Yep, another birthday. This is an important one, though, because it has a 5 in it. Any birthday with a 5 in it is important. The first 5 and you're ready to start kindergarten, thus ending the period of time known as childhood. The second 5 and you're ready to date. The third 5 has you out of college, probably working some menial job somewhere and wondering what in hell just happened. By the time you get to the fourth 5, though, you've probably figured it out. And then there's my 5. Meaning, I only have 5 years left before every single year has a 5 in it for ten entire years. Which, when you think about it, is pretty scary, because after that last 5 year, there's only 5 more years until you start collecting Social Security. Unless you start early.
45 puts you smack in your Middle Forties. By the time that 5 sneaks in there, you can't say that you're in your "early forties" anymore. 5 is halfway to 50, and I'm not going to be one of those creepy adults who tells you "It all went so fast I feel like I was seventeen just days ago." What crap. Plenty has happened since I was seventeen, and here's a news flash: A lot of time had gone by since then. I was 17 in the Eighties, when everything was big and brash. Fashions were big. Hair was big. Politicians were big (and they all wanted to be Ronald Reagan). Pop music was big, AIDS wasn't yet a thing and everybody was doing cocaine. Or at least, everybody who could afford it was doing cocaine. Compared to what's going on now, it was practically an alien planet. Who would walk down the street these days wearing stacked heels six inches high, shoulder pads that reach to her ears and hair that adds another foot to her height? I mean, besides Sandra Bernhard?
Yeah. A lot's happened. And I'm on the other end of it, meaning I survived it. Some of my friends didn't and are stuck somewhere between 1989 and now. The thing that sucks about dying young is that you're forever mired in the context of whatever was going on when you checked out. My friend Roberta, colloquially known as Burt, lives on in my head wearing the same black jeans and The Clash t-shirt she had on the last time I saw her. Would she have gone on to embrace grunge, hip hop, Air Jordans and cargo pants? Maybe, but we'll never know now, will we?
Anyway, I got to live to be this old. And like the guy at the end of Saving Private Ryan, I'm sort of wondering if I've done anything that merits it. I didn't cure cancer or bring peace to the Middle East. I never sang with Lennon, or played in Jimi's band; I never met no president nor shook a Gandhi's hand. (Oops. Apologies to Stuart.) Like everybody else on the planet, I was born with big dreams and fantastic visions. Where did I end up? Well, for the last fifteen years I've made lots of lawyers look good in court. I wish some of them would have been arguing key human rights cases or at least fighting the big insurance companies, but most of them weren't. Yay. Go, me.
I need one of those It's a Wonderful Life experiences where I get to see what the world is like without me. Maybe Noah would have formed a grunge band and ended up world famous in Estonia. Maybe Kim would have moved to San Francisco, founded a tech company and changed the whole nature of right-clicking on things. Maybe Joan would've led an armed band of church ladies into MGM Studios and forced Bruce Lansbury to start making Wild Wild West episodes again. Immediately. (No, not the godawful movie; the really cool TV show.) For that matter, maybe John O. Pastore would have never been elected to Congress, having his campaign undone when his affair with Madalyn Murray O'Hare came to light. (And maybe Madalyn wouldn't have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but then, who doesn't love a good mystery?) And in case you have no earthly idea what I'm talking about or who these people are, well, that's what Wikipedia is for, kids. As I was saying, a lot happened between then and now. You can't exactly expect me to spell it all out.
Speaking of It's A Wonderful Life, though, I wonder what would have happened if George Bailey were to have gone back to Pottersville-that-could-have-been and discovered that most of his friends were doing just fine. Mary Hatch married Sam Wainwright and had six brilliant children that invented things and cracked the stock market and created a new generation of jet airplanes. Burt the cop and Ernie the cab driver formed a comedy duo in which they used puppets to argue with each other in an Odd Couple kind of way. Mr. Potter found Transcendental Meditation through the Beatles and gave away his fortune to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who didn't want it but said what the hell and used it to develop a new line of Tarot cards. (Wikipedia, people. Wikipedia. Come on, it's just you and Google. Who's gonna know, besides the forensics cops that will be tearing your computer apart after your wife disappears?)
And my little corner of the world? Well, that's just what I'm wondering. What if everything just kept rolling along, fine as paint, my absence marked by nothing more interesting than the lack of a bassoon player in a certain high school band? I mean, bands can live without bassoon players, folks. That's what the little tiny notes written above the second trombone part are for.
It's after midnight and I have a pool to be in around eight tomorrow, so we'll have to shut down speculation on this whole thing before I throw myself off a bridge into the Bedford River just to find out. If nothing else, Chloe the Cat would not be happy if there wasn't a Jen-shaped human mattress to curl up uponst in the middle of the night. And Joan might have something to say about it, too. Anyway, I'm 45 years old. That I've survived this long must mean something or other. I wonder what.