essays

A Simple Plan for My Old Age

First of all, because most people have lost the capacity for ever having a sense of humor about anything, Ringo StarrI'm making a disclaimer about this post. I am NOT condoning a life of drugs, alcohol, sex, and Rock & Roll. Nor am I making light of the death of any celebrity, nor am I showing any disrespect, because I love the people I'm writing about. It's just a frickin' blog post, alright? Lighten up and get over it.

That being said... I've been thinking lately that as I near the 60 mark, I'm going to start keeping my eyes on two people as signposts of how I should spend the final years of my life. Whichever one outlives the other will tell me what I need to know about the validity of healthy living.

Here's Ringo Starr, who'll turn 70 in July. He looks damned good. That trim little body looks better than it did back in the heyday of the Sixties! I've always adored Ringo. From the original Ed Sullivan Show broadcast to today, Ringo is the Beatle I'd most invite over to sit on my front porch. He's down-to-earth, homey, and even a little silly. Ringo had a hard time dealing with the breakup of the Beatles and turned to drink to help him cope. He also was pretty fond of the nose candy. Trust me. I knew his dealer in Hollywood. I don't know if he still enjoys a hit of pot once in a while or not, but I doubt it. He and his wife (the luscious Barbara Bach) went through major rehab and I doubt they'd mess it up over a little reefer. Besides, that new body of his shows absolutely no trace of Cheetos or fried pork rind munchies. No, this is one clean-living man. Congrats to you, Ring. Love ya, man!

Next, we have Keith Richards, who will turn 67 in December. He's Rock & Roll's original bad boy, bad man, and bad old fart. He's a pirate. No, he doesn't look as good as Ringo, but then, he never did. Looking at earlier pictures of the Stones should have prepared us. Keith RichardsI love Keef. I love his philosophies about life and I love his ability to not give a rat's ass what any of us think about him. He just marches along to the beat of his own drum, laughing all the way, leaving a trail of cigarette butts behind him and dropping gems like, "The point is, who are you? Do you know yourself, and can you handle it?" and "It's not about living forever, it's about living with yourself forever."

The older I get the more I see the wisdom in these simple ideas. So here's my plan: I'm going to watch these two icons and see which one goes first. Whichever one survives will dictate how I'll live my remaining years. If Ringo lives longer, I'll clean up, exercise, eat better, and who knows? Maybe get myself a drum set and go back to playing. If Keef is the one to survive, then I'm going to start doing all the things I didn't do during the Sixties and Seventies. Yeah, I know I did a lot, but not as much as either of these blokes. Either way, I'm pretty sure I'll outlive both Ringo and Keef (since I'm younger than they are). We'll see what happens after that.

Steph Waller is an author and composer. Her Rock novel, With a Bullet, which takes places in lat 70s London, is set to be published in Spring 2010. Read more at Incurable Insomniac and StephWaller.com.

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