… are dead.
I got a text message from my sister a couple of days ago, informing me that Kenny Shane – a classmate from the Columbia High School class of 1969 – has died. I looked for an obituary online but haven’t found one yet.
I remember Ken Shane because we shared a few interests in junior high. First it was slot cars and, later, music (which is a euphemism for ‘girls’). I recall Ken as a drummer, though I don’t remember what bands he might have played with. Max Weinberg was the drummer in our class. He went on to play with some other guy from New Jersey, Bruce somebody.
I encountered Ken on Facebook some years ago. We traded the occasional Like or comment. By then he was a regular contributor to an online music publication called Popdose, and a singer/songwriter. He sent me a CD he made (Spotify link). I listened to it. Once.
We chatted a little at our last class reunion in the fall of 2019… the 50 year reunion. Fortunately he didn’t ask me about that CD.
Ken Shane’s last Facebook post was October 10 – a birthday salute to John Lennon (also dead). There is nothing on his Facebook about an illness.
And now, Ken Shane is dead.
Like a lot of people my age.
I’m 72 years old today, November 15, 2022.
And still I wonder…. how is this possible?
It’s funny, the yardsticks by which we measure good fortune.
I spoke with a dear friend a couple of days ago. I hadn’t spoken to her in several months, and actually only made contact when I sent a text message to somebody else and iMessage accidentally added her name to the ‘to’ line. She replied with the news that she’d been in a horrendous auto accident three months ago, had been in the hospital for 3-1/2 weeks, and was still in physical therapy and recovery.
First of all: I. Had. No. Idea. (That none of our mutual supposed friends thought to say a word to me about this is its own source disturbed curiosity – but that’s a subject for another time/post – which means I’ll probably never mention it again.)
When we finally spoke a couple of days later I learned that her femur had been broken, along with several other bones and an accompanying raft of bruises and lacerations. She sent me a photo of the car. It’s a wonder anybody survived. Her husband was driving but the worst impact was to the passenger side. Airbags may have caused some of the minor injuries, but they also saved both of their lives.
The good news is that after several months of arduous rehab, she is presently walking with cane and expects a full recovery.
As we were talking, I went through a mental inventory. I could not find anything similar in my own experience.
I haven’t been in a serious wreck since I was in high school: a rear-ender that was absorbed by the trunk of my mother’s Buick Skylark. I was involved in a couple of pretty bad wrecks when I was younger, but, again, no serious injuries (and that was before seatbelts). That’s one reason why I am a pretty careful driver – and why I am a terrible passenger when anybody else is driving (just ask my ex-wife).
What do I have to compare to such grievous injuries?
I pulled a muscle in my left calf last week and can’t play pickleball for a few weeks.
Yes, I have been caught up in the pickleball craze. As most people I mention it to are aware, pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport – and the fastest growing source of sports-related injuries. I suffered one myself last week, pulling up lame as I rushed the net after a serve. An orthopaedist fondled my calf and advised me to just stay off it for a while. I hobbled about the house for a couple of days but I’m about 95% normal now, save a bit of residual tenderness. I’ll wait another couple of weeks before I venture out on the court again.
I’m 72 years old. And some of my friends are dead already.
But the closest I’ve come to anything that could even be remotely considered a health scare was when I had a skin cancer surgically removed six years ago. That might not even have qualified as a ‘scare’ were it not for the fact that my father, my mother and my brother all died of various kinds of cancer.
And since I dropped 30+ pounds during the pandemic (and hanging in pretty consistently at 5’8″ and ~155lbs), my ‘numbers’ have been the best they’ve been in a decade: blood pressure, cholesterol, A-1C – all more or less normal.
Some people get a ticket for their last bus ride. Some people get hit by the bus. Barring the latter, I should still be around long enough for my next colonoscopy.
So what am I doing with this gift of time?
Hah. Please don’t hold me accountable.
I am working on several projects, all writing-and-publishing oriented.
Remember that book project I was working on in the ‘aughts? “The biography of a man whose story cannot be told”? A few weeks after Apple canned me I found myself drawn back to that material, and over the summer I finished the second draft that eluded me for more than a decade. Funny how things work out, huh? I am planning to publish in January (I could use a proof-reader, anybody wanna volunteer?).
I also spent a fair amount of the late summer editing a friend’s memoir. He handed me a 100,000 manuscript and six weeks later I handed him back a 60,000 word manuscript. I really enjoyed that work. And he paid me for it – the most I’ve ever earned from word-smithing!
I’ve been maintaining this personal blog/site for more than a decade, with little regard to how much traffic it generates. Even though I’ve been on the Internet since before most people ever heard of the Internet, I have a lot to learn about the Dark Arts of Keywords, Indexing, Search Engine Optimization and Analytics. Right now I am a digital carpenter gazing into an unfamiliar box of virtual tools, picking each one up and wondering “what does this one do?”
When I’m baffled by all these moving parts, I wonder if that’s how I should be spending my time – staring at screens, tapping at at keyboards, scratching my chin. But for the remainder of the fall and coming winter, this will suffice. And I always have a guitar within reach, and I expect pickleball to resume at the end of the month.
What else am I supposed to do, play golf?
I’m also thinking about another pilgrimage to the U.K. in the summer of ’23: Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in June, the British Grand Prix in July (I’ve started following Formula 1 racing, a rekindled interest from adolescence). Time will tell if I can line that up.
The point is: Most of the time, I consider myself unimaginably fortunate.
I’ve got a couple hands-full of close friends, and a larger personal ‘social network‘ that I stay in regular contact with this way.
I have a paid-for house (thank you, Gaylord), a cord of firewood for the winter, a few shekels in the bank and no debt to speak of, a bit of Social Security and Medicare, food in the fridge, a small collection of fabulous guitars, and a convertible that I can drive dangerously fast when the mood strikes me – and I am still agile enough to manage a stick shift (if I ever need a car with an automatic transmission, please, just put me in the ground with it).
And I never invested a dime in crypto.
Also: 35 years without a sip, a sniff or a puff. My last drink was Thanksgiving day 1987. When people ask “how’d you do it?” I tell ’em “I’m on the 2-step program: 1. Don’t drink. 2. Don’t die.
I spend a ridiculous amount of time alone, but I can’t say as I feel entirely lonely. Compared to a lot of people I know, I’m my own best company. I mean, sure, I’d like to have snuggle-buddy, but it’s hard to meet somebody a) when you don’t leave the house much and b) so many people my age are dead.
Tonight I’m going to dinner with some friends and I am going to eat many things that some people will say are ‘bad’ for me (including an incredibly indulgent chocolate cake).
But I’ve been eating those things for 70+ years now and they haven’t killed me yet. Why mess with success?
So, yeah. 72 years old, unimaginably fortunate – and not dead.
I just want anybody taking the time to read this to know that I am grateful for your continued goodwill and friendship, however it is manifest (but, please, if you’re in a life-threatening car wreck, maybe let me know and I’ll bring chicken soup).
Because, like the guy in Monty Python…