Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself/When you’re old enough to repay but young enough to sell?
– Neil Young, Rock Legend & Science Truther
You’re 23. It’s your birthday. Everyone says “How old are you?” You say 23. “Such a baby,” they say.
You turn 25. Everyone says “How old are you?” You say 25. “Oh you’re just a kid, you’ve got your whole life ahead of ya,” they say.
By the time you turn 30, they ask you how old you are, but they don’t say shit about you being a kid or whatever. They just say, “happy birthday!” The celebration of your youthfulness is over.
Today I turn 50. Whomever they are stopped asking at least 20 years ago.
Years are just numbers of course, but turning 50 feels significant. It’s the first decade benchmark where you can’t double your age and confidently tell yourself that your life isn’t less than half over. Through the miracles of science, a 100 year life expectancy can’t be ruled out, but genetics are not my side. All of my grandparents lived well into their 80s, but my parents passed away in their mid 60s. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m 17 years away from outliving my dad. That birthday will be a hell of a celebration.
As we get older, we don’t change. We just become more of ourselves. It’s evolution, baby. We ripen, till we rot. And then we die. We fucking die. Till then, things like this happen:
Going to a sporting event, as a:
21 year old – What time does it start?
30 year old – One more round. It’s cool if we’re a few minutes late
40 year old – I’d like to be in my seats at kick off. Beers?
50 year old – I’LL PICK YOU UP AT 9AM SHARP WE’LL TAKE THE 101. I’ll JUST HAVE A WATER, DAY DRINKING MAKES ME SLEEPY
The ripening is not completely in our control, but, like wrapping Saran Wrap around the tips of a banana, we can slow down the process somewhat. I have a fairly maniacal approach to exercise. When I was younger, exercise was 100% vanity. I didn’t give a shit if it was going to make my heart healthy; I was just hoping to look good. Slowly the ratio changes, and by the time I had my health scare, it was probably 50/50 vanity/health. As I realize that the perfect specimen we see on Instagram are a myth, not to mention half my age, vanity wains further and I’m at the point where I’m literally running for my life.
Things that make me feel most youthful are attending concerts and sporting events. I remind myself of this within the first song or two of every concert, and as I descend over the ridge entering Dodger Stadium. The pandemic of course interrupted going to live events, and this seemed to age me a bit. When you’re young, every moment you experience is youthful. Then as you get over, youthful experiences become more and more infrequent, until you’re the grandmother in the film Parenthood who takes a swig of helium and squeals “when I was born, Grover Cleveland was president.” And then you fucking die. RIP grandma.
So this is 50:
- You fall asleep watching Saturday Night Live. Before the monologue. Watching the east coast feed.
- You own and use a S M T W T F S pill container. But that doesn’t stop you from searching for a “cool” S M T W T F S pill container. That’ll be sure to maintain your coolness.
- You seamlessly go from “it’s not OK to work out and still eat like shit” to “I work out so I can eat like shit”
- You had plans to celebrate your 50th seeing Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, but since the Grammies got postponed the show was cancelled. You react like Laurence Olivier in the Jazz Singer when Neil tells him he’s forsaking his cantor duties to go pop. Tearing your clothes. The whole bit.
- So much VELOUR. Seriously, y’all have no idea how much velour you are about to witness.
- You see something in GQ magazine about the Japanese brand Wacko Maria. You want to buy one of their shirts. But their shit is expensive – $250+ in yen or whatever. You find their stuff “wholesale” on your favorite shady Asian website DHgate, heavily discounted to around $50. You spend 20 solid minutes going through the site till you realize you’re fucking 50 and couldn’t pull this GQ Japanese shit off at 40, much less a half century.
- You fancy yourself a music aficionado. As mentioned earlier, music keeps you feeling young. Yet when Billie Eilish released a remix of “bad guy” with Justin Bieber, you confused Bieber with Timberlake, to the point that you had an argument with a friend where you were convinced that Justin Timberlake was featured on a kick ass remix of “bad guy”.
Regardless of the pandemic, I didn’t want a birthday party this year. I knew that I would be sad when it was over. In some cultures, the birthday boy or girl is responsible for buying everyone drinks on their birthday. In our culture I guess it goes either way – if I’m throwing a party then I’m serving em up, but if we run into each other at a bar, you’re buying. In lieu of running into each other for drinks tonight, I present you with a playlist. (Did you expect a velour tracksuit?) This Is 50: one song from my top 50 artists of the last 50 years*, in loose order. Disclaimer: *narrowing the list down to 50 artists is almost impossible and subject to change. Who’s on your list?
- Bruce Springsteen
- Led Zeppelin
- The Rolling Stones
- Grateful Dead
- Bob Marley
- David Bowie
- Talking Heads
- Bob Dylan
- Beastie Boys
- Pearl Jam
- Paul McCartney
- John Lennon
- Neil Young
- The Avett Bros
- Stevie Wonder
- Vampire Weekend
- Elvis Costello
- The Band
- Pink Floyd
- The Police
- The Clash
- Fleetwood Mac
- Arcade Fire
- The Smiths
- Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
- Tom Petty
- A Tribe Called Quest
- Paul Simon
- The White Stripes
- Jane’s Addiction
- LCD Soundsystem
- Eric Clapton, before he lost his fucking mind
- Elton John
- Amy Winehouse
- Kendrick Lamar
- Marvin Gaye
- Billy Joel
- Mos Def
- De La Soul
- Jenny Lewis
- Oingo Boingo