John Larson

My wife’s birthday was this week and, as in all things pandemic, it kind of went by with a yawn. Not to say it wasn’t observed with proper dignity and a spot of savoir faire, but it wasn’t the usual celebratory event with flowers delivered and all that. “Just wait until next year,” I said. “We’ll be back to normal and cake will be involved. Nay, two cakes!”

There’s something about birthdays that defies all reason and logic to me, and that’s age. If you think about it, it’s just a construct based on the orbit of our planet around the sun. I’ve just about decided this whole thing about defining age and aging, and youth and middle age and old age are kind of invented. Not to mention comparing one’s years with non-ferrous metals.

At this point I’m reminded of something Ogden Nash once said. “Middle age is when you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn’t for you.”

But I digress.

One thing about birthdays at our house is that chronological age is hardly ever mentioned, and if it comes up it’s hardly ever believed. Age is something entirely other, or should I say aging. Without exception, I have heard people tell me their mind and spirit and everything else having to do with their marbles are the same, even though their body has slowed down. Or at best taken a slight detour.

For instance, I was talking with my friend ZW in Magdalena the other day, and he mentioned getting a hearing aid up at the Albuquerque VA hospital, and I told him about my own hearing aid follies. This is the kind of things older people do.

Even though those aural devices can be very beneficial, one may end up hearing things not meant for one’s ears. Like last week. I had mine cranked up while I was getting checked out at John Brooks and, as usual, not paying much attention. As the clerk was scanning my box of instant grits I heard, “date of birth?” I blurted out my day, month and year. Wait. For instant grits? It turned out that it was the checker behind me. We had a good laugh over that, but see what I mean?

That birth date is indelibly fixed in our heads. Can’t get around it.

While we’re on the subject, today, incidentally, is the birthday of blues singer “Blind” Lemon Jefferson, born on Sept. 24, 1893. He started out busking on sidewalks where fellow bluesman Mance Lipscomb says he “had a tin cup, wired on the neck of his guitar. And when you pass to give him something, why, he’d thank you. But he would never take no pennies. You could drop a penny in there and he’d know the sound. He’d take and throw it away.” Over the years he recorded close to 100 songs and was the first country blues artist to gain a national following. He died at age 36. His headstone reads, “Lord, it’s one kind favor I’ll ask of you. See that my grave is kept clean.”

Besides my wife’s and Blind Lemon’s birthday this week, the library people have designated the last full week in September as Banned Books Week, celebrating the freedom to read, spotlighting current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.

I know, I’ve spouted off about this before.

Back during my bookstore period, we would set up a display of some of the books that had been banned for whatever reason in the past by libraries, schools and even other bookstores.

Some of those we would put on display included Huckleberry Finn, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Call of the Wild, The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, Stranger in a Strange Land, Where the Wild Things Are, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Catch-22 and even Mr. Webster’s dictionary.

As you would expect, once you tell people a book had been banned it flies out of the store.

Funny thing is, the balance of those above-mentioned titles are considered classics and tomes are on school reading lists.

The reasons for the banning are varied, but the common ones seem to be profanity, sexual content, perceived racism, or religious convictions.

More recently, the most challenged books have been (besides a few from the above list): The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Thirteen Reasons Why, Beartown, Kafka on the Shore, The Handmaid’s Tale, and all the Harry Potter books.

I have been known to be a voracious reader, but personally I’ve always avoided authors like Danielle Steel.

Or any book with Fabio on the cover.

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