Stop! What’s that sound? It’s just my future, going down
I was working out at the club the other morning, as part of my never-ending quest to change my body’s basic shape. I know my basic body type is programmed into my DNA (as one friend recently described it, “holding steady at ‘pudgy'”), but I can’t keep myself from thinking that if I just work out a little longer, a little harder, a little more … I’ll be transformed into a 6-foot-tall Nordic god.So there I was, sweating away in the weight room, trying for three reps with a 4-pound weight … or was it four reps with a 3-pound weight? Anyway, music was playing over the loudspeakers. It was a curious blend: a song from my long-ago hippie youth, combined with a new driving rhythm.The song was from back in the ’60s, “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield. The refrain was playing over and over, as the song neared the end. It went, “It’s time to stop, hey, what’s that sound … .” And the words were perfect because there was that other sound, that new driving rhythm, overriding the original music, pushing the song along, “Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa.”What was that sound?I wondered how – and why – they’d added that new rhythm track to a semisweet classic. (A sweet melody, sweetly sung … but with lyrics that include, “There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me that I’ve got to beware.”) The new rhythm grew louder and more insistent, pushing ahead of the song, as if trying to force Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills to sing faster, nearly 40 years after he’d left the recording studio.For an instant I couldn’t figure out what was happening – and then the song began to fade … but that driving rhythm kept right on pounding away. And I realized that the rhythm wasn’t coming over the loudspeakers with the music, it was coming from the next room. I glanced through the doorway and, yes, as I suspected, there was a middle-aged woman, sprinting away on a treadmill. “Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-thumpa.”As the last notes of the song faded away, it all fit together: a song from 40 years ago and that woman and I, both chasing our youth. A pair of oldies, sweatin’ to the oldies.And what could be a more perfect symbol of the hopeless pursuit of faded youth than a sprint on a treadmill? Hard work that, by definition, gets you absolutely nowhere.Sprint as hard as you can, you’ll never be as young as you were 40 years ago, any more than you can get Stephen Stills to sing faster than he did back in 1967. Sure, you can try. You can speed the tape up to make him sing faster, but he’ll sound like a chipmunk … just like you can get a face-lift to make yourself seem younger, but you’ll look like a chipmunk.It’s such a short, quick trip from “Dude!” to “Dud!”So I fled into the locker room, because I figured I was getting enough of a workout, just carrying the weight of my years.But then, as I sat in front of my locker, I overheard two guys talking about skiing. This was the week after Thanksgiving. The season was new, enthusiasm was high.”I went up Ajax,” said one. “Great powder. It was awesome.””All right!” said the other. “I skinned up Highlands. Incredible skiing.”I thought, Yes! All is not lost!”Well, I’m taking the day off work today,” said the first guy. “I’m going back up. It’s going to be another awesome day skiing – once the drugs kick in.”And I thought, Wow, the spirit really is still there!”What drugs?” asked the second guy.I waited, thinking, Acid? Ecstasy? Ah, the good old days.”Oh,” said the first, “just the usual. Advil.”OK. I guess things really have changed.From Dude to dud. From “Whee! Party on!” to “Whew! Party’s off.” From drugs that’ll bring you to your knees to drugs that’ll stop the pain in your knees.It’s time to stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com.