Michael Musto | Longreads | February 2019 | 8 minutes (2,035 words)
Like a really good book, life has given me way more chapters than I ever expected. Alas, I couldn’t have predicted that as an Italian-American kid growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the 1960s. It was a time of hippie-dippie love and peace — which I read about and saw constantly on TV — though those warm and rosy feelings were apparently reserved only for the young; older people were considered business suited, untrustworthy, corrupt, and pretty much doomed. At the local movie theater, I had the misfortune of catching the 1968 youth exploitation drama Wild In The Streets, in which anyone over 30 was forcibly retired and those over 35 were rounded up for re-learning camps. Seeing this flick at an impressionable age, I wasn’t worldly enough to reject its ideas or realize it was a youth fantasy as perpetuated by the suits. I thought it was a true harbinger of things to come and was horrified by every melodramatic moment. The movie haunted my adolescence, and I went to school sensing that hitting 30 was going to mean the end of meaningfulness, so I’d better live and achieve to the max until I was ready to be carted away.
Well, I’m 63 and not only not retired or in an internment camp, but I’m actually doing pretty well. I have a weekly column on a popular site called NewNowNext.com, I get freelance offers (like this one), and I’m asked to appear on TV and in documentaries to give my opinions on various pop cultural topics through the years. What’s more, having produced four books, I’m often asked by agents and publishers to crank out some more. Shady Pines is not beckoning me in the least — but I wish I’d have anticipated that fact, not only as a kid, but in my late 20s, when I thought I had already peaked as a writer. Yes, I felt like a has-been at 28!