By Penny Arcade
Being over the age of 70 is full of surprises. For one thing you end up reliving everything you went thru from age 0 to 70. Every few years life foists This Is Your Life-style SAT’s! Experiences you thought you had sorted out in your 20’s and then again in your 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s present themselves for a quick review. Shockingly, I often I find myself having to reconsider my earlier opinions.
In my late 60’s I came face to face with my younger self. It was in a video from over 50 years ago that I had only heard about. Ambushed, I was stunned when “she”, the younger me turned and approached me thru the projection. She was fresh and young—curious and open. Frankly friendly. No guile. These days, while far from stale, like most people I am a creature of my habits, and that reality frequently confronts me! For instance, recently I understand that I often limit interacting with new people because I suffer from over stimulation. In trying to control the onset of overstimulation, I have over the years missed knowing people and the opportunities that presented themselves.
The thing is, the older I get the more unfinished I feel. It’s harder to honestly face our own shortcomings but that is the job of the completion of character that our elder years demand. Some days I look around my loft and I remember when I barely had any worldly goods. Now every shelf, wall and surface is covered with objects that I collected and imbued with meaning—meaning for my life, meaning for the future me. The younger me looks around my loft and says, “Is this your place?” “Wow!” Then she opens my closet and asks “Are these your clothes” and I nod and she says “Gee! You have good taste!”
Recently I ended up in a cameo in Martin Scorsese’s documentary Personality Crisis on the life of David Johansen, most famously of The New York Dolls and Buster Poindexter, now streaming on SHOWTIME. As David performed and the cameramen moved around the stage, I found myself thinking back to 1967 when I first met David. I was one of those ubiquitous street kids in the East Village, the detritus of 1967’s famous “Summer of Love”.
Most afternoons David would show up at the crossroads of Second Avenue and St Mark’s Place from his parents’ place in Staten Island. He and I would take up our spots, leaning on our respective parking meters in front of Gems Spa, twirling and spinning, calling out to each other to comment on the passing parade, totally unaware that we were manifesting our own futures.
After the first night of filming at The Carlyle, I spoke to David. “David! You know you weren’t back then who you are now” I was remembering David’s sunny good nature, his shy sweetness. “You were innocent.” I said as David demurred. It’s hard to remember myself as an unformed being but it’s easy to observe the arc from youth to old age in someone else. Traditionally downtown artists dry up like autumn leaves but they continue to look like faded 35-year-olds. Just another stage of life. The youth of our old age.”
Hey”, I said , changing tack. ” You know people are always coming up to me and are stunned when the find out my age, surprised I look younger. That must happen to you too”. David was listening now. “You know why that is?” I continued . “We look young because it took us so long to grow up! We hit every crack” “Yeah” David nodded in agreement “What’s the rush?”