There’s is a saying I like to use:

“Age is nothing but a number, but it is an accurate way to tell how old you are.”

In a week’s time my number is going to change, and do so in a big way. The four at the front of my age becomes a five. I will officially hit the half-century. I keep getting told I don’t look that old, but these days I sure do feel it.

I am going to spend my birthday doing things I love to do, which is kind of the trend when it comes to birthdays for me.

It didn’t start that way, then again, when you are little you don’t get to have much of a choice of anything. I remember cake when I turned 5.

I remember getting cake with only a single candle when I was seven.

Sometime around 10 or 11, I got a surprise birthday party. It was weird. Teacher conferences were going on, and we had a half-day at school. My brother and a neighborhood friend invited me over to the friend’s house to play some. Then, there was a call that said I needed to come home. I should have known something up when our front lawn was filled with bikes. The surprise happened, and I ran a half block away in shock.

When I turned 17, our football team had a State Football Semi-final. We won the game in the freezing cold. To celebrate, the Seniors through me fully clothed into the shower … so, freezing, riding a bus, Happy Birthday.

When I turned 18, I got another surprise. I was performing in the musical Oliver (I played the guy that wouldn’t let Oliver have more food). The musical included a few more numbers and scenes than the movie, but my role was limited. Early on, buried in some of the props on stage, I saw stickers with a cartoonish characture of me wishing me happy birthday. As the show continued, some of the other actors would come onto the stage with the same sticker positioned like a badge. By the time the curtain call came, everyone was wearing one … even me.

You would think that I would have had a heck of a party when I turned 21. Well, no. I watched some TV and hung out with my roommate in my room. I actually got stood up by some guys who promised to take me out, but that didn’t bug me. I got a call the night before that some other friends were watching a Houghton, Michigan bar legend perform a set. I walked in about 11:30pm, and after some pressure from my friends, I ordered a drink. Some other folks I knew were sitting at the bar, and questioned if I was old enough. The bartender overheard them and decided to card me. I showed him my card, after a thought or two he said, “By the time I call the police, you will be legal.” The guys at the bar got the story from the bartender, and the next thing I know they kept setting me up with crazy shots.

After college, I got into the habit of treating myself at birthdays. Usually, take myself to dinner, watch a movie, something like that. When I turned 27, my birthday came up midweek, and I wasn’t ready to call it a night. I was living in Milwaukee and stopped by my local watering hole. Only the bartender was there, a good friend, and a fun drinking buddy. On the TV was one of my favorite movies, The Fifth Element, and together we watched and built up a lifetime of inside jokes over MultiPass and Big Batta Boom.

My 30th was pretty quiet. I just moved to Wichita, and was still trying to make friends. The closest to a party that I had was a group party, as three of us were all turning 30 in the same month.

Usually, my birthday landed in an up or a down day. I got a lot of elections on my birthday, which sucks. I also get to judge marching bands on my birthday, or travel to a show, or something like that.

When I turned 40, I had what I considered my best birthday ever. I judged the Mid States Band Association Finals competition in Kings Mills, OH. The group I was judging with were some of my favorite people from that community. The bands were extraordinary. I really told no one there that it was my birthday, because it didn’t matter. I was happy. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Next Friday, I celebrate my 50th Birthday, and like I mentioned before, I am going to spend it doing something I want to do. It turns out, the New Jersey Devils NHL team is in Los Angeles to play the Kings. I rented a suite. I offered up tickets to any and all friends that wanted to come in for the game. Most are JPLers. My brother and sister-in-law are flying in, as well as my old friend Jeremy Phillips. I’m actually handling most of the cost of the game, not because I have to but because I want to. As I keep saying “It’s my party, and I get to do what I want.”

Then again, Age is just a number … and a reason to party.


A View of the Other Side


There’s a marching band that will be left unnamed. They stepped off first last night at the Rowland Field Tournament in Rowland Heights, CA. When you go on first, typically you are small and less refined, not to mention you are in front of a mostly empty stadium. On top of the press box was a guy who, by work & life choices, positioned himself to restart his adjudication notoriety and as such will take every gig he can get – even if it means not starting his season until the rest of the world is nearly finished. That guy suffered his way up to the press box having the shape of someone who rarely has left his house for the last 18 months, climbing up the ricketiest wooden bleachers in desperate need of a handrail, and the most awkward press box ladder west of Tennessee. The field and the stands were filled with people wearing masks as a reminder of the horror this world has been clouded by since the last time people entered this field last. Two years ago, high schools laughed and hugged, and played together in the marching arts world they all shared; and have gone without it for nearly half their high school lifetime.

When the first band stepped off, none of the rest of that mattered.

Yeah, I haven’t blogged in a long time. To put it bluntly, I don’t blog unless I feel good about what I am blogging about. I haven’t felt good about anything for a longer than my downtime. For what it’s worth, I never had COVID, never tested positive, and got vaccinated at the first opportunity I could get it.

I spoke with many around the country, and can see on the tele, that the world is opened up moreso than it is here in California. I am allowed to go back to my office, but only limited days a week. Honestly, if I had a work set-up that I didn’t have to haul back and forth to home I would be there. Masks are still mostly mandatory in many locations. Social distancing is still the norm. Pressure remains on acting as though the pandemic is still alive and kicking hard. In a world where everything can be delivered, I have little need to leave the house.

This hasn’t worn of me well. I have focused on things ahead of me to prepare for throughout this dark time. Like when the city got on me about my lawn, I had it redone (and it is beautiful). Or when family was coming to town, I got the house cleaned up with the worst cleaning lady ever. Yet when I have been left to my own priorities, I have chosen poorly. I never went out of my way to do harm to myself, but never went out of my way to do help to myself either. The simple facts of this period is proof of that. I spent days in the hospital on two occasions for issues with circulatory system. I spent another day in the ER because I was a couple quarts low on blood. My seven medications can leave me weak, tired, and with a toilet that constantly needs to be cleaned. In a single week, I broke my couch, bed, laptop, and even my toilet paper roll holder.

But I have been trying. After nearly 10 years of avoiding the slowly blurring words in front of me, I now wear glasses … religiously. Two months ago I started using a CPAP machine, and finding that dreaming is way underrated. I am trying to break bad habits, with little (but still some) success.

The problem is, a closed world still hung over me like a cloud.

I signed up to judge this fall because it is what I do. To be honest, I wasn’t wild about it. I felt I needed to get things fixed in my life. Truth is, since moving to California, most circuits treat me like a new judge wet behind the ears, and not someone with 25 years experience judging in 14 different states. So, I knew if I turned down work out here, I may never get it back.

During the week, I had to remember how to prepare for a show. I had to find the right information, read the right instructions, review the right judging criteria. I knew there would be rust to shake off, but how much was the question. Moreso, I was concerned about the physical toil of the show. Climbing the bleachers, standing for hours, the drive there, the drive back.

That unnamed band stepped off, and nothing else mattered.

Sure, I was rusty, but in hindsight, I had more rust when I have taken a week off between shows mid-season. I was excited, energetic, and really positive. Marching Band was back. And for a few hours on top of a press box, so was I.

I got home last night, and the demand hit me pretty hard. So did Auggie, since this was the first time in a while he was left alone outside his normal schedule, and I had to endure hours of Auggie kisses. This morning, things hurt.

And this is show #1 of 7 this year.

Next week, I have a much more demanding schedule. I will be flying for the first time since “the before times” to Idaho of all places. I will have to maneuver airports, drive across a state, judge a new circuit with bands I never seen before, drive back, airports, and do it all with the pooch in the pet hotel for the first time in nearly 2 years.

Let’s be honest, I am not back. I am a long way from it. This next month is going to be hard, and that includes a certain milestone coming up on me. But now that I got a view of the other side, I feel motivated, like I want to get back. Like I want to be back.

So let’s get back.