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"Birthday Journal' goes too far . . . back

Everything was going just fine this week until a friend _ make that a former friend _ sent me this birthday greeting.

It's a single sheet with type like a newspaper (appropriate to send a reporter, I'd say) named Birthday Journal, The Way It Was When You Were Born.

Those kinds of things used to amuse me to no end. But that was 20 years ago when "the way it was" was relatively recent.

Now, "the way it was" when I was born reads like it should come on papyrus delivered by a guy in a toga and thong sandals.

Have I really lived through nine U.S. presidents?

I shared some of the news briefs on the page with a colleague from the same era. Or maybe I should call it the same galactic period.

We laughed until we got headaches remembering 9-cent movies and 19-cent gasoline. Not that our Conestoga wagons needed gasoline as we trekked across the plains during the Gold Rush.

And who needed movies? My drama days go back so far that my first mean-spirited theater reviews were of William Shakespeare. Or was it Aristophanes?

Why, I'm so ancient that when people say, "You're only as old as you feel," I get depressed.

(Rim shot, please.)

I'm not cheered that the little newspaper reveals I was born the same year as Al Pacino, who must be old enough to be on Mount Rushmore _ and has a face that looks as if it's already been there.

I'm happier to learn that I'm also the age of Raquel Welch, though I don't know if that makes us chummy enough for her to send me the name of her favorite plastic surgeon.

The really incredibly ancient events that happened during my birth year include the first televised basketball game, the implementation of the 40-hour work week and the introduction of the Ford Model 01A that sold for $850, which is just about the price of a set of tires and a lube job on my vehicle.

On the bright side, those tires should last me the rest of my life, now that my right blinker goes faster than I do when I drive down U.S. 19 in the left-hand lane.

Perhaps televised basketball is the real blessing. Even now, the NCAA playoffs distract my boss so much that I can sneak in a couple of 39.8-hour workweeks while they're going on, and he never notices.

Many years ago, an older gentleman of my acquaintance married a woman three decades his junior.

It didn't last.

"How can I live with a woman who doesn't know who Una Merkel is?" he explained.

I know what he means.

I find myself getting to an age where those firemen pinup calendar fellows don't make me think of moonlight and roses; they make me think of my son.

I'm hearing myself cluck-cluck about teenagers, and I'm secretly hoping I never have grandchildren because they might visit and make black marks on my white tile floor when they scoot my breakfast room chairs out instead of lifting them.

It dawned on me about four years ago that I was inching toward geezerhood when I was looking for a house to buy and automatically dismissed any neighborhood that had Big Wheel tricycles in the driveways.

There was a time not too long ago when Big Wheels were a big draw.

This isn't to say that all more mature citizens don't like children. It's just that many of us like them the same way we do, say, gorillas and crocodiles _ over there, with a layer of glass between us.

As I contemplated my impending birthday, I suddenly started thinking about Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality, John Lennon's Imagine and the amortization schedule for my mortgage.

I suppose those three items express the swift passage of time and the inconceivable duration of forever more profoundly than anything else I can envision.

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