Indulgence is what the doctor orders for those on the cusp of dotage. (If you’re lucky, you’ll get here too someday, so stay tuned.)
When one arrives at the age where an evening phone call is more likely to bring news of a friend with cancer rather than a request to head into the nighttime looking for adventure, personal intemperance is healthy.
There are lessons to be remembered. Like how diversion from life’s inherent moments of drudgery is a necessity. That it’s OK to have mindless digressions from hauling the kids to volleyball practice, from spending extracurricular hours honing another redundant report for the boss.
As a flower child told me once, “Follow your bliss. The magical mojo will follow.”
I’ve developed a fun relationship with a guy I went to college more than 40 years ago. We were fraternity brothers.
As I write, I’m looking at a group photo circa ’64 of the Alpha Epsilon chapter of Zeta Beta Tau. Most of the 60 or so brothers have assumed suitably sophomoric poses. Paul and I are standing next to each other. One of my hands is tucked in my coat Napoleonic style. The thumb of the other is stuck in my ear. Clever, eh? Paul is looking at the ground somewhat shyly.
I cannot recall a conversation he and I had during those years. I’m sure there were some, but we didn’t hang together in any meaningful way.
Sometime in the past year or so another frat brother, a mutual friend, forwarded an e-mail of Paul’s. The exact subject matter escapes me, but it had something to do with music, more specifically old rock ’n’ roll and ’60s R&B. Which it turns out are passions for both of us. Obsessions, really.
So we now e-mail, bantering back and forth about arcania of little interest to most.
Have you ever heard of the Thornton Sisters?
Didn’t think so. They were a soul band, all the women from one family. Dad was manager and vigilant protector against evil frat boys who would live out their fantasies with his daughters if given a chance. He made sure they weren’t.
Another fraternity brother became the band’s booking agent, finding them gigs up and down the East Coast. Those soulful Thornton sirens grew up to be successful women. One’s a doc. The others professionals.
The point is that Paul and I find pleasure in spending more time than anybody could imagine on such musical minutiae. Would it matter to most why the Five Du-Tones’ version of “Shake a Tail Feather” is included on a mix tape instead of that of James and Bobby Purify? Of course not.
But I’ve just written Paul asking for an explanation of his choice.
And I’ve suggested a book for him to read: Ken Emerson’s “Always Magic in the Air — The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era.” Does it matter to many that songwriter Mike Stoller (of Leiber and) was rescued from the Andria Doria? No. But Paul will be fascinated. Unless, of course, he’s already read the book, which he very well may have.
So this isn’t about Paul or me or a seminal lyric that reads, “I know that the boogaloo is outasight/But the shingaling’s the thing tonight.”
My premise is the importance of personal passion. Everybody’s. And here’s what I implore you to do. Embrace yours.
You like to build boats in a bottle? Then watch some youngster gawk in wonder? Wear the hobby like a badge.
You a model train nut and find yourself hanging out — too much, your spouse might feel — at that shop over on Frankfort Avenue by the railroad tracks? Enjoy.
You collect antique apple peelers? Fill the basement. There’s always more room.
It just seems like the healthiest, most centered folks I’ve met have some quirky interest or another. Either they’re obsessed with knowing everything there is to know about the evolution of steamboats or they’re whittling their 463rd rendition of the face of Mount Rushmore.
Bottom line: Life, as is nature’s way, is full of bracing phone messages, lost job benefits, wayward nephews causing family distress, beloved pets who need surgery.
When we can, we must follow our follies.
By the by, did you know Carole King was in a family way when she wrote “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”?
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