Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends
Winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends
Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears
- Simon and Garfunkel, “Old Friends”
When this song came out in 1968, I was a mere sprat of not-quite-sixteen. To me, seventy was a distant dream, an idea to be grasped with the intellect but not the emotions carved by lapidary years of experience. “Old Friends,” from Simon and Garfunkel’s landmark Bookends album, seemed to paint a reasonable picture of seventy back then, when all of my grandparents were still walking the planet and my grandfathers were about that age.
But now here it is forty-five years later, and I call bullshit. I don’t know if it’s because my perspective has changed - forty-five years will do that to you - or if it’s because the world is different, but when I think of being seventy, I don’t picture grizzled old men lost in their overcoats, sitting on park benches and watching newspapers blow around their blucher-shod feet.
I mean, seventy is me in a little over nine years.
I was ruminating on all of this because my friend Stefan just turned seventy today, and, as is the custom, he treated the Minyan Boyz to breakfast. Stefan is no kid, mind you, but he doesn’t fit the image of the Grizzled Oldster all that well. When people say “seventy is the new fifty” with whatever degree of irony or sarcasm they care to project, they could legitimately be thinking of Stefan, who still works full time running his business and who occasionally betrays traces of the mental hardness that comes from being a former MP. (Military Police, not Member of Parliament.)
If that is what seventy is like, bring it on. Fuck Simon and Garfunkel.