A sign of the times


There’s a story that goes along with this.  Details to be appended to this here post later tonight, after I get the kids in bed.

Long ago, back when people picked up newspapers in their hands in the morning and read them, then put them down and went on with other parts of their day (what a time!), The San Francisco Chronicle used to run a piece called The Question Man.  Somebody – presumably The Question Man – went around town asking folks some interesting question. A column’s worth of the short (Twitter-length) replies were printed alongside a thumbnail photo of the respondent and her/his name, age, occupation, and hometown. Through this we got a pulse-reading from our neighbors on matters great and small.

While I read it regularly – along with Art Hoppe and Herb Caen and later Jon Carroll —  none of the questions or answers were memorable. Except one: “When is a person ‘middle aged’?”  The phenomenon (middle age) was a speck in my distant future, but I took a mild interest in the answers just the same.  Some folks named a year — 30, 40, whatever. Others used some other marker, like “When your marriage is older than your dog,” or “When you are the same age or older than movie stars and national-level elected officials” or some such.  But one really stuck with me.  One woman said, “Middle age is when you no longer apologize for yourself.”

This last definition of middle age has stayed with me as the most compelling, until last Sunday night, when I discovered that middle age is really when you are capable of SPRAINING YOUR FINGER PLAYING AIR GUITAR WITH YOUR KIDS.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Dictionary definition of “pathetic.” I’ll only add, for the record: it was to Lynard Skynard’s “Free Bird,” and it was worth it.  And this post took me 40 minutes to type.

12 thoughts on “A sign of the times”

    • Dang, you go WAY back!

      No, but it may as well. I’m trying to think of a quickie hint. But it involves the surprising combination of a Southern Rock anthem and (apparently) incipient infirmity.

  1. If your gonna sprain it to any song, Free Bird is probably the best! Bohemian Rhapsody I also recommend, it’s a bit more gentle. Many a whiplash I received from that song as a kid with my brothers.

  2. I’m not sure how you did that playing air guitar but I’m not one to judge since I haven’t been able to sit comfortably since I did something horrible to my tailbone while sledding the first week of January.

  3. Discoknitter, welcome aboard! And both my index and middle fingers thank you.

    BeethovenLives, I quite agree. Anthems, both. I am proud to say that I swayed in large stadiums in Oakland, CA in the 1970s to live renditions of both (Never did I miss a “Day on the Green,” at least up until the early 1980s. I am definitely one of the masses in the middle of the crowd in this 1977 performance of the song.

    Incidentally I will not say here what may have caused me to sway; it may or may not have been the undulations of the crowd.

    Vikki, my condolences. Tailbones + ice + speed = OUCH. For months. I know you can play “Free Bird” really, and not virtually, so maybe you don’t know how it’s possible. All I can say is that there is a lot of fancy fingerwork in the last 4 minutes of that song (you got 3 guitars to account for!), plus I actually switched over to drums when the interminable roll/high-hat smashing spree kicked in at the 7’30’ mark. It’s not easy covering that many instruments simultaneously. I’ll show you if/whenever I get my arse back to visit Mpls.

    • Er, well, that was the problem. I think I was on lead and rhythm. And I also switched over to drums. But the lil’ monkey and the lil’ peanut and their girl cousin and the beloved were also wielding instruments. Okay, badminton rackets, whatever. Evidently none of them sustained an injury, though.

  4. Also, Hotel California! But that’s a little pensieve…you’ve awaken my child hood memories of air guitar, I’m getting in touch with my inner rocker.

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