I went out with two friends for a schmooz and a cocktail after work last Thursday. We met at one of the latest of the super hip joints that is contributing to the transformation of what was once a district devoted to raw meat and butchers to one that is still devoted to raw meat- just the classier type of beautiful men and women all perfectly manicured and decked to charm and slay.
We were lucky because having scored corner seats at the bar, we were impervious to the continuous jostle of bodies seeking position. We had a round of drinks and I was in the mood for a glass of a dry white wine.
I looked up to beckon the bartender and saw that he was just finishing with a customer, and as he turned in my direction he started a conversation with his co-worker bartender. They chatted, and when he again looked at me I hand-signaled to please come here. He sauntered over, stared me in the eyes and said
Do Not Wave At Me!
I smiled at the brilliant absurdity. Here I was asking for a drink from a bartender and I was being reprimanded because I “asked” with my hands. So it was logical to inquire what was the proper protocol in a situation like this. The mighty Oz speaketh:
You should say “Excuse me”, and when I have a minute I will come and attend to you.
Here lies the lesson: the privilege of paying $14 for a mini-pour does not guarantee the privilege of actually being a guest of the bar. And to think the only rule I learned was never throw an olive at a bartender’s head.
As yet, it remains possible to find down-to-earth bars scattered throughout the city, but with Manhattan’s ever evolving spin into a glass dome for the super rich, I do not know how long that will hold true.
Last Friday night, my way-left-of-59 office buddy and I headed over to Salvation Taco on East 39th Street for an after work cocktail. We had been there once before when she had taken me out for a pre-wedding fete. That night it had been pouring rain so we skipped the rooftop bar. But last Friday evening was exquisite. Drinking a chilled and salted margarita at a facsimile of a Mexican patio high above the streets of Manhattan was enticing.
We arrived and saw a line of Raybanned millennials hanging about the entrance and a hostess taking names. We bypassed the crowd and walked through the glass doors to the elevator.
There was a sign posted “See Hostess for Rooftop Bar.”
We looked at each other and got in the elevator and emerged to see the cloudless blue 6:00 sky and started to head in. We were stopped by a bouncer.
“Let me see your stamp”.
“The stamp you get downstairs from the hostess to come up to the rooftop bar. You have to go back down and get stamped.”
We really did not have the time to trek back down to the ground floor, wait on line and then wait to go up. So I did the next best thing. I looked that bouncer straight in her unwrinkled eye and said sweetly,
Look, I’m old. Please let us in?
She saw there was some truth to that statement and kindly replied
Go on in.
That margarita tasted sooo piquantly delicious because being almost 60 had delivered an unexpected perk: entrance into an overpacked happy hour.
Julie and I have moved the name of the blog ahead a few years in order to catch up with us. We feel we are beyond The Write Side of 50 because we are now pushing 60. (I’ve already crossed the line.)
Indications are that we are aging out of the “middle” and are now on the precipice of “old.” So we’ve moved the start line up to 59, hence, “The Write Side of 59.” Fifty nine — an age that you may not give a hoot about nor have thought much about until it’s behind you.
Many view 60 as the beginning of “Chapter Three” in the trilogy of life. The last chapter. The end of this chapter is The End. I know I’m certainly humbled by what sociologist and psychotherapist, Lillian B. Rubin, who died last year at the age of 90, had written for Salon:
“Sure, aging is different than it was a generation or two ago and there are more possibilities now than ever before, if only because we live so much longer. It just seems to me that, whether at 60 or 80, the good news is only half the story. For it’s also true that old age — even now when old age often isn’t what it used to be — is a time of loss, decline and stigma.”
“… loss, decline and stigma.” Realities that I try to tuck away in the far reaches of my consciousness, but are certainly part of my life. Yes, bad personal news is becoming as fickle as weather — guaranteed, but only so predictable. Some bad things will not get better. A lot of good things are no longer going to happen. Illness and death are plucking people from my life.
I could go on and on with the usual platitudes that play with our heads and tell us that we can stay “young” forever — that cultural bombardment of how to defy age. You can fight your gray hairs, your wrinkles, and the desire to go to bed at 8:30. You stay physically active, and you seek out stimulation and passion.
But any routine and repose will no doubt be interrupted by bad news. Wounds — both emotional and physical — seem to cut deeper, take longer to heal and often whittle away at that blissful sense of control and immortality that the younger years allowed. There’s a new balance between: “I can handle anything,” and “Haven’t I had enough?”
If “the good news is only half the story,” that means there is a good half. If anything, aging into the 60s, 70s, and 80s will be unpredictable. And studies show that there is an “upswing” in satisfaction and happiness throughout the 60s and 70s.
And I’m guessing there will be fodder for adventurous storytelling unlike any we’ve ever had. Julie and I are among the lucky ones who have our health, our independence, our jobs. We laugh a lot. And we’re both on brand new (and different) post-59 paths.
At 59, Julie married for the first time.
At 59, I divorced after a 30-year marriage.
Julie’s parents are both alive and healthy, as are all of her siblings. She has a big extended family.
My dad died years ago, my mom has been taken away by severe dementia, and I lost a brother. I have almost no family left.
As a newly married woman, Julie has lately been living the life of a newlywed with a sense of calm and a sense of safety that comes with being a newlywed. She has a husband, Steve. She’s happily navigating being part of a married couple and all that comes with it — commitment, laying roots, love …
As a somewhat newly divorced woman (one year), I have been living in a constant state of gusto — full of risks, perils, thrills, and curiosity. I have dates. I’m happily navigating being single and all that comes with it — variety, enchantment, lovers, (danger!) …
I’m thinking the right side of 59 can be a captivating time in a devil-may-care way. Be foolhardy. Be wise. Take those risks. Look where you’re going. Mourn those losses. Salute your survival. Jump in with eyes wide open. Cry your eyes out when you feel sorry for yourself.
And try your best to stay “alive” until the day you die.
On April 20, 2013, Lo and I made plans to buy a variety of potatoes and cook them and write about them. We did.
I just came across the pictures I took that day (April 20, 2013), attempting to capture the lushness of the color, the pleasure in the arrangement, the curiosity about the taste.
We paired them with sprigs of fresh rosemary:
and garlic chives:
It only took about 4 days for Lo, Steve and me to consume all 25 potatoes.
Exactly four months before the wedding day, Lois and I boarded a plane to Detroit, Michigan. Despite being repeatedly peppered with “Who goes to Detroit?” and “Why go to Detroit?” and “You are going to Detroit, in the dead of winter? We never wavered. Detroit beckoned.
We knew this was the perfect trip, and I say this even though we were stranded in the Detroit airport for 8 hours and ended up having to overnight, un-comped, at the Westin Hotel due to a nor’easter. No matter, we went swimming in our underwear while the storm raged on.
And we met lots of interesting people because endless hours at an airport leads to bonding amongst strangers. But prior thereto, Detroit packed a wallop.
There is so much to see and do. Saturday morning we had a Coney Island Chili Dog at American Coney Island.
The waiter had no idea that there was an actual place called Coney Island which put hot dogs on the map.
We walked down Woodward Avenue studded with grand old 19th century churches past the stadium that houses the Detroit Tigers and into the The Detroit Institute of Arts. A keen kin to the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I discovered Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s “The Wedding Dance,” painted in 1566. It was a harbinger of my June nuptials and screamed a wedding is a party where lust and love are offered and accepted in the most bawdy of fashion.
We also got a chance to see Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals. They were a motivating reason to come to Detroit because the murals he had planned for Rockefeller Center were felled by public outcry. But in Detroit, we had an opportunity to see the intact in situ Detroit Industry murals, a visual panorama of the pros and cons of industry, where both management and workers are represented.
After a delicious lunch and a thorough scouring of the museum shop, we taxied over to the house where Berry Gordy founded Motown.
I found the Motown tour a little thin, but it was totally cool to see the recording studio where the Temptations, Supremes, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder etc. congregated and made gold records.
We had cocktail hour at a 1930’s speakeasy — Cliff Bell’s — and barbecue at Slow’s. And defnitely one needs an Uber app to trek around Detroit at night.
On Sunday, we were heading out at 12:00 for our 2:00 flight back to Newark, but we had heard that the Guardian Building is a must see architectural gem. It’s one of many skyscrapers that epitomize Detroit’s status as a leader of commerce and instury at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s where the automobile was born.
The Guardian was built by Wirt C. Rowland and its purpose was to celebrate the world of finance. It’s open for viewing every day and it’s free. It was worth the trip to Detroit. And for those who stand in awe of the Chrysler building, which is fabulous, the Guardian Building has a bit more over the top deco-ishness.
We capped the morning with scrambled eggs and bloodies at The Dime Store and were on our way to the airport right on schedule where the weather intervened.