I’m not afraid of getting older. Sure, I put anti-aging neck cream on my salads (creamy, like Ranch). I exercise twice some days, not out of vanity, or health concerns, but because I really have nothing much better to do.
Pushing 66, I am the only guy in my circle to have retired, though I keep busy sending you these weekly mash notes, like radio signals to deep space.
Hello? Hello? Anybody out there?
I have so much time on my hands lately that I was listening to a Carpenters’ medley the other day.
True story: I have been in love five times in my life, three of them to Karen Carpenter.
Yes, I realize what a stiff I am, how uncool. Listen, we love what we love. Since when is passion a conscious decision?
I love my granddaughter. I love goal-line stands. I love the way Marlon Brando snorts and stomps and sneers at authority. Love is love.
To this day, Karen Carpenter is a micro-obsession. I have a lot of them — popcorn balls, long boards and re-runs of “Taxi.” I wad up all my micro-obsessions till they have enough heft to qualify as an actual obsession.
In Karen Carpenter’s case, there is only one song that really floats me: “Superstar.” It is hauntingly spectacular, the equal of any ballad from the ’70s. And that voice, that chocolate pudding ….
Carpenter’s version of “Superstar” is rock ‘n’ roll noir, standing the test of time better than anything by the Doors or David Bowie, or any other noirish performer with a knack for dark moments.
Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show…
To this day, “Superstar” is the only song I could listen to 10 times in a row and not start to hate. Perfectly orchestrated — an oboe, a harp and a thousand gooey French horns — stunning till that last plaintive chord, a sigh in D minor.
Like wind in the sails, like the distant plea of a passing train…
Penned by Leon Russell, the Carpenters chose “Superstar” after seeing Bette Midler perform it on “The Tonight Show.” “Superstar” is a song made for fall evenings. It is a song for lovers, alone or otherwise.
Smoldering and rich, “Superstar” hinted that the bubbly singer had – as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote – the same “instincts that guide mortal men to evil.”
At 16, don’t we all?
Lore has it that she once performed at my favorite dive bar in Glendale. Talk about noir.
Some evenings, I stand at Avignone’s and imagine Carpenter mewing under a stage light in the corner — most probably still a teenager, aspiring to stardom, which seemed almost predestined from the moment she first spoke.
I’d trade my car for a clip.
Lately, I find myself swooning over corny, mawkish stuff. Maybe it’s the changing seasons, the cozy nights, the spearmint dawns.
Maybe it’s all the seasonal touchstones to our youth – the costumes, the Snickers, the pumpkins – all the playful harvest traditions that refuse to go away, thank gawwwd.
October really is our most-American month, and I’m sorry to see it go. It raced by as if late for a flight. August seems 20 weeks long, and October goes by in three frantic innings. All those sports, all that camaraderie. November’s almost as good.
I’m a typical weirdo Scorpio. Of course I love November.
November is wistful. It’s Karen Carpenter tilting her head, closing her eyes…confessing.
Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again…
Pure desire. Pure magic.
OK, I really need a real hobby, don’t I? And please don’t say pickleball.
Been biking a lot lately, and soon I may start my own line of neck creams. I’m still putting that electric bike together for Suzanne. Might take years, especially if we do it together. Don’t care.
See, retirement is pretty weird, even for a Scorpio. You need to re-set, re-program, to embrace the fact that no one needs you any longer — not the kids, not the boss, not the world.
That itself is rather haunting. Then you realize how liberating your new situation actually is. You realize how great Sunday nights can be when your mind doesn’t wander to what’s ahead at work. For 45 years, every Sunday around 4 pm, I’d flash forward to those awful staff meetings.
Now I flash forward to …well, I don’t know yet. But the world is a big popcorn ball right now, and there’s time for travel, reflection, French horns.
There is time to sing.
My pal Steve Lopez just finished a book about retirement, when to go, what to expect. The title: “Independence Day.” Check it out here. Meanwhile, one of my favorite parts of the Rose Parade are the small-town entries, funded and built by volunteers. Please join me and my buddy John Cervenka to help raise money for La Canada’s Rose Parade float, from 4-6:30 pm Saturday, at the annual Wine & Roses Gala at the Flintridge Riding Club in La Canada. Info here. Cheers.