I’m 59, But Feel 19, But Something’s Wrong with My Body

A common sentiment among older people is they still feel young inside, just like when they were teenagers, but it’s their body that’s aging.  I feel that too, but yesterday it occurred to me that I have changed because of a conversation I had with my friend Mike.  We were talking about how bad the old TV show The Monkees was – it’s in reruns on Antenna TV.  Back in 1966, when I was 14, my sister and I loved that show.  Watching it now makes me think I must have been brain damaged!

The Monkees is a horrendous TV show.  It makes Gilligan’s Island feel like Shakespeare, and that’s another old show I loved as a kid but can’t stand now.  So I can’t really say I feel like I did when I was young, something has changed.  But why do I feel unchanged?

If I think about it I can come up with all kinds of ways I’ve changed.  When I was a kid I did stupid things like own a motorcycle, hitch-hike and take drugs, none of which I would do now.  I now think a much wider range of women are attractive, but that’s true of food, music, books, etc.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not the person I was when I was young.  So why do we feel we are?

I think the tendency is to feel that we’re a little soul driving around inside our head, steering our body until it turns into a rusted old junker.  Now I guess some people feel they are different inside as they age, but I think a lot of people don’t.  What causes that feeling?  It just occurred to me that I’ve reread things I wrote decades ago and felt I was reading someone else’s writing.  Are our inner beings unconnected to our thinking and opinions too, like they are from the body?

Is there a me inside of my body that’s unchanging even though my body changes, my tastes change, my opinions change, my skills change, and so on?  I know when I’m sick I can feel the me-ness shrink inside, like its being physically assaulted, but the uniqueness stays there no matter how much pain or nausea I feel until I pass out.  When I fall asleep the me goes away, but a tiny bit of it exists in dreams.  When I’ve had surgery and have been put under, it feels like the me has been shut off like a light switch and then suddenly turned back on.

It’s interesting to think of the me, the part of me that’s self-aware, is separate from my opinions and tastes. There’s a science fictional concept called downloading, where people imagine having their brains recorded and then burned into a clone’s brain or digital computer.  They think of this as a form of immortality, but what if the me is a mechanism of the brain that doesn’t copy?  What if the me is the equivalent of a tape-head, and not the tape?  So experiences flow past it but it doesn’t change with them?

But that doesn’t explain why I loved The Monkees in 1966 and hate it in 2011.  It implies that it’s not the tape head, or that the tape head does change over time.  Even though I feel like I’m the same person at 59 as I was a 19 that might be a delusion.  If I could put my 59 year old brain back into my 19 year old body would would I keep my wisdom or turn foolish?  Of course, if I could I put my 59 year old brain back into my 14 year old body would I start loving The Monkees again?  I don’t think so.

I’ve read that people with brain damage feel like different people.  I’m guessing the brain is what feels homey and constant, and it’s the physical body that feels different with aging, and the informational content of the brain that makes my tastes change.  What I worry about is having a stroke or getting Alzheimer’s and losing part of my me-ness.  I’m already used to my body breaking down.  And I’m getting used to forgetting information in my brain, which doesn’t hurt by the way.  But I don’t relish losing that feeling of unchanging me-ness.  But sometimes the me dies before the body.

NOTE:  I think a lot of people read my stuff and think I’m depressed because I write about what they think are depressing topics.  But I’m not depressed at all.  I marvel at all the changes in my life.  I regret not being able to hang onto everything, but that’s not how things work and I accept it.  I don’t want to experience decline and death, but I don’t have any choice, so I like to philosophize about what I’m going through.  And I’m trying to learn from those explorers ahead of me, those folks in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

JWH – 4/11/11

Do Colds Get Stronger As We Get Older?

I have a mystery.  My annual colds are getting more debilitating each year.  I missed 5 work days with this cold, and I was sick on both connecting weekends too.  I still have nasty lingering symptoms.  This year was so bad that I’m freaked out about next year already.  Usually when I get a cold I’ll miss a couple days of work and get some reading done.  I didn’t even feel like reading this year. 

Why?  Here are some possibilities:

  • I’m getting older – is a cold harder to handle at 59 than 49 or 39?  How will they feel at 69, 79, 89?
  • I’ve been taking flu shots for the last three years, could this be a side-effect?
  • I’ve been living in a new (old) house and it has a new heating system – could that affect my system?
  • I’m exercising less because of a back problem – could reduce stamina hurt my ability to handle a cold?
  • Maybe I just hit a run of stronger cold strains and things will change?
  • Or is it only a matter of self-deception and the current infection is always the worse?

Looking back over my life I don’t remember colds being this unpleasant, but the one I’m getting over now has been a doozy.  And to be honest, after studying colds and flus, some of my memories of having the flu might actually have been a cold, so that I did have some bad colds when I was younger.

Wikipedia has a wonderful essay on the common cold.  It says the average adult gets 2-4 colds a year, and the average kid gets 6-12 cold infections annually.  It also says the average length of a cold is 7-10 days with some symptoms lasting up to 3 weeks.  Now that describe my “bad” colds.  And hell, I don’t ever remember having that many colds, either as an adult or a kid.  (If you do the math from Wikipedia, something sounds fishy though.  Some people must be sick all year round.)

I do think I’m on a four winter streak of ever worse colds, and I wonder why.

Under normal conditions having a cold wasn’t all that bad, I took off from work and read.  I’ve even thought  that a cold produces a nice high that’s perfect for rereading favorite novels and wallowing in nostalgia.  This year I couldn’t read.  I watched damn little TV.  I just tried to sleep as much as possible to escape the misery of the moment.  It’s been 12 days now, with the last three back at work.  I’m better, but I have a lingering hacking cough that scares my co-workers and keeps me up at night.  I’m still coughing up green pus, blowing out green snot (which is sometimes bloody), and if I leave my eyes shut for any length of time they will gum up with green goo. 

People keep telling me to go to the doctor and get antibiotics.  Several people have said green is a sign of infection and I need antibiotics to fight it off.  I found this article that contradicts that.  And besides, I’m afraid of going to a doctor.  I picture her waiting room filled with sick people with even more germs to infect me.  And I’m also chicken about taking antibiotics.  I ended up in the emergency room in my twenties and I was told it was probably a reaction to penicillin. 

I’m a total wimp when it comes to getting sick.  If I can barely handle a cold now, how will the flu feel?  If my body can’t handle a common ailment how will it do if I have a heart attack, or pneumonia or cancer, or any of those other diseases old people get?  I need to build up some stamina if I’m going to even make it to my social security years.  It makes me wonder if God is getting me back for my skeptical life, or at least my body is getting me back for living a slothful, overweight life.  How can I redeem myself?

My friend Mike is four years younger than me, but when he had some health problems, he took control, lost weight, and is now running half marathons.  I need to make Mike my role model, but there’s one problem.  Mike has always been very disciplined and I’m not.  I’ve been trying to lose weight for twenty-five years and never have succeeded.  And that’s despite the fact that I’ve given up eating most of my favorite junk foods.

Be that as it may, I still need to work a little miracle of self-transformation on myself.  I just don’t know how.  I also feel that if I don’t find some method of aerobic exercise that my back can tolerate that my vitality and stamina is in a slow decline.  I bet next year’s cold will be even worse than this year’s cold.

JWH – 1/26/11

Katy Perry vs. The Beatles

There is a kind of age prejudice in pop music that I’d like to explore.  When I was growing I thought Perry Como and Dean Martin were for over the hill folks, like my parents.  The Beatles and Bob Dylan defined my generation, even though older college kids looked down on us teens from their folk music purity.  And let’s not forget the smugness of classical music fans or jazz aficionados who sneer at three chord rock and roll from their hipster highs.

But I have to admit, we baby boomers are terrible music snobs.  Many of my generation stopped listening to music after 1975.  For people coming of age in the 1960s, The Beatles are the yardstick that all other pop music is measured.  To many of us the art of music has been in sharp decline since 1969’s Abbey Road.  But has the music declined, or just our youthful enthusiasm?

I’m now a generation older than my parents were when we all first watched The Beatles on Ed Sullivan back in February of 1964.  The Beatles, The Byrds and Bob Dylan have become my Perry Como, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

When I tell friends my age that I’m listening to Katy Perry most of them do not have a clue to who she is, and if they do, they think of her as some kind of under-aged, under-dressed young woman who doesn’t really sing but flaunts her body to loud noise.  “Oh those girls don’t sing they sell sex.”  But what emotional response were all those screaming teenage girls buying when they heard:

Oh please say to me

You’ll let me be your man

And please say to me

You’ll let me hold your hand

Now, let me hold your hand

I want to hold your hand

Almost a half-century from when the Beatles sang to little girls, girl singers now dominate the pop charts, and sing songs like “Pearl,” that rebels against the tyranny of love and men,

Oh, she used to be a pearl, oh

Yeah, she used to rule the world, oh

Can’t believe she’s become a shell of herself

Cause she used to be a pearl

She was unstoppable

Moved fast as light, like an avalanche

But now she’s stuck deep in cement

Wishing that they’d never ever met

When we were young we were more than willing to accept the wisdom of Lennon and McCartney, who were no older than Katy Perry now.  Why, when we’re two or three times older than Paul and John in 1964, do we cling to their music and reject the artistic expression of today’s youth?  You’d think we’d be listening to something old and fuddy-duddy by now, like our version of Perry Como.  Do The Beatles sound square to the modern listener?

Do we all get stuck in our own teenage dreams?

Pop music has never been that deep and I don’t think Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream is that different any of the Fab Four’s early LPs.  We are told Perry is involved with the writing of her songs, but that could be PR, but don’t the lyrics represent the young of 2010?  Her hit song “Teenage Dream” does not show the poetical sophistication of “Eleanor Rigby” but it’s sentiments are far more sophisticated than the early Lennon-McCartney love songs when they were her age.  Remember, in 1964, things were much more innocent than this video.

What does this say about this generation?  And what if you heard your answer back when you were a teen – don’t you sound like our parents?  My Mom and Dad hated The Beatles and thought they were vulgar, lacking in talent.  My father claimed they played noise.  But we thought The Beatles were cutting edge brilliant.  They expressed our desires and dreams – but don’t those dreams and desires seem so innocent and unsophisticated now?  Children under ten today love The Beatles.  Older kids want Jack White, whose anger is hard to fathom to us, but obvious to them.

Of course, I wonder if today’s high school and college kids are really more mature than we were?  The Beatles were living what we see in this Katy Perry video, we just didn’t see it.  And we were no angels either.

And if we graying baby boomers, now over the hill by our earlier philosophy of not trusting people over thirty, stop listening to twenty-something art, doesn’t that put us out of touch like we thought our parents were back then?

Or maybe pop music encapsulates every emerging generation, and the normal mature thing to do is to hate the music of young?

I listen to music like it’s a drug.  When all The Beatles albums were recently remastered I went out and bought most of them, but I only played them once.  Their potency as a musical stimulant has worn off.  But I’m playing the Katy Perry songs over and over again because they get me high with restless energy.  To me its new music that thrills.  As I’ve gotten older it’s gotten much harder to connect to the young, so I return to my old favorite albums, but it’s a nostalgic thrill, not a let’s go out and conquer the world defiant dance.

Just being current doesn’t make music powerful.  There is something else.  I think the powerful emotion I crave in music is the strong emotions of ambitious artists.  I think we loved The Beatles music because of the passion of John, Paul, George and Ringo to succeed.  And I think the reason Katy Perry is popular now is because of her passion to be on top of the world musically.  She expresses that desire in her song “Firework.”

Do you ever feel already buried deep

Six feet under scream

But no one seems to hear a thing

Do you know that there’s still a chance for you

Cause there’s a spark in you

You just gotta ignite the light

And let it shine

Just own the night

Like the Forth of July

Cause baby you’re a firework

Come on show ‘em what your worth

Make ‘em go “oh, oh, oh!”

As you shoot across the sky-y-y

In the song she is singing these sentiments to someone else, but she’s talking about herself.

JWH – 10/7/10

Dear Me

Dear Jimmy Age 10

If you would study more and watch less television I could finish college.

Love Jim Age 22

———-

Dear Jim Age 16

If you could run away to California it sure would be nice remembering the Monterey Pop Festival.

Love Jim Age 52

———

Dear Jim Age 22

I’m watching the Flintstones – you guys leave me alone!

Love Jimmy Age 10

———

Dear Jim Age 35

You need to start putting away money for our retirement, I’m running out.

Love James Age 72

———

Dear James Age 72

What’s in it for me?

Love Jim Age 35

———-

Dear Jimmy Age 10

Turn off that goddamn TV.

Love Jim Age 25

———-

Dear Jim Age 25

Make me.  You sound like Dad.

Love Jimmy Age 10

———-

Dear Jim Age 35

I know two women who told me I should have hit on them when we were younger.  Show me some money and I’ll tell you who they were.

Love James Age 72

———-

Dear Jim Age 17

You should hitchhike to Bethel, New York this summer.  Don’t worry about buying tickets, just remember the name Woodstock.

Love Jim Age 52

———-

Dear Jim Age 17

Tell me the secrets of getting laid

Love Jim Age 16

———

Dear Jim Age 100

Are you there?

Love James Age 77

———

Dear Jim Age 16

Ask one of the older Jims, and then let me know.

Love Jim Age 17

———

Dear Jim Age 15

The Beatles are coming near you, think you can steal $40 for tickets and bus money.

Love Jim Age 52

———-

Dear Jim Age 13

Quit reading so much science fiction, girls don’t like it.

Love Jim Age 21

———

Dear Jim Age 13

Stop reading that science fiction all the time – take up sports.  Boy am I out of shape.

Love Jim Age 45

———-

Dear Jim Age 13

Do you think you could get some older guys to place bets for you at the track?  I need  money to buy science fiction books.  I’ve read all the SF books at the library.

Love Jim Age 14

———-

Dear Jim Age 13

Get your head out of that goddamn book and do something real.

Love Jim Age 57

———-

Dear James Age 99

Are you there?

Love James Age 77

JWH – 9/17/10

The Metamorphosis Diet

Most people when they hear the word metamorphosis think about a caterpillar and butterfly.  Fewer people, those with a literary bent, are reminded of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, the dude who turned into a big bug.  I need to meta-morph myself, but I’m afraid it would be too much to believe I could become young again and go the butterfly route, however if I don’t, I do see myself going down the dead bug path, flat on my back with my feet up in the air.

I’ve reached a time in my life I’ve been avoiding for thirty years – the time to diet.  My doctor insists I need statins for cholesterol, but they just don’t agree with me.  Since my father died of a heart attack at age 49 after having three previous heart attacks and a stroke, I am an obvious candidate for such drugs.  To go without them demands dramatic changes in diet.

I’m overweight – tipping the scales at 232, at five ten and three quarters, which gives me a horrible body mass index of 32.4.  Being fat hasn’t been unpleasant until I became unhealthy, so I had no incentive to diet.  Feeling bad is an incentive, but then my father had many such demons driving him and he never changed his habits.  Only 1 person out of 20 can diet and keep the weight off.  What makes that 1 person succeed?

I also have spinal stenosis, so I want to believe weighing less would ease the pressure on my back, which is yet another incentive to put myself through some kind of metamorphosis.  Now I wished I lived in the world of Harry Potter where I could buy a transformation potion, but that’s not an option.  The only real choices are the same ones I’ve been hearing my whole life:  diet and exercise.

But if I dieted like skinny-crazed actresses could I somehow morph myself into a new me?  I found this book, Stop Inflammation Now! by Richard M. Fleming, M.D. that promises dramatic change (read the Amazon customer reviews).  The trouble is Fleming’s diet is hard!!!  The phase 1 diet, the prescription to get your cholesterol numbers under control, is composed of only fruits and vegetables.   I’ve been a vegetarian since 1969, but I find it almost impossible to eat as many fruits and vegetables as Fleming wants me to.

I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, one who doesn’t eat animals, but will eat eggs and milk products.  And since I’ve also discovered The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone after watching Food, Inc., I’ve been thinking about becoming a vegan vegetarian.  But even the vegan diet is far more varied than the Fleming diet.  Giving up cheese, yogurt, ice cream and scrambled eggs is scary to me, since they are great comfort foods.   The Fleming diet, at least the early phase 1, doesn’t even provide salad dressing for salads – no fats allowed.  Under the vegan regime, I can have rice, oils, and even mutant pasta and breads, as well as fake meats and cheese.

So in my waffling, I’m shifting toward the vegan diet, but hoping I can eventually build up the guts to do the Fleming diet for a few weeks and see if my cholesterol numbers do come down.  The Fleming phase 1 diet is almost identical to many cleansing diets.  When I was 26, and only weighed 155 pounds, I did a cleansing diet that had dramatic effects in two weeks.  This diet was based on eating fruits one meal, and veggies the next, and the only condiments were pepper and lemon juice.  The day was started with a bracing wake-up of hot water and garlic.  I remember, the first thing I ate after going off this diet was scrambled eggs.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as healthy as I did after that cleansing diet.

However, dieting is hard.  But after seeing Food, Inc. and many news films about the recent egg contamination scare, with all those warehouses of monster ugly chickens, I’ve decided that eggs aren’t that appealing anymore.  Giving up cheese and milk is going to be much harder, no matter how badly cows are treated.  But whenever I see how milk is produced, I waver.  That’s why the agribusiness keeps animal production hidden.

Ultimately, the hardest part of dieting is fitting the new way of eating into my existing lifestyle.  Being a normal vegetarian has made me a social outcast of sorts, and going vegan will distant me further from normal people.  Going out to dinner, either at restaurants or at a friend’s house, becomes trying at best, and sometimes impossible at worst.  The transformation I’m seeking will make me far from normal.  And that might be the key to why diets fail.

I think I can make it to veganism, especially after reading this New York Times article on vegan cupcakes.  It proves tasty food can be vegan.   Also, Alicia Silverstone preaches a hell-fire sermon for vegan living.  Time will tell if I can meta-morph into a better eater, and whether or not it will make me butterfly-like.  Even if I got down to 199, I doubt I’d float like a butterfly.  Maybe I can be Mothra.  I’ll keep you posted.  I will say that after making this decision I got up early the next morning and drove to the store and bought myself some soy milk for my cereal.  Yuck.  I have adapted that much.  One step at a time, as they say in the metamorphosis business.

JWH – 9/16/10

My Pitiful Poor Empty Bucket List

Among my friends we’ve been talking about our bucket lists and I’m always embarrassed to admit that my current bucket list is empty.  In case you don’t know about the concept, it’s anything you want to do before you kick the bucket.  Many of my friends have a number of places they want to visit before they pass on, but I just don’t feel that way about travel.  I have eight weeks of unused vacation and enough money to fly anywhere in the world, but I just don’t have the desire to go anywhere.  Nor do I want to go skydiving or swim with dolphins or see the pyramids.  I’m not dying to do anything, and I wonder if I’m pitiful because of that.

I have to wonder if the fullness of people’s bucket lists are related to their age.  When you are young you feel desperate to do and see everything.  Because I don’t have much energy anymore, and I’ve got a lot of aches and pains, I just want to relax and kick back when the world is not being demanding.  The idea of flying to Paris sounds painful to me, even though I’d love to go there.  And I certainly wouldn’t want any more aches and pains by doing something foolish like sky diving.

No, at this time and condition in my life, I need to reevaluate the whole bucket list concept.  My wife tells me I’m too young to feel old, but I do.  Both mentally and physically.  I’m approaching my 59th birthday, which makes me think about the big six oh.  I really don’t believe 60 is the new 30.

Be that as it may, I do want to find things for my bucket list.  Even I would think I’d be too pathetic if it was empty.  But my current desires don’t really feel like bucket list items.  For about thirty years now I’ve wanted to lose weight.  I don’t need to be my skinny 27 year old self, when I weighed 155, but being under 200 would be a dream come true.  On the other hand I need to be careful what I wished for, because many conditions leading to kicking the bucket would bring on such weight loss.

There are destinations I could add to my bucket list, but they aren’t practical, like going to Mars, or time traveling back in time to June 16, 1967 to see the Monterey Pop Festival.  I do have one desire that’s semi-realistic.  I’ve always wanted to write a novel that got published.  Maybe I should alter that some, and put in my bucket list the desire to have a short story published.  Okay, I will.  That’s one item in my bucket list.

That’s the trouble with my desires, they all involved being accomplished at some skill.  I’ve never wanted anything involving plunking down some cash and just having it.  And many of my desires from youth were downright foolish, like wanting to play the guitar.  I have absolutely no musical talent.  I can’t hum a melody, I can’t even recite the lines to any of my favorite songs, so why wish to play the guitar?  Because I love hearing music.  Even now I have the urge to make number two on my bucket list to be able to play seven songs on the guitar well enough to be recognizable.

Like that will happen!  But what if it could?  Okay, number two on the bucket list is knowing my limitations and truly understanding them.

I’m not sure if the whole concept of the bucket list doesn’t belong to a certain kind of person, the thrill seeker.  When I was young I did a lot of things that could have gotten me killed or jailed, and I was lucky to keep my brain and body as intact as it is.  I have a lot of regrets, but they aren’t about places and activities I missed.  If I ended up on my deathbed tonight, the regrets I’d have about running out of time would be over my failure to be a better person.  And those details are not ones I’m ready to confess now.  There’s no place on the globe I can visit than can make me a better person.

But that’s another failure.  I’m too contemplative.  I can’t be a better person by thinking, only by doing.  Nor do I wish to imply I want to be a good person, that’s another trap like seeking thrills.

I’m not sure if life is about the cards in your hand, but how you play them.

JWH – 8/31/10

Thalia Novels of Larry McMurtry

Thalia, Texas is a fictional town, the setting for five novels by Larry McMurtry:

  • The Last Picture Show (1966)
  • Texasville (1987)
  • Duane’s Depressed (1999)
  • When the Light Goes (2007)
  • Rhino Ranch (2009)

I read all five of these books in the last six weeks, and the threads that weave them together are Thalia and Duane Moore, so it’s essentially the story of one man and his small town over fifty years since he graduated high school.  (My guess in 1952.)

I first read The Last Picture Show after seeing the movie when it came out in 1971 and this led me to be a life-long Larry McMurtry fan, but not a consistent one.  I read a handful of his early books during 1971-1975, then after seeing the Lonesome Dove mini-series on TV read most of McMurtry western novels in the late 80s and early 90s, then in the early double-ought’s, I read the Berrybender books, and final this summer I came back and caught up with the Thalia novels.

The Thalia novels are my favorites because I find so much that resonates with my own life.

The original story in this unintentional series, The Last Picture Show, was “lovingly dedicated to my home town,” by McMurtry, who was born in Archer City, Texas. I assume that’s the model for Thalia.  Thalia, from Greek mythology, was the Muse of comedy, and one of the three Graces.  Some people do see these stories as essentially comic, but any comedy is vastly overshadowed by loneliness, sexual frustration, sadness, restless boredom, depression and death.

I’d like to think The Last Picture Show is autobiographical, the kind of a novel that a young writer would write to describe how they grew up.  It’s about two high school best friends, Sonny Crawford and Duane Moore set in the early 1950s, during the Korean War.  It was made into a beautiful film by Peter Bogdanovich in 1971, starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybil Shepherd.  The Last Picture Show is Sonny Crawford’s story, but Duane and Sonny share a tragic love for the fickle Jacy Farrow.  The odd thing about this novel is how the women are much stronger then the Texas men.

For some reason, starting with Texasville, the story shifted to Duane, and Sonny was marginalized as a character.  Because Texasville was also made into a film in 1990, again by Bogdanovich, I wonder if McMurtry wrote it for the Duane because Jeff Bridges was then a much bigger star.  All the books after The Last Picture Show focus on Duane Moore, and it’s Jeff Bridges who I picture in my mind as Duane for all five books.

Over the five books, two of which were made into films, I got to love many characters, and in the course of the series they all die.  Most of the deaths, like death in life, were surprises, and some were gut wrenching to me as the reader.

The peak of the whole series is Duane’s Depressed, when Duane is 62.  Like The Last Picture Show, I hope Duane’s Depressed has more of McMurtry in it because its emotions are more real.

The last two novels, When the Light Goes and Rhino Ranch, are slight, and follow many drifting years for Duane.  They are more intentionally comic, if not farcical.  The chapters become shorter and shorter until they are tiny scenes in Duane’s life, but they cover Duane’s late sixties and early seventies, a time of little activity in a man’s life, although those books should have been longer and more philosophical.

One thing I found amazing is how much America changes in these books.  We start out in Thalia, around 1951, the year I was born.  There are no cell phones, no computers, no Internet, no computer games, etc.  They do have television, but most people seem to ignore it.  Sonny and Duane play football for a school that seldom sees any wins, and they both dream of scoring with Jacy, their high school beauty queen.  Both have jobs, and Sonny has a mentor, Sam the Lion, plus Sonny has an affair with the high school coach’s wife.  But nothing I can say about the story conveys the full cast of vivid characters and all of their lonely lives.  You have to immerse yourself in the novel for that.  I’ve talk to many people who found it depressing, but I found the story uplifting.

Texasville jumps ahead in Duane’s life to his forties, after he’s married Karla, has four kids and a couple grandchildren.  He’s twelve million dollars in debt during a bust cycle of oil prices.  Jacy Farrow comes home at the same time Duane and Karla are having marriage problems, but Jacy steals Karla, his kids, his grandchildren, and even his dog from Duane.  Duane fails to communicate with his family even though he loves them.  Texasville is a riot of crazy characters, and Duane’s four children are every parent’s complete set of parenthood nightmares.

Texasville is about Duane’s failure to communicate with women.  His wife and several girlfriends read him like a book, knowing his every move, emotion and desire, but he is clueless, indecisive and the only words he can find for each women are the exact words that piss them off.

Evidently Duane never catches up with the women because in Duane’s Depressed, when he’s 62, walks away from his family.  Literally.  He parks his pickup, hides the keys, and walks away from a house with a wife, a cook, four children and nine grandchildren.  Duane is not educated enough to know who Thoreau was, or to know about Walden’s Pond, but he goes off to live in a small cabin.  Some people do point out he’s choosing to live a Thoreau like existence and he eventually finds a copy of the book, but he only reads a few lines about living deliberately.  Which he does.

Duane’s Depressed is about finding peace living alone, and Duane goes to a psychologist.  This is my favorite of the five books.  I’ll turn 59 in a few months, and that feels very close to 62.  McMurtry was just a little bit older than that when he wrote the novel, so I consider it my tour guide for my sixties.  Even though I write about almost anything I want in my blog there are topics I’m afraid to talk about.  Some of those topics are ones that Honor Carmichael gets Duane to discover.

I wished Larry McMurtry had written other books for this series.  I’d like at least one more book, if not two, from Sonny Crawford’s point of view.  Jacy deserves a book too, and I think Karla deserves three.  Ruth Popper definitely deserves a book.  And Jenny Marlow too.  And Lois Farrow.

JWH – 8/9/10