Ray is the Publisher Emeritus for Appen Media and the Herald newspapers.

So, an old friend of mine just gave me a book. It looks good and is about one of my favored subjects — all the old rockers from way back in the ’60s and their stories. It’s a hardback and I am sure it is out of print. What a cool surprise for-no-reason gift. Actually, it was for a reason, but it had to do with a toilet, so I won’t get into it.

That hippie book

Anyway, a couple days after I got the book, I started stewing about it — like walking around with a penny in my shoe. Why would my friend give away such a cool book? He is just as much a fan of “the old days” as I. “Or is he?” I started to wonder. The more I thought about it the more worried I became; some might say the more “paranoid.”

A long time ago we lived on Key Biscayne — another island but this one off the coast of Miami. Christina and I had a friend who was married to a “Key-rat” named Tony. The deal with Tony was that whenever he met a new person, inevitably within the first 10 minutes, he would pull out his wallet and take out what looked to be an old piece of colored paper and hold it out. The other person usually would get a blank look on his face and Tony would then announce: “It’s a ticket — a ticket to Woodstock — my ticket,” and then wait with great expectations for the other person to respond appropriately.

After I watched Tony do this a couple times, I realized that he was somewhat of a drunk, living in the past, and that as long as he was like that, his life was probably not going to go well. Ultimately his wife — our friend — did divorce him, and I imagine that he is still on the Key, still living in the past, still walking around with that ticket in his wallet — and not doing well.

I thought about Tony’s ticket after my friend gave me his book on the ’60s. Was my continued interest in “way back then” my “ticket”? Was that pebble in my shoe my fear that I too am living in the past like Tony? Hmmm.

I know that in many ways my friend who gifted me the book has changed since we were in college. Back then, he could play every Dylan song ever written and sing them too. So, he knew the lyrics. He was a free spirit and we were in sync, he and I. Today he lives close by, is a husband, father, as well as a successful businessperson too — just like I am, I guess. But maybe he has moved on in ways that I have not?

So that’s my fear with that book my friend gave me. Maybe I am just stuck back in time and haven’t had the maturity to grow or the sense to move on. That’s the penny in my shoe. There is this voice deep inside me that keeps asking questions about me, questions about my assumptions, my values, my frame of reference, my status.

I think that questioning comes with age and ageing. You question stuff, especially about yourself. “How am I doing?” And sometimes you are torn. Often you are torn.

Dylan sang that “those not busy being born are busy dying.” I think he was saying we need to be open to new ideas and not be locked into the past. But Faulkner said that “the past isn’t dead, that it isn’t even past,” which to me, among other things, means that the past is always important, that it will always be relevant. Somewhere in-between those two bookends I guess is a truth to be found.

Hey, you wanna see my ticket?