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Way Back When Turning Thirty Was Old Age


turning thirty

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I asked a fifty year old man what turning thirty really meant. I was twenty nine at the time.


He said, “It’s easier wearing a shirt and tie without feeling like a fraud.”


Fraud? That’s it? Shirt and tie?


Way back when turning thirty was old age I asked old guys in the gym I used. It was the Portland State gym. Football players and professors and some students used it.


I got a noon pump on since I worked down the street on the South Portland Park Blocks and took night classes.


Education wise, the gym was quite a classroom. I remember the old guys looking pretty old.


I was so much younger then, I’m older than them now. (Nod to Bob Dylan)

By twenty nine I was two years away from marriage, three away from a baby carriage, five away from moving to the suburbs and another baby carriage. (It was the same baby carriage, but in case of attitude about hand me downs, let’s call it new.)


In 1984 I lived in a small studio apartment, a third floor walk up in The Burgess on NW 21st and Lovejoy. $155 a month. I wasn’t the king of my neighborhood. One of them lived across the hall, the other across the street.


The man across the hall’s uncle owned the corner grocery store. Very kingly. His name was Ron, the store was Paola’s. Now it’s a Starbucks. The man across the street owned the house and paraded around in overalls, crawled under cars, got dirty and didn’t care. Even more kingly.


I was just passing through for five years in the same hole. At sixty two, I miss those days, especially the spring day I saw what looked like a miracle on the sidewalk before turning thirty.


It was a girl. A woman. And she looked familiar. Most of the time if someone looks familiar I hope it’s because we met in high school. Like Diane in Safeway last year.


This girl looked like my high school girl friend, my college girl friend, women I dated in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, all wrapped into one. Most of all she looked nothing like my last serious relationship.


Since it was no one I knew, but looked like someone I ought to meet, I was safe.


My apartment building stood next to a doctor’s office. I stood next to the new doctor who’d just moved in. He was from Kansas. Said he was a Kansas wrestling high school champion. Everyone’s a champion when it comes to wrestling.


He said his older brother played in the NFL. Sure he did. Like I’d ever know. So I told him my brother played in the NFL, too. What a coincidence. We were both related to football stars. I told him my other brother played major league baseball for the liar’s one-up.


The guy was pretty feisty and strong, white teeth with two caps in front, and striking blue eyes. Like all former wrestlers from North Bend do with everyone they meet, I sized him up and decided I could take him down.


Somehow I always come to that same conclusion. I don’t know why I even bother with the sizing up part. I can take you down from the start.


The girl on the sidewalk got closer.


“This is someone new,” I said to the dude doc.


“Probably. I’m new, too,” he said.


“I don’t know her, but I probably should,” I said. I liked the guy. We shared ‘probably.’


That was my romance game. If I should probably know someone, I might, but I don’t push in. Nothing for sell here, no pitching, no silly games. Well, no silly game but my silly game.


But if you call me, “silly,” I’ll take you down.


So here comes this babe walking on my sidewalk outside my building in my town and I already know what’s going to happen. By my mid to late twenties I knew the drill: The most beautiful and talented women get tired of perfect guys in expensive cars who enjoy foreign travel, eat in nice restaurants, and treat their women like an accessory that completes their look.


Eventually they cross the street and trade their west hills dream boat for a poor boy flat lander with a bike who tries not to travel any further than a bike ride away, eats in the Wheel of Fortune restaurant on 21st and Northrup, maybe Overton. It’s an Ethiopian or Moroccan place now. Or boils up the latest recipe for rice and beans in his studio kitchen.


Simple and dignified. Throw in some guitar playing, sing a song or two, and stand back while the magic unfolds and a special song gears up, an anthem that still rings true.


Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night
I can see paradise by the dashboard light
Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night
Paradise by the dashboard light
You got to do what you can
And let Mother Nature do the rest
Ain’t no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed
‘Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed


Take it, Meatloaf.


In a simple and dignified manner my sidewalk vision of loveliness walked up and kissed the new guy.


Then he introduced me to his girlfriend. Hilarity ensued.


What’s your babe magnet story before turning thirty?
About David Gillaspie


  1. […] Over thirty years ago my wife was pregnant with my first kid. We were walking Portland like no one’s business. […]

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