Twenny Yearsman

The author (left) and old friend Aaron Ashenfelter many moons, many Junes ago.

Shortly after the ding-dong lean into 2010, a buddy and I were at Del Taco ordering our usual (him — green sauce, me — the virile red; yet our friendship lasts) when I began contemplating the semi-permanence of the exotic-sounding new year. 2010, man. Four digits that look so peculiar together, like they’d wandered unscrubbed and unshaved into the city from four different directions and collided at the intersection of Huh and No Fucking Way.

It still sounds weird, unreachable by time and man. Yet there we stood in its assured reality, besieged by technological advances that bore us now but once seemed inconceivable. For instance, we’re hovering over a sustenance-by-glop counter in Albany, Oregon, yet with all the knowledge of the universe crammed into tiny devices slumbering in our pockets (mmmm, mine just went off, daddy). We fluently speak its gobbledegook, using hordes of words unknown to us even four years ago. Flying Nissans swerve through the heavens. The teenage girl who took our order is linked wirelessly to Del Taco Central and was programmed by teams of engineers to ensure maximum customer satisfaction, whatever our wanton comestible desires. We have Made It to the New Frontier, an astonishing era of mass communication, and we’ve only just begun to nip at its veneer. Promise has become tangible. Imagination snuggles with truth. Could full enlightenment, that formerly far-fetched pipe-dream ether-belch of hope, smoke and gas be possible in my lifetime — with a zillion years to spare?

My heightening reverie was doggedly ascending to its zenith of gosh-awe gush when my pal, thinking along similar lines, reached an alternate conclusion through simple math and deflated the whole enchilada (yum) with an observation that sent my meat-vessel hurtling back to mop-tiled earth:

“2010,” he whistled. “Twenny yearsman.”

Guh, my blood turned blacker than Wild Cherry Tab.

Twenny Yearsman is fogey code for that dew-dappled afternoon you shambled up a ramp and collected a high-school diploma from an administrator whose name and face you’ve long forgotten. It’s code for locked-up unattainable look-back youth, from a time when your countenance glowed, from when Friday was an oasis yawning deep into potential paradise. It was a slug of wistful shotgunned from a nostalgia bong. Of COURSE, I realized. Class of 1990. Therefore: 2010, carry the one, 20-year reunion. But that’s not possible, right? I mean, wasn’t the class of ’89’s geezer fete just last summer? Why that’s just…just — tellum, Gnarls:

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Such revelations are dangerous to the maudlin-minded, sparking naught but horrific chain reactions in the core. If you’re like me, you’re apt to wander the year agog, marching through thought valleys that begin: “Just think: blanket-blankety years ago I was babbledy-scoobedy-wah” and within minutes, woo, you’re tanked off your nut, shoving further blasts of numbing masochism down your liquor shaft. Your physical vision may blur, but that interior vision will rip memories from your subconscious with such clarity you’ll think Bill Inglot got his hands on your master tapes. Just as suddenly, it’s 2 a.m., you’re a morning older, and it’s a long walk home from this chicken shack, sunshine.

Twenny Yearsman. Bastard. I remember when it happened to my dad. His old high school tracked him down in Oregon through my grandmother and spat north newsletters and come-hithers to the class carousal scheduled for the summer of 1988. As a 15-year-old I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I grabbed the names from his class list, scanned their bios, and matched them to their corresponding shots in my pop’s yearbooks (rescued from the attic for memory-lane purposes). Eeek, all those beehived damsels and short-coiffed fellas cocooned in transit from Camelot respectability to Hey Hey LBJ. Their teenage lives covered the Four Seasons to Buffalo Springfield, Lou Christie to Donovan, The Beatles to, er, The Beatles.

It was like studying an alien culture. What adventures had these anonymous figures experienced? What was their relationship to my father? And what was his life like before marriage, before children, before a job that brought him hobbling and grumbling through our back door at night? These people knew. Although I lived with him, saw him privately at his worst and best, and in fact am the result of his existence, they knew him at a level I could not.

To make a bloviatory navel-gaze short, my dad missed his 20, though he fielded plenty of catch-up phone calls. I still don’t know why he didn’t go. He seemed to recall high school fondly, and that summer we just happened to be in Southern California, no less than 30 freeway miles from his hometown. He hasn’t attended the subsequent reunions, either, and now his class has reached an age where it’s merged into multi-year annual picnics. These days he contents himself with silent re-connections via (his generation’s Facebook) and making occasional trips south to meet up with small bands of auld acquaintance.

Now it’s my turn. And being both a quasi-writer and eternal reflecting pool of shit, I’m doomed to become unbearable this year as the Magic Date approaches. I’ve stopped myself six times from gabbing about graduation night — or was it the night after? — when we all converged at Jimmy Furman’s house to get righteously freedom-tooted. I remember a casually drunk Kade McLanahan barreling nonchalantly over the death-hugged curves of wine country while I, his sole passenger, envisioned the headline “McLanahan dies with unknown loser in back-road soup of metal and bone.” Loud games of quarters pinged in the kitchen (where Andrew “Dice” Clay warbled, “Shoot your wad/high in the sky”) while I spirits-babbled untold years of pent-up regret into Diane Rogers’ patient lap. From an ignored television, Bell Biv Devoe warned anyone willing to listen, “Miss her/kiss her/love her/that girl is poison.” (Diane was a saint, though, for absorbing the Diane-ward guff I’d slung since sixth grade, so back off, New Jack.) Finally, I plunged unconscious into a bed that wasn’t offered to me, where I remained, unmoving, for the next 13 hours. Whoops — I think you may have heard this one before.

In any case, watch out. Twenny Yearsman is here, and baby, I gots the fevuh.


RANDOM ADDENDUM: Got an e-mail blast today from Greenleaf Music’s Dave Douglas — yes, this Dave Douglas, sonic author of this and this, both of which need to be in your collection if you’ve any taste whatsoever. On January 26, his company’s releasing Stained Radiance, an art/music collaboration between spontaneous painter Norton Wisdom and prolific guitarist Nels Cline, who released the spine-dropping Coward last February. Stoked. Watch the trailer here. Speaking of collaborations, Douglas is working with Keystone on the soundtrack for Bill Morrison’s Spark of Being, set for a world-premiere unveiling April 24 at Stanford University. Stoked stoked.



  1. Aaron · March 8, 2010

    Dear God, were we ever really that *young*?


    – Aaron

    • coryfrye · March 12, 2010

      We might have been. Not so sure anymore.

      • Aaron · March 14, 2010

        And goodness… so much *hair*. It’s hard to believe that it’s been longer since that picture was taken than I’d been alive up to that point.

        Sobering thought. 😦

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