I’d start to pack the car with tools for work at the buildings and both kids would run out of their bedrooms, eager to start the day with Dad. It meant breakfast at some dive in town, work at
the buildings for more than minimum wage, lunch at some other dive and then free shopping at the Ax Man (The Ax Man Cometh) on University Avenue.
First one to reach the car would always shout “Shotgun” and claim the right to ride up front with Dad all day or at least until the arguing got enough for me to relegate one of them to the back seat. For some reason, riding shotgun with Dad always had this special appeal to my kids. Now things have somewhat reversed themselves and I’m riding shotgun with Peter Pan and loving every minute of it.
I was reminded of that episode in my life awhile back. We had season tickets to the Pantages Theater located on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. It’s in the heart of tinsel town, that wonderful enclave of smoke and mirrors that cloud youthful dreams for harsh reality. The play was about never growing up; quite appropriate in the land of eternal youth where beauty is really an oxymoron for chemically-induced plastic infill and libido. The sidewalks there reminded me of Venice Beach without the beach.
We saw a wonderful theatrical production of Peter Pan. First written in 1902 by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie, the story of a mischievous boy who refuses to grow up has struck a chord with readers and audiences alike for decades. While Peter is an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy, he does evolve, nevertheless, the joy and excitement of youthful discoveries of self and surroundings. It really is a wonderful metaphor for questioning the old archaic benchmarks of old age.
The story of Peter Pan still resonates with me because I’ve decided that since I missed my opportunity to grow up when I was a younger man, I’m not interested in doing so at this latter stage in my life. It’s far too interesting maintaining a zestful curiosity for the sublime and unordinary in everyday life.
Many of my colleagues seem quite content with their aging process, embracing it as the inevitable next step. We all grow old but some seem to be getting ahead of themselves while others are right on track. I guess I’ve always been adult-delayed. Life is too short to be taken so seriously.
I probably first felt that at the Presidio of San Francisco. Young Heart by the Bay.
Then when I was living in Europe for the first time. Snow White and the Seven Seekers.
And the second time. Europe; the Second Harvest.
And on a few of my misadventures as a middle-aged rambler.
So while my colleagues in genealogy are counting their coins, calories and health care providers, I’m focusing on my writing, further adventures with Brennan and Charlotte, trips to Colorado and the magnificent trio there and other sundry acts of self-discovery.
Growing up is a metaphor for growing old and I love my denial. My grandchildren have become a wonderful excuse to roll in the dirt, get sand in my trunks, hang like a wild man on the monkey bars and challenge muscles I never knew I had.
It’s a return to my limited youth as I watch Maya balance on my bogie board and imitate Gidget or Spencer defy gravity on his scooter and Samantha doing pull ups on the rings.
Listening to Brennan and Charlotte play their banjo and guitar is like watching two drunken sailors playing music badly with wild abandon. They’re having a good time and I’m having a great time watching them destroy the purity of folk music.
It’s an epic smoke and mirrors exercise that keeps me young and involved and totally in denial. If it worked for Peter Pan for all these many years, I figure I’ve got a chance to make it work for me as well.