It took me a while to get around to writing about turning 37. Slowing down with old age. Chortle chortle! I was reminded that I wanted to write about this, appropriately enough, during this week’s writing class, when my instructor said that according to some psychologists, adolescence lasts until you are 35. From a very cursory Google search, I cannot immediately find a reference to this. However, I do find plenty of evidence of it in my own life.
One of the adolescent things I remember doing when I was 19 was packing up all my worldly possessions at frantic speed, running out the front door and piling everything into a jalopy and then hightailing it down Edmonton’s 99th Street because I wanted to skip out on my basement suite lease and go live with my girlfriend instead. This operation had the feel of a heist, except that the items I was stealing were my own. While I did this, my landlord was out back in the yard, watering the garden. He never saw me.
A few months later, in the dead of winter, my arguments with my now-roommate and girlfriend had reached a very testing frequency. But, as often happens during such periods of life, we had some great make-up sex. One night, while basking in the afterglow, I asked her if she would marry me. She said yes.
Three months passed and finally my girlfriend’s patience wore thin. She asked me why I hadn’t told my parents that we were, you know, engaged. The truth was, the prospect terrified me. I wasn’t ready. So I broke the whole thing off. And I found myself moving again. One of the few consolations of my new solitude was going back to the jewelry store, where I was paying for a ring on the installment plan, and asking for my money back. A nest egg of six hundred dollars!
When, at 29, I first met the woman who became my true love and eventual wife, I was still very much living for the weekend. I had a Friday night habit wherein I would get blinding drunk at Remedy Café on 109th Street, leave, and dial Pizza 73 from my cell phone. Then I would walk along Saskatchewan Drive and gaze at the blurry lights of downtown. Arriving home, I’d lie down on my couch and listen to my favourite music and then pass out.
Moments later the doorbell would ring. Startled out of my drunken doze, I would run to the door and count out the twenty-five dollars and a tip. “Thank you, thank you!” I’d half-shout to the pizza man, because I’m always so courageously loud when I’m drunk at three in the morning. I would assemble the pizza-and-wings deal on top of my coffee table; always marveling at the little plastic jigger in the shape of a table that separates the top layer (greasy wings) from the bottom layer (greasy pizza).
Around this general period of time, I had a Whiskey Night with a few friends of mine. I don’t know about my friends, but that night got me as pickled as a gherkin. Dave and I departed after midnight in a taxi-van. The driver dropped Dave off at his apartment tower and then headed to Blue Quill where I was temporarily living with my parents due to some fiscal problems. As the taxi-van lurched around the corner of 23rd Avenue, I felt my tummy wobble ominously. When the van jerked to a halt in the drive way, a hot wave of puke cascaded from my lips. My reflexes were too slow to open the van door more than a few inches. Most of my belly-effluent ended up inside the taxi-van and only a few token chunks made their way out into the snow.
Clearly I had not acquitted myself very well. But still being of an adolescent frame of mind, I had to try and make things worse.
“Extra fifty dollars charge for me to clean that up,” said the poor, disgusted cabbie.
“Outrageous!” I shouted. “I am not paying fifty dollars!”
“No sir, you make a mess, you pay.”
“No way!” I insisted. “I will pay you the full fare, and a generous tip, but I won’t be paying a cleaning charge because I will be cleaning this puke with my own bare hands.”
I thereupon handed him all the money I felt I owed him. I hauled open the van door and watched a few more dribs and drabs of my alcohol artshow drip onto the icy driveway. Suddenly I was moving very quickly. I ran to the house, fought with the key in the lock, won that battle decisively, and trooped through to the kitchen where I filled a bucket with piping hot water and some Mister Clean.
Back outside, I began my cleaning operation.
“Your van is going to be as good as new!” I called out to the cabbie.
I always enjoy a bit of manual work.
“There, see?” I called out, a minute later.
The van and the driveway were steaming from the hot water that I had poured liberally all over the place. I doubt the cabbie could actually see my handiwork. He probably wanted to get back to his wife and children.
What a spoilt, suburban shit muncher I must have seemed to him.
Two weekends ago, Monika sprung my surprise birthday present on me – a night at a bed & breakfast in the Eastern Townships – and we departed on a perfect, cloudless autumn day, arriving at the head of a trail called Le Diable Vert at 3pm, and we hiked into the trees, surrounded on all sides by mountains, and after a respectful rest to take in the sound of nothing more than the mooing of a cow, we drove into Sutton and went for dinner at Bistro Beaux Lieux. I got overconfident with my French and ordered Rognons de Veau, thinking Rognons were medallions, and so I ended up eating calf kidneys, which taste how I imagine eyeballs tasting, and the old Bohemian Saint-Emilion-quaffer next to us had a full-throated laugh at my expense, but I didn’t mind, because I knew I’d learned a word I’d never forget. I get off on that kind of thing. Our bottle of wine was very good, and because I was feeling decadent, I ordered a cheese plate. I knew that another bottle of wine was waiting back at the B&B, and not only that – a sauna, a clawfoot tub, a sumptuous bed, and – I’m just warming up to the best part – a night with somebody I want to share my whole life with.
It would be a boring and predictable conclusion if I talked about anything I’ve learned. Mostly I just feel very grateful to have made it this far and to have not exhausted the patience of the many people I care about. I like being 37. I like it a lot. I don’t miss adolescence. The adolescent is alive and well in me. He’s just not puking in cabs any more.