Monday, July 27, 2009

Halfway to 100

In cricket, a half-century is considered to be a very good achievement. In life, hitting the half-century mark as I do today is definitely a good achievement, considering that I almost didn't make it to 40. Still, it is a number that is somewhat hard to fathom.

50 years old as of today.

I look back on these years, and have to smile somewhat. I'm laughing while thinking of the words of a song by Crash Test Dummies:

"Someday I'll wear, pyjamas in the daytime
Someday I'll have, a disappearing hairline
Oh, oh, oh, afternoons, will be measured out
Measured out, measured with, coffee spoons
And T.S. Eliot."

When I was born, there were no computers, or not at least as we know them today. Phones were big, bulky, black, and operators worked switchboards with a myriad of plug-in cables. I was living in Brooklyn for those first few years, where everyone knew their neighbor, and the local coffee shop was where my addiction for the finest caffeinated beverage on the planet got its start. It's said that I was weaned from the bottle to the coffee cup. My mom, the child of Romanian immigrants. Dad, second generation whose father, was a first generation Hungarian (or at least I'm pretty sure that's where they're from), who was lucky enough to be working in the Post Office during the Depression, and was able to survive better than many other families.

We moved into the projects (council housing for my Brit friends) in Queens for a time. This is when living in the projects did not carry the stigma that it does today. They were designed to be a sort of way station until a family could improve their financial station in life, and hopefully move on to buying a home somewhere, which back in the 60's usually meant out into the suburbs. It appeared as though that was going to be my destiny, as we were looking at a house in New Jersey, when the unthinkable happened; my dad lost his job. We had to abandon the idea of the house, and looked north towards the Bronx, where a brand new private housing behemoth was being built.

October 19th, 1970. We moved up into the Bronx, and this is where I would spent the next 19 years of my life, in the place that would have the most impact on me while growing up. I had my own room, in what seemed like a huge apartment compared to the one we had in the projects, and an unlimited view from the 29th floor. The building was as tall as a Saturn V moon rocket, and the development held 60,000 people from all corners of NYC. It was a "cooperative housing" complex, meaning that one did not pay rent per se, and actually purchased equity, or "shares" as they were euphemistically called.

At the end of the day, it was rent.

It was here that I learned the way the world worked, from having and losing friends, to hanging out in the stairways and running from the local security force that tried to chase us away; to getting my first kiss, and smoking my first joint. Being mugged and fighting back. Learning to drive my dad's 1976 Chevy Nova, and using the back seat for learning about those things that my parents never bothered talking to me about. Going away to college and coming back on vacations and breaks. Hurrying back in 1984 to stay with my mom after my dad had his heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery.

Bringing my then girlfriend Mrs. N. to NYC for the first time. As we drove towards where I lived, she looked at the massive sprawling development and remarked, "You live in that mess???" Ah yes, this was the girl of my dreams.

Coming home after graduating. Getting hired in Brooklyn as a paramedic, where I would stay employed for 11 years. Getting diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease. Learning that my dad, who was getting sick with symptoms I should have recognized, had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion he had during his bypass surgery 4 years earlier. Waking up in my room on that Valentine's Day, 1988 to the my mom crying. Dad died during the night. He was brain dead on a ventilator after going into cardiac arrest a few days before following a bronchoscopy. I should have stayed in the hospital, and was kicking myself for many years afterwards for feeling as though I let him die alone. He was 62.

Getting married a year and a half later, and moving to Westchester County. I was now officially a suburbanite, though still an apartment dweller. Ten years there. Going to England and Scotland for the first time. Going on a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. Getting sicker from my ever progressing liver disease, getting promoted at work, getting my transplant, recovering, having the chance to see my niece, who was born 36 hours before my transplant. Another promotion, and then moving to Rochester.

Working on the organ transplant team for a year, then leaving health care behind altogether, and left with "What do I want to do with my life now?" syndrome. Picking up acting again, and falling in love with it all over again. Starting to write again, teaching myself how to do public relations. Losing Susan, my best friend in the world and fellow transplant recipient. Depression, medication, therapy. Buying a house, dealing with marriage issues, trying to find out who I am now.

A lot to cover in 50 years. As with most people, it is a balance of good, bad, and sometimes horrific life events. I almost didn't make 40, but am glad that I can see 50.

A cricket team or batsman can score 50 runs in an afternoon. I scored my runs one birthday at a time. Here's to another half-century.

14 comments:

Sistertex said...

Fantastic post. Happy Birthday Mr. Nighttime. Quite a lot for you to deal with on the way to where you are now. Indeed a birthday to celebrate big time. What will you be doing on this FIVE-O day? And may the next 50 be better than the first! PARRRRTY!

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Happy Half Century!!

This is an AWESOME way to honor yourself!

Hallie :)

Jay said...

You've packed a lot in, haven't you? I'm so glad you got your transplant and recovered so well. Sorry about your Dad .. that must have been hard.

The Bronx sounds a little like London was - and still is, in some parts.

Happy Birthday! Drink a cup of coffee for me. Heaven knows, I don't want to drink one for myself, not the way you like it! LOL!

Claudia said...

Happy birthday my blogger buddy!!!! If I'd known I would'a sentya a card, but of course, somehow, I'm always the last friggin' person to know....sheesh.

Here's to hoping your day kicked ass and that you managed to blow out all the candles. ;)

Love ya!

willow said...

Seems like it takes us the first 50 to figure out what in the hell is going on, doesn't it?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Nighttime!! Hope your best years are yet to come!

willow said...

Oh, and PS, great new banner! :)

Mr. Nighttime said...

Thanks to all for the b-day good wishes. Had a nice day. Treated myself to lunch, and bought some CD's with some money my mom sent. Got Dire Straits first album, which I have needed to replace for some time, a Brandford Marsalis CD, and Van Morrison and the Chieftans.

Went to dinner with Mrs. N, who bought me a new watch and "Angela's Ashes," which I have wanted to read forever. With Frank McCourt's recent death, it put the bug in my ear to want it even more. We went to dinner at a Korean restaurant here, and then to Phillip's European for dessert. The desserts there are incredible, and as the name suggests, are made less in the American tradition, and more from "over there." Austrian Chocolate Torte. 'Nuff said...

Mr. Nighttime said...

Willow - Thanks, and I get these pics from a Blade Runner fan site, www.bladezone.com. They have an extensive media library of stills from the movie.

Peter said...

Happy 50th birthday Mr Nighttime!

It was an amazing ride, those fifty years, and somehow your impressive tale shows how reality often beats fiction.

So glad to see you spent your birthday with a smile on your face.

I'll drink a Belgian beer and hope that one day this century we may meet, and disuss how it feels, being 50 ;-)

Bina said...

Wow. What an excellent post!!! I find other people's lives fascinating, and yours is especially so. That is just terrible about your father. My oldest sister contracted Hepititus when she had a blood transfusion some years ago.

And your liver transplant. What can I say? I think it's amazing that it is even possible, and here you are, 10 years later.

But I still do NOT think you are 50! You must take great care of yourself.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Bina - It's the painting in my closet that ages... ;-) And thanks for the good wishes. Actually, it will be 12 years since the transplant on Aug. 1st.

southerngirl said...

Indeed. Sorry for the scars left on you...may the next 50 (150) be scar free. Happy days ahead!!!

VioletSky said...

Life gets better after 50. You already know so much, you can relax a little and just enjoy.

or so I'm told ;)

Have a great Bday weekend.

Joanna Cake said...

Happy Belated Birthday and what a wonderful post to celebrate it! Sorry Im late x