Is your sense of time out of whack?
(No. 104) Plus, one very good bad joke, by Stephen P. Williams
The lyrics to Once in a Lifetime, by Talking Heads
I assume everyone knows there’s a pandemic going on, right? I wouldn’t know, because I’ve been cooped up inside for the last thirty or forty years — at least that’s how it feels as everyone I know in NYC comes down, again, with the virus, and every social interaction is a calculated risk. What is the meaning of today when every day is Blursday? Some scientists studied time perception during the lockdowns and found that without regular “temporal landmarks,” such as going out for drinks after softball, or visiting your family on Sunday afternoon, or commuting to the office, our collective sense of time shifted into an unchanging The Truman Show experience. People worldwide experienced calendar dysmorphia.
If our relationship to time changes, so does our relationship to ourselves, and our age. I will turn 65 in four and a half months, yet I would need a calculator to tell you how old I was when the pandemic began. I know it was right around my birthday, February 17, sometime in the distant past. Is my sense that decades have passed in an instant part of me heading rapidly towards my “golden years?” I hear David Bowie as I write those words. And here he is, drunk, performing Golden Years on Soul Train.
Bowie originally wrote the song for Elvis Presley, who never recorded it. (It’s odd to imagine those two megastars in conversation.) Presley offers his own stark lessons on our golden years.
Here is a video of Presley at his last concert, in June, 1977. Bloated, high, tired and tender, he was to die about two months later. But this performance is an extraordinary view into the soul sustaining power of the creative process. Singing brought Elvis out of his death watch, for a few minutes. The audience loved it, though his handlers looked really nervous.
In the last six months I’ve started to rise from my foggy pandemic mindset, and enter a social world that vastly different from the one I knew as a child — or even a few years ago. For instance, we are all so used to being alone and communicating via Zoom that people seem shocked now to receive a phone call without either a prior alert or an invitation. Still, I see a world that is trying so hard to be the same as it ever was, to quote The Talking Heads.
Those last five words make me recall David Byrne staring at me the other day as he waited on his bicycle for a light to change — he seemed so much older than the last time I saw him riding around my neighborhood, pre-pandemic. Why was he staring at me? IDK. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. It had been 45 years since I first saw him and his band, the Talking Heads, onstage on a crazy NYC New Years Eve, yet the memory, clouded by much booze and many drugs, remains clear. They were brilliant.
Unlike my pandemic memories, which are a blur. That blur was reinforced last week when I tested positive for covid. It was my second rodeo — the first was in March, 2020, an eight-day slog of discomfort and fear. This time it was only bad for one day. God has blessed us with these vaccines that seem to keep symptoms at bay. You see how my thoughts are jumping around, unanchored? Since my daughter, who probably gave me covid both times, had it two weeks ago, we’ve both been quarantined for a long time and I’m feeling jumpy.
Time? Has any time passed? Am I any older?
Oh yes, I am. The proof is that I keep receiving emails pitching medicare insurance supplements that I will need in February. There is no bigger billboard for aging in America than that day you click send on your application for medicare, a few months before you turn 65. Time does roll by.
If you like my newsletter, buy a paid subscription.
Joke of the week (I stole it)
Two 90-year-olds visited a lawyer and told him they wanted to get a divorce.
“How long have you been married?” the lawyer asked.
“67 years,” they replied.
“Why get divorced now?”
“We had to wait for the children to die.”
Smiles to everyone,