“Twenty-three skidoo, hepcat. You’re the cat’s pajamas.”
That’s what I would say to my dad when I was a teenager and he would tell me stories, in all the swingin’ lingo of his salad days, about the late 1940s, back when he was a bouncer and parking lot attendant at Los Angeles nightclubs in which jazz stars such as Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis performed.
Pink Floyd, Creedence and Van the Man and listen to Pop’s albums. I didn’t do it when he was around, because I didn’t want the old man to know I liked his snazzy stuff, but the truth is I did.
Still, the music, the era, the vernacular, seemed so dated. When I was 18, 30 years seemed so long ago.
Sometimes I forget that with my students. OK, I often I forget that with my students.
I’ll be singing an old Prince or Guns ‘N’ Roses or Rolling Stones song in front of the class and, as much as they are amused by my unabashed idiocy, oftentimes the students have never heard of the song. They might know who Prince Rogers Nelson or Axl Rose or Mick Jagger are, but they look at me like I looked at my dad back when I was their age when they hear me singing the songs and telling related stories.
“Wow, you are so old, gramps,” their bemused eyes scream.
Yes, such songs are 25 or 35 or 40 years old, but to me that doesn’t seem that long ago. But what seems like yesterday to me, and maybe you, is an eternity to young people.
I may be thinking about issues of time passing, and my time passing, because I just had another birthday, and different ages affect me differently. I handled 23 much better than 24. Twenty-four meant I soon had to stop being a professional student and hanging around all the pretty college girls and get a real job. Forty-five I handled well, but turning 46 put me, in my mind, in middle age.
Fifty-three, I’ve decided since I turned that age a few weeks ago, is getting pretty darn old any way you look at it.
I also may be particularly conscious of such issues because I am reading Stephen King’s latest novel, “11-22-63,” which is about a high school English teacher who spends much of his life grading papers — the bane of the English teacher’s existence, let me tell you — but, through a portal, goes back in time to try to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
I like Stephen King’s writing but I don’t read most of his books because I only have so much time in this life and he puts out so many books. This one, though, came highly recommended from fellow readers and I was intrigued by the subject matter. (It’s 849 pages and as thick as a library dictionary, so I’ll be toting this book for some time, getting bigger biceps all the while.)
JFK’s death, in fact, is one of my earliest memories. It was more than 48 years ago, which probably will turn out to be more than half of my lifetime. Truthfully, I’ll be happy if I squeeze another 30 years out of this body, this existence.
For my students, 30 years seems like forever.
For me, at this point in my life, 30 years doesn’t seem like much at all.
Bret Kofford teaches writing at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. His opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of SDSU or its employees. Kofford can be reached at Kofford@roadrunner.com