The Year That Never Occurred To Me

In the year of your Lord (well, he’s certainly not mine), two thousand fourteen, there began an interval of ordinary time (you catholics…see what I did there?) that I never considered. Not once when I was growing up, or had grown up. Not once in all the calendrical-gymnastical mathletics of my time did I consider my semicentennial, the year I should become — deep breath — a quinquagenarian. The deep breath is for the hexasyllabic word, not for the feigned histrionics of becoming a 50 year old.

After all, remember that I always remember the grave alternative.

After figuring out that I’d be 36 when we hit that science fictional watershed milestone 2001—and then of course, 37 by that year’s end. And upon actually turning 37 realizing I was the same age as Allen when he died, making me feel like there was no turning back on this adulthood thing in every possible way (emotional maturity being the most precious — and lonely). I also noted that I was the same age that Vincent van Gogh would ever be. It made an impression. Or technically a post-impression.

When I was a wee boy, I knew when I’d be able to drive (1980), vote (1982), drink (1985). At one point I almanacked — somewhat paganistically in retrospect — what years my birthday would also be an Easter: three times in my life so far, including my first Easter as a San Franciscan. I’d almost gone and done the (somewhat paeanistic) Easter Sunrise Service atop Mt. Davidson with its primeval clearing presided over by a depressingly, imposingly large, eisenhowered christian cross.


I however did not: 4:30 in the morning is just evil if it’s an early 4:30 and not a late one, and Allen wasn’t quite well enough to endure the foggy bluster that was brewing outside.

I also know that the next time my birthday falls to an Easter Sunday, I’ll be 103 years old (2067). If I’m around to make it to Mt. Davidson, there will have to be solar powered gondolas to convey me up there. Still, it’ll be a first for me.

Many other odd bits of math wit have been broken against tick-tock-time just because I’m like that, but again, 2014 just never did occur to me. Fifty doesn’t seem like all that interesting a number. Half a hundred. Maybe it’s because binary and hexadecimal are more preeminent in a quotidian sense. Or that when it comes to base 10, it becomes the metric system to me (I am a scientist when you get down to it, after all, and fractions tend to find no purchase there, in favor of decimal representations).

And so let’s face it: “0.5 centuries” doesn’t have quite the ring to it as “woo hoo! I can drink in a bar now!”

So when did it occur to me? Obviously, the irony of writing about something that never occurred to me is that it suddenly did occur to me or else we wouldn’t be here, you with the reading, me with the writing, right? It occurred to me when I was back in Pennsylvania in December visiting my family. My phone has long since been reporting temperatures in Celsius and my dad asked me what the temperature was. I had to calculate it in my head because the only four °F/°C pairs I’d had memorized were:

  • 32°F = 0°C
  • 212°F = 100°C
  • 98.6°F = 37°C
  • -40°F = -40°C

The last one, note, is where Fahrenheit and Celsius are identical: the crossover point of the two lines — see? math is fun!

As it just so happened, it was 10°C. Quick math turned up 50°F. 32 + ( 9/5 * 10 ) = 50. Exactly. Whole number.

And for some reason, there was 50 as some sort of number of interest. And yes, the propeller on my beanie took a lap or two.

And so, on 3 April 2014, 50 years to the day from 3 April 1964, I shall become a Quinquagenarian. Six syllables, two Qs. One Q doesn’t fit my gayness anymore, and my economy of words continues to “suffer” from inflation: turgid is my prose and no blue pill required.