Never Too Old to Learn

at 12:35 AM

Spring, when a young man's fancy turns to... well, whatever. For many of my generation, spring means ripping another coupon out of the diminishing book of seasons. But while no amount of blarney will convince me that the golden years aren't a slagheap of iron pyrites, I have found some very valuable veins to mine that are open to anyone willing to dig.

For one thing, the University of California at Berkeley. I have been living next door for 20 years and just discovered it. Shame on me. Last summer, as a senior auditor, I took an intensive course in Ancient Greek Civilization that cost all of $50. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very accessible lecturer held me for six weeks of two-hour classes, five days a week. I even did the course reading. Equally enlightening were the students -- bright and industrious. Some of them, anyway. And who didn't regard me as Antediluvian. Or Uncle Diluvian. Some of them. This Cal summer program is open to anyone of a... certain age.

I've also discovered acting. Off campus and more than $50, and also a bargain. Putting yourself into other lives and becoming their voice is a great way to learn. As is being with people of all ages, taking the class for their own reasons. Not that acting can't be dangerous. Playing a talent agent in a scene from the hilarious film, "Tootsie," I tapped the desk with my index finger six times to make a point. "You're not going to raise twenty-five [tap] cents. [tap] No ... [tap] one ... [tap] will ... [tap] hire ... [tap] you." Five takes. Thirty taps. My finger throbbed. It had turned purple, and it felt great. Getting under the skin of Oakland's favorite pool shark, Fast Eddie Felson, in a scene from the movie classic "The Hustler," was a visceral lesson in our capacity for remorse. Some would say that's more dangerous than bruising a finger.

As far as I'm concerned, all this doesn't have to lead anywhere. Thinking you're still young is sad and painful. But a day in which you learn something new is a day well spent at any age.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Friedlander.

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