The debate about LeBron James made me realize that I was an NBA fan from a different era . . . The Jordan Era. And I didn’t want LeBron James infiltrating my era’s territory. So I roundly criticized his free agent fiasco, but was secretly relieved he would never eclipse Jordan surrounded by his superfriends in Miami. This seemed logical to me, not old. Then I remembered my father telling me how much better Bobby Hull was than any current hockey player . . . And shuddered. Add this to the fact that I reference stadiums that have been torn down or renamed a long time ago . . . St. Louis Arena. Chicago Stadium.
I turned 30 in June, a milestone age that brings with it the typical question from well-wishers—“Hey Fred, do you feel old yet?”
No, I don’t. Probably because I’ve always looked older. People have thought I was thirty for about the last 12 years or so. I do not feel old, but at this age, it is becoming clear that I will not stay young forever.
Pricing is the first barometer. You know how a dad will say something that sounds totally out of this world, such as “I didn’t have air conditioning” or “I used to buy a steak for a nickel?” I filled my first gas tank at the age of 16 for 89 cents per gallon. Ah, those were the days.
And sports . . . the players that I grew up watching are now coaching in their respective professional sports. When I have a young, whipper-snapper of a friend over who is 22 or so, I say something like “I saw Vinny Del Negro play ball. Heck of a player.” Uh oh. Old man language alert there. Especially alarming since Vinny Del Negro was not a heck of a player.
Yes, I am indeed getting closer to old.
I acquired a pair of Blu-Blockers and wore them at a golf outing. I thought it was pretty cool since those infomercials were funny. The younger people at the outing didn’t know what they were, or why it should be funny. They just thought they were funny-looking. They just figured I was wearing a really oversized pair of shades in order to look like Robert De Niro from the movie Casino. I tried to explain how the overreaction to the glasses made the infomercial priceless and hysterical. No reaction. I asked if they knew who Ron Popeil was, or what a food dehydrator was. Nope. These were 18-24 year olds. They only knew about Vince from Sham Wow or Billy Mays, God bless him. But the guys over 30? Thrilled. Wanted to know if those Blu-Blockers were real, and for the record, they were 100 percent legit.
Then there are cultural divides, or what I will call the “thongs effect.” I use the plural because I once wore thongs around the pool. At some point, a cultural meeting was held, in which the name of thongs was changed to “flip-flops” and “thong” then became the name of the floss-like women’s underwear. I was not invited to this meeting, and had some very awkward poolside conversations as a result. I still catch myself wanting to call flip-flops thongs.
So I don’t feel old, I feel . . . experienced. And I know that old age is coming, and there’s no way to stop it, and it’s not as far away or weird as it used to be. I think of the way I will explain to my children, once they exist and can understand what I’m telling them, that I used to put a quarter in a phone booth to make a phone call. That I used to walk into a building where all the movies were lined up on a wall, pick one out, watch it, and pay late fees when I returned it. I will tell them that I used to go and buy something called a newspaper, and read it, and tossed it in the trash when finished.
I believe my children will have a hearty laugh at all of this.
And I will just smile, knowing that one day, they will creep into their thirties and they’ll understand old dad a whole lot better. Then I will go out and treat myself to a ninety-dollar steak.