I spent the morning doctoring. It had been three years since my last physical, and I have a slight cough that won’t go away. Dr. Kelly is a Black-Irishman: fair skinned with black hair and that blue-black shadow that begins about three minutes after he’s shaved. He’s also about my age, and has been active in the anti-war movement, trying to persuade local defense contractor Alliant Tech Systems to stop making cluster bombs, missiles, and depleted uranium household products. He listens.
I’m sixty, and I’m pretty good at basic arithmetic. My father, who was a boy of twenty-nine when I was born, died in 2008. His sister Martha is a strong ninety-four-or-five (and it does not worry me that she drives), but even so, I’m feeling mortal. I’ve kind of poked around all my life, trying this and that, making compromises between what made sense to me and what the real world and circumstances demanded.
And what made sense to me was pretty goofy. I’ve known about last year’s economic meltdown ever since I read Deliverance in the third grade. Sorry. I’m being hyperbolic; it was really the Fatima Letter, and I didn’t actually read it. Civil Rights, Viet Nam, and the Whole Earth Catalog made me realize that society could do better. Buckminster Fuller, Frances Moore Lappe, and my artist-builder friends gave me an idea about how. My first real work was managing a bulk natural food store, in which a wall of vitamins struggled to subsidize the healthy food. While I was selling beans and whole wheat, post-Viet Nam inflation hit, and staid midwestern Calvinists hurried downtown to sell their dimes to the headshop guy. A natural food store was an interesting intersection of solutions to America’s challenges. Somebody, who not long before had read Carlos Castaneda on acid, talked back-to-the-land with other high-IQ juvenile delinquents, and rubbed shoulders on the picket line with campus black militants, now got to read Howard Ruff’s Ruff Times, shoot machine guns in the middle of the night, and read -- for free, and as a courtesy -- white supremacist tabloids like the Spotlight and the Thunderbolt. I was tribal, convinced about the trophic pyramid, eager for economic democracy, and absolutely sold on radical energy conservation: goofy. And correct.
Personally I was kind of vague, but everything has its own gestation period, and in some quasi-teleological sense, I was aiming for the final third of my life.
Now that my final third has come, or is very near, the stakes are high. I’m fit, happy, and jealous. I don’t want to lose those years and the chance to leave something lasting. I have long-lived antecedants, but also some who crapped out early. Average life expectancy for American males is just eighteen years from now, and me with eight pack years on the odometer, and two melanomas. You used to burn the white out of your skin at the first sign of spring, and suntan lotion was about SPF 0.2. At the same time, the chickens have come home to roost, and their economic eggs have hit the fan. The mess that my parents left me has only gotten worse, and I’d like to tidy up a little before I pass the world on to my son. It looks like the economists and politicians are hankering to inflate another bubble, and maybe we need them to do that: provide a little cover, while you and I build a stable, healthy, eco-conscious way of life.
Dr. Kelly just called to tell me that my chest x-ray was clean. I’m still in business.