In the musical Avenue Q, there’s a moment when one of the characters bewails his having gotten old — 23. It’s meant to be heard as absurd. It is absurd. But I think I started pretending to regard myself as ancient at around 20 so others would say something like, “Don’t be silly. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!”
It’s been around seven or eight decades since I heard that.
Paris, the last night of 2012. Spousie and I, along with other British merrymakers with whom we traveled down to ring in the new year, have been disgorged beneath the Arc d’ Triomphe. It’s around eight-thirty, and our tummies are rumbling. We decide that restaurants on the Champs d’Elysses are likely to be charging an arm and a leg, and another arm, and several toes, for dinner on this gala occasion, so we hop aboard the Metro, which is free tonight. The train is crowded. An attractive young woman of the sort I’d have eagerly tried to hit on mere months ago, in my 30s or even early 40s, offers me her seat. I am flabbergasted, and deeply embarrassed. “Do you not know, my dear, who I am?” I want to scold my lovely benefactress. “I am the John Mendelssohn, the noted rock dreamboat, the king, according to no less than Bud Scoppa, of Hollywood.” I keep my mouth shut. My embarrassment and flabbergastedness are of no interest to anyone.
Welcome to Old Age, Johnny.
On expired drivers licenses and other forms of photo ID, I see little portraits of myself that at the time made me wail with anguish. I looked so ancient, so very non-dreamboat! Now I’d cut off several toes to look as good.
In the mirror in my bathroom in Los Angeles, I didn’t fail to see the accelerating decrepitude of my once-gorgeous punim, noting with horror that, for instance, my lovely cheeks, once covered by the lip-prints of the nubile, have begun to cave in. In the bathroom mirror in Richmond, Surrey, UK, I am horrified to realize that its Los Angeles counterpart revealed only a fraction of the actual carnage.
|I'm on the left, Andrew.|
I show a new UK collaborator a photograph of the second of the bands with which I performed in my rock dreamboat days. He is unable to discern which of the four depicted dreamboats I was.
In March, I had my right shoulder re-replaced. (It had originally been replaced in 1995, when the arthritis got so bad that I could barely walk (one moves his arm while walking) without pain.) In May, intent on maintaining my boyish figure — and, indeed, on regaining the upper-body muscularity that made me so irresistible in my latter rock dreamboat days, after I realized that working out was probably a better idea than drinking, smoking, and fornicating with gullible girlies who imagined that I…was somebody. Everything went just fine until I got myself a case of bicep tendonitis so severe that I could barely walk without wincing every couple of steps. And did I mention that I’m now deformed and asymmetrical, my re-replaced shoulder being about half the circumference of the other one?
Last night on the bus, a trio of brats on the bus were becoming shriller and shriller. At one point the old man next to whom I was seated seemed able to endure no more, and turned reproachfully toward me, demanding to know if one of the brats were my grandson. Not my son. My grandson. And he himself was probably my kid sister’s age.
I console myself with the knowledge of my increased knowledge, the wisdom that the decades have conferred at so high a cost.