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The Dreadful Dance of the Decades

I used to have a friend who gobbled blotter acid. I recently bumped into him cruising the Med. He told me with a toothless smile, "Sure, I liked LSD, Fatty – but, now, Lipitor and prune juice do for me!"

My, how times change.

Gloria Steinem and her Righteous Babes aren't whipping off their bras any more – gravity has had its way.

James Bond is doing adult diaper commercials for AARP.

Sylvester Stallone is advertising in-home elevators in the back of New Yorker magazine – who wouldn't want the model Rambo uses?

Damn! Is there no end to the humiliation of growing old?

The last time I played guitar with Dick Solberg, the Fiddler, was on the East End of St. John. A mutual friend rushed up, patted his pockets distractedly, looked around frantically, and asked shrilly, "What happened to middle age? One moment I was young, and the next … ? What the hell happened to my MIDDLE AGE!?"

I decided not to soften the blow, just 'let it all hang out' as we used to say. "You got stoned and missed it, pal!"

Example: I'm happy that not all my friends have died. Some have just been sliced and diced a bit. At least I get to interact with their Facebook accounts. This is sort of morbid, staring at those pictures of them propped up in the hospital bed, drooling prettily.

You know you're getting old if the last four times you've visited a beach is to sadly throw flowers into the water. (I had to rack my brain to find something nice to say about that last old fart who was always dragging around the harbor in eight knots of breeze.)

The last thing I want to do, of course, is appear to lack compassion. But the part of me which is a statistician can't help noticing that more friends of mine who owe me money are croaking off … than those who don't.

There's no justice in the world.

This is depressing. And I don't believe their weeping wives when they call me, and sob, "He was on his way to you to repay the $20 when his ticker exploded!"

… like they couldn't have dug it out of his wallet, and sent it along?

I'm a sailor, so perhaps I'm a tad more sensitive than your average brain-dead dirt-dweller. But there's some bad trends developing here. It makes me nervous to see more and more single-handed old duffers heading ashore in their battered dinghies while gaily waving sacks of blue Viagra pills and screaming "… a rising tide lifts all boats!" through gritted yellow teeth. YEECK!

Everyone focuses on the joys of Grandpa doing the wild thing into his mid-80s, but what about poor Grandma? Hasn't she been looking a bit … tattered lately?

Of course, my wife and I approach this whole thing with our own sensible 'float plan'. We have special lovely-dovey 'date nights' aboard Wild Card during which we act like when we first met at 14 years of age at Gage Park High.

"Can I borrow your Latin homework, dear?" I ask, and she replies, "Yes, Timmy, that turns me on!"

"… you've got a zit!" I say, and point.

"… and you've got a banana in your pocket," she parries.

These 'geriatric trysts' are kind of fun. We wear name-tags to avoid 'label embarrassment' as we oldsters call it. Yes, we take off our bi-focaled reading glasses, which saves heaps on the plastic surgery. Sure, we're especially careful about our wigs, dentures, breast prosthesis, liposuctioned lips, stomach staples, cod-pieces, whatever!

We no longer have mirrors on our boat, just mirror frames with pictures of us in the 1960s: at SDS meetings, being gassed in Grant Park, and being clubbed by the Chicago Police during the '68 convention.

… just the good memories, right?

The first few times we circumnavigated, I was a bit worried that we were running out of planet. It was an odd feeling, wondering if I'd seen it all. Now we don't worry – it is all new to us.

Hell, if we sailed into our hometown of Chicago, we'd ask ourselves, "I wonder what language they speak here?" (Answer: money!)

Yes, we're a tad out of touch. Every time we glance at a television screen (usually at a doctor's office) I ask aloud, "Who is that colored fella?"

Of course, you are never supposed to admit you are growing old because, somehow, that's supposed to make you even older. And there are two types of people who look down their nose at 'people of age.' The two groups who do so are 1), young people, and 2), old people.

Let's start with the young ones because it is impossible to change the old ones' minds.

Young people ignore old people for two reasons: the first is because young people don't think they'll ever grow old. I certainly didn't – or I'd have treated my flesh and blood container – my ole bodacious body – to far, far less poison. The second reason is because young people also realize that there might be a tiny possibility that they might turn into old people, and they simply can't bear the thought.

We old people, however, know exactly what growing old is. And we say, in unison, with rising alarm, "Turn back NOW!" to those poor saps bobbing in our wakes.

… that's why Bob Dylan will be singing 'Forever Young' from his carbon-fiber wheel chair.

Cruising offshore at this age isn't so bad. In fact, Polident is a fairly good marine adhesive. I swig a bottle of Geritol each evening, and a six pack of the stuff on a wild weekend.

… oh, how stupid could I have been as a youngster to think that Heineken was a green product!

Hell, I'm so old now I'm beginning to laugh at Reader's Digest, which is a sure sign of both senility and stupidity.

What was I saying?

Just walking around the boat isn't easy any more. My long, barbed-wire eyebrows get caught on the shrouds. That's right! I'm serious! During dinners, I can set plates of food on my suddenly-erect eyebrows. Why don't I trim them? Would you like to play with sharp objects around your eyes while you have the tremors?

… no, slipping on deck isn't such a big worry now that I've put those official Sperry Topsider cane tips on my aluminum creeper.

It was clever of West Marine to come up with those 'heavy weather eating bibs' which automatically morph into inflatable PDFs should the elderly sailor fall face down in his soup.

I can't even see my charts any more. "Which way do I turn at the Virginal Canal," I asked my wife recently. Thank gosh she wasted no time with in-depth corrections. "The Suez canal, honey," she said sweetly, "and you can have a ball by banging a right, Big Boy!"

She knows hippy talk turns me on!

I'm beginning to refer to 50 year old, grey-haired commodores of prestigious yacht clubs as "Sonny." And, worse, I try to dazzle young sailors with outdated jokes. "Did you ever see Dennis Conner's toes," I asked one little tike in an Optimist pram.

"No," said the kid nervously.

"Well, neither did he!" I guffawed.

People used to think I was joking when I used to say, offhandedly, "all my friends are dead or in jail."

It was true. Now, alas, it is not. They've been tossed out of the slammer to save on burial costs. Yes, it is grim going to your Facebook page and realizing that the new 'tombstone badge' was recently designed with your generation in mind.

I used to know when being 'hep' wasn't a bad medical condition.

I can also remember when 'generation' meant Northern Lights or Onan to this sailor. That was a while ago.

As an oldster, I don't like computers rushing me all the time with their smarmy 'smart' prompts. It's depressing having all those adult diaper ads appear every time I innocently type the word 'depends' in a story.

This cyber-confusion is getting, well, terminal! Yesterday I asked my wife Carolyn … is it Carolyn? Yes, I think it is. Or Carol. Or Caroline. Or … ?

… anyway, we were sailing along as Fatty-and-wife, and I turned to my wife and asked, "… should we tack?"

I thought this was a fairly normal, fairly straight-forward conversational question from one sailing spouse to ask another – but she took it far more seriously.

"I dunno," she said. "Let's Google it!"

What's with that?

I recently attempted to 'rob the cradle' at a sailor's bar – and the young drunk chick asked if I wanted to interface with her. "Not with dentures," I said. "These suckers are expensive!"

She wouldn't give up. She tried to give me her password and told me I could 'break through her firewall' anytime – damn, even one night stands now involve Silicone Valley.

Once a teeny-bopper accused me of being a dirty old man. "I shower after," I huffed in explanation.

Once you obtain a certain age, it is hard to know if you are being ripped off or not. For example: I recently had a dream in which the Coral Bay Yacht Club rushed up and offered me lifetime membership – while I lay on my death bed. Damn. Just my luck, eh?

… that my ship would finally come in, and I'd be at the airport attempting to charter a plane over the River Styx?

Is there a bright side? Yes, of course. My wife and I used to be an 'every other day' couple. Now her memory is shot. And it is always two-days on!

Editor's note: The Goodlanders continue to wander Mediterranean shores while wearing their Wild Card T-shirts … so they can remember which vessel is theirs.

Cap'n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises the throughout the world. He is the author of 'Chasing the Horizon' by American Paradise Publishing, 'Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies', 'The Collected Fat' and 'All At Sea Yarns'. His latest book 'Red Sea Run' is available from November 1. For details of Fatty's books and more, visit fattygoodlander.com

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