No Oct. 22 Column

Discovering Norway
17, 2008
By Roger Emile Stouff

The notion "itís all downhill after 40" always struck me as sorta defeatist, or worse, just an excuse for people of said age group to whine.

Having reached 44 last Friday, I am happy to say my faith in the honesty of the over-40 group has been restored: I am falling apart.

I canít see to read a magazine or newspaper anymore without holding it at armís length, tilting my head up so that my chin points at the paragraph I am attempting to decipher, and squinting through the close-up section of my bifocals that are going on three years old and are of virtually no use to me anymore. We Indians, you may or may not know, have a genetic disposition against pointing with our fingers (though all those white genes have diluted this trait somewhat) and tend instead to indicate with a general wave of the arm, or with our chins. So pointing with my chin at the paragraph Iím trying to read on the side of the night time cold medication bottle just comes natural to me, but the nickname Hawkeye will never be bestowed upon my indigenous persona.

I gotta get new glasses, but I donít want to. Seems like every time I get new glasses, my eyes get worse faster. Iím not a good candidate for all those new procedures that can restore vision for people over 40, because my left eye is virtually blind and in the one in a bazillion chance something goes wrong during the procedure on my right eye Iíd be left in a pickle. But Iíll have to break down and get new specs soon, dangit.

We went to Rayne last weekend, and by the time I got back, my left hip hurt so bad I was limping around. Couldnít hardly sit on it, either. Woke me up three times during the night in agony. Sciatica, I guess. Ye olde pinching of the sciatic nerve. I was over it in a day or two, but what about when Iím 54? Itíll take me a week to recover.

Thatís not all. Itís getting harder and harder to tie my shoes. I am getting taller, I guess. I thought people shrank when they get older, but I must be getting taller because I just canít reach my shoe laces as easily as I used to. Strange.

I had been saying that after Daisy, our black Lab, came to live with me three or four years ago, I was spoiled on the breed and would never own any other again. We got Bogie, our yeller Lab, in February and he just made nine months of age. To say that he is a puppy is an understatement: He is 55-pounds, strong as a Clydesdale dog with the kinetic energy of a nuclear power facility at his disposal. And I think to myself, if Bogie lives as long as Daisy has so far, Iíll be 59. Maybe Iíll still be saying, "Nothing else for me but Labs," but if the road keeps going downhill like it has, Iím betting on a pug.

Oh, some of you are sitting back and saying, "Forty-four? Youíre griping about being 44???" and yeah, you have a point, but as Indiana Jones once noted, "It ainít the age, sweetheart. Itís the mileage."

I see people with my dog in tow and they say, "Hey, thereís Boogie."

"Bohgie," I correct but they ignore me because, after all, I am 44 years old and couldnít possibly have named my dog in honor of anything but Saturday Night Fever, right?

"What a good boy, Boogie!" they say, patting his head as Iím trying to hold him down before he leaps atop their heads in sheer joy.

"B-OH-gey," I emphasize. "Named after Humphrey Bogart, the most estimable of actors from the golden age of movies." It doesnít matter at this point because Bogie has now wrapped his leash around their legs and mine about four times and is dragging us across the yard like a sled dog, but I am still yelling, "Ainít you ever seen Casablanca, ya bum???"

(Sidenote: Favorite quote from Casablanca:

(Major Strasser to Rick: Whatís your nationality?

(Rick: Iím a drunkard.)

Donít get me wrong. Iím not saying Iím ready to go to Happy Hunting Ground or nothing. And maybe itís the fact that everybody tells you that you start falling apart after 40. Subconscious suggestion or something. Like a gris-gris, you know? Maybe, if you hear it enough, you start believing it and, therefore, itís a self-fulfilling prophecy.

By the way, they say theyíre making a sequel to Stayiní Alive, the title track from the movie Saturday Night Fever.

Yeah. Itís gonna be called Barely Alive.

Theyíre making a sequel to the great hippy musical Hair, too, working title being Partially Bald.

Hee-hee. Hey, I can say it. Iím over 40. Go ahead, call the ACLU, I donít care. Theyíd have to sue me in tribal court anyway, and somehow, that just doesnít make a whole lot of sense, does it?

Anyway. I had a great birthday. My girl brought me out to a great supper that I ate far, far too much of but enjoyed tremendously; I received two cakes; a complimentary lunch; gifts included Seasons 4 and 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and I donít wanna hear your mouth, OK?) and plenty of good wishes and kind words.

(Favorite quote from Buffy:

(Vampire Master (after Buffy taps him on the shoulder): But youíre deadÖ

(Buffy: Nope. But Iím still pretty. And thatís more than I can say for you.)


That was Friday, and you know, of course, that Monday was Columbus Day. An Injun man canít get a break anymore. Every single birthday I have to put up with that Geonese clown upstaging me with his own federal holiday and all that brouhaha. The nerve of him. Let me repeat: Rather than trying to write my memoirs, short story collections and a novel-in-the-works to obtain some semblance of fame and immortality, I should just do as Columbus did:

Board a ship. Go looking for someplace right next door but easier to get to. Sail for months on end until the crew is hiding ropes behind their backs and throwing said ropes over the yard-arm of the rigging at night for the lynching thatís bound to come if the admiral donít turn them around for home; stumble across the island of Hispanolia (at least, thatís what heíd name it, the lout) and secure yourself a federal holiday.

Pardon me. Iím off to discover Norway. Iíll be back in a flash.