How To Be Old
I’m normally not much of a concert-goer. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like crowded parking lots, and I especially don’t like crowded ladies’ rooms. I put up with all of the above for the love of my life, James Taylor. Everyone else, not so much.
Recently, however, I went to two concerts in the same week, in the same theatre (shout-out here to beautiful little Infinity Hall in Norfolk CT).
The first concert was Judy Collins. My longtime friend was turning sixty, and we had attended a Judy Collins concert together forty years before. So it was a nostalgic outing for us, celebrating not only sixty years of living, but our forty-plus years of friendship.
Judy is now 72. She is still lovely. Tall, slim, long silver hair, aristocratic features. She is the perfect example of growing old gracefully. She wore a black pantsuit with a black sequined top – more the Fifth Avenue soiree hostess than the folksinger who inspired us with her voice, and inspired other hippies to write songs like “Judy Blue Eyes”.
She had aged beautifully, if imperfectly. Her voice was sometimes flawless, sometimes wavering. She spent long intervals tuning and re-tuning her guitar, rambling a bit. Worst of all, she forgot the words in several of her most famous songs. We loved her and forgave her, because we are with her in this aging ordeal.
Through a fortunate circumstance (a deal on the tickets), two days later I went back to Infinity Hall, this time with my husband, to see Buffy Sainte-Marie. If Judy Collins was my girlfriend’s favorite forty years ago, Buffy was mine. My husband was clueless, but willing.
A Canadian Cree, forty years ago Buffy was raw and fierce and angry. And when she stepped out on stage in 2011, she still was. Dressed in jeans and leather and feathers, her songs were wild and furious. When she threw up her arms with delight or passion, her shirt rose up too, exposing a very attractive belly-button. She sang with a much-younger backup band of Native American men who were crazy and energetic, and Buffy, at seventy, out-rocked them all.
Whereas Judy showed us the sweet passage of time; Buffy made time stand still.
Judy and Buffy – two different approaches to aging. Graceful and Defiant. Sometimes I am one and sometimes I am the other. Mostly I am the other.