Sloan's Lake, Denver
I turned 50 last Christmas. I did so on a beach far far away. No "Over the Hill" texts, no Facebook messages.. just me, TVGal, TVSis and her husband on a beach in perhaps my favorite place on Earth letting the 24 hours tick away and saying goodbye to my 40s.
I liked my 40s. I got married in my 40s. We got our cats Chili and Pepper in my 40s. They weren't perfect, as any ten year period of time will attest to. I lost my job in my 40s. I didn't keep most of my New Years Resolutions that decade as my pathetic attempts at speaking Spanish will attest. (Si!)
All in all though they were just fine.
Getting into and out of a decade with a round number (30, 40 etc) has always been a bit of a problem for me. My parents have been gone a long time and I'm pretty much the oldest flag bearer of the Thow name around these parts and as such these numbers remind me that there are def. more Yesterdays in my temporal account than Tomorrows. I'm not one of those folks that wants to live forever, or at the very least dip their toe in the waters of ages north of the century mark. Somewhere around 80 and I'd be just fine with that if you please.
As I approached the 50 year mark I started assessing what it was about that number that bothered me so. It couldn't be my health, as I was nearly in the best shape of my life (unemployment gives you a lot of time to menu plan and hit the gym as it turns out). I still had virtually all of my hair (it started a mini-retreat in my early 20s and then stopped for some glorious, wonderful reason). My hairline hasn't budged since. I have just the right amount of grey mixed in with my brown, and as long as TVGal is fine with that so am I. (Besides, going grey has never bothered me... Richard Gere's head of hair is a thing of beauty and delight and deserves my admiration).
After I pushed past the magic number I thought about it less and less and eventually like all trivial things it disappeared from my mind for good. Until I went jogging in April.
We have a glorious lake near our downtown villa, Sloan's Lake. It is just the right size for a walk or a run (2.6 miles gets you from Point A to Point.. well, A I suppose.) It isn't crowded, there are plenty of pelicans to keep you company and the city skyline watches over it at all times reminding you how god damn lucky you are to have this large body of water at your disposal whenever you like.
I like to run, as it turns out.
I didn't really know that about myself til last year. I will never run a marathon. I haven't run a 5k or any organized race in my life (although I'm thinking about that a bit now). But 2.6 miles is just the perfect amount for me. You get sunshine. Water. Exercise. Music (iPod). Satisfaction of a half hour well spent.
I like to run.
In April I went out on a glorious early Spring day that was getting ahead of itself and borrowing some Summer temperatures. It was early but not too early. If I were to guess, I'd say there were a hundred of us using the lake as a boundary of sorts that morning... many of those were college-aged women. Some had strollers with infants, being shoved against their will in a circular fashion around that body of water. Some were in groups, perhaps running "clubs", talking and laughing as they ran. (I've never run with anyone before and the thought of talking while breathing hard seems mildly insane.) But the common denominator for virtually all of these women was that they were uniformly in shape, dressed in lycra, and by and large incredibly good-looking. (I say this with a clinical eye only.)
I was invisible to these women. Most people passing one another on a path sneak a peak at the person that is moving past... not too long, just enough to notice and then move on.
I might as well have not been there at all. Person after person passed me by and I registered not one iota of awareness to these women.
Until the senior citizen on the park bench gave me the up and down look of appreciation affixed to a mildly creepy smile.
I was no longer attractive to young people. Or middle aged people. I was seen by them as someone in their parent's circles... hell, maybe an older friend of their parents. I myself felt like I was around 30 years of age in an overall mental/physical/social kind of way... but not to the outside world.
I was an adult. Adult. Older. Wiser. Seasoned.
I got in my car and as I was driving home I decided to not give a shit about this. Don't let it fester. Cut it out and move on. Really, what did it matter? I was happily married, had ten fingers and ten toes and a bald spot was nowhere near on the horizon... Dust myself off and move forward. 50 is the new 40, or 30, or fill in your own numerical cliche, won't you?
Two weeks later....
I was dropping off some artwork I had sold at our nearby hotel bar... I would rather people not drive up to the TVGuy Mansion and its a block away and I have friends that work there so its a perfect meeting spot. The meeting was at 5pm and I arrived a few minutes early to a nearly empty room... 1 person at the bar, the GM eating an early dinner and our friend Ryan the bartender. I sat down and had a drink and chatted with the GM for a bit... my phone squawked at me with a new text message from the person buying the artwork asking forgiveness as she was going to be late and would it be okay if I waited for her a little while longer?
TVGal was out of town working and the kitties had been fed and I had nowhere else to be so I replied to the affirmative, took out my iPad and began reading. (I've read countless articles over the years decrying the solo diner/drinker saying how sad it is to be along in a social setting... this has never been a problem for me, quite the opposite actually. I am very comfortable being alone. Movies, restaurants, bars, exercising, etc... Solo works for me just fine thank you very much.)
The one person at the bar was a woman in her early 30s, leaning towards perhaps being too thin, wearing a nice sundress and was, by all accounts, already well on her way to being completely inebriated by 530pm on a weekday. I picked up snippets of her conversation with the bartender who was gamely being polite but I sensed he'd rather be having elective oral surgery than continuing this conversation. Since he knew me he would from time to time try to lasso me in as well but I was having none of it... schmoozing with strangers was in his job description, not mine.
Unfortunately I caught a particular spoken nugget from our tipsy lady... she mentioned to Ryan that she was born on Christmas. I (in hindsight of course) offered that I too was born on that holiday. I mean, what are the odds? (365-1 or something like that I imagine).
She was delighted! A fellow Christmas baby! We had something in common! Wheeee!
She got out of her seat and came a bit closer and began complaining about all the things people complain about holiday birthdays (One present instead of Two! Restaurants are closed! Everyone else is busy doing other things! I've heard them all....)
Since I agreed with her about all of these things (Christmas birthdays really do suck, btw) she moved ever closer and chose other topics to force upon me. What do you do for a living? Do you own the hotel? How long have you lived in Denver? What's your favorite thing to do for fun? Do you consider yourself adventurous?
Look, the warning signs were there but it never occurred to me until the end of this sequence of events that I should have been looking for them. She was clearly interested in me. Until the point of uncomfortableness it was mildly flattering. The angel on my left shoulder was telling me to get the hell out of Dodge as this lady was both kinda drunk and kinda cuckoo. The devil on my right shoulder was saying that the ladies running around my lake were crazy... clearly you have something to offer to the fairer sex.. obviously you are still an attractive, intelligent man. Who wouldn't be delighted to spend time in your company? Screw 50!
(As I look over this retelling, keep in mind that I in no way was interested in this person in the least other than to reaffirm my own masculinity. I am a happily married man. I place this parenthetical disclaimer in the hopes that TVGal doesn't hit me over the head with a heavy object of her choosing.)
As this woman moved to the seat right next to me and began flirting at Warp Speed I was devising my exit strategy. Fortunately, circumstance dropped by in the form of the woman who was picking up her photograph. She paid me by check, which meant she had to ask me some questions about amount, who to make it out to, etc... and I leapt from my chair and moved to her right, using her as a unwitting buffer between me and my attractive, mildly insane admirer. I offered to carry my artwork down to the other woman's car, said goodbye to Ryan the Bartender and my Christmas Birthday Gal whose name I don't think I ever knew and skedaddled quickly away to the elevators.
As we waited for the elevator car to arrive the GM passed by. She apologized for not staying around and leaving me in the orbit of the crazy lady... I responded that she wasn't so bad, def. on her way to passing out in a drunken stupor, etc...
(Oh, I'm sorry.. you're waiting to a point for all this aren't you? I'm only too happy to oblige...)
GM: "Yeah, I should have warned you but I was having too much fun watching her work."
GM: "She's a prostitute. Comes here once a month or so." (walked away laughing)
This is 50.
Rob Coddry: See, if a pharmaceutical company advertises a prescription drug but doesn't say what it does, the FDA doesn't make them list the side effects. That's why the TV spots for the drugs I just mentioned don't give the foggiest indication for what those pills do other than that they seem to help old people ride tandem bicycles...
--"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central)