An Aged Punk Is But a Paltry Thing: To Rage or Not to Rage

I remember going to a Warren Zevon show at a bar in 1992[1] and overhearing some kid say, “There’s nothing but old people here.”  He was talking about people like me, an overripe just turned 39.  As it turns out, coincidentally, the show took place a day after Zevon’s 45th birthday, and despite his semi-elderly status, he put on one helluva show. His encore cover of Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin,” actually stirred for an n-second the dead embers of my long extinguished revolutionary zeal. 

Of course, 39 or 45 might seem ancient to a 20-something, but to my mother, 60 at the time, or to my 92-year-old grandmother-in-law, I was only on the second leg of my TWC[2] flight to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no tourist returns.

[montage of calendar pages flapping and tearing off in a really stiff breeze][3]

Yikes! Seems just yesterday being a boomer meant you were young; now it’s a term of derision, a descriptor of someone in the market for a walk-in tub, someone whose gauze-wrapped brain is incapable of gazing beyond his own limited experience. In fact, aging is such an obsession that our local paper has a weekly column on how to handle encroaching decrepitude. 

I don’t usually read the column, but glancing at this week’s edition, I did a double take when I saw this headline: 

Aging for Amateurs: King Lear shows how to find freedom in limitations

WTF, my inner keyboard typed. Lear as role model? He ends up In Act 3 evicted by his fiendish daughters onto a heath during a hurricane. Earlier, the doddering king had disinherited his one decent child, Cordelia, and at the end of the play (spoiler alert) he carries her corpse in his arms as he intones, “Never, never, never, never, never?”

So I read the article, and what the author cites is a brief moment in Act 5 when Lear mistakenly thinks he and soon-to-be-hanged Cordelia are headed to prison. 

No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.

The author of the article on aging, Bert Keller, concludes

The old king acknowledges the reality of his inevitable imprisonment. Looking beyond the literal, we know what the deeper meaning here is for us: not dungeon or detention center but the limitations and losses of advanced age. Our bodies weaken, our minds slow down, hearing fails and we move around with effort. And on top of all that, now we’re shut in by COVID-19. Yet here is 80-year-old Lear, saying “Let’s away to prison” with a willing heart! That is the amazing thing. He interprets unavoidable withdrawal in terms of inner freedom.

Then again, on the other side of the poetic ledger, there is Dylan Thomas, who suggests “[w]e rage, rage, against the dying of the light,”  like my man WB Yeats who asks:

Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
Whether in public or in secret rage
As I do now against old age?

Well, all of this is a long-winded way to introduce a clever music video on the subject, which features for a second or two my brother, the musician and actor Fleming Moore, playing a punk who has made it to his golden years.” [4]  The songwriter Killjoy says, “The song is about growing old, obsolete, irrelevant, dying, nostalgia, and being OK with all of that.”

The band is Killjoy & the Cutthroats, and the song is “Golden Years for a Gutter Punk.”  


[1] 23 January, the Music Farm, Charleston, SC

[2] Time’s Winged Chariot

[3] I prefer this cliché to the fast-forwarding of clock hands doing the dervish, spinning like crazy as the sun rises-sets outside the window.

[4] He’s the bald guy with the rake.

If Richard Wilbur Were Alive and a Much Less Talented Poet, He Might Write Something Like This about This Latest Quarantine

 

Greenblatt-Shakespeare

 

 

If Richard Wilbur Were Alive and a Much Less Talented Poet, He Might Write Something Like This about This Latest Quarantine

 

Master Will didn’t waste his time,

When the authorities shut down the Globe.

Stuck at home, he wrote King Lear.

Deep into the dark he dove.

 

Sixty years later, when the plague returned,

Sir Isaac, too, avoided idleness.

Sitting beneath an apple tree,

He invented calculus.

 

No obsessive tweeting for those two,

No staring all day at computer screens.

They found much better things to do

Than reposting the latest kitty memes.

 

201712_Why-Poetry-Matters_Article

 

5 Things I Wish I Could Experience Before I Die

5 Things I Wish I Could Experience Before I Die

A performance of King Lear with Van Morison in the lead role and Keith Richards as the Fool.

keith and van

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An NPR on-location story that doesn’t begin with some goddamned sound effect like a pile driver a-driving (story on beachside construction), a trickle of water a-trickling (story California’s drought), twelve stentorian obese sleepers a-snoring (story on sleep apnea laboratories).

no-image-available

 

 

 

 

 

The sight of Andrew Dice Clay and Howard Stern kissing on screen in a remake of Broke Back Mountain.

no-image-available

 

 

 

 

 

The discovery of a lost semi-nude painting of Jane Austen.

Pauline_Bonaparte_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A restorative cure for alopecia.

hoodoo man b & wIMG_2580 copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lear’s Fool on Zoloft – a Bagatelle

 

Lear’s Fool on Zoloft – a Bagatelle

And I’ll go to bed at noon.
King Lear 3.6.85

Fetal position is bad for your back,
but so is its opposite the rack.

Lift life with your legs the stoics say
while theists insist you pray.

Avoid extremes, the Buddha teaches
Prufrock avoids all flesh (including ripe peaches) —

unlike silken pajama-clad hedonist Hugh Hefner,
whose rented house is getting on up there.

Trouble here, trouble there,
Trouble, trouble everywhere!

What this adds up to I really don’t know.
So rage, wind! Crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!

[cue Doris Day] – scratches – Que sera sera . . .

wes the fool