August 1, 2023

The Day I Turned a Thousand – Months – Old

Some of you who read my book, Waiting to Die, or my blogs from a few years ago may remember that I spent a lot of time writing about how I was hoping to reach the age of a thousand – months. Indeed, that was the very conceit of my book and gave it what little suspense I could instill in it. The question, which I left open until the very end, was whether I would reach my goal, and if I did, what would happen then.

Well, obviously, I made it and survived, but none of you knows what happened to me that day. You are about to find out, and I think you will be shocked to learn what actually took place on that fateful day.

I don’t know just when this somewhat whimsical notion occurred to me. Of course, I regarded it as a joke, just a larkish bit of folderol meant to amuse. But all the same, the idea did appeal to me and my proclivities both for numerical games and death dates. For example, I’ve always had a fascination with prime numbers as well as the death dates of various famous people, particularly composers. You name a well-known composer, for example, and I can probably tell you the year of his death. And since if I were to die at the age of 1000 months, I would have been 83 years old. I remember writing about this in one of my blogs and mentioned a long list of illustrious men who ha d died at that age. I would never belong in such company of course, but I could still aspire to join them in my longevity at least. I also remember thinking that 83 would actually a good age to die – I’d be old then, but not ancient, and what, really, would be the point of living longer, anyway? As it was, and as I remarked more than once, by the time I had reached my early 8Os, I already thought I was living in my afterlife. The story of my life had by then played out; I was merely coasting through my epilogue, waiting to die. So my story – and me – would finally come to an end if I managed to kick the bucket when I reached my goal of a thousand months of age. 

But of course my life didn’t end on the day I turned 1000 months old, on exactly April 13, 2019. Nevertheless, something extremely significant and uncanny did take place on that day, and I am, at last, about to tell you what that was. But first I will have to set the scene.


In late spring of 1985, I spent several weeks at Esalen Institute during which time I was initiated into the heady and erotically-tinged culture of Esalen, which for me also included the beginning of my usage of MDMA, later popularly known as “Ecstasy.” It was during that same period that I was also introduced to a town that would soon become my very favorite place in all the world. It was called Pacific Grove, but to locals of whom I was shortly to aspire to become one, it was just “PG.”

Since most of readers of this blog don’t live in California, I need to say something about this town and the distinctive atmosphere that one finds there.  

To begin with, PG is located near Monterey, but is really off the proverbial “beaten track.” To get there, you actually have to get off the freeway and descend a long grade of about four or five miles until you hit the beginning of the town. But on a clear day, what you see ahead of you is not just the stores and gas stations in that part of town, which is charmless, but the sparkling waters of the blue Pacific. In later years, I would always experience a frisson of excitement at that wondrous view. And the “real” part of PG that I was to know so well and love so deeply was that which was located on the shores of the Pacific.

What struck me immediately when I first arrived in PG was that it was such an old-timey sort of town, not only quiet and appealing, but as if it were stuck in time, say, around 1950. The main part of town along Lighthouse Avenue consists of only about eight blocks or so. They are festooned with cafes and other eateries, a marvelous bakery, small shops, galleries, a little bookstore, etc., but life is slow there. PG is not crowded with tourists; most the people you see on the streets are locals. No one is in a hurry. People don’t stride purposively through town; they amble.  

And nothing really goes on there. There are no night clubs, very few bars, and only a somewhat dilapidated movie house. The town seems to close down early at night. After nine o’clock or so, there’s hardly anyone on the streets. Everyone has seemingly gone home to one or another of the charming brightly colored wooden houses, some old Victorians, that PG is famous for.

For me, and I know this has been true for some other first-time visitors, it was love at first sight. I immediately knew this was the town for me.

Over the many years since my serendipitous discovery of PG, I’ve been there many times with various girlfriends and even with one wife I acquired along the way whom I took there on our honeymoon. I loved being there so much that on one visit, I thought I might well want to retire there. I figured I could join the library board or something and otherwise enjoy the pleasant easygoing life there, wandering in the morning along the bike path that borders the ocean which affords spectacular views of the Pacific and the abundant sea creatures who cavort there. And occasionally feasting at my favorite restaurant, Peppers, with its sumptuous Mexican fare and always lively and joyous atmosphere. 

The possibility of that kind of life stuck with me so strongly that on one visit, I shocked my then current girlfriend, a woman named Harrie, by telling her that I had unilaterally decided to spend a month there with her. She was certainly nonplussed at the time, but since Harrie loved PG as much as I did, including the perfect house we had been able to rent there on 16th Street, she quickly expressed enthusiasm for the prospect.

So the following summer when I had time off from teaching, we drove there for the month. Harrie was an artist and loved visiting the galleries and shops and eating with me at Peppers and PG’s other fine restaurants. I spent most of my time walking along the ocean, reading at Lover’s Point or inside our house, or going for ice cream (Harrie did not eat sweets), but she was a delightful and frolicsome companion. And of course, we also enjoyed our time together at night in our king-size bed.

Here are a few photos of us mostly from our month-long stay that summer. First, there’s one of a fat Ken standing outside the house we loved, which was just a block away from the ocean and Lover’s Point and few blocks from town.

Then one of me engrossed in a book inside the house:

And finally one of Harrie and me on an earlier visit to PG:

Now, let me fast forward a dozen or so years to the time when my thousandth day birthday (or deathday) was fast approaching. By the sheerest synchronicity, there was going to be a transpersonal psychology conference in PG at that very time. Not only that, but I was to be one of the honorees at the conference for my work on NDEs, and I was now slated to be there on the very day that I would turn a thousand. How perfect, I thought! Clearly, an act of providence. So, naturally, I told my present and surely my last girlfriend, Lauren, that we were going to PG for the occasion.

But things didn’t quite work out the way I had imagined. I had felt fine the night before, but when I woke up, after a troubled night’s sleep, on the morning of the 19th, I found that I was so wretchedly sick, I couldn’t even get out of bed!

Now, here’s one thing you should know about me. Since I’m old, I suffer the usual fate of the elderly: Nothing works and everything hurts. But I hardly ever actually get sick and I virtually never have to stay abed on those rare occasions when I don’t feel well. But this time, I was feeling so terrible, I could scarcely take myself to the toilet. As a result, I had to stay in bed all day and never was able to make it to the conference. Needless to say, I was bitterly disappointed, and at a loss to explain what had happened to me.

But the worst was yet to come. By the next day, I had somewhat recovered, though I still felt weak. But to compensate for my disaster, Lauren and I decided we should at least console ourselves by walking up to Peppers in the late afternoon for an early dinner.

I still remember what happened when I stepped off the porch.

I couldn’t walk.  

Well, I could, but only with difficulty. At first, I thought and hoped it was only because I had been so violently ill the previous day. But I still figured I could make it up to Peppers. PG is a hilly town and we only had to walk two blocks to the restaurant, and just the second hill was fairly steep. Nevertheless, I had to stop several times on the way there before making it up to the restaurant.

I was really puzzled at my sudden infirmity. It was like waking up and finding that one had contracted polio.

In fact, the sad news is, it never got better. It’s from that very day when I turned 1000 that, although I didn’t die, my legs did. And not only did they never recover, but in the more than four years since, things have only got worse. Now my legs are weaker than ever, so I am a virtual cripple these days.

Strange, eh? I mean, that I should suffer this calamity on the very day I turned a thousand months old. Makes one wonder about the power of thought and the mischievous ways of the Lord.

Well, I’m still a happy guy most of the time all the same, but my only consolation now that I’m working on my second thousand-year cycle is that I won’t live to complete it!

1 comment:

  1. Brian Anthony KraemerAugust 2, 2023 at 7:24 PM

    Another excellent read. I'm curious about your reference to "the Lord." Are you a believer in any specific "Lord" like Jesus of Nazareth or are you using the reference like one might when they speak of "the man upstairs?" I was raised Catholic, had a short experience of atheism, then agnosticism, then "born-againism," then a foreign missionary, then a sort of pantheist or universalist. I'm all for whatever is. I like to say that caterpillars become butterflies regardless of what they believe about it. Any comments on religious ideas other than the wealth of near-death experiences that you've published and I've read?