I have absolutely no recollection of the event, but I know exactly where I was 50 years ago today: In a Catholic hospital in San Luis Obispo, Calif., being born. At least, that’s the story I’ve been fed over the years.
Since I don’t put much stock in the idea of changelings, I’ve gone along with this line and must say the first five decades have been interesting, perhaps even more so for those who have found themselves forced into extended proximity with me for an extended period.
The old phrase “Some are confused, others bitter” often seemed to best sum up the effect one was left with after a stint with yours truly. It might be added, however, that with the confusion and bitterness nearly always came no small amount of entertainment.
Highlights over the first 50 years (none of which are recommended):
- A narrow escape from Mexico after trashing a hotel room with friends, ala The Who. It would be nearly a decade before I returned South of the Border, for which Mexican authorities were likely quite grateful;
- Getting my first and only tattoo in North Hollywood, Calif., the night before the 1994 World Cup final, without telling my then-wife. She learned about it when I got home and found a small pamphlet titled “How to Care for Your Tattoo” while cleaning out my travel bag. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth afterward, all of it on my part;
- Shooting out the back window of a fraternity brother’s car with a pistol because I wanted to see “if the gun worked.” Fortunately for me, the vehicle was DOA anyway and ended up being towed away. Overall, the less said about college the better;
- Catching a cotton rat, and then losing it in my house for a week before finding it in a pile of dirty clothes;
- Spending a night in a Durham, N.H., hoosegow after having been “overserved” at a local drinking establishment, then sitting in said jail cell between two knuckleheads who spent the better part of two hours yelling at each other about who was tougher. Talk about an experience that made me particularly proud of my life choices; and
- The “Hull, Quebec, Incident,” details of which will remain unspecified for the sake of all involved.
There are others – too many to detail, sadly – but you get the drift.
Fortunately, for all the dozens of stupid, inane and half-witted decisions I’ve made, I’ve gotten a few things right.
Some were out of my control, such as being born of loving parents. Others were blind luck, such as after my divorce I stumbled upon a wonderful woman who is now my wife. And then there is the good fortune that one can only chalk up to Providence, such as being blessed with wonderful children, whose goodness and love helps me to realize that no matter how difficult things can be – and they have been very difficult at times – there is always something for which to be thankful.
So, while I’d wager that the next 50 years will almost certainly contain far few hijinks and shenanigans, I’ll also guarantee that they’ll be more fulfilling and rewarding.
As the old saw goes, “Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.” The good news is that this blind hog has finally wised up to the fact that he’s got a pretty good deal.
(Top: Photo of Daughters 2, 3, 4 and 5 at Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Va., last summer on a vacation arranged by their history buff father. Not surprisingly, they were good sports.)