Your Humble Narrator has now spent fifty-eight years on this plain granite planet, and if he was baffled when he emerged from the womb that fall day in 1953, he's more so today. This is, I suspect, probably inevitable: the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. (It occurs to me that what passes for a political system in America today is based on denying that fact at any cost.) How many years remain for him, he does not know, and that's probably just as well.
The number 58 really doesn't say a whole lot, unless you're a fan of cerium or of Nikki Sixx, who had a side project called 58, which released one album, incorporating a preposterous cover of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again Naturally." Spongebob Squarepants' pal Patrick thinks that 58 is, like, the luckiest number ever, but what does he know? On the other hand, the National Weather Service will issue a Severe Thunderstorm Warning if winds are expected to exceed 58 mph, which doesn't strike me as lucky. (Also likely with those storms: hail at least an inch in diameter, the sort that punched my roof repeatedly in the spring of 2010.) And come to think of it, cerium has one interesting characteristic: of all the elements classified as "rare earths," it is the least rare, about 0.0046% of the Earth's crust by weight. A common rare earth! If that's not a metaphor for me, I don't know what is.
Purely in terms of age, being 58 is no big deal; you usually have to be sixty before those young whippersnappers on your lawn start going "Wow, you're so old!" It is, however, generally beyond the point where you realize that Pete Townshend's "Hope I die before I get old" was a load of dingo's kidneys. (I suspect that Pete himself realized this about the time bandmate Keith Moon died well before he got old.) Social Security is still several years off, if it's there at all. And while I have never actually asked for a Senior Discount, once in a while I seem to get one.
Then again, not being much of a milestone means 58 doesn't demand a whole lot of introspection, which is a good thing since I'm not in much of a mood to go poking around in the dark corners of the subconscious today. If not much seems to be happening to me, well, I can deal with that; my health, if not exactly awe-inspiring, is also not at a level where I'm likely to go under the scrutiny of the Death Panels. (Before you ask: the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate has sought out the leading edge of my prostate this year, and found it to be exactly where it was last time.) There is at least a measurable chance that I will outlive my mortgage, which has about twenty-one years to run, though it's difficult to get a jump on the principal when the escrow payment keeps bouncing upwards. If one must be stuck in a rut, this is the one to be stuck in.
And then there's this:
The way you talk, the things you've done
It takes five whole minutes to get into the first actual verse in "Poem 58," the last track on Side 2 (of four) of the Chicago Transit Authority LP, and while those words really don't mean a whole lot outside the sort of funk Chicago plays here, the meaning, to me, is a bit more meta: sometimes it takes more than half of the time you're alloted to get to the place you want to be.
Not that I'd say that to young Rebecca Black, approximately half the age of my everyday dinner dishes, whose viral hit "Friday" peaked at #58 on Billboard's Hot 100. No two people have exactly the same schedule. Three-quarters of the way to a thousand of these semi-essays, this may be the one thing I've actually learned.
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Copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Hill