Tuesday, July 1, 2008
When I'm 64
His name is Alvin. He introduced himself to me this week. He is an elderly gentleman that I see almost every day, at or near 24 Hour Fitness gym on Sunset Boulevard, during my lunch break. He is shorter than my 5'8" height, with wispy, silver hair on top and a trim mustache under his prominent nose. He must be in his sixties, at least, or even in his seventies, maybe. He seems gentle, unassuming, and friendly.
Alvin lives in the Triangle Square apartments in Hollywood, a block behind where I work. Triangle Square is an "affordable community for elder gays and lesbians," as listed on the Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing web site. I have seen Alvin through the window, once or twice, sitting in the lobby. One time, I had walked by Triangle Square and I saw a crowd of senior citizens huddled outside on the street corner across from the main entrance, and across from a parked fire engine. They had evacuated the building for a fire alarm. Several of the tenants had pets out on the sidewalk, including dogs with greying faces to match their owners' greying heads.
If I don't see Alvin at the gym, I'll see him walking the two blocks to or from the gym. He walks slowly, with a slight gimp, pulling a small carry-on suitcase on wheels. Inside the gym, I'll see him at the indoor pool, or in the showers, sitting on the bench of the handicapped stall as he bathes. His skin, saggy and a bit mottled, is not unpleasant to look at. As an elderly man in his swim trunks or less, he looks both vulnerable and dignified.
When I think of gay men who are middle-aged or older, I usually think of those who live Palm Springs. But when I think of the gay community, in general, I almost never consider those in the retirement age category. I should, now that I'm able to look back on more than twenty years of adulthood. The next twenty years will go by that much quicker, from what I hear.
I have to be very anti-social when I go to the gym so that I can get in an actual work out and be back at my desk in time. So, my normal chatty self is turned off during my lunch break when I run across the street to swim or get on the treadmill.
I should make time to chat with Alvin, though. I'll bet he has some interesting stories to tell. He's from the generation that battled heavily for gay rights. The fights had been fought for me already, before I became an adult and came out. There's a lot that I take for granted as a gay man who lives with almost zero discrimination in our current society, at least, here in the greater Los Angeles area.
But even without having gotten to know Alvin, he's given me a lot to think about. His mere presence gives me optimistic visual cues of how I might turn out as a little, old gay man in a couple of decades.
It's a good feeling.