Dinosaur in mirror still young at heart

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It took me 50-odd years to behold my own grizzled countenance in the mirror and admit, as comedian Wanda Sykes likes to put it, “I old.”

The “50” part seems absurd to me. My jump shot remains unstoppable and I disgust my cardiologist.

It’s the oddness of the past half-century that leaves me grinning like an Osmond.

See that? Osmond. Like you would know what I mean.

“It’s the circle of life: coffee to buzz juice, headphones to ear buds.”

Around age 40, your reference points start to slip. Little kids give you concerned looks when you say things like “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” or “Mikey likes it” or even “Party on, Garth!”

And you think to yourself: Oops, my geez is showing. That’s “geez,” as in “geezer.”

By 50, you’ve missed the hot tamale train just as surely as Nigel Lythgoe. At which point your options are two: reset your mental GPS to updated pop culture coordinates or simply shove that Christopher Cross tape back into the eight-track deck and sail away.

Geezer express

I climbed aboard the geezer express recently while visiting with my 20-something nephews in Seattle. One plays drums in an emo band, the other roasts coffee beans. They both drink something called Rockstar, which may explain the vampiric hours they keep.

We’re on the same planet, but just barely. Their music is several light-years removed from mine, as was mine from my parents. It’s the circle of life: coffee to buzz juice, headphones to ear buds.

The occasional geezer check is a good habit to cultivate. It prevents you from blurting out embarrassing anachronisms. I used the phrase “throw the baby out with the bath water” last week and I thought the guy was going to call the cops. A passing reference to “the devil you know” got me in equally hot water.

Fortunately, there’s help. Tom McBride and Ron Nief, geezer professors at tiny Beloit College in Wisconsin, have made a habit of resetting their faculty’s cultural positioning systems annually for the past 12 years by issuing what they call the “Mindset List.”

It’s sort of a checkup from the neck up for academics who have been too busy grading papers to notice that Nixon is no longer the one in the Oval Office.

Money matters

Of course, there are also several money matters that separate a geez like me from the Class of 2013 — or from my nephews, for that matter.

Today’s college students and other young adults have never known life without credit cards. They bank online and only write a check under duress.

The mechanics of things like ATMs, PIN pads and contactless payment devices, modern marvels that once rocked the world, hardly rate a “tweet.” But OMG, dangle a killer payment application for their iPhone in front of them and watch the thumbs fly!

The reference gap is all about perspective. Here’s what you should know about the college freshmen who are about to drink your town dry:

  • They have never known a world without flat-screen TVs, blue Jell-O, the European Union or Zoloft.
  • They have always known the evening news before the “Evening News” came on.
  • They have always watched wars, coups and police chases on TV in real time.
  • The nation’s key economic indicator has always been the gross domestic product, or GDP.
  • There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
  • They have never been “Saved by the Bell.”

Many of my fellow geezers long ago gave up trying to keep pace with our world — or whirled, as the case may be. One of my buddies still listens to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” album, for heaven’s sake. On vinyl! And his wife allows it!

But not this dinosaur. I love the gadgetry, the better-mouse-trappiness of modern life, and the rebel spirit of young people forging their own language, customs and values from the splendid contradictions of their circumstances.

Youth? Don’t miss it. Experience affords me the perspective to enjoy change now.

It’s like, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Bob Dylan said that.

Whoever he was.

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