Acid Heroes

July 23, 2014

Old age

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:37 pm
Tags: , , ,


One of the first jobs I ever had was working as a dishwasher at a nursing home when I was 16.  The kitchen where we worked was on the first floor.  But once a day we had to take the elevator up to the fourth floor to get the cart full of dirty dishes.  The fourth floor was the lounge area where the old people hung out.

The first time I went up there it was a shock.  I had never really seen old people before.  And here was a whole room full of them.  And they mostly looked half-dead.   Like they were just sitting there waiting to die, and the wait was not going to be too long.

I remember this one old guy who sat around with his shirt off.  And he had this big lump on his chest.  It looked exactly as if he had swallowed an alarm clock and it was in his chest.  “That’s a pacemaker,” my co-worker told me.  This was 1973, of course.  Nowadays I’m told a pace-maker isn’t much bigger than a micro-chip.

And then there was Joey.  He couldn’t stand wearing his dentures.  So he’d hide them in his mashed potatoes.  We’d be washing the dishes and we’d regularly find them in the mashed potatoes.  “There’s Joey’s dentures again!’

But the one I most remember was this spooky old lady.  She really looked haunted and haggard.  Her face was splotched with purple patches.  And she had these dark, sad eyes that bored into you.  And her bones seemed so fragile it seemed like she would crack apart if she fell down.  The worst thing was:  she would sneak up behind you and put her clammy, boney hand on your shoulder, stare you in the eye and implore in this pleading, desperate voice:  “HELP ME ESCAPE!    I’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF THIS PLACE!  THEY’RE TRYING TO KILL ME!  PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, HELP ME ESCAPE!”

My co-worker, who was also 16, was kind of a wise-guy.  He’d put his hands on her shoulders and say:  “All right, granny.  Here’s what I’m gonna do. Tonight I’ll ride up here on my motorcycle at the stroke of midnight.  I’ll honk my horn three times as my signal.  And you can sneak down the fire escape.  And then you can ride on the back of my chopper all the way to California.”


“Just make sure you have all your bags packed so we can make a quick getaway.”


The poor thing.  She was like a character out of a nightmare.

At the time, it never occurred to me that I would one day be an old man, too.  I mean, I had always been a young guy.  So I just assumed I would always be a young guy.  I was a young guy.  And they were the old guys.  The idea that I would wake up as an old man some day seemed preposterous.   Like waking up as a black woman or something.  But I guess that’s just how it works.



  1. When the Buddha saw an old person for the first time, it really started to drive it home that this Maya thing/Samsara was not for him.

    Comment by Jon — July 24, 2014 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

    • It’s weird. The closer I get to death, the more unreal and dream-like this world looks to me. . . I dunno. . . . When I was younger, the world seemed a little more solid.

      Comment by Ace Backwords — July 24, 2014 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

      • I feel the same way & I am only 38. Every day things seem a little more transient, just a system of collective movement. This may be a more collective experience these days, or possibly because I study the Vedanta, or who knows?

        Comment by Jon — July 25, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

      • Probably both. Collective experience and Vedanta. The world is changing so fast these days, I think a lot of people feel a little freaked out by the transitory nature of our society.

        Comment by Ace Backwords — July 26, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

  2. We are all going to be there. Except for those of us who died young.

    Comment by Tom Atkinson — July 24, 2015 @ 1:15 am | Reply

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