I eat almonds, wild berries, and artichokes. I consume legumes, fiber, and almost always avoid fast food. Last night, I passed on New York style Pizza, the thin kind where oil drips off a folded slice, and there’s just enough cheese to cover the sauce. You know the kind. When I was young we used to bring home the coveted white box, held hot in the passenger seat, that most unique smell, combination of crust and toppings, filling the car making everyone hungry. Then we’d pull the slices apart, glad for the way the pizza guy slammed the round blade onto the pie and spun it four times to make the slices even. In college sometimes I’d order an entire small pie for myself and sit and watch the game, drinking ice cold coke. Life is too short not to enjoy food.
Still, last night I passed on the slice my friend kindly offered. Instead I ate a plate of lettuce which looked a lot like weeds I pulled from the garden and tossed onto the overturned lid of a metal can to carry into the woods, only this had oil and vinegar. You see, I’m not trying to lose weight, though I should; and I’m not trying to save my heart from heavy foods, though, there too, I really must pay more mind. What I’m trying to do is act my age. Guys like me, you see, those for whom the graph in the shape of a pie is about two-thirds colored in, have to spread out the years a bit more, make it last, like butter on a toasted bagel.
Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to make it to the end of the day before something bad happens. I’m not a negative person, but I live in a negative world, what with the monsoon of bad news from every outlet. I don’t remember feeling this way as a kid. I remember picking up trash and thinking at that moment everyone in the world was picking up trash. That applied to all aspects of my innocent existence. My generation entered the mid-twentieth century as the younger-half of the greatest generation gap in American history with the idealistic sense we would make the world bomb free, pollution free, nuclear waste free. We were the tree-hugging, turtle-friendly, whale-watching, love-thy-enemy generation. I have great respect for naiveté and ignorance.
We “flew our fists high in the air.” But the world remained the same.
Last month I sat on the flatbed table in the doctor’s office and he listened to my heart.
“You eating right?” he asked.
“How about exercise? Are you getting enough?”
“You really shouldn’t eat pizza so much you know.”
“Hey, when I was in college I ate it all the time.”
“Yes, and now you’re at the doctor’s office being asked if you are getting enough exercise.”
I went outside into the grey morning sun and sat in the car.That conversation made me hungry. It was a beautiful day out, though, and I really thought about going for a run. With or without exercise, most of us live roughly the same length of time, give or take a dozen years. Most of us are roughly the same height give or take, possess a small variety of features like eye or hair color, have nearly identical operating systems for intake and evacuation, and suffer cold and heat, pain and comfort, desire and illness roughly the same.
So what separates us from each other? I wondered as I drove off to find a Duck’s Custom Made Donuts. My dad’s was a generation of “doers.” Survive the depression; fight the Nazi’s, build a house and raise a family. They took the punches and kept moving forward. My students’ generation waits for things to happen. Through no fault of their own, they are raised in a paranoid, post 911 world where you never know when the next shoe is going to drop, but based upon the news, reality shows, games, friends, and social media, it is going to drop.
But mine is the Earth Day generation. We were going to clean up the world; we stood together anti-nuke, anti-oppression, anti-war, pro-environment, pro-animals’ rights, pro-conservation dreamers with an absolute conviction we would be successful. We had Dylan. We had Chavez. We had time.
Two dollars and fifty cents for a friggin’ donut. This is insane. I paid the woman and took my small, custom-made lunch to an empty park and wondered why no one was outside playing. “Are you getting enough exercise?” the doctor asked. I finished eating and got on the slide. Yeah, sure I am, I thought, and slid right down to the bottom with ease then threw my trash in the can.
I think I’ll adopt a highway; get myself a yellow vest, orange garbage bags and a spear.