Not long ago at a U2 concert, a beered-up young man of about 20 staggered over to four men ranging in age from 35 to 40.
"Oh, wow," said the kid, surveying our group. "I didn't think people listened to rock music when they got . . . older."
Then he held onto the railing for support and flashed possibly the dopiest grin ever seen on the Eastern Seaboard.
"Listen," I said to my friends, "I say we kill this guy right here. A sharp blow to the back of the head, snap his windpipe, it doesn't matter to me."
"Yeah," said Jim. "Then we drag the body outside after the show and bury it in a shallow grave. No one will ever know."
"Let me kill him," said Neil. "You got to kill the last guy."
For a moment, the kid stood there weaving and studying our faces for some sign that we were joking.
When no such sign was forthcoming, the kid's eyes took on a wide, deer-in-the-headlights look.
Then he quickly lurched away, presumably to join a more youthful group of concert-goers where he could swill another beer and kill the few remaining brain cells in his head.
There were no other ugly incidents of ageism directed toward us that evening, and hence no homicides in our particular section of the arena -- at least none of our doing.
Yet the memory of what that kid said stayed with me, and this seems as good a time as any to address the young fool.
Listen, kid. Let me tell you about those old guys you ran into at that concert -- that is, if you even remember running into us.
We came of age, as they say, in the late '60s and early '70s. This means we grew up listening to the Beatles -- which, for you glue-sniffers and particularly dumb kids out there, was this band that Paul McCartney played in before he went solo.
We also listened to lots of other terrific groups like the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Who, etc.
Anyway, the years went by. We finished high school. Some of us went off to fight a lousy war in Vietnam and some of us went on to college and some of us took jobs. After that we settled down, got married, raised families.
But we still listened to rock 'n' roll. See, that's what people do, by and large. They listen to the music of their youth.
Maybe we didn't listen to it as much as we used to. And maybe the music didn't have the same relevance that it once had. (It's kind of unsettling listening to Aerosmith sing about making love to groupies in an elevator when you're car-pooling a bunch of 9-year-olds to a Little League game.)
But rock music was still our music, the music we prefer above all others.
The point is, when you turn 35, you don't suddenly wake up one morning and reach for the CD player and think: "Maybe a little Monteverdi today . . ."
You don't hear Big Band Muzak in an elevator and suddenly find yourself tapping your toes and remarking to the person next to you: "Y'know, Guy Lombardo was way ahead of his time."
So we old guys still listen to rock music, even though we might not have Guns N' Roses blaring from the car tape deck as we cruise along with the top down and the wind rushing through our hair, or what remains of it.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I'd like to do stuff like that. But it would look kind of silly. And then my wife would probably lean over and inform me that the kids want to hear "Bingo Was His Name-O."
Old guys tend to modify their behavior at concerts, too. I don't jump up and down on my seat and flick a Butane lighter in the air and scream: "BR-U-U-U-CE!" when I'm watching Springsteen.
Let's face it, if you have a lot of gray in your hair and you do stuff like that, people should be allowed by law to smack you over the head with a chair.
What I'm trying to say is, the older you get, the more you understand that there's no age limit for enjoying rock music.
I get a kick out of people who watch the Stones and sneer: "What's with Mick Jagger? The guy's old enough to be somebody's grandfather and he's still playing rock 'n' roll!"
Hey, what was Jagger supposed to do when he turned 40? Sit down at the piano and play Tchaikovsky?
Sure, he can sound a little goofy singing "Satisfaction," which is basically about adolescent rebellion and a young man's feelings of awkwardness as he struggles to fit in with society.
Still, it would look even sillier to see Jagger prancing about the stage to "Swan Lake."
Anyway, kid, that's what those four old guys were doing at that U2 concert.
They were listening to the music. They were having fun.
At least until you came along.