JULY 10, 2007
People are like puppies: Eventually they stop being young and cute and get old and cranky. At some point you just want to drive them out to a nice place in the country, open the door, and yell, “Look, a rabbit!” Of course, with old people you might have better luck saying something like, “Look, a Luby’s!” or “Hey, is that Wilford Brimley and Angela Lansbury making out behind that tree?” Still, they might fall for the rabbit thing, too, depending on the potency of their meds. If a trip to the country seems a little costly, you might try dropping them off at Whole Foods or Central Market, where old people seem to be able to occupy themselves for days at a time, clogging the aisles with nearly empty shopping carts while loitering around the sample tables. Apparently in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, each new schmear of herbed goat cheese on a cracker tastes deliciously different, even after repeated samplings. Or, it could be that Whole Foods and Central Market are gastronomical gauntlets to the afterlife. Perhaps plowing through a smorgasbord of sample-sized snob cuisine is a one-way ticket to Heaven, or maybe it just tastes like it. Here’s the thing: Old people aren’t going anywhere soon. Yes, they make jokes about not buying green bananas or spending money on their teeth, but with advances in nutrition and medical science, it’s very likely that most old people will be around until you’re old, too. With enough Viagra and Retin A, 80 might be the new 40. There are surely benefits to that, but if you’re planning on surfing DIY porn sites in the future, you’re going to want to invest in some therapy. So, tossing aside “final solution” fantasies like Logan’s Run and Soylent Green, what are we going to do with all those extra old people? Put them back to work? Maybe, but how many Wal-Mart greeters can the world take? Imagine a spindly wall of glad-handing, blue-vested cotton tops blocking your way to the $1.99 Faded Glory sleeveless T-shirts? Time to do a little Billy Jack-style euthanasia. No, the true value of the aged is their wisdom and experience. Old people know a lot and have had a lot of practice. These traits, which are particularly annoying in young people, are what make old people tolerable, even likable. It’s unlikely that an old person is going to take your job or shag your significant other – they’re too tired – and even if they do, you have to admit they have serious, Clint Eastwood caliber game. The old can, however, be highly entertaining and informative, often at the same time, sometimes on purpose. If you need an example of this phenomenon, buy some tickets to Roky Erickson’s 60th Birthday Party at the Paramount Theatre this Friday. Erickson is crazy with wisdom and experience. The leader of the Sixties psych-rock band 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson took the whole ride: fame, drugs, insanity, and redemption. Recently, he’s been rocking harder than ever. Who knows? Maybe 60 is the new 20. Regardless, $36 gets to admission and a copy of the soundtrack to You’re Gonna Miss Me, the 2005 film documenting Erickson’s rise and fall.