“The Big Five-Oh! Facing, Fearing, and Fighting Fifty” By Bill Geist; William Morrow (250 pages, $23)
Dave Geist is to turning 50 what Homer is to road trips, what Oprah is to dieting, what the Green Giant is to peas, what The Three Stooges are to head butting, what … what was I talking about?
Oh yeah - Dave Geist’s hilarious new book, “The Big Five-Oh!”. Did I say Dave Geist? Sorry. That’s Bill - Bill Geist. I’m sure Bill will understand. After all, he devotes two whole chapters to what he calls Short-Term Memory Loss Syndrome.
“Laymen without benefit of medical training or expertise,” he adds, “often call the malady CRS - ‘Can’t Remember ——” and if you’re around 50, you know the rest. Been there, forgotten that.
It’s really annoying when the book editor gets a book like this and makes a bee line for your desk. “I thought you might enjoy this,” she wrote cheerily on the Post It note stuck on Dave’s forehead on the dust jacket.
Thanks, I really needed that - a reminder that I’m officially one of the office geezers, in case my marathon stints at the urinal don’t do it. (Memo to self: Pitch Barnes & Noble on new line of audio books for urinal hostages.)
Do you find all this urinal business pretty tasteless? Tough. There are lots of things pretty tasteless about turning 50 and they’re all in this laugh-out-loud-till-you-annoy-your-teenage-kids book.
I couldn’t put it down … because I knew I’d forget where I put it. Badda bee. Badda boom.
To prepare for this review I began marking favorite chapters and lines, but stopped because I was marking virtually every page. The reason “The Big Five-Oh!” is so side-splittingly funny is that, sadly, it’s so true.
Memory loss, hearing loss, incontinence, menopause, vanishing libido, expanding guts, exploding thighs, shrinking patience - all that and more is to be found in Geist’s chamber of middle-age horrors.
Dave - Bill - sets the tone at the outset with his list of “50 Ways to Tell You’re 50,” including:
1. Test-drive Cadillac.
4. Never heard of Grammy winners.
11. Can’t read menu.
12. Can’t hear specials.
13. Couldn’t remember them even if you could.
23. Aroused only by buffets.
34. Leave turn signal on.
The lead sentences alone in this book are worth the price of admission. Take the chapter “A Brief History of My Gut.” It opens this way:
“Men, do you ever find yourselves in the shower singing that old Paul Anka favorite, ‘Having My Baby’ “?
The chapter “Pajama Parties”: “I go to parties now where people sleep.”
The chapter “Sportsitting”: “Endorphins don’t hold a candle to fettuccine Alfredo.”
Or the chapter, “Sex After 50 (This Will Be Brief)”: “Help! My libido has fallen and I can’t get up!”
To refresh your memories, Geist was a chronicler of the off-beat comically mundane for the New York Times before moving to CBS where he’s become sort of cross between Charles Kuralt and Andy Rooney.
TV always rounds off the edges, and one of the nice things about this book is that it lets the Polter-Geist - cranky, profane, occasionally macabre - out of the closet.
“It seems like more and more people are dead these days, doesn’t it? It used to be just my grandfather,” Geist writes in the chapter, ” ‘Middlessence’ or ‘PreDeceased?’ “
He has a list of warning signs of the onset of middle-aged grumpiness that includes “Trip a running child” and “Recently yelled ‘get off my lawn, you little bastards.”’
A dozen years ago Bill Cosby - as tough-love-ad-libbing Cliff Huxtable - became the parenting role model for me and millions of baby boomers raising our children.
That was then, this is now. Now that the little bas … I mean, brats are grown up, Geist is my model. We’re all gonna turn into Mr. Wilson, the intemperate crab apple who lives next door to Dennis the Menace.
“My children are grown,” Geist writes, “and lately I find myself starting to think I’d really rather see ‘No Children’ sections in restaurants than ‘No Smoking’ ones.”
Right on! Groovy!
Hey, we have a right to be pills because we have all this gross stuff happening to us like adult diapers and liver spots and getting our AARP card in the mail.
There’s a photo of an unsmiling Geist on the back flap of the dust jacket wearing his 38-inch-waist Dockers, loafers and a purple shirt. He’s holding a blown-up copy of his AARP card. He looks thoroughly P.O.ed.
And this was probably one of his good days.
There’s a TV commercial running now that offers free checking to anyone 50 and over: “You’re going to be a senior citizen someday - take advantage of it while you’re still young enough to enjoy it!”
I would say the same about “The Big Five-Oh!” You’re going have to wear adult diapers someday - read Geist’s book while you’re still young and dry enough to laugh about it.
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