Monday, March 25, 2013

Zero to Sixty, Chapter 1. How Did I Get Here So Fast?

In just over a week, I‘ll be 60. For the next nine days, I am publishing the nine chapters of Zero to Sixty--my reflections on reaching this milestone. Stay tuned.

I still feel like a teenager sometimes. I watch my mind hungrily grabbing impressions of cars, pretty ladies, cloud formations, buildings, signs, and other passing items of interest. I still cycle through a round of worry about things that come and go. I detect the familiar taste of regrets of things that happened that I wish didn’t and things that didn’t happen that I wish did. I hear the same favorite songs, plucked at apparent but often suspect random from the more than three thousand songs in my iPod.

Sometimes I experience a moment of what feels like greater awareness. I realize that my mind is churning—and even watch it—feeling separate and wise—but moments later, I’m immersed in the watching and am lost once again. I am not my thoughts, but I seem to be building and maintaining a personality as fast as I can.

I may admire and even envy youth, but I’ve accumulated one of the most interesting lives of anyone I know. If someone says they work and then go home, eat dinner, watch TV and go to bed I’m perplexed. When do they do what they like and want to do? I hope those people enjoy their jobs, because there doesn’t seem to be much else happening.

I’ve produced  21 years of weekly automotive columns. I enjoy being that car writing guy, but it has definitely become a routine. Sometimes, a standout car comes along, like a recent yellow Beetle TDI with the manual transmission, but often it’s just another test car. I’ll probably keep doing it for as long as they keep giving me the cars.

Music is my other passion. From this point in life I see the early influences—my mother’s cello practicing and the records she played. The plastic recorder I was assigned in the first grade, singing solos in sixth grade, the clarinet in the band into high school. I picking up the guitar at 14 and dreamed of stardom; I was so easily derailed by the difficulty. I had a quick, amusing year of mandolin picking in 1980. Then, at my last milestone birthday, a decision and a new bass guitar. I had no idea then how my bass playing adventure would turn out, but now I’m literally wearing it on my sleeve.

How much am I the same person as I was in the 1960s? 1980s? Ten years ago? Having a name and a face tends to give a person  a feeling of continuity. Habits form from convenience on top of interest and enjoyment. But the world changes, and my needs and expectations have changed, too. I wanted to be an artist before, but now I appreciate the comforts of regular day-to-day living. 

I had a vision of happy, joyous creativity, of being connected to my music with passion, writing about what I felt, making it beautiful, and attracting a set of fans. Then, I’d record albums, touring, and acquire fame and fortune. But it was always supposed to be about my experience—not others’ experience of me—or about the trappings of wealth.

I didn’t see my art as my “job” even though I didn’t want to be some “straight” guy in a suit and tie in an office. Well, today I don’t wear a suit or a tie and don’t have an office. Working in Silicon Valley, I have a cube and wear jeans to work.

My worst problem, impatience, hasn’t changed. I hate slow computers and computing. I hate sitting in traffic. But I like the fast stuff, the multi-tasking, the instant access of today’s wireless existence (really love my iPhone).

There are so many benefits to being older, and a few drawbacks. I know more about who I am and what I want, but I have so much less time (always unknown) to go after it. Now, there’s greater urgency, and I understand better the challenges I face as the person I’ve become.

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