Pine Nuts: The view from the seventh tier (plus one) |

Pine Nuts: The view from the seventh tier (plus one)

Turning 71 is a tonic. Seventy-one has a calming effect that quiets the little voice inside that, at 70, was shouting, “Hey, what the hell happened?” I find myself accepting the hidebound notion that I am on my uppers and past my “sell-by date.”

A 70th year of living has a way of smoothing off the rough edges. Nowadays when I cut someone off for a parking space and am called an anatomical name I merely smile and shout back, “It takes one to know one,” and go on my way with a spring in my step.

I read somewhere that enjoying a libation in the early evening will kill brain cells, and I am a firm believer that there are some brain cells that deserve to die — it’s survival of the fittest. Really, when you think about it, the brain cells most likely to die from a sip of wine are those cells on the periphery that hold memories of vainglory and old girlfriends. They aren’t of any practical use. The core cells, those cells that control what we do for a living, portraying Mark Twain in my case, are hard-wired and impervious to a sip of wine. Science calls the natural clearing out of old and degraded brain cells “autophagy.” I merely call it “pruning the mind with a sip of wine.”

It’s my contention, and it will be recorded here as “McAvoy’s Theory of the Hippocampus,” that the brain is a natural hoarder. It hoards cells that store memories that only serve to pump up our self esteem and crowd out our more utilitarian cells that could contribute to efficacy and charity.

I’ve learned recently not to use my computer in the hour before falling asleep. A bright tablet screen reduces melatonin levels by 20 percent, thus retarding the internal clock that controls our sleep cycle. Listening to some blues in the hour prior to sleep enables one to sleep like a yellow dog.

And come to find out, at 71, exercise does more to enhance thinking than thinking does. In the past year science has provided yet more evidence that exercise at 71 protects the brain against shrinkage and augments cognitive flexibility. Exercise tends to make seasoned neurons nimble. And this is no bull. Get out there and exercise at 71 and you will have a larger hippocampus. But don’t tell that to a woman without explaining it first.

In the past year I have been successful in utterly and entirely relinquishing my need to be right. Anger? Fugetaboutit. Humor is still the best medicine on the shelf.

So I assure you, 71 is a more comfortable year than 70. You can let go of the frustration felt in not being able to save the world or your neighbor and concentrate on being cheerful, helpful and kind. Yes, 71 is a fine place to be. Now if I could just remember to zip up my trousers.

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