Column - Commentary
If I Had Known I Was Going to Live This Long......By DAVE KIFFER
February 14, 2021
Uh, gee, thanks, old pal.
And I emphasize the "old" part, because that old friend is just a tad older than me which puts him firmly in the Geezer category. (He actually has a SENIOR tax exemption card!!!).
Really, there are two types of people in the world: Geezers and Whippersnappers.
Anyone older than me in is a Geezer. Webster says that the term - mildly disparaging - refers to someone odd, eccentric or unreasonable. Usually an older person (See "Get off my lawn!").
Anyone younger than me is a Whippersnapper. Webster says the term - also mildly disparaging - refers to someone diminutive, insignificant or presumptuous. Usually a younger person (See "Hey Boomer!").
Notice, both of those things are relative to me. Which makes perfect sense because like everyone else, I am the center of my world. My world literally revolves around me. So, anyone older is a Geezer and anyone younger is a Whippersnapper because I - at whatever age I am - happen to be just right.
In the middle.
On the mark.
But, as usual, I digress.
It does seem a little strange to be more than half as old a city. We tend think of cities as timeless. Something that has always been there. Will always be there. Even after the sun explodes and wipes out the solar system. Like Larry King (oops, bad example).
But in truth, even though Ketchikan started to burble up from the primordial muck in the early 1880s, it has only been a "city" since 1900, or 121 years. Since I am ......older than a Whippersnapper and younger than a Geezer......I have indeed been around more than half of Ketchikan's "cityhood." Ketchikan was approaching 59 when I born which means that I am.....ah, you do the math.
Being half as old as Ketchikan feels weird. But imagine how weird it would be to be half as old as London (43 AD), Paris (259 BC) or New York City (1624 CBGB)? You would have to be one of those Biblical partriarchs like Ramshacklphad, Dodderius or Overthehillian.
Fortunately, Alaska is relatively young compared those places, even if the First Inhabitants populated these shores (at least the ones that weren't glaciated at the time) 17,000 years ago. So, it is easily possible for people alive today (and not just Geezers) to have been around for half of the modern history of many Alaskan communities. Like me.
Which leads to the next obvious question (after "is he done yet?").
If you have been around for half - or more - of your community's history, does that make you historic?
After all, we've got some buildings around that have been around for more than half of Ketchikan's history and they are historic. Why not people? And, if so, what does that mean?
Do I qualify for Preservation Tax Credits? In other words, if I preserve myself can I get a tax write off?
Of course, preserving oneself is harder than it may initially seem. If you think (self) preservation is just keeping yourself going day to day, you really aren't dealing with the long-term upkeep issues.
How is your foundation doing?
Is your roofing standing up to the weather (paging Rogaine)?
Do you have dry rot?
Most days I do kinda feel like I have dry rot. I certainly sense overall decay from spending my time in poorly ventilated conditions and much cracking and peeling and flaking is indeed occurring.
Simply put, dry rot is "fungus amongus."
Which is Ketchikan's town motto. In Latin, of course.
So, I would need to fungicide myself in order to deal with that. That just doesn't sound safe.
Of course, being part of the last gasp of the Boomer Generation, I already have a very high chemical content. Maybe Permethrin, Propiconazole and 3-Lodo-2-Propynayl Butyl Carbamate couldn't cause any more harm than the millions of peanut butter cups and sodas that I have already stuffed into my body.
I would also have to remove the "affected timbers." I don't know. I have already had issues with my timbers. Beyond the fact that they "shiver" when it gets cold and icy. Most mornings when I try to get out of bed, my timbers are barely functional. It is though I am stumbling around on the stiff beams of a very, very, very old dysfunctional cannery.
But if I remove them, I automatically become shorter. While that is happening somewhat naturally, I am not sure I want to speed up that situation.
What are some of the others issues I need to deal with in my now historic personal "structure?"
Well, drainage is always a problem. Especially when one's prostate is the size of a basketball.
And naturally, there is also the problem with wanting to replace your worn-out old parts with newer ones.
Maybe, I am tired of my natural "siding." Perhaps a little botox infused vinyl siding would be better than the old natural stuff that just wants to fluff off into more and more saggy chins.
But then if I do that, do I lose my historic tax credit? Is it worse, is it less historic, than switching to aluminum siding?
I know a lot of people who have already switched to corrugated "siding." It makes them look rusty and they make a lot noise when it rains on them. Vinyl would definitely not rust and be much quieter.
Unfortunately, switching to vinyl siding skin would make me more flammable.
If I keep my natural siding, then the decades of rain that is has absorbed makes its highly unlikely to spontaneously combust. Plus it remains "dewy fresh" until I die.
Beyond personal restoration, are there other ways to preserve "historic" people?
Adaptive reuse is a popular idea. The point being that if you give something (or someone) a new use, you can indefinitely delay decay (See "Ashes to Ashes").
I am totally up for an adaptive reuse.
Up to now my primary use as has been as a "middle aged (assuming I live to 120!) writer/historian/teacher in a very wet climate."
I would love to be readapted and "reused" as a "30 something beach boy in a warm climate in which rainfall is measured by the season and not by the minute."
One can always dream, I suppose.
One way that historic structures are also preserved is by creating a "historic campus" and moving the buildings together where they can be communally preserved. For people, there is something similar. It is called a "pioneer's home." We have one of those. I hear the meals and the board games are great there.
So, it seems there are some good options out there.
All I need now is some well-heeled person or nonprofit to take on the task of "rehabilitating" me.
Seriously, I am historic.
I am the only non Geezer/Whippersnapper out there!
Even if I don't quite have my senior tax exempt card yet.
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Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer is a freelance
writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.