steve ivory (2014)

Steven Ivory

*Last Monday, on October 24th, I celebrated another birthday. One of the first acknowledgements came from Nothing says You pitiful, lonely old MF like a birthday greeting from a porn site.

The magic number? Sixty-one.

Yes, I said it. I’m 61. I’ll be 61 all year, until next October, when I plan on having another birthday.

I can hear the gasps of some of my contemporaries—folk my age, a little younger or a bit older—all wondering why I’d reveal this news, as if keeping it to myself would somehow alter the fact.

Never understood what lying about one’s years accomplished. That I’m this age means I’m still here to be this age. Getting older and feeling great is a gift; fibbing or being reticent about pronouncing the number doesn’t alter the fact. It only makes one look ungrateful.

And boy, am I grateful. The trade-off to experiencing this wonderful adventure called life is that I have to keep having birthdays. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

I Just did get in on the Beatles. If I’d been any younger than eight years old—-my age when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964–it all might have been lost on me. I witnessed the great Muhammad Ali do his magnificent thing from its incredible beginning to its dignified end.

Being alive in a certain era means I’ve witnessed our nation’s change; being Black in that era means I’ve had a front row seat and am a most willing participant.

I’ve been Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black and African American. They say if you hang around long enough, everything comes back. Today, since we, along with others, are collectively referred to as people of color…well, that first phrase has come back around.

I can appreciate President Barack Obama for so many reasons–one of them being that I am old enough to remember when the very notion of a Black president seemed like something that could never happen in my lifetime. And here it is.

A Black man as president is among the important experiences. But I’ve also lived long enough to notice other things that happen when you start, as the old folks (like how I did that?) say, “gettin’ on up there”. Stuff like what a buddy of mine terms, “Upper Body Dancing.”

That’s when you’re a certain age, out on the dance floor and your head, arms and hands are all partyin’ hardy. Gettin’ down. Indeed, you’re Michael Jackson…from the waist up. Your feet, on the other hand, are firmly planted and don’t move at all.

And, I have fun watching people my age get out of a car. Doesn’t matter what great shape you’re in; it’s universal law that once you reach, say, your 50s, you somehow relinquish your ability to get out of a car in one fluid motion.

I’ve yet to develop a way to do this that looks cool. It’s as if I’m climbing out of a hole in the side of a cave; I just roll my body out and figure out the rest as I’m moving.

Just the other day, while taking a walk, I came upon a late-model car parked at the curb, empty but for a middle-aged man sitting in the driver’s seat. Presumably exiting the vehicle, he’d opened the door wide, positioned his body so that his legs were out of the car and his feet were on the asphalt. He was just sitting there, seemingly in contemplation.

“How you doin?” I asked.

“Man, I’m great,” he said.

What are you doing?”

He laughed. “I’m sitting here reminiscing how I used to be able to do this gracefully.”

“Ha! I can dig it!”

That’s “I understand” for you youngsters.

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]