Mike ErvinBy the time the end of June rolls around, I will be either 63 years old or dead. I’m betting hard on the former. I don’t know if Las Vegas would give me very good odds on that, but screw it. Las Vegas thinks Celine Dion is a genius, so what the hell does it know?

You know how in illustrations of biblical times there are often hunched old men with long white beards who are walking around on gnarled canes? Well, in biblical times those guys were probably about 30 years old. I’m twice their age. The same is true of those grizzled prospectors in the Wild West. And how about those people featured now and then on the local news who are 110 years old? A 63-year-old, lifelong cripple has got to be as old as they are, at least in terms of wear-and-tear. And the local news reporter always asks the 110-year-old person the secret to their longevity.

If anybody asks me the secret to my longevity, I have a clear and simple answer: “Hell if I know.”

It’s true, I don’t have any business being here. I don’t do any of the stuff cripples are supposed to do to stay healthy, like physical therapy or exercise. I know I really should do those things, but I can’t motivate myself. It feels too much like doing homework to me.

I don’t even do any of the stuff people who aren’t crippled are supposed to do to stay healthy. I sure as hell don’t drink eight glasses of water a day. Are you kidding me? Eight glasses a day? How can anybody do that? I’d be peeing like a horse every 20 minutes if I did! What kind of quality of life would I have if I spent it in the bathroom? And I sit on my butt all day, every day too. I’ve heard all those reports about how doctors say that prolonged sitting is harder on your body than wrestling a coked-up gorilla. So why haven’t my vital organs joined together  in solidarity and gone on strike? I have no idea. Who would blame them if they did?

I also continue to eat and drink pretty much whatever I want. The other day I had a dessert of cheesecake and whiskey. Sometimes I even eat White Castle cheeseburgers. It’s my way of thumbing my nose at death.

But I do avoid some things that I know will bring me stress. Like for instance, I avoid joining any diagnosis-based cripple support groups. In these groups, cripples inevitably talk about their physical aches and pains (I’d much rather talk about our political aches and pains). And listening to it all turns me into a hypochondriac. I feel like my body’s going to fall apart any minute now, so I get all stressed out and go see a doctor. And then seeing a doctor stresses me out even more.

Once I went to see a pulmonologist, and he gave me a bunch of breathing tests where I exhaled into a tube with three little balls in it. The strength of my puff was supposed make the balls shoot up to the top of the tube, but I could only blow the balls about half way up before they dejectedly fell back down. The doctor gave me this mournful look, as if my body was going to fall apart right there in front of his eyes.

But that was 10 years ago and I’m still breathing. But is my breathing just symbolic? How much of the oxygen I take in actually gets up to my brain? That is a subject upon which reasonable minds can disagree.

Maybe listening to jazz is the secret to my longevity. I listen to a lot of jazz. Jazz is good for the soul. Jazz fans are cool and calm. You never hear about jazz fans rioting because they went to a concert and the musician didn’t show up. I think listening to jazz activates the same pleasure centers of the brain as having a dessert of cheesecake and whiskey.

That’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for why I’m still chugging along. Or maybe I have a freaky weird immune system and the more White Castle cheeseburgers I eat, the stronger it gets.