Monday, February 18, 2013

Holy Shit, I'm 50

Not quite sure how it happened (OK, I *do* know how it happened, but was apparently not paying attention the whole time), but today I have been around for 50 years. 50 years of smartassery, skipping class, challenging authority, and tunage. Which should sound like "toon-udge".

I celebrated by playing a couple of nights in the sports bar of the Spirit Mountain Casino with my band, The Insensitives, then helping to host a jam session last night at the Dog House Saloon in outer SE PDX with same band (and a *lot*, and I mean a *lot* of other musicians). That seems to be, aside from hanging with the grandcritter, where most of my energy goes these days. I tell people I rock and roll like no one is watching, and I guess that more or less says it all. Hope my knees hold out.

Fifty years is a fair amount of time for a human. Until pretty recently, 50 was a good long life, especially before the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s. I think of what my father was like when he was 50, although to be fair I was seven and so he seemed pretty freakin' old at the time and I'm not sure I have a terribly accurate picture. His passion, at least the public ones, were gardening on a scale that most people would now call obsessive and woodworking. I find it ironic that we both ended up working with our hands but in ways that required our brains, given that I consider that we were very different people otherwise.

Here's the funny thing about 50 - It's really a meaningless amount of time in the grand scheme of things. I don't just mean insignificant on a cosmic scale, seeing as I personally am not living on a cosmic scale. Much better to measure things in a relatively meaningful way. What I mean is that 50 years really comes down to a period of time that is only significant because of the amount of time it takes our planet to circumnavigate the local star plus the fact that we have ten digits on our extremities. If we only had eight fingers, a la Mickey Mouse, 50 would actually be what we call 40 and not all that interesting. Instead, our 32nd birthdays would be a big deal (eight digits, or all fingers, plus four, or digits on one hand). And we would call that our 50th birthday. 100 in base 8 would be 64 in base 10.

I've lost you again, haven't I? And yet you keep right on reading.

When I turned 40 (and I'm back in base 10 again for those of you completely befuddled), which was ten years ago for those keeping score at home, it was a Bad Year. Well, except for my daughter coming into my life. That was great. But otherwise, it sucked. I lost my singing voice for more than six months and was never really sure it was coming back. My country, a country I'd been taught was the best and most noble country on earth, decided to invade another country for reasons that we'll probably be arguing about for quite a while but almost certainly involved maintaining access to a whole lot of a dwindling energy resource. My country, along with a "coalition" that included such major world powers as Bulgaria (sorry, Bulgarians, but let's just be honest about your overall level of importance outside of the Balkans and perhaps ice dancing), displaced a million Iraqis, killed about a tenth of that number, created about twenty thousand terrorists, and trumped it all up as an exercise in elective democracy.

Hey, it's my birthday and I'm going to make a political statement. Get your own blog and do the same when it's your birthday.

Anyway, it was a bad year.

That year, I stopped celebrating my birthday. People would call or send me cards or texts, and I would politely say thank you and change the subject. No going out for dinner, no letting people know, no special anything, although my wife and a couple of relatives would give me cards. I also let my mother be especially nice to me. Otherwise, no celebrating. It wasn't that I was trying to pretend I wasn't getting older. Really. No, really. I simply didn't see the point. Birthdays, like weddings, had been presented as this fantastic day that was Your Special Day, but without the dress and a quarter million dollar debt at the end. And it's not.

I mean really. A few people remember and say something nice, but otherwise the world is just as doomed and shitty as it always is. People are still total pricks to each other, sometimes in truly terrible ways, like displacing a million people so you can see if your army can really take over a country on the cheap. Or shooting up a bunch of school kids. I really have to wonder sometimes why we try at all. There aren't a lot of Special Days out there and the ones we do have collectively seem to involve Giant Space Rocks exploding over people with car cams. *Then* we get excited.

But for the world in general, and really for anyone who doesn't know me and there are lot more of them out there than there are of those who do, there's nothing special about it at all.

You know what's special about today? After three straight nights of rocking my ass off at two different venues, including humping PA and keyboards to the last gig, and dragging my sorry ass into bed sometime after 2am and waking up feeling like it's the second day of Daily Double workouts on the high school football team, I get to do nothing. Well, I get to let the dogs out every fifteen seconds to eat dirt or sneak some bamboo from the yard. You can't trust those mutts for a second. They didn't even let me sleep in, the ingrates.

OK, I get a new microwave delivered and installed today, which means that the panel on the POS4000 model we've suffered with for the last five+ years will finally stop shifting by about a 32nd of an inch every time you press a button and the entire thing, which now has no handle and several cosmetic blemishes, will finally end up where it belongs, the rust pile. Really, though, that's more of an imposition than fun. I am, however, going to put together the stamped metal model of a T-34 tank that my wife surprised me with. Somedays you realize you married the right person after all.

Otherwise, today will probably mostly involve napping. Once I let the dogs out for the 50th time.

I may also clip some counters.

I am definitely not leaving the house, however. Because that would involve dealing with people, most of whom did not get the Special Day memo. Screw them.

I'm certainly not going to be playing the piano today. My fingers are pretty sore from all that rock and roll.

For those that know me, I'm mostly just having fun with this post. There's truth in everything I say, but a lot of tongue too, firmly planted in my cheek. The simple truth is that there are Special Days all over the place. I had one just the other day, Valentine's Day, when on our way to have dinner downtown we ran into my son-in-law and my four year old granddaughter, who was not expecting to see us. She and Dad had just gone out for a very nice dress-up-and-use-our-manners dinner, and she was already having a great night, but when she saw us she lit up like fireworks. So did I.

Last night at the jam, and all weekend long at the casino, people kept coming up to me and complimenting me on my musical skills, which is always nice. I'm smart enough to know that most people are completely incapable of making any sort of critical assessment of how well I play and sing, but the fact that I'm touching them with the music I'm making (and the jam sessions definitely have a high percentage of people who know their shit, so that's different) is what it's all about. In other words, it's nice to know, even after 50 years, that you're doing *something* right.

So happy birthday to me, and to everyone who is having a Special Day but not taking it *too* seriously. It's best, I find, to let the Special Days find you and to embrace them when they come, then let them go bump into someone else without trying to chain them to the bed and make them dance on command. Will today be a Special Day for me? No idea, but having had more than my share of Special Days in the past week, I'm more than willing to sit back down and let someone else ride the roller coaster.

Happy Birthday, everyone.