when i’m sixty-four

When Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out, I was twelve years old.

In one of those odd memories that sticks with you, I remember sitting in Harvey’s Barber Shop, passing the time, when Dave Woolsey came in with the album, saying it had just arrived at the Cardinal Music Store.  (I don’t know whose hair Harvey was cutting at the time, but with just the three of us it was an interesting mix of characters.)

Dave was bummed that “All You Need Is Love,” just released on the radio, wasn’t included on Sgt. Pepper’s.  Despite that, it is often considered the greatest album of all time.

Stylistically, it’s a little bit of everything, from music hall to psychedelia to Indian music, ending with a tremendous orchestral climax.  Not your typical rock and roll album.

In the midst of it is “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  After singing the song all these years, it’s no longer something unimaginably far off in the future.  “Many years from now” is today.

By happenstance, the calendar is such that there are a couple of events every year surrounding my birthday.  Last night was Halloween, so normally we are at home greeting the youngsters, although I’m past the point of sitting on the roof above the porch and making noises to scare the trick-or-treaters.

This year, Sue and I are in New York City.  Last night we went to what is billed as “the nation’s most wildly creative public participatory event,” the Village Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village.  There were probably a quarter million of us watching, with tens of thousands dressed up in costume, marching in the parade, along with floats and bands and giant puppets to fit the holiday.

The other annual celebration, quite different from that revelry, falls on my birthday itself:  All Saints Day.  (Please hold your snarky comments.)

Every year, no matter the degree to which I’m engaged with the Catholic Church at the moment, I go to Mass on my birthday.  I’m not sure where we’ll end up today — at the grand St. Patrick’s Cathedral or at a smaller church tucked away in a neighborhood — but we’ll hear the Beatitudes, those twelve verses from Matthew that are so simple and beautiful and hard to follow in daily life.  Maybe this will be the year when I make some progress on them.

Tonight, to cap off another trip around the sun, we will be going to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.

I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who signed up for Springsteen’s limited run last fall.  After the show was extended twice, I finally got a notice that my number had been drawn and that I could buy two tickets.  The last performance will be in December.

This is a one-man show (with Patti, his wife and a member of his band, joining in for a couple of songs).  The man and his music, if you will.  I’ve never seen Springsteen in concert and I don’t know his songbook as well as many others who will be in the audience.

When I think of him, I am transported back to the release of Born to Run and his unimaginable rise from near obscurity to the covers of Time and Newsweek during the week of my twenty-first birthday in 1975.  (I celebrated that day by buying a new stereo system at Sound of Music, the forerunner of Best Buy; the last component of it quit not that long ago.)

I was living in a little studio apartment in the Loring Park area of Minneapolis, which was kind of a wasteland at that time.  I joked that my “office” was a phone booth in the park.  It was a pretty meager existence (even with that new stereo).  In a few months I would be on my way back to Luverne, leaving that short chapter in the big city behind.

Music has always sustained me.  It brings me back to times and places and people.  When the emotion wells up, often unexpectedly, I might have trouble catching my breath.  I sometimes have to wipe my eyes.

A musician called attending Springsteen’s show a “profound” experience:  “I’m watching huge dudes in the audience crying their eyes out because only Bruce, the man of all men, can talk to them about these things.”  Many have been attending his concerts for years; this will likely be my only one.

Perhaps we’ll cry together.

There will be lyrics that speak to where I was as a person way back when, and to where I am today.  I will feel blessed and I will feel that I need to do more.

Each day, whether celebrated or not, offers that opportunity.



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