, Newburyport, MA

August 21, 2013

Losing or gaining ground?

As I See It
Robert Campbell

---- — As I age it is magnificent to hear people say, “My, you certainly don’t look your age.” Bless you, but calendars don’t lie. There’s nothing to blunt the facts of life, though people try with tummy tucks, face lifts or whatever, but they are all Band-Aids. You have to exercise your brain!

I know time is taking its toll every night watching “Jeopardy” when my answer is just a “hair off” the correct one. That reminds me of an old Groucho Marx remark on a Jack Paar (WHO?) show of the 1960s. Marx said, “I have Alzheimer’s disease and he has mine.”

Many a night before heading off to sleep, I do a bed-check by trying to recall movies of the 1930-1940s, my hey day. For example, as I write this essay, I can name 10 stars from both “Gone With the Wind” and “Casablanca.” Can you?

There are many things I won’t or can’t do and they rotate around hand-held devices. To me, a phone is a stationary device for use whenever necessary. Texting while walking or driving is an accident about to happen and usually does. That is totally unnecessary, as any accident report will verify. I still use film in my camera because my wife and I like to have picture prints ASAP and not wait until Thanksgiving for prints taken at Easter. It was a bit dicey, I’ll admit, when traveling to Australia and South Africa to carry 20 rolls of film, but we had pictures within hours of our return, which are in albums we can visit whenever we want. Trying to remember instructions about iPhones, iPads, phone-cameras, etc., is a pain in which I would soon as not get involved. What is an app exactly? I write essays with the world’s first word processor; a #2 graphite enclosed wooden pencil with an eraser on top just in case of an errant misspelling.

I do have problems remembering certain things, I’ll admit. For the life of me, trying to remember the name of the hotel or motel we most frequent, the Hampton Inn, is tough. So, I substitute certain words in my mind such as “drums” or “Lionel,” then I can remember the (Lionel) Hampton Inn. When I order a beer in a restaurant, my key word is “Alec,” then I recall, “I’ll have a Guinness, please.” Recently, while enduring a case of poison ivy, I mistook a rash across my stomach as something more ominous. For the life of me I couldn’t think of the name of the disease when a nurse asked me about my problem until the word “roof” came to mind. I replied, “I think I may have shingles.” Luckily, it was only poison ivy, but I’m prepared.

“As time goes by” (an old movie cliche) is a reminder that movies have exhausted any similarity to the life I once knew. Gone are “actors”; now we have “performers” and not good ones at that. It’s an affront to Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation,” who huddled around radios in the 1930-1940s listening to the “Lone Ranger” to have the present affliction appearing on movie screens. Johnnie Depp as “Tonto”? C’mon, give me a break!

Perhaps, you may disagree, but I’m still looking at life as an opportunity and not the end-all. That reminds me of a statement in one of my favorite books. “Beginnings” by Thomas Hunter, published in 1978, profiles 24 people: Ralph Nader, Erma Bombeck, Walter Cronkite, Pete Rose and Alvin Toffler, to name a few. They do the talking about their careers, role models, events and circumstances which channeled their interests and key turning points. The profile of Alvin Toffler, author of “Future Shock,” a best seller of the late 1960s, has as his last sentence, the statement, “I’d rather go through life as a writer than as a tourist.”

Thank you, Alvin, that suits me just fine at my advanced age, but I don’t look it!


Robert D. Campbell, an essayist who lives in Newburyport, believes that a sense of humor is essential.