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Barry Smith: Getting old is ‘tight’

It’s my birthday this week. I’m turning 38. Here are some random reflections regarding such, and otherwise:

– I hereby vow to not refer to my age as “ripe old” (as in, “At the ripe old age of 38 I decided to take up origami”) until I’m 85.

– In birthday’s past I’ve written entire columns about things I’ve learned. This year I can only think of one: If you receive an e-mail advertising the sale of anti-aging hormones, and “hormones” is spelled “hoarmones,” think hard before your purchase.

Does this inability to generate an entire list mean the learning has stopped?

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– OK, there was one other thing I learned, and this was just a few weeks ago: The expression that I once thought ” would have sworn, in fact ” was “far be it for me” is actually “far be it FROM me.” Oops. It’s one of those Southern upbringing things that creeps up on me every now’n-agin. Y’all.

– It’s too late for me to adopt new slang. My younger brother was recently telling me about how “tight” something was, and I thought, “Yeah … ‘tight.’ That’s good. I’m gonna start using that.” I tried it around the house (“That meal was tight”), and on friends (“Dude, that’s tight”) and nobody bought it. I’m afraid I’m stuck with “cool” and “right on.” Forever. Sure, I can add “z’s” to words that don’t even hint at containing them, but only comically. For instance, I’ll never be able to burst in and announce, “Barry’s in the hizouse, nizzles!” without people laughing. Hardly a big loss, but worth mentioning.

– Someone just told me, in all seriousness, that their baby’s first words were, “DVD.” I pointed out that “DVD” isn’t actually a word, and they got mad at me. This is why I don’t have kids. Or many friends.

– I’ve written “repetitive microtrauma” on a small sticky note and affixed it to my desk. And I have no idea why ” no idea why.

– My grandfather used to say to me: “There are three kinds of people in the world: those who get embarrassed easily, and those who don’t.” My grandfather didn’t teach me much about embarrassment, but I learned a lot about math from him.

– You remember the story of John Henry? He was the larger-than-life railroad worker who swore that he could lay track faster than the newfangled steam drill. He was victorious in his contest against the drill, but died from exhaustion in the process. Well, for years I’ve been trying to write a modern-day version of this song: John Henry, Certified Public Accountant, armed with only a pencil and pad, takes on the computer. After about five years of working on it, this is what I have:

John Henry was a little baby,

Sittin’ on his mammy’s knee.

He reached on over and he grabbed a legal pad

Said, “This’ll be the death of me, oh Lord,

This pad will be the death of me.”

The intern said to John Henry,

“Sir, that thunder means the weather’s turnin’ bad.”

John Henry laughed at the intern and said,

“That ain’t nothin’ but my pencil on my pad,

It ain’t nothin’ but my pencil hittin’ my pad.”

OK. I give up.

– I’ve heard that when you reach a certain age you start to realize that the things your parents said ” the things that you thought were just totally stupid ” actually make sense, and in some cases are even profound. I’m remembering a time when my brother and I, filled with the energy of youth, were wrestling around on the living room floor, having a good time. My father, upon seeing this, remarked with all sincerity, “If you have so much energy, why don’t you go clean something?”

Years later I realize that he was right, in that Martha-Stewart-hooks-up-with-Mr.-Clean-at-a-crystal-meth-party sort of way. I love gaining these understandings as I mature. Seriously, maturity is tight!

[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at www. Irrelativity.com]


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