Michael Cleverly: Cleverly or Not | AspenTimes.com
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Michael Cleverly: Cleverly or Not

Michael Cleverly
Aspen Times Weekly

I was calling around looking for one of those little batteries for the light meter built into my 35mm camera, which is apparently an antique. After coming up goose eggs on the first two calls, I finally found one at the only place in town that still carries this type of battery. As usual when you’ve had to search for something, I thought about buying a few, just in case. I decided against it, figuring the one battery might just outlive me, let alone several.

I’m lucky; I’ve been in good health all my life. I don’t remember either of my parents spending as much as one night in a hospital. My visits to hospitals have been limited to spending time with my wives and newborns, me in street clothes, them getting the boot as quickly as possible. For the most part I avoid legal drugs, even aspirin. When I watch the ads on television for different medications and they come to the long list of possible side effects, I cringe. How can it be worth it? Do illegal drugs have side effects? I have no statistics or numbers on this, but I’m sure people do get well in hospitals; I’m equally sure people die in them. Consequently, the closest I want to get to modern medicine is a hooker dressed up like a nurse. Given a choice, I’d just as soon croak with the hooker.

(At this point I’m willing to admit that when the time comes that I need a doctor, I will instantly do a 180-degree turnabout on this position and beg for help from all those fine healthcare professionals, and I will deny ever writing this column.)

This is the sort of stuff we aging baby boomers have been prone to think about the last few years: longevity, hospitalization, social security, memorial services. The sun is setting on the party that was Aspen in the ’70s and ’80s, and it’s twilight for the partygoers. It was inevitable, of course, as inevitable as a tornado’s attraction to trailer parks and the presence of zombies compelling attractive young women to strip down to the barest minimum of clothing that the MPAA will allow.

Each year there are fewer celebrants to reflect on (whine about the passing of) the “good old days.” The young people who continue to flock to Aspen think it’s fine as is. They don’t get all the bitching and moaning. When I arrived here it was the same. The old-timers were rhapsodizing about the ’50s and ’60s, and I thought the town was pretty darn good just as I found it, just as the new kids do.

I’m afraid that turning back the clock is out of the question, even for the zombies who used to party all night, do some more and be ready to go all the next day. The undead ski bums are retirement-age now and people are being confronted with a new set of options. Some have already been retired for quite a while, having thrown in the towel at some point. They started ruminating, looking back, not forward any more. Some retired themselves in a permanent, irreversible manner. Some of the old-timers are still chugging along, not going “gently into that good night,” or “gently” anywhere else for that matter. Some of them were smart and walked a straightish path and can now sit back and get to that book they’ve been meaning to write, really concentrate on their golf game, or do the traveling they always wanted to do.

They’re all getting those letters from the Social Security Administration indicating how much they’ve paid in and how much they can expect to get back now that it’s their turn. For some the numbers can be a little shocking. How could one have gone so many years without a real job, and yet, never sold a drug? Are the drug guys any better off? Did they put something away? Jesus, on paper they all look exactly the same ” the ski bums, the dealers, the marginally employed. They spent their lives on the outside looking in, not paying in. Maybe one option could be to get arrested and spend your golden years pushing that book cart around, delivering reading material to the other inmates. Or maybe it isn’t too late to join the UAW and freeload till the end? I think it probably is. I’m guessing this is also a bad time to suggest that the city of Aspen create a retirement program for decrepit ski bums.

Fortunately for me, artists and writers don’t have to worry about any of this; they have the strongest union imaginable. The union will always take … What? You’re kidding? Oops, EEEK! OK, never mind about the artists and writers union. The thing is that being an artist or writer usually doesn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting, so one can pursue those activities longer. I was reading a magazine article a while back that had to do with whether an artist’s most valuable creative time was in their youth, or later in life, after some seasoning. The conclusion was definitive. Some artists did their best work when they were young, and never recaptured that brilliance, and some artists did their best work in old age, they just kept getting better and better till the end.

I would think that could hold true for a lot of pursuits. I guess the trick is to figure out which you are, or want to be.

I know some old-timers who are still skiing pretty well.


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