How Not To Age Gracefully

Dwight Clark and Everson Walls, San Francisco, Calif., 1982
They take their football seriously in Texas.

There were two of them sitting at the bar talking about the draft and what they think their team should do. When I sat down they took a moment to look up at me and went back to staring at the talking heads on the screen above the bar.

I wasn’t there to drink or hang out.  The mission was simple, order a meal for takeout and then go back home where it would be quiet enough to hear my thoughts without effort.

The place was packed so the bartender told me it might be twenty minutes before my meal was ready. He asked if I wanted a drink and I said to bring me whatever was good and on tap.

So I grabbed a seat and stared up at the screen. I wasn’t really paying attention to much of anything, but I figured the commercials would be more interesting than being forced to listen to the guy next to me try to talk the pants off of the woman on his right.

The guys on my left were at an impasse about whether the Cowboys quarterback was worth his contract and asked me to weigh in. I told them it didn’t matter because they weren’t going anywhere this season, too many other issues and an owner who was a pest meant they would be done before it all began.

I heard a voice from behind my left shoulder say I was wrong and that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

“You might be right, maybe I don’t.”

Twenty years ago I might have chosen to engage, but I had no interest doing so now. I just wanted to grab my food and go.

“You give up easy for someone who sounded so certain he was right.”

Jeans, boots and a University of Texas t-shirt were his evening attire. Might have been in his early twenties, might have been older. Couldn’t say one way or another. Guess I have reached the point where it is harder for me to distinguish some of these things. Twenty-five or 30, it looks about the same to me.

“Not that big a deal to me. I don’t care if the Cowboys win or lose. Not my team.”

“You shouldn’t talk shit then. If they aren’t your team, why are you talking.”

I made a point to take a harder look at him and sat up a bit straighter in my chair. I made eye contact and asked him where his friends were. I did my best to say it with a smile but made sure my eyes were flat.

“Why are you getting in my business. What is your fucking problem!”

Twenty years ago my forehead would have already been pressed against his and I would have intentionally marching him towards a corner. I liked those corners. If I got jammed I would try to slam him against the wall.

I didn’t have many of those occasions but when I did it usually worked out in my favor. The wall always lived up to its end of the deal and was completely unforgiving. One of the boys once told me he thought it was unfair.

“I don’t want to be the guy in the hospital bed who says he fought fair.”

It was true then and it is true now, but the difference is that a forty something year old man doesn’t want to fight period.  Toby Keith is right, I can be as good as I once was, but I respect the “once” part of it.

Got too many responsibilities and I have no interest in adding to the mystery aches and pains I already carry around.

The kid was a couple of inches taller than I am and had spent at least a few minutes in the weight room. What I wasn’t sure of whether he had done more with his bad attitude than wave it around at people. Sometimes all it took to adjust one of those was a fist to the mouth, but not always.

Twenty years ago you didn’t have kids growing up with the desire to become an MMA fighter. That doesn’t mean we didn’t get into fights because we did, but there wasn’t the same sort of mystique around it.

Nor did we have the YouTube effect. You didn’t fuck with people so that your friends could film and upload the event.

The challenge for the moment was to try and prevent this from escalating. Instead of responding I just stared at him and took another sip of my beer. Sometimes silence is intimidating.

He spat out a bunch of insults and tried to get me to engage but I remained silent…almost.

The man child who I once was was roused from his slumber. I’d like to say he took control of my mouth but that is not entirely true. I was mostly aware that calling the kid in front of me “a stupid fucking Aggie” would have some impact.

A thousand years ago when I was in college my friends at that school in Austin always used “Aggie” as a term that was less than endearing. I sort of figured that this kid might be offended and he was. Or  maybe he wasn’t. Maybe it was just the excuse he needed.

He tried to use my old trick of trapping a guy against an object but he wasn’t as smart as I was because the bar doesn’t provide the same utility as the wall so my head didn’t smack against anything.

In a movie I would have smashed my beer against his head, watched him slump over and then asked the bartender for another drink. But that didn’t happen here. I am not really sure what happened to my beer, but I am guessing he ended up wearing part of it.

When he wrapped his arms around me I started pounding on whatever part of his body I could reach, grabbed onto one of his ears and yanked hard. I got him with knee to the face before I was pulled off of him.

I like to think that it took four or five men to make that happen, but it probably didn’t.

A couple of days later I am grateful that I didn’t go to jail and that I didn’t break anything. But I hurt in ways that I haven’t for years.

Parts of me make an eggplant look white and I am eating Ibuprofen like candy. It might be a week before I don’t go to sleep in a bath tub filled with ice.

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  1. Elizabeth Lee April 29, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Is this seriously what men think about when they think about aging? I am cracking up here. Women are trying to decide what to do about gray hair and wrinkles. You sound like my daddy. He’s 81 and still thinks he’s tougher than most men in the room.

  2. Bill Dorman April 29, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I’m tellin’ ya, you should have broken out the Kung Fu grip; it would have neutralized him immediately.

    I never wanted to get my face messed up so I was never much of a fighter. My glory days were the elementary school ground; after that, everyone outgrew me until much later, so I didn’t break out the can off whoop ass too often.

    You should have just defenstrated him…..

  3. Geoff Livingston April 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Be careful, my old brother. We’re not what we used to be. Respect the once.

    Glad you kicked his ass!

  4. Stan Faryna April 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Unfortunately, I don’t need any help to reach for the candy. Anyway, I’m glad you got out in one piece – regardless of whether or not its was fiction or fact.

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