Editor's Note: We are proud and blessed to feature the wise, wicked and wry words of a true carnal, Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez. ¡Feliz cumpleaños, compañero! Keep surviving, in style!
Barring any unforeseen circumstances beyond my control, I am turning 60 next week.
And I'm happy about it - especially when you consider the alternative.
Many people are reluctant to make such an announcement because this society values youth and devalues wisdom. They view getting older as a bad thing. They are wrong.
Older is a good thing - dying young is a bad thing.
To make things even clearer, New Media socio-evolutionists will tell you that there is no 'they.' Even if there was, I came from a generation of hippies, homies and free-thinking zealots who didn't care what anybody thought of them. I proudly maintain that tradition.
The 'Big Six Oh' is a benchmark age. No one I grew up with ever aspired to such longevity and had no plans after hitting 30. Ironically, many of them lived self-fulfilling prophecies due to archaic and sometimes lascivious lifestyles.
I view myself a survivor and would really like an opportunity to talk to my fallen family and friends. I'd tell them about life in post-modern America. I would tell my baby brother about cell phones with personal phone numbers when we couldn't afford a phone in the house growing up. And I'd tell him about 200 HP motorcycles. I'd tell Mom about the politics that led to first black President. I would tell Dad that I've met the who's who of rock stars and tell him that, no matter who I meet, he will always be my favorite musician.
I was at my granddaughter's middle school graduation last week. Synchronistically enough, her school was blocks away from our childhood San Francisco apartment. I have vivid memories of being three years old and innocently taking a loaf of bread from the corner store. Dad embarrassingly took it back and I gasp at the 57-year memory flashback. I can still smell the bread and taste my first sip of 7-Up in the translucent green bottle, can feel how the bubbles tickled my nose, can still see the top tab of the glass milk bottle the milkman brought to the doorstep.
As the multi-ethnic class marched in, I tried to take a picture of Miss Kayla. Without my reading specs, I pressed the wrong touch screen and took a close up of my face. What I saw scared me. Miss Kayla does not look like an old biker dude with a bad attitude who doesn't play well with others and who has a hard time sitting still and listening. The picture was of me up-close and personal.
Alba (pictured with Al Carlos) was right.
I do need moisturizer.
I have always been, and will continue to be, the same age on the inside. I am still enamored with luxury cars, dangerous motorcycles and beautiful women (and not the skinny ones, either). I love the music of my generation: sometimes loud, occasionally arrogant and often cathartic. And I still know all of the words, many of the air guitar riffs, and steering wheel-styled bass lines. I find new music languid, banal, inane and situationally obscene. You can't be a real singer if you don't write your own songs. Music is supposed to be what feelings sound like.
Younger folks may view me an old fogey who's out of touch with things. I consider the younger folk who say those kinds of things to be mindless, ungrateful and largely unemployable.
The good thing about being 60 is that you don't have to worry about making it. You are what you are, you have done what you have done. And although I believe the best years are still ahead, I don't think I'll be the next Facebook billionaire. My work is now framed to be my legacy. Remember: History is written by the survivors who can write.
The pressure is off. I was at the dentist recently and said dentist told me that I may need a root canal in a few years. I told her that if my teeth last another 20 years, it's all good. I'll be 80 and probably won't be as hungry and as interested in chewing carne asada as I am now. And if I keep eating carne asada I may not make it to 80 anyway, so the issue is moot.
I have tested my physical prowess by playing in a series of four softball scrimmages. I can still catch and pitch. I run slower but run at the right times now and managed a few trick plays. I got hit in the shin with a line shot from an aluminum bat while I was pitching and showed no weakness. I was more hurt and irritated by the "Are you alright Pop?" comments than the technicolor bruises.
I am proud to say that I am 60, have given up on trying to be cute, and will settle for being a distinguished OG who will never own a button down sweater, Dockers or loafers. A man who lives or dies by the motto: Don't start nothing, there won't be nothing.
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
- Mahatma Gandhi