the Fountain of Youth
by Mad Dog
researchers would announce that potato chips count as a daily
vegetable serving, Chee-tos are officially dairy, and goldfish
crackers are seafood we could live happy.
In addition to the three certainties in lifeódeath, taxes,
and that the new fall TV season will boost book salesówe should
add a fourth: the quest to have a longer life. With the notable
exceptions of Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, and Sylvia Plath, most
people want to live to a ripe old age. Marie Bremont sure did. She
was the worldís oldest person until she died recently at the age
of 115. Thatís a long time, long enough to outlive two husbands,
two World Wars, and two versions of Planet of the Apes and
still not know for sure which were the bigger disasters.
She never said what her
secret of longevity was, which is odd. Usually people that old have
a theory about it and love to pass it on. After all, when you
donít have to worry about working, cooking, exercising, or
breathing on your own you have a lot of time to formulate theories.
And itís always nice to pass along something other than gas.
Some people say they lived
a long life because they ate a particular food, like yogurt, every
day. Others claim it was from staying active. Still others think it
came from living a squeaky clean life, but if that was the case
weíd be overrun by 150-year-old nuns trying to remember why those
beads are hanging from their waist instead of around their neck
while they reminisce about the good old days when they could still
lift a ruler to smack a studentís hand.
other things you can do to extend your life besides move to France,
lie about your birthday, and take up acting. You can find a mate
with a family history of longevity.
Marieís case it might have something to do with her being French.
After all, a previous worldís oldest person was French: Jeanne
Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. Jeanne was a smart
1965 she made a deal with a lawyer to pay her $500 a month for life
on the condition that she leave him her house when she died. This
sounded like a hell of a deal since Jeanne was 90 years old at the
time. Unfortunately for him he died two years before she did, having
shelled out $180,000 for a house that was only worth $60,000. Iím
sure Jeanne died happy knowing she outwitted a lawyer. I know I
It would be nice if it turned out the French connection to longevity
was the wine they drink every day, because that would give us one
less thing to feel guilty about, and that would make whatever life
we do have more fun. Then if researchers would announce that potato
chips count as a daily vegetable serving, Chee-tos are officially
dairy, and goldfish crackers are seafood we could live happy. And
die happy. And save everyone a lot of time and trouble in deciding
who was going to win next yearís Nobel Prize.
Instead researchers are
trying to figure out why some people live longer than others. Like
the ones at the Max Planck Institute in Germany who discovered that
being born in the fall can extend your life. Itís true. They say
if you were born between October and December you can expect to live
0.6 years longer than if you were born in any other season. While
this isnít a huge amount of time, itís definitely enough to take
a trip around the world, look up all your old boy or girlfriends and
remember why thatís not a good idea, and get around to finishing
that bird house in the shape of the Eiffel Tower thatís been
sitting in the garage for 10 years.
Versalle was performing The Makropulos Case at the
Metropolitan Opera in New York when he sang the line ďYou can only
live so long.Ē Right on cue he dropped dead.
Another group of researchers, this batch in Canada, also had
way too much time on their hands. They got tired of trying to
discover why Canadians always sew a flag on their knapsacks so they
switched gears and figured out that winning an Academy Award can
increase life expectancy by four years. This too is true. Thus
Francis Ford Coppola should live eight years longer than Steven
Spielberg, Woody Allen should live four years longer than Marlon
Brando, and Walt Disney should have lived 80 years longer than he
did, though he may yet once they get around to thawing him out.
There are other things you
can do to extend your life besides move to France, lie about your
birthday, and take up acting. You can find a mate with a family
history of longevity. While this isnít a sure thing, it can help,
since itís common for one partner to die soon after the first one
goes, so the longer he or she lasts, the longer youíll last. Well,
as long as you donít go first and really screw things up. Last
year Glenn and Betty Jo Nunnenkamp of Portland, Oregon, may have set
the record when they died of separate illnesses within five hours of
each other after 43 years of marriage. Togetherness is good, but
some people carry it a little too far.
Finally, if you want to
ensure that you live a long life, donít sing prophetic opera. In
1996 Richard Versalle was performing The Makropulos Case at
the Metropolitan Opera in New York when he sang the line ďYou can
only live so long.Ē Right on cue he dropped dead, the Met dropped
the curtain, and they had a hell of a time finding anyone who wanted
to take over his role.
None of this, of course,
can guarantee that youíll live as long as Marie Bremont or Jeanne
Calment. And itís doubtful researchers will solve this anytime
soon. So maybe it would make more sense for them to work on getting
rid of taxes and creating a new fall TV season that doesnít
replace Sominex. At least then the life we do have will be more
Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them instead of finishing that birdhouse in the shape of the Eiffel