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James Ferragut, Published May 02 2010

Ferragut: Young of heart and mind

To paraphrase a quote I saw recently: Apart from catching my image in the mirror, there is absolutely nothing to remind me that I’m anything but a 19-year-old lad. The quote was accompanied by a photo from the 19th century of a white- haired, bearded old geezer.

Now, back two weeks ago to the men’s room at the Fine Line club in Minneapolis. I was there to see my favorite band of the last two years, Rogue Wave. Anyone who knows me understands that music has been a driving element in my life. Although my age defines me as a baby boomer, my interests in music are light years away from oldies, classic rock, new age, punk or grunge – the stuff I grew older with.

There will always be a place in my heart for an obscure 1960s oldie or the rare album cut way back when. But God knows if I ever have to hear “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who or “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van the Man, I will puke.

Of the 8,200 songs on my iPod, besides the jazz and classical, most are by obscure but talented indie bands. Like Rogue Wave. So when I learned they were going to play Minneapolis, I went to the show with a friend.

Back to the men’s room scene at the Fine Line. I’m finishing my business when this 20-something kid looks over and says: “Are you having a good time, old-timer?” OLD-TIMER?! What? Are you fricking kidding me? Dude! I’m at a Rogue Wave concert for God’s sake … what do you mean old-timer?

Images of Gabby Hayes, Old Man Ernie from “Leave It to Beaver” and Moses popped into my head. I got defensive and was going to start rattling off a list of my age-defying accomplishments, like my bungee jumping at age 50 and the fact that I’ve run in two marathons and six half marathons in the past three years. That I spend more time with 20- and 30-year-olds than I do with fogies over 60.

Then I looked in the mirror. Then I looked at him. Then I looked at the mirror again. He was right. He got me. By his young perspective, there I was, reminding him of his dad or some disgusting uncle or ancient history professor. Anything but the kindred spirit that I was, drawn to the same band and the same vibe that he was reveling in.

I thought of that quote and the photo and smiled. Unless I look in the mirror, there is nothing that reminds me that I’m anything but a 19-year-old lad. And thank God for that. I can only hope the youngster has half of my energy and enthusiasm for life when he’s my age. I wake up every day with the curiosity of a cat, eager to see what adventures are in store for me. Retirement isn’t in my plan, unless you count being a 75-year-old ski patrol guy in Steamboat Springs as “retirement.”

In an ironic twist later that night, Zac Rogue sang a song called “Bird on a Wire” and describes one of his friends as: “Geriatric … at 20 years old …”

That’s the “age thing.” It works two ways: for you or against you.

Age is between the ears. It’s your choice. I made a choice decades ago. If being young is a contest between attitudes, I win.

Ferragut is a Fargo advertising executive and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.