Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Looking back – up and over @ 60

Betsy and Lon Boyd were driving home Saturday night around 9:45. As they passed the Civic Auditorium, they noticed an EMS van with lights flashing and two EMS workers hurrying a stretcher up the steps. They knew immediately what had happened: I had had the Big One on my Big One.

They called around to my friends and were relieved to learn that no, I didn’t have a heart attack on my 60th birthday. A guest had choked on popcorn. What I did have at my birthday party inside the Civic Auditorium was fun, lots of it, so much fun that it has made me rethink my long held resistance to birthday parties. And has me trying to imagine another excuse to rent the Auditorium and have a shindig.

The last birthday party I had before Saturday was in 1959 for my twelfth birthday. I never wanted a party as a teenager - my parents might attend. In college I had the summer birthday problem. Then came the workaday world where few have birthday parties. If you are lucky, your co-workers will take you to lunch at the Chop House.

I really turned against birthday parties some 25 years ago when I attended a surprise 40th party for a friend. She was surprised, also angered, enraged and infuriated. In fact she is now divorced from the man who threw the party for her.

I reluctantly agreed to my 60th party. I had planned to spend the whole day in bed, moaning. But Jo Zimmerman encouraged me to celebrate. The Civic Auditorium was about to raise its rental rate, from $250 to $300 - this was back in March - and I had to make a quick decision. Oh, what the hey, go ahead, I said, flattered but also nervous.
Jo enlisted other friends - Bruce Haney, Mike and Lisa Anne Milhorn, David Good and Eddie Grills - to co-sponsor the event. So now I had a second reason to dread turning 60. A birthday party.

In the end I think it was the best $250 anyone ever spent on me. I highly recommend renting the Civic Auditorium for a party, even if the rate is now $300. (Just add another sponsor.)

The celebrating began Saturday afternoon when I returned from Johnson City with a carload of party trinkets. I saw a shadowy figure in the bushes as I crashed my car through rolls of black crepe paper. My house had been rolled and the shadowy figure had left a sign: “Happy 60th ‘Old Man.’ Just don’t dye your scalp and fringe purple or pink. Join the 60s club! Your 1st date!!!”

I smiled at it all. My first date, that would have been my neighbor Mary Owenby.

Soon I was at the Civic Auditorium, greeting guests - there must have been 300 of them over the course of the evening. I had requested no presents but that didn’t keep my barber Claude Russell from presenting me with an age-appropriate present, a Gift Certificate from Jack Kivorkian, “good for one visit,” and signed “from World Famous Barber
Claude Russell.”

Carl Swann also presenting me with an age-appropriate present, a vintage bottle of that sixties favorite, Jade East cologne, complete with sixties dust. It smelled exactly the way I remembered. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

The party really was the proverbial good time was had by all. The P.F. Flyers - the greatest band to come out of Piney Flats - kept the crowd dancing. Carl emceed a hula-hoop contest that drew 20 entrants in a test of skills to see who could keep it up the longest.

As promised I sang “Hello Mary Lou” with the band. Drummer Mike Warner encouraged the women in the crowd to gather round, just like the girls did at the end of every “Ozzie and Harriet” show. They swayed, I sang; they swooned and stormed the stage, I laughed.

At midnight, when my real birthday dawned, what was left of the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to me.

That’s the only problem I see with turning 60. Your friends are too old to stay up till midnight to sing to you.

Janice Jones warned me in advance about birthday wishes. “On my birthday in a moment of temporary insanity, moi wished that moi could be seventeen again. I went to sleep with that wish roiling around in my mind. The next morning, voila!”

As Janice stood looking in the mirror, she noticed two things. “Number one was that God has an off-center sense of humor. Number two was that you have to word very carefully the wishes that you make. For you see, I forgot to wish for the overall appearance of a seventeen-year-old. But, my wish was granted and I heard in my mind the giggle of God's funny bone. Right there in plain sight for all to view was a huge red get-your-attention-from-at-least-100-yards-away ZIT! On the very end and slightly off center of my nose. Be aware! Just be aware!”

David Cate and Don Fenley of the Times News’ New Media staff recorded my
birthday soiree for posterity. You can view video highlights of the party on
my blog,

And I promise I will never write about my birthday again.


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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