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A Half-Century Down
Heading into the next one with gratitude.
Well, I’m getting up there.
Though I think 40 is the official “over the hill” age, 50 is the one that always seemed like the big hurdle to clear — the true milestone. At least that’s how I felt when I was a kid. Back then, none of the 40-year-olds I knew seemed “old.” But those in their 50s? Well, they were a little different. Most at least kind of looked the part… the way I do now (and frankly also did at 40; it’s been a problem for a while 😄).
But truth be told, and silly header photo aside, I feel pretty good. And though I won’t technically turn 50 for a few more hours, I celebrated the five-decade mark last Saturday with a big group of friends and family. And I did so in the way I’d been envisioning for almost six years.
Yes, I was already thinking about my 50th birthday party when I was just 44. It sounds weird, but hear me out. That’s the year my wife turned 40, and I wanted her birthday celebration to be something big, unique, and memorable. Since she hates surprise parties (or at least being the focus of them), we tossed around some thoughts over dinner one night, and came up with what felt like a pretty amazing idea: renting out the local independent movie theater for a night, and inviting a bunch of her favorite people for a private, interactive screening of her all-time favorite movie, Dirty Dancing.
The concept was somewhat inspired by the annual Halloween Horror Movie Fest event we throw at our home, but this was of a grander scale, and of course more personal in nature. And much to our delight, it played out perfectly. There was a good turnout, and it was tremendous, laugh-filled fun for all.
I remember thinking the next day: I’m totally doing that for my 50th. And six years later, we — in fact — did it.
I chose the classic horror-comedy, Tremors, not because it’s my all-time favorite movie (it’s not), but because:
I do like it a whole lot (and always have).
it captures the spirit of the season (which I somehow felt was important, being that the party would be replacing this year’s “horror fest” one).
it’s way friendlier and more inviting of audience participation than any of my top five or so films.
Okay, I probably overthought the whole thing, but that’s the birthday-guy’s prerogative, right?
Anyway, it was an absolute blast.
I had just assumed that nearly everyone who came that night had already seen Tremors. After all, it released over 30 years ago, and I’ve long thought of it as somewhat of a classic. But to my surprise, talking to people before the movie started, I discovered that very much wasn’t the case. I’m not sure even half of those who attended had seen it, which was actually pretty exiting to me. Tremors virgins! Bring on the graboids!
But honestly, my favorite part of the night took place immediately before the movie, when my wife Sarah, to my surprise, announced that there would be a short film before the main feature. The only thing I could think of, as I took my seat at the back of the theater, was perhaps some slideshow presentation with pictures of me over the years (which would have assuredly spawned lots of hair jokes among the audience).
With how busy my wife’s been at work lately, I was amazed that she even had time to put such a thing together.
But it wasn’t a slideshow. It was a montage of video messages from friends and family (some of whom were in attendance, but several who couldn’t make it that night) wishing me a happy birthday. The messages ranged from short and sweet, to absolutely hilarious (including an impressively elaborate roast), to some genuinely deep and meaningful expressions that got me a little teary-eyed.
So many of my relationships with people feel like they’re built around humor and lightheartedness, that I was taken back multiple times by what people said they valued about me and our friendship, and the traits and stories that stick out for them.
The gestures truly meant a lot, and I absolutely loved them.
I found out later than my 16 year-old daughter (whose video message included me photo-shopped next to celebrities I regularly make fun of) was quite instrumental in putting it all together. She’s kind of a video wiz, and did a fantastic job.
Afterwards, we moved over to the theater’s lounge (which you might recognize from shots of my book launch parties over the years), and everyone had a good time hanging out and catching up. There was even a surprise visit from an old co-worker I hadn’t seen in several years.
I’m very appreciative of all my friends and family, from those who showed up and/or sent videos, to those who passed along well wishes, to those I didn’t hear a peep out of (😉). I feel very fortunate to have them all in my life.
As for any personal advice I have for those who haven’t yet reached the ripe old age of 50? I won’t go deep today, since I don’t have a lot of space left in this newsletter. I’ll just say: eat healthier than I do, sleep more than I do, and get in the habit of using Danny Glover’s “I’m too old for this sh*t” line from the Lethal Weapon films, because it really is a right of passage.
Have you had a special birthday party that sticks out more than the others? Tell me about it in an email or in the comment section below.
The More You Know (Nuclear Strike Edition)
How’s that for a transition?
The other day, Klon Kitchen, a tech and national security expert, wrote an interesting piece for the The Dispatch, describing a process I’m guessing most of you don’t know a whole lot about (I sure didn’t): how a U.S. president orders a nuclear launch.
Now, hopefully, this isn’t a procedure that will play out in our lifetime (or in anyone’s future), but what I found particularly fascinating (and morbidly amusing) about the piece was Klon’s re-telling of how some former presidents handled the responsibility associated with ordering a launch (emphasis added by me):
Upon deciding to move forward, the president must then “authenticate” the order by correctly answering a “challenge code” from the NMCC. This would likely be some string of numbers and phonetic letters, such as “Romeo-3-Echo-9-Delta-Charlie.” And this is where the movies largely get it right: POTUS reaches into his or her pocket, pulls out a card in a plastic case, breaks it open, and reads a corresponding answer to the challenge—“Charlie-4-Zulu-8-Tango-Umbra.” Before we go on, a little more on this code card.
Often called “the biscuit,” this thing is supposed to be one of the most protected items in the world. It’s about the size of a credit card and is supposed to be carried by POTUS at all times, wherever he goes. But they’ve been routinely misplaced. Jimmy Carter is said to have accidentally sent his biscuit to the dry cleaner (we’ve all been there). Bill Clinton just plain lost his. And, when Ronald Reagan was shot, the FBI grabbed his clothing (and the biscuit) off of the hospital floor, sparking a brief panic for the military officer charged with keeping the codes safe.
I had two big takeaways from that part:
Boy, that’s wild (and pretty scary).
At least my kids still have a shot at becoming president.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Resting dog face.
Obligatory Colorado Fall Shot
I’m going to have to rake all that, aren’t I?
I’m too old for this sh*t.
Have you picked up your copy of RESTITUTION?
Interested in a signed copy? You can order one (or five) here.
Already read and enjoyed it? I’d love if you could leave a review for the book on Amazon.
I’ve been on a bit of a Reverend Horton Heat kick lately, which tends to happen right after I see them live. “Liquor in the Front” is the band’s third studio album from 1994. You might recognize some of the rockabilly tunes off this one from television shows and movies, with the most recognizable perhaps being “Baddest of the Bad,” which turned up in the recent Dexter reboot.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!