The Washington Times-Herald

April 26, 2014

50 is just a number (a really big number)


The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Shortly after this newspaper hits the streets, I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. As the very last of the baby boomers to reach this milestone, I doubt I will get much sympathy from my already much older peer group.

I know at 50 I get two things — an AARP card and an attitude.

However, I also realize it is good point to reflect back a little bit. I realize I’m now as old as Abe Vigoda was when he made the Godfather (and four years older than Brando was at the same point). I’m older than both the Godfather and his lieutenant Tessio? One should never be as old as Abe Vigoda at any point in their life.

When my own grandfather was 50 he was already an old man who wore a grey fedora and a gray suit every day. I think he wore a tie into the shower. In his defense, he looked good and never seemed to mind that he was wearing a heavy wool suit in a house without air conditioning — in July. I believe the life expectancy for a man back then was 63. If I was forced to dress like that while picking up lint that the “electric sweeper left behind” or complaining about the milkman and the “ice box” I may have looked very forward to that 63rd birthday.

So is 50 the new 40? Heck no, it’s the new 17. How do I know this? Because what we now consider dressing for “casual Friday”, my father would have considered dressing for gym class.

I think one thing is for sure, people our age are a lot more self-absorbed than previous generations. I would say expectations are very different from 50 years ago. We now live under the belief system that one gets rid of things once they start to bore them. The disposable nature of our society now equates broken with boredom. We rarely wear anything out anymore, fashion dictates function today. Can you imagine your great-grandparents standing in a long line to change their buggy whips, just because buggy whip 2.0 just came out with the new colors for the handle?

I would say we are a lot less patient as well. If you don’t believe me, try sending a self-addressed stamped envelope with a money order to Battle Creek, Mich., and waiting 4-6 weeks for something special to arrive. It ain’t gonna happen. We demand overnight delivery and we want to watch our shipment move from cyber location to cyber location. We want it now and anything less should be thrown in an old pile of rotary phones and 8-track players.

We want our entertainment the same way. There is no waiting for that favorite song on the radio or making a request to a DJ. Music is instantaneous, listen to a five-second sample and then download no matter where you are. There is no holding an album in your hand, reading the liner notes or looking for some cryptic message in the album cover art work. Listen, I understand the upside of having 10,000 songs in your pocket, but wasn’t it just a lot cooler to have 400 albums in alphabetical AND chronological order in milk crates, stacked between the cinder blocks and wooden planks of your quadraphonic Hi-Fi.

Movies are also one of those double-edge swords. Today, it is all about the graphics, as the dependence on computer-generated effects now allow dinosaurs to battle aliens in the same manner they did 20 million years ago (when dinosaurs and aliens really battled). So what did we lose when 1s and 0s and the rest of their binary ilk, became the stars of the silver screen instead of actors? We lost the raw emotion of finding real dinosaurs and real aliens who had a passion for their acting craft.

Fifty is not so bad though. I’m old enough to remember when color TV was special, what was important in a car was its MPH not its MPG and the cost of a light-hitting major league second baseman was less than a used F-14 fighter jet.

So Happy Birthday to me, and those who have had to endure me for the last 50 years.

Todd remains young at heart and believes as long as your waist size is less than the size of your TV screen, you are good to go. Email him at tlancaster@washtimesherald.com