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Act Your Age, Not Your Beatle-Boot Size

March 23, 1995|Jim Washburn | Jim Washburn is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to the Times Orange County Edition. T. Jefferson Parker's column resumes in this spot in two weeks. and

On the day I am writing this, I have just turned 40 years old.

It is an age at which I notice that most of my contemporaries have solid careers, pension plans, health plans, investment portfolios, families, kids who are in college, homes that they own. They're writing their third novel, or at least their third "Baywatch" episode. They are--as should be expected at this age--set in life.

And me? I have a pair of Beatle boots.

I don't own a home, haven't even married yet, have no investments--unless you count electric guitars and a shelf full of breakfast cereals--and earn my keep as a free-lance writer, which means that a silverfish has more job security and benefits than I do.

Unfortunately for the silverfish, my Beatle boots have pointy toes, which can pursue him into the tightest corner. You know the boots I mean, with those incisor toes, the tapered Cuban heels, the split-leather fronts and elastic sides. All the British Invasion bands wore them. Now I do.

I'd wanted a pair since I was 8 years old, but my parents forbade it: "high heels are for girls," "stop combing your hair forward," "turn that radio down!," etc.

So I could only peer enviously at the boots through the shoe-store display windows at the La Mirada mall. Someday, you will be mine, I swore.

A few months ago I spotted an ad offering authentic Beatle boots by mail order, and one of my dearest friends got them for me for Christmas. I wear them out at night a lot. I'm wearing them now. If people don't notice them on their own, I often point them out. I'd like six more pair.

I can, however, see now why the Beatles broke up: These boots really hurt.

I've been trying to figure out if turning 40 is also as painful as everyone says. Upon reflection, I don't know that getting older is really a drag. But I do know that thinking about it is.

For example, a few nights ago I was driving at 10 p.m. to see the Finnish surf band Laika and the Cosmonauts at Linda's Doll Hut in Anaheim when I rear-ended another car, at about three miles an hour. I exchanged insurance information with the other driver--who was doing altogether too much preamble-to-a-lawsuit rubbing of his neck--and returned to my car, where suddenly a plastic death's head ring was staring up at me from the driver's-side floor.

At most younger junctures of my life I would have thought, "Cool ring!" and seen if it fit. Instead, heading now into the twilight of my life, I could only think about its worrisome implications, such as, "Did someone just slip into my car and leave this as some sort of voodoo threat?" And then maybe I'd try it on.

There was a time when, I swear, I could remember every moment of my life, which is saying something considering how dull most of it has been. These days there are gaps in my recollections you could drive a school of porpoises through. My memory being what it is, and my friends being what they are, I think this ring may be a memento from a friend's wedding, and maybe it was lost in my car for several months just waiting to appear at the most disturbing moment possible.

That or I'm cursed and will become a zombie, which does at least carry a degree of job security. I'm starting to worry about things like job security, and why I haven't accumulated financial squat in 40 years. I worry that my girlfriend feels the same sense of dismay as I do when running a hand through my thinning hair. I worry about my health and about whether I'm all used up.

Which is probably stuff well worth worrying about. But, you know, aside from all the worrying, I'm doing pretty damn fine. When I stop thinking about being old, I don't feel any older than I did decades ago.

I've been feeling run down a lot lately, which I've recently realized is only indirectly a matter of age. If you live long enough, you acquire so many interests and obligations you just can't do them all justice in the hours of the day.

I went to a doctor last year, fearing I might have chronic fatigue syndrome because I was so tired all the time. He said, "I read your stuff in the paper. You're too damn busy to have chronic fatigue." But it's only just in the last few weeks I finally looked at my schedule and realized, yes, I'm supposed to be exhausted.

This last month for example, along with the journalistic stuff, the weekly radio show and my hyperactive-squirrel notion of a personal life, I spent one weekend gigging till 2 a.m. in some friends' bar band, still getting up at unholy hours the following mornings to hit swap meets for more junk to litter my home with. The next weekend I hauled two trucks full of that junk up to Pomona to attempt to sell it at a rare guitar show, making for some 15-hour days further spiced by a trip to L.A. to see a concert.

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