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FOREVER YOUNG. AGAIN.
By Joe Brancatelli
September 10, 2009 -- Life on the road makes us business travelers old before our time. And we unfortunate few also bear the mark of 9/11, the horrific day that ripped a hole in our hearts and made us hate the simple act of going to an airport or checking into a hotel.

Tomorrow, eight years after that massacre of innocents and innocence, my frequent-flying wife and I will pile into a car and drive 150 miles to a place I haven't been in decades. Just like on 9/11, we will check into a strange hotel. The next day, we will see two young people married, then turn the car around, drive another 150 miles, attend another function and see two other young people married.

I would normally hate this. I despise being the old fat guy at a wedding who has to approach the bride and groom and say, "Hey, remember me? I'm a friend of your parents."

I know almost nothing of these young people whose weddings I will attend. There's a chance I could pass all four of them on the street and not even recognize them. What could I possibly add to their lives? They are innocents and I am old and tired. I am permanently scarred by a life on the road and brutalized by 9/11. I am cynical and beaten down and I don't know what to tell young people about the country they will soon run and have to make livable for their children.

But I will go because I want something from them. I want their youth. I want their passion. And maybe more than anything I want their sense of invulnerability. When you are young, you think that anything is possible and nothing can happen to cut your time short.

I want to be Forever Young. Again. I want back what 9/11 took away from me, from you, from all of us who have gotten old because we live our lives on the road.

We have all been changed by 9/11 and few of us have dared talk about it. We take our feelings and bury them at the bottom of our carry-on bag, under the dirty socks and our half-empty water bottles and leftover bags of low-fat pretzels. We make believe we feel nothing about 9/11.

But we feel it. We live with it. Every day. Every time we take our shoes off in the security line. Every time we go to New York and don't see two towers anymore. Every time we remember that we have two unfinished wars. Every time we hear that a mother in our town got a visit from a pair of soldiers carrying a folded flag.

There is no going back to before there was ever a thing called 9/11. I am not stupid. Intellectually, at least, I know that. Yet since 9/11 I have been obsessively digging up movies and television shows and music from my childhood. How many damned Motown compilations can one person own? Why do I suddenly care about a TV show from 1964 that no one else even remembers? To paraphrase Men in Black, how many times can you buy The White Album?

But today I am tired of feeling old and looking back. I want to be Forever Young.

So tomorrow, when I pile into the car and drive the 150 miles to a place I haven't been in decades, I will have a CD. It is full of new music, songs that I have found in recent weeks because I have paid close attention to the soundtrack of a television show called Chuck.

Chuck is about young people. Wonderful, silly, young people. There is joy in Chuck. And love. And it is filled with music by young people, bands with wonderful, silly, young names like The Teddy Bears, Blitzen Trapper, The New Pornographers and The Thermals.

Most importantly, the music is new and startlingly good. It says old truths and raises old questions in very intriguing ways. It is not the Beatles. It is not Motown. It is not Coltrane. But you cannot listen to "Furr" and not be impressed. You can't listen to Bon Iver sing "Creature Fear" or "Blood Bank" and not be moved. Attention must be paid to "Challengers" or "Now We Can See". If the joyous gibberish of Cobrastyle doesn't make you want to move, then you are dead.

And I know innocents and innocence when I hear it. Looking at the Sun promises--no, it knows--that there is "nothing in our way" because "this is our time."

It's not, of course. It's their time. They are Forever Young.

Eight years after the massacre of innocents and innocence, I will carry that message on a disc to my old friends. And from their children, who are not old from a life on the road and are not scarred by 9/11, I will take youth.

Because I want to be Forever Young. Again.

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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright © 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.