A Pirate Looks at Forty. Make that sixty. Rob Quinn’s Look at Life.

Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late, The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder, I’m an over-forty victim of fate…Jimmy Buffet

Rob Quinn

By Rob Quinn

Early on I loved Jimmy Buffett’s lyric writing. When Dylan covers your songs that usually ends any literary debate right there.

I heard those lyrics in 1975. At 15 I figured anybody still trying to compare themselves to a pirate was already dead. Most 40 year old’s I knew in La Crosse, Wisconsin were well on their way to middle age. Most shelving their athletics after High School glory days, save for 10 years of competitive softball, then a catastrophic injury. Except this one dude. His name was Jim Asfoor and his family was from Syria. He was U.S Navy veteran and their family owned the junk yard and they were rich! 

Editors note: Rob has been a great contributor to 303 Endurance for years in many different ways. Today, May 6th is his 60th birthday and if you haven’t read his past articles, now is a good time. This is a fun look at the perspective with which he enthusiastically shares his view of the world, particularly while riding his bike! Go Rob, Happy Birthday and thank you!

This city had always been accepting of newcomers and if you could become a millionaire by handling junk, more power to you. He was regarded an oddity in a town full of odd folks.

Every. Single. Day, he rode his ultra high end road bike all over town and the surrounding area. He was always kit-ed out like an Italian pro with the top of the line gear and a cycling hat tipped forward like the Italian pros. While the other residents seemed to grow old quickly, Jim got younger each year, cutting a trim and ready figure into his 90’s. Even in 1975, I knew Jim Asfoor had figured something out the others had not. Today there is a Facebook group from that area consisting of avid cyclists called “Ride or Die”. How appropriate I thought.

Here I sit on the eve of my 60th birthday. For my 50th 100 friends came over and we drank Tequila and did things that can get you thrown in prison in Texas. Tomorrows celebration will be a bit more subdued. 60 is on the other side of 50 if you had not done the math.

Last year I buried my college roommate. The grand consumption of midwestern life got to Murph early. The other best friend, Murph died in a jail cell years before. It hit me that about half of my friends are now dead. How could that be when the average age of U.S. men is 76 years?

I’ve always been attracted to extreme and interesting personalities. I’ve lost a lot of friends to hard living, including ski, motorcycle and extreme sports accidents. 

There’s a lot of doctors that tell me, That I better start to slowin’ it down, But there are more old drunkers. Than there are old doctors, So I guess I’ll have another round…Willy Nelson (quit drinking 3 years after he wrote that song.)

Last year I went back to the old sod in Wisconsin for Octoberfest. The biggest celebration of the year and one everybody comes “home” for. I have missed roll call for 23 years, so I was eager to get back and see some old friends. I struck up a conversation by the keg with a classmate who was not in my inner circle, but one I liked and enjoyed. I think he was Valedictorian. I really wasn’t paying attention back then. He’s now the self-appointed success/failure tracker for the class. I was a rich interview since the reports were I had seen my share of both.

Yes, I was still married to my high school sweetheart, the class beauty Jeanne Pavela (good looking women have a soft spot for bad-boys, but I found being funny the greatest leveler for average looks). Yes, I had managed to graduate from college (smashing high school side bets). No, I had not lived in La Crosse since I was 19. No, there was no deal with local authorities. Yes, the reports of my death(s) were all exaggerated. What do I do these days? Ride my bike every day, remember Jim Asfoor? I ski 30 to 50 days a year, water ski in the summer, workout, play with my dogs, write my funny stories and retain a few clients and still go to a lot of shows. Don’t mind burning one (I DO live in Colorado with certified medical issues…nothing to bore you with today). In short still trying to raise a little hell. Oh yeah, and I have two daughters that against all odds seem normal. 

He say’s “So basically what you are telling me is that you have not changed at all since high school”.

My response: “When you find a system that works, why mess with it?”.

My friends my age are acting a little funny these days and not in a comical way. A suggestion for a 3-day Widespread Panic run is dismissed without a response. A great idea of driving to Cabo is thought to be too dangerous (compared to what?). An invitation to race La Ruta this year go unanswered. Nobody jumps at the offer for dawn patrol after a 2 foot dump on a Tuesday. 

I notice at gatherings, I’d rather talk to the kids of my parent friends than my parent friends. I hate talking about money or injuries and that seems to dominate the conversations among older adults. Let me give you an example of how I can end a boring conversation.

Well meaning neighbor “So Rob, what’s your Social Security Payment situation look like”

Me “Good question Denny. I have not opened mail since 1982. Tequila shot? Or perhaps something a little stronger?” (wink)

Jerry Garcia once said that when he was in a room full of successful people his age, he felt like he was the only child among a bunch of serious adults. I’m glad he wrote it and not me.

So… with that said (have I forgot to piss anybody off?) I will lay out the rules to live by when a pirate hit’s 60.

-Be grateful each-and-every day. No guarantees in what appears to be a fast-moving picture show.

-The windshield is big. The rearview mirror small. Tomorrow holds more promise than yesterday.

-Everybody has injuries and age-related maladies. Nobody cares about yours. 

-Exercise 7 days a week. Out with the bad. In with the good. You can bend a lot of intake rules when you are pushing everything out at a faster rate than intake.

-Never retire. Only one big event after retirement. 

-The key to a happy marriage? Everybody has to try to look good naked. I have added “try to” now that I’m knocking on 60!

-You’d be surprised how quickly forgiveness can show itself when you keep your business together.

-Go big or go home. I don’t recall a sign on top of Pallavicini that says nobody over 60 can ski through the gates. I’m skiing better at 60 than I did at 30. 

-Play and listen to music each and every day and try to experience as many musical situations as possible. One of my favorite things to do is head to a random open-mic. Sit tight for an hour…then showcase 50 years of practice. Ever see a brain scan of a person playing music? It’s like a frigging Verizon nationwide coverage map lit on high. 

-Expand and evolve your social circle. I’m on my second round of concert friends since the first round enjoys strictly music from an older era. 

-Dance like no one is watching. I know that’s been said before. The people talking shit about your wild dancing, opinions don’t matter. 

-Expand your world. Don’t let it shrink. 

-What’s done is done. Let’s move forward and have some fun. Make peace with your mistakes.

– In today’s world it’s never too late to do something magnificent not matter how big or small. Ray Kroc was 52 when he founded McDonalds. Make your mark in a big or small way.

-Pay it forward. Think of all the nice gestures and favors people did for you thus far. What can you do each day that is cool and helpful.

-Don’t listen to the critics. When you march to your own drummer these bitches can be drowned out by simply playing louder. Critics are jealous of freedom and success. 

-Realize the physical plant to aging and make adjustments. It’s one thing to act young but like a vintage sports car. Check the oil a little more often baby!

-Be like Ben Franklin! In his old age he was described as what we’d call “cool” and “fun” by younger people. Not “old” and “bitter” like other old people. Their words not mine. 

-Push on through. Find reasons to keep kicking ass. Last year racing mountain bikes at 59 was a beatdown by the younger ( did I say younger in the 50—59 category…now that’s funny). I CAN’T WAIT to turn 60 so I can hopefully finish in a few dignified positions over the course of the year. 

When Pete Townsend wrote “I hope I die before I get old”

I don’t think he rode Mountain Bikes in Colorado. 

One thought on “A Pirate Looks at Forty. Make that sixty. Rob Quinn’s Look at Life.

  1. Wow. You have a right to brag. We are carpetbaggers next to you. But then I’m 80 and my wife is 70. However, her 4 woman team finished first in the Race Across America, when she was 63. I collected bronze in the US Cycling Masters Nationals at 75. We do reasonably well in local races we do enter. But our focus is on the unique. Last year we did a week at an Italian bike hotel on the Adriatic, while there we rowed a coastal double in the Vogalonga, a 32 km Race around the islands and through the canals of Venice, we finished the year at the World Rowing Masters Regatta at Lake Velence outside Budapest, Hungary ( one of us won two Gold Medals ) after which we rode our bicycles down the Danube from Vienna backs to Budapest. The year before, we rode Glacier and the epic Going To The Sun Road, we rented a barge and cruised through Brittany, France with bikes, getting in some great riding each day through the French countryside. We were also able to squeeze in a few days rowing in a coastal rowing shell with a local club in the St Malo estuary. I envy Mr. Quinn’s youth. I wish I was cycling like him at his age, but I didn’t take up cycling until I was 65. I was still playing rugby. Well at least until I was 63.
    But stay with it Robb. Like some of my ride buddies, who continue to crowd the podium and set national age group time trial records, you too can continue to excel…….for another 20 years at least.

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