Sagacious and entertaining field notes on a canoe trip into the cold waters of old age.
In this memoir of 12 chapters named by months, consciously patterned after Thoreau, Jerome (Blue Rooms, 1997; The Writing Trade, 1991; etc.) makes good use of his extensive background in advertising, athletics, and magazine writing. On turning 65, the author plans to rent a dumpster for “clearing out the trash of youth . . . as if preparing for a move.” Beyond removing the clutter of younger projects and disposing of the effluvia acquired in the course of a life spent in the media, Jerome needs to space out his time. Movement is slower with the hyper-gravity of “geezerhood,” though Jerome fights to jog and swim despite the bulging disks in his vertebra. After the shock of reaching the age of retirement (“How can we use up a whole tube of toothpaste when we use it in such little dibs and dabs?”), the veteran realizes he’s in for the fight of his life—for the duration. Jerome has wise phrases about aging and mortality as a human process, and wisecracks about discovering his remarkable talent for sitting still. Jerome displays much awareness of the biology of aging—of the muscles, tissues, bones, nerves, and cells of our inexorable entropy. He calls it unfair that so many more of our neurons convey pain than pleasure. He mocks himself as Languid Man, as someone the cyber age has passed by. He jokes about spring being an itchy time even without a brace on his neck, but gamely goes on challenging canoe expeditions.
Jerome reports that memory, routine, and even sleep are among the compensatory pleasures of old age (when even sex can be slow and tender). The insights, courage, and humor of this memoir create a wake that younger paddlers could follow.