Old bones make no bones about it
by Ken Carpenter
A friend of mine whose thirst for trivial things rivals my own told me an interesting tidbit the other day that I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around. There is a species of jellyfish, the hydrozoan, that is the only known animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.
Through a process called transdifferentiation the creature can regenerate its entire body over and over again, reverting to its polyp state when it tires of being an adult. Naturally scientists are on it like funk on a monk, hoping to either get rich or live forever, or both.
I’ll admit that adding another 50 fruitful years might be tempting (just think of all the mortifications I could add to my list!), but living forever just sounds really, really tiring at this point. I turn 60 in August so thoughts of mortality tend to hover around like a pesky fly occasionally, but I think I’ll be quite content to shoot for the longevity record for humans in the Guinness Book. After all, it is only 122 years and 164 days.
Jeanne Louis Calment was born on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997. There have been three claims made that would have surpassed her age, but none were sufficiently documented. One was for 168 years and one was 157 years, so I see why they were of dubious repute.
Jeanne married a rich man at 21 and never had to work. (Note to self, lazy is good, rich doesn’t hurt). She spent her entire life in Arles, France, and became famous for the first time at age 113 when it became known that she had met Vincent Van Gogh in 1888, in her uncle’s fabric shop. She described him as “dirty, badly dressed, disagreeable, ungracious, impolite, sick, smelly and very ugly.” (Note to self, don’t stink, they never forget).
At 114 she made a brief appearance in the 1990 film Vincent and Me as herself, becoming the oldest person to be in a movie. She broke that record five years later when a documentary about her life, Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment, was released. (Note to self, it’s OK to be a ham sometimes).
Though Jeanne did not work, she was active. She took up fencing at 85 and rode a bicycle until she was 110. (Note to self, don’t be too lazy).
Under the heading of “What The Heck?!!!”, a company called Musidisc released Time’s Mistress, a four-track CD of Jeanne speaking over a background of rap music, in 1996. (Note to self, die now, they will make a spectacle of you!) The thought saddens me.
She was a tobacco company’s dream, smoking cigarettes for 96 years. Unspecified sources say she never puffed more than two per day, but I’m always suspicious of such claims because they sound like they are trying to hide something. I bet she did a pack a day.
Jeanne credited her long life and fairly youthful appearance to olive oil, which she dumped on all of her food and rubbed onto her skin. She was also pleased to brag about her weekly consumption of one kilo, 2.2 pounds, of chocolate, and her daily imbibing of port wine. (Note to self, Yahoo!)
For the record, 2.2 pounds would be about 17.5 Snickers bars every week. (Note to self, Yahootie yo mama!)
The record age for a dog is 29 years 5 months for an Australian cattle-dog from Australia named Bluey, who expired in 1939. The oldest cat, Crème Puff, lived from 1967 to 2005, an amazing 38 years 3 days! I don’t know what breed she was, most cats are Just cats, so we’ll just say she was Texan.
The two longest documented lifespans in history belonged to a tortoise and a Koi. The tortoise, Tui Malila, was given to the Tongan royal family by Captain Cook in 1777. They cared for him until 1965, when he died of natural causes at 188 years old. Crikey, that makes my bones ache.
The Koi, one of those fancy Japanese carp that eat out of your hand, was named Hanako. It died in 1977 at the ripe old age of 226 years! (Note to self, eat more fish).
I could go on and on, this subject fascinates me, but I’m getting older as we speak so I’d better quit before I expire.
For now, I advise you all to eat more chocolate, swill more wine, and learn a little French. C’est la vie means “such is life”, so spit that out if somebody points out that you have wine stains on your shirt and chocolate crumbs on your chin.