Crossing Over to Vintage Humbling

Apparently, I am now considered vintage. Let me explain.

In something like a twisted episode of an old Twilight Zone I left on a week-long road trip as a what I considered a middle-aged guy and somehow and, inexplicably, returned old man. The for one week, the universe seemed to have it in for me – kicking at and shaking my ego onto its knees.

Strike one came early. While stopping at roadside gas I walked in to grab a bottle of water. Walking up to the counter, a young girl, roughly the age of my own daughter, looked up.

“Wow, I like your hair,” the young girl said. “Not too often when you see an older gentleman wearing taking an interest in his hair and wearing it with style.”

For a moment – ever so briefly – I wondered who the young girl might be speaking to. And then, like the revealing payoff moment in each episode, the iconic theme music dancing a terrorizing jig between my ears. The older man was me.

We all like to think we are perpetually young or at least immune to the march of time. Old is always for someone else. We even manufacture life preserver-type phrases hoping to distract us from the face changing the mirror. This list of greatest hits includes “you’re only as old as we act” or “age is only a number” and other well-meaning but hollow phrases.

None of these turn of words rescued three days later. Riding a small bus, a young lady stepped aboard. With seats filling up I instinctively heard my mother’s voice. Rising up I offered my seat to the late boarding passenger.

“Oh no,” she said. “I’m young. Thanks all the same.”

Strike two hit me with the force of a Nolan Ryan fastball to the ribcage – even taking away my breath and another piece of my already bruised ego.

Sitting down, I wondered what I did to piss off the universe.

Strike three came later that night when a young man walked up, did a double-take, and stopped.

“Dude, awesome vintage watch,” he said. “What’s the story here?”

Again, I found myself momentarily confused – what vintage watch I wondered.

Looking down I saw my favorite watch, one accompanying me from mountain hikes to diving into teal blue waters. A traveling partner of tens of thousands of road miles and a survivor of being whacked into walls and submerged into cold mountain streams, the watch is practically a part of my being.

vintage.jpgThen I did the math. My watch began traveling with me before the young man could grow a beard.

Leaning in, the young man admired my timepiece with reverence – as if seeing a rare fossil from a time long passed, from a time when watches told time and phones only made calls. To him, my watch served as a cool reminder of authenticity.

I cried uncle. If age plus authentic equals vintage, then count me in. Just don’t call me old.

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Mountain Town Perfectly Imperfect

“Don’t try to ride an elk and don’t shake hands with a bear.”

I’m standing in a small Montana town scratching out a life between two different mountain ranges. With river water as clear as the air pulsating in my lungs, it cuts a gentle, but jagged line through town. Above, rocky peaks act as shepherds watching over the herd below.

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I’ve stopped at the town newspaper to say hello get some local advice.

A man approaches the counter. He offers a firm handshake and directly tells me his name.

He smiles, his face artfully and handsomely chiseled as if from the stone looking down from above. His eyes are bright like the blindingly blue canopy above.

As we shake hands I share my name and that I too, carry black ink in my veins – only mine from Texas. Instantly we are trusted brethren.

I’d asked my new friend about advice as a first time visitor to his state. The reference to staying clear of the wildlife is not fully in jest. Days before a man was arrested for trying to wrestle a buffalo.

My friend’s personality is as unique as this soil where he planted his feet more than 40 years ago. His pink ribbon tie playfully contrasts against the blue oxford shirt. His jacket is neat yet hangs comfortably from his trim shoulders.

Quiet confidence and being true to your self is a respected trait in this corner of the world.

He tells me about the town, the history, and what he sees going on hidden from the unknowing eyes of a visitor. I’m standing in a old town facing down the new in a not so quiet battle for its soul.

The town is in an interesting sliver in time. There in not a chain hotel or franchise restaurant within shooting distance of where we stand. A block over an old hand-painted Coca-Cola advertisement whispers from above in a red brick alley. Others faded signs mark once prominent businesses and family names forever part of the town’s lore.

I think back to my hotel room to where chipped plaster walls and decades of paint welcome me. Tall, narrow wooden doors with imperfectly brush stroked numbers lead me to my room each day. Where each morning 114-year old floor joists bark as I walk across their backs. Oddly, I feel at home in this place I’ve never been before.

Everywhere you turn you see a world stubbornly trying to hold on to its roots as a steady stream of outsiders continue attempt to remake the town into their vision of perfect. Art galleries are popping up and a custom watchmaker offers his handmade timepieces starting at $3,100 a pop. Ironically, most vehicles populating the side streets do not carry enough book value to trade for a locally made watch.

There is a timeless beauty of this corner of the world – a place where man, nature, and man’s restless drive to improve the other never stops. I’m pulling for Mother Nature.

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