years and pass 500 new laws every session, after 60 years you have 15,000 new laws.  I'm low-balling by a factor of 10, as the bureaucracies and regulators have done so many, many good things that today what isn't prohibited is mandatory.  For the children.  The schools are rich, and ruined.  The local governments work if you know somebody.  If a few percent of the eligible voters bother to turn out in an election it's a shock.  A whole culture has walked over the border, sat down among us and is ignored.  If I walk the dog without my ID, her tags, a leash and a ziplock to pick up dog poop I risk being fined, heavily and my dog killed.  The hispanic kids ride bikes around the neighborhood as God intended: without the required bike helmets.  They are ignored.  No hard feelings, its just the way a system changes over time.  Still, don't brag about freedom to me.  That's over.

  But 60.  That's something.  I've outlived my grandfathers, grandmothers, my dad, his brothers, my brother, a nephew, slews of classmates and aquaintances.  Married thrice.  Have a daughter who is grown enough to make her own way.  Lived several lifetimes.  These days 60 can be youngish, and I have no major complaints.  Still in original equipment and it works.  Climbed and hunted out of trees last fall and hiked all over Shiprock at 6700 feet in March with 5X7 camera.    I could drop dead tomorrow but still wouldn't warrant a complaint.  I've been very fortunate to be in the body I'm in.  I've ran and biked and hiked and photographed and danced and shot my way onto National Match winning teams.  I'm the current National Vintage Rifle Champion until they hold it again in August at Camp Perry.  High Master.  Probably the last person to win the Texas Highpower Championship with a Service Rifle.  Double Distinguished.  My gun guru died....and he was a few years younger than ME.  Lucky stuff.

  And speaking of the lucky stuff: the people.  OMG.  When you are 60 you know LOTS of people, especially a Gemini who is kind of in the people business: teaching and photography.  A friend of mine says that when you know 200 people you know everybody.  She's right....and I know a LOT more than 200 people.  I've been blessed with the best folks in the world, Christian Westerners, since day one.    There might be better folks in an ashram somewhere or perhaps there was a clan of practical zen jokers way back in the Neolithic until they were eaten by lions but compared to late 20th century Texans...they were just....some guys, you know?  Guy friends and girl friends, cousins, neighbors, deer hunters, teachers, classmates, team mates, more girlfriends.  It's been an avalanche of really great folks, even the knotheads.  I can think of only one person I am happy to have dead, even though I know several fairly evil folks.  He's Terry Danielson who used to live next door to me here on Lindsey Lane.  Terry lived for and relished in other folks misery.  Then he died.  I'm still glad about it.  But besides him Its been a party every day.   My last wife, Katie, gets me, and I get her, in a way that has brought both of us a lot of contentment since day one.  We walk our Lucy dog to our offices and our favorite coffee shop full of our favorite neighbors every day.  Very lucky.

  But anything that can't go on forever, won't.  60 is on the way out, not the way in.  I'm coaching, not shooting this year for the Texas team at the Nationals.  What can I expect to happen in the next five years, the next ten, the next twenty, when I may not have a month?  What CAN I get done?  Well, first of all, my will is signed and sealed and Katie knows where it is.  My computer passwords are on a list.  I'm actively downsizing some of the detrius that tends to accumulate over 60 years to make things easier when I depart this lucky place.  We've talked in frank terms, so that's set.  Artistically, I feel like I'm at the top of my game with several projects cooking along.  I'm sticking with sheet film and my Deardorff as long as I can and hope to see Shiprock and crunch my way up to the Diving Board at Yosemite a few more times while I can still carry my own gear.  I bought a new lens on Ebay just the other day while selling off the stuff I will never use again.  My 40 year old darkcloth just got rebuilt.  I'd like to concentrate more on showing than shooting and get more work stashed in collections that will outlast me, but still want to make more negatives.

  It's summertime in Texas.  Getting hot again.  Our folks usually die in the Spring and that's past.  After the National Matches the semester fires up.  New kids for the fall and we have a trip planned in the winter.  God willing.  I'll be 60 tonight near midnight and will celebrate by being asleep.  But not for good and not quite yet.

  

8 comments:

Borepatch said...

Many happy returns of the day, and let me just say that I' sorry I never set things up to stop and meet you on one of my many trips through Tyler. It was either too-eager-to-get-home or need-to-get-back, and now the opportunity is lost.

60 is on the way out,

It's easy to say, and hard to live: the past is only a memory, the future only a promise, but today is real.

Happy Birthday, Robert. If I come back to Austin again, I'll ping you to meet up. Carpe diem.

kim said...

This kind of made me sad. You are not on the way out. Not by a long shot! Happy Birthday! Glad you are in a happy place and glad you have Katie!

Old NFO said...

Happy Birthday Robert! And MANY more!!!

Borepatch said...

Kim is right. There are times in our lives when we can step out of the flow of time, and see.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ric_elias.html

I no longer choose to be right. I choose to be happy.

As I said, many happy returns of the day.

d smith kaich jones said...

60 may be on the way out, but your path is still winding along and you are still on it. Thank God. Who else would've taught me the real deal about photography, or showed me how to find owls in trees? Taught me I could live amongst critters and snakes and cats and dogs and it would be okay? You introduced me to the man I've been with for 27 years. You supported my painting, my writing. You gave me a friend when you brought Katie home. You've been a good friend.

Here's to 60, and Texas, and many many many more years to come.

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Happy Birthday and many more.

Anonymous said...

Many happy returns!

I will hit 61 later this month.
Feel younger at times and older when I get up in the morning.

As they say, "If I had known I was
going to last this long, I'd have
taken better care of my self."

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Robert. From an occasional old (67 yr) visitor. Really enjoy your posts.