Middle Age is the New 30something 03-27-14

'Getting opener and more opener to new things'

Last week in my column, I mentioned the importance of being open to new things. A lot of people just instinctively know this is a good way to be, but it took me nearly four and a half decades to even consider the possibilities contained within this truth.

After writing my column last week, I really put that advice on the road for a test drive multiple times, beginning on Tuesday evening. That was the night I attended a meeting of the local beekeepers' association. When my editor assigned me to this, I took a deep breath and said, "Oookaaay," and, then, fretted up until the time I walked into the meeting.

I mean, come on: beekeepers? I was not excited. I think I even called my friend Jeannette before I went and complained that I was having to do it. And then she probably reminded me that this was a chance to have a new experience, and I might have hung up on her after saying, "Bah! Bees!"

However, once I sat down with the beekeepers, my little notebook and recorder in hand, I forgot all my negative thoughts about whether attending a beekeepers' association meeting was actually a good use of my time. I was riveted to my chair within 15 minutes as I listened to all the beekeepers in the room buzzing - ha ha; I couldn't resist - with stories about their hives, passing each other information on how to keep their bees fed and happy and alive in this terrible season of changing weather.

I found out that you can buy bees - by the pound! They informed me that when a bear attacks a beehive, it's not looking for honey (as A.A. Milne had us all believing while we read Winnie the Pooh); that bear is going after the protein-rich larva of unborn bees inside the hive.

I also learned that, if you keep bees, you absolutely - no two ways about it - will get stung. And knowing there was no way around that nixed my dream of selling honey from the back of a beaten up pickup truck by the roadside one day.

My second new experience had me more tensed up and unwilling than the beekeepers' meeting. My boss wanted me to cover a square dance. Even if he had known that I got a D in high school gym class in large part because I refused to square dance, I don't think it would have mattered.

So I went, thinking the whole way to the 33 Country Club, "Get in, get out, and don't let anyone grab you by the arm or you will disappear forever into a vortex of do-si-dos and promenades."

The thing is, from the moment I stepped inside the area where the square dance was being held, I was struck down by the spirit of the music, the dancing and the conviviality of the people there. At one point I was even clapping my hands in time with the band - a live band! This was not like stepping into a bizarro-world version of a dance club; yes, there were very young people laughing and sweating and moving non-stop, but not to recordings of house music or hip hop - to an actual band of musicians playing specifically for them at that specific moment in time.

It was a sight to behold, and one I'm glad I didn't miss.

I rounded out my "Week of Wonder" when my good friend Darby and I were at the Pioneer Grille on Saturday night. While we were waiting on our drinks, Darby glanced over my shoulder and said, "I think I've seen that guy on TV."

I had no idea what he was on about. Besides, Darby watches more TV than I do, and he probably sees a lot of people who look like someone he's seen on some show or other.

But this time his eyes weren't deceiving him: a few moments later, he was walking behind me and introducing himself to "The Scary Guy" (his actual legal name). When I turned around, I thought I might be looking at Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man - every bit of the The Scary Guy that I could see was tattooed, including his entire face and parts of his scalp.

But he turned out to be less like the sinister antagonist of Bradbury's story and more like Santa Claus with a shave and a new off-season gig: traveling around the world speaking to audiences about love, tolerance and the myriad alternatives to violence there are at our disposal as we move through our lives.

So now that I've taken my own advice to the extreme in the course of a week, I can say with more authority than ever that this bit works. Be open to new experiences, and you'll reap joy and maybe even a last-minute topic for your column.