Every New Year’s since he’s left us, I miss Dick Clark. A Times Square institution for as long as I can recall, a daytime fixture on the Million Dollar Pyramid, and perhaps most importantly an early shepherd of Rock & Roll, Dick projected an aura of class and genuineness that can’t be approached by anyone who made the scene since. Anderson Cooper’s fine, Carson Daley’s Last Call show has made up for every TRL sin, and Ryan Seacrest made me laugh in Knocked Up…but there was only one Dick Clark. He made vanilla cool somehow.
I had a friend that was in a band on a Dick Clark tour, he told a story about a time backstage when one of the guys in the group made a disparaging remark to another, so that guy in turn chucked his guitar pick at the offender. Partially in jest, partially not. Mr.Clark spotted the action, walked over, picked the pick up, and handed it to the guy who threw it, without a word. Nobody was in trouble, all sense of perspective was enforced, and everyone was on their best behavior after that- a good time was had by all. That’s the kind of guy he was.
In 2014, I’ll turn 36. I find that people my age and younger talk about how “old” that is, which I find decidedly absurd. It’s like the perspective of a 4 year old, for whom anything in the double digits seems ancient. We live in a time in our culture that puts so much emphasis on youth. The only people who know less about the way the world works than your average twentysomething is your average teenager. Are teenagers supposed to know what’s going on? I hope not, because I’ve got news for you, Jack- they don’t.
Truly, I’ve always wanted to be this age. The walker is a long, long way off, but you’re not a kid at 36. I know a thing or two about a thing or two. One of those things is just how much I don’t know, and how to be OK with that. Approaching middle age to me is the welcoming embrace of dignity and grace, the point at which I don’t have to ever raise my voice to get a point across, a jacket will get me in just about anyplace, cops call me “sir,” and I don’t ever have to sweat the bill. Things that are crass or merely pedestrian lose my interest faster and faster all the time, replaced by an ever sharper sense of finding what I like and knowing how to get it. This only happens with time.
Time is any man’s most valuable commodity, whether he knows it or not, and the ability to mitigate it well is a key to living well. As the seconds count to another ball drop, I’m always keenly aware of what my life is at that moment. Not an unusual sensation, as millions of seasonal engagement rings sparkle and billions of gym memberships get activated around the globe attest to. Every 365 days I just feel like I’ve gotten better at being who I am. That only comes with age. Accept no substitutes.
They called him “The World’s Oldest Teenager.” He always seemed like a man to me.