It's not the years, it's the mileage.
Fifty years ago, on a cold, blustery, snowy night, a child entered the world.
This child was a girl named Nancy, who I met through my friend Brian Sowa in the early 1990s.
Nancy was born in Denver at 6:34 pm Mountain Time. The irony is, I was born the same night - in Des Moines, Iowa, at approximately 7:32 pm Central Time ... making us twins from different mothers from different time zones, born a whopping two minutes apart.
So they guessed.
What a long, strange trip it's been. Half a century, filled with tons of memories retained (some of which I'd love to forget), who knows how many memories lost (some of which I'd love to have back), and plenty of Duffy's nights of dining, Detroit Tigers' games witnessed, political stories published, Tom Petty concerts attended, tables served, weddings DJ'd, college courses failed, debate tournaments administered, and one Detroit Lions playoff victory celebrated ... among other things.
plethora of benefits and discounts, which can be very handy for individuals such as myself who live on a teacher's salary. I told her, I understood that ... but it was a bit demoralizing anyway, since I've no plans on retiring any time soon.
So ... what does it mean to be 50? That's a damn good question. I guess I'll find out as the year progresses. But before we get there, I'd like to take a look back at 1964, the year of my entrance into the world, and 49 other amazing things that happened that year.
Fifty years ago …
2. The first Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan. The Mustang was produced with a base price of $2,368; even I could afford it on my salary ... oh, wait, that's $2,368 in 1964 dollars.
3. "Lucky Charms" hit grocery shelves. (That, at least, I can still afford today.)
4. Sidney Poitier became the first African-American to win an Oscar for best actor, for his role in "Lilies of the Field." (Haven't seen it - sad face!)
5. British children's author Roald Dahl published "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The early 1970s movie adaptation, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" - starring Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson - is better, IMHO.
6. Joe Frazier won an Olympic gold medal in boxing, and Peggy Fleming won the US Female Figure Skating Championship.
7. Actress Sandra Bullock was born in Arlington, Virginia.
9. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law in July.
10. Classic TV shows "Bewitched" "The Munsters" and "Gilligan's Island" all debuted in September.
11. The Beatles arrived in the U.S. and appeared live on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February. In April, they owned the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 list with "Can't Buy Me Love," "Twist and Shout," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Please Please Me."
12. The Rolling Stones released their first album and their first headlining tour. And between the Stones and the Fab Four, the British Invasion was in full force.
13. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and the U.S. became fully involved in the Vietnam War.
14. E-commerce pioneer Jeff Bezos - president, CEO and chairman of Amazon.com - was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
16. NASA astronaut Theodore Cordy Freeman was killed in the crash of a T-38 jet on October 31 at Ellington Air Force Base - the first fatality among the American astronaut corps.
17. Diet Pepsi was introduced to the beverage market. (But Coke products - well, except for Mountain Dew - are still superior.)
18. Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight title; two days later, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
19. Comedian Stephen Colbert was born in Washington, D.C.
20. The original GI Joe action figure (with the kung-fu grip!) was manufactured by Hasbro Inc. GI Joe remains the most popular toy for American boys.
21. Smoking was determined to be a health hazard by the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service.
23. Elizabeth Taylor divorced for the 4th time with Eddie Fisher and married Richard Burton 10 days later.
24. Shel Silverstein published his classic children's book "The Giving Tree." (My debate students have competed with a parody called "The Taking Tree.")
25. Chef Bobby Flay was born in New York City.
26. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize.
27. Arby's opened.
28. The film "Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (one of my favorites), directed by Stanley Kubrick, was released.
30. Actor Rob Lowe was born in Charlottesville, Virginia.
31. Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, was arrested on a rape charge.
32. New York City hosted the World's Fair; Isaac Asimov made some predictions about what the world would look like today.
33. South Africa was barred from the Olympic Games in Tokyo because of its apartheid policies.
34. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the stop-motion classic, aired on TV for the first time.
35. Retired professional baseball player Barry Bonds (no steroids needed) was born in Riverside, California.
37. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" swept the Emmys in the comedy category for best comedy, best actor (Van Dyke), best actress (Mary Tyler Moore), best director and best writing.
38. An earthquake at a magnitude of 9.2, the largest ever in U.S. history, struck south central Alaska on Good Friday.
39. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was established.
40. Teamster James Hoffa was found guilty and sentenced to eight years on jury-tampering charges.
41. The Star of India sapphire was stolen from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. (Note: I had nothing to do with this.)
42. Jack Ruby was convicted of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. (Note: I had nothing to do with this, either.)
44. The first buffalo wings were made at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.
45. Three young civil rights activists - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - were slain in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer movement to register black voters.
46. The Twenty-Fourth Amendment was ratified, which prohibited the federal government or states from making voters pay a poll tax before they voted in a national election.
47. "Funny Girl," "Hello, Dolly!" and "Fiddler on the Roof" premiered on Broadway.
48. Pop-Tarts debuted on supermarket shelves.
49. Singer Courtney Love was born in San Francisco.
(Sidebar: Politician, author and batshit-crazy Tea Party darling Sarah Palin was born in Sandpoint, Idaho. How fucking depressing.)
such as when Sarin gas was released in a Tokyo subway, killing a dozen and injuring 4,700 (1995), the signing of the Treaty of Versailles (1920), or John Lennon marrying Yoko Ono (1969).
There have been plenty of personal highlights - and lowlights - during the journey thus far. Holiday celebrations, road trips, student successes, personal and professional achievements, hospital stays, relationship starts and finishes, family activities, sporting events, radio broadcasts ... these, and many more, which are the composite of anyone's life. Like Christmas lights strewn across the Festivus tree, they are easy to identify and if laid out end-to-end, would look much like a Dow Jones graphic, with dates assigned to each of the notable moments. I cherish all of them, even those ugly moments, because in the words of Admiral James T. Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, "Pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!"
Of course, there are many reasons I should be grateful and happy. I've never been chased by a swarm of bees. I'm reasonably healthy. I've not been stalked by a student (current or former). I have a job that, for the most part, I love on a daily basis (and it would be so much nicer if the USFG and Florida State Legislature would kindly step the fuck back and let me do my job!). The NSA hasn't busted down my condo door. Nor has the crew of 60 Minutes.
One of the things I've tried to maintain, especially the past decade or so, is a positive focus on the future. It hasn't always been easy, and there have been a few moments where I lost the focus altogether. Noam Chomsky once said, “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” And I firmly believe this, and through my profession and my personal life try daily to not only step up to the proverbial plate, but take responsibility.
To the more than 300 of you from across the US and world who have sent me a birthday greeting today - whether via snail mail, in person, on the phone, through the Twittersphere, via text message, on Facebook, by carrier pigeon, or through some other form of communication process - I thank you for your friendship and involvement in my life. My world would be a much colder place without your presence. (And Michelle, I'm still waiting … still waiting … stiiiiiiiiill waiting …)
Here's to another 18,000+ positive days on Mother Earth.