If You Don’t Die for Long Enough, You Turn Fifty.

I am The Birthday King, I can do anything!

This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Car accident, gun mishap, alcohol poisoning, angry pimp, scorned psycho, jail stabbing, suicide, lethal D.T.s, drug overdose, case of killer clap, throat cut in a Central American jungle, drunken bathtub drowning, liver blow-out, any number of things could have prevented this.  But they didn’t, and now I’m looking at the calendar weird these days.  Looking at 50, right there on the 11th, and I can’t figure out how I feel about it.  Sad?  Happy?  Fearful?  Excited?  Am I full of regret?  Gratitude?  Dread?  Joy?  Shit?

Am I a walking miracle?  The luckiest man on Earth?  Or still an abject failure, a gassed-out bag of lost potential?  I can’t decide.  It goes back and forth so fast.

So, I’ve turned up the dial on the Ponder Machine to 11 these days.

I walked by a van painted with a grim reaper surfing down some exploding volcano or some shit, and thought, “That’s a sign from The Universe.”  But what the fuck it’s supposed to mean is anyone’s guess.  I have some scary ideas though.  Maybe something about death?

I’ve been trying to look at the big picture.  How did I get here?  What really has happened?  Is it time for a new beginning?  Or has the roller coaster made it to its final hill?  What have I learned?  What do I still have to unlearn?  What’s it all about, Alfy?  And please don’t say bitches and money.  Because I had a sneaking feeling it was.

It’s not like I need a milestone birthday as an excuse to get torqued up into a spiritual crisis.  I’m a Vikings fan.  I’ve had some of my deepest heart-to-hearts with The Creator, and came to doubt He was listening.  And if He was, He was still putting the screws to me.  In 1975, God allowed the Hail Mary Pass to be invented and used against the Vikings.  I watched that game as a kid.  It made us lose the playoffs in the most heartbreaking way possible, and it was done to us by my most hated team, Dallas.  Didn’t that say whose side God was on?  As soon as they called it a “Hail Mary” I knew.  Then why did He make me love The Vikings and hate the Cowboys?  Why four Superbowl losses?

Loving Creator, yeah.

Granted, not the test of Lot, but enough to sow a little doubt in this seeker.  Oh that, and all the other gnarly fucking shit that has happened to me in my life.

Along with all the extra pondering, my emotions have been weird too.  I’ve been feeling a little too Lifetime Channel lately.   Having moments of seeing such beauty in something like my two cats wrestling around, that I get all chick weepy over it.  A hormonal, nose-blowing housewife, awash in raw emotion is not my favorite role to play.

What is the role I’m supposed to play in this production anyway?

I prefer a Robert Mitchum calm and self-assured type, if I were to get to pick, with maybe a whiff of George Raft malice.  You know, to keep the really bad girls interested.  Sure it would all be a fraud, except for maybe the malice bit, but isn’t that what being an actor is?  Being a professional phoney?

It’s hard enough for me to pull off any role, but add to that the fact that I don’t know from moment to moment which one I’m going to be cast into.  Responsible citizen?  Loving son?  Faithful friend?  Patient mentor?  (Mentors, Dave.  That’s who I was going to ask you about the other night.  If you ever saw them.  They were seriously fucked up)  I mean, I get cast into having to play all these different parts, and I’m not sure if I’m pulling off any of them off.  I just don’t know.  I don’t like reading my reviews.

I’m pretty sure not being drunk has helped my performance.

My cats seem to like me.  The woman is still talking to me after eight years.  My mom still has me over for lunch.  Things are cool between me and my sister, and me and my buddy, Keller.  Marko still calls.  Dudes still want to hang out.  A little money in the bank.  A car that doesn’t bleed-out oil every third day.  A job that doesn’t make me want to chainsaw my head off.  No torch-bearing mob on the near horizon.  Or warrant working it’s way down the system.

I guess I’m answering my own questions here.  Maybe I am doing okay.  I know I’m lucky.  I made it through some of the most hellacious, death-defying misadventures, and it wasn’t through any good judgement on my part.  I can assure you.  Something was looking out.  Somebody was picking up the Bat Phone.  And for every play-off loss, there have been many more miracle sports moments.  And, when it’s really counted.  When it really was a matter of life and death.  The crucial point spread.

One day, the guy I was working with in Central America, got shot in Nicaragua.  They sent a 16 year-old kid on a bicycle to do it.  (We later heard the police caught him, then tortured and killed him, which I really hope wasn’t true)  Anyway, my partner makes it back to the hotel.  It looks like a small-caliber wound in his pectoral.  Because he was shot at point-blank range, the muzzle-flash had cauterized the wound.  (See Terry? Even getting shot point-blank range can be the best thing to happen to you)  Well, he didn’t want to go to the hospital because he was worried somebody might be waiting there to finish the job.

I had him lie down on the bed while I washed the shit out of his shorts in the bathtub.  I gave him some pain pills and antibiotics.  We ordered twelve beers from room service, and then I sat by the door with a machete while he slept.  I remember sitting up all night, drinking those beers, trying to figure out what the fuck were we going to do.  We were in deep shit.  All I could do was pray.

“God, I know you think I’m a major fuck-up, because I am, and You’re God, and You know everything…but I am going to need You to do me the most serious solid ever.  We are so deep right now, there’s no way I can figure out how to get us out.  If You happen to have any extra miracles lying around,  I’d totally appreciate You sending a couple this way.  I promise I will do my best to not screw up so bad ever again.  And sorry about what happened in Juarez.  Amen.”  Hardly the Prayer of St. Francis, but it was the best I could come up with.

Somehow, we managed to get out of that hotel without anybody finishing the job, then on a plane to Honduras, then El Salvador, then back to Belize, where I got him on a flight to a safe military hospital in Panama.  He lived.  And so did I.  There were a few more snaps from the crocodile’s mouth (once literally) but we made it back.  I came back bat-shit crazy, but I came back.  I somehow managed the unmanageable.   I had to wonder about the prayer.

I was in a cheap motel on Central in Albuquerque one night.  I had a gun in the room.  A nice Beretta 96D, a .40 caliber, double-action.  I really loved that gun.  I eventually lost it to the L.A.P.D. one night in Inglewood, but that’s not important.

I decided to step out and get something to eat.  I started to reach for the gun and something said “Don’t bring the gun.”  Not a voice I could actually hear, but like a clear thought popping up out of nowhere.  The fuck?  Of course, I’m going to bring the gun with me.  Duh.  It’s not going to do me much good under at motel mattress, is it?  Again.  “Don’t bring the gun!”  A little clearer, this time.  But, I won’t feel right without–“Do NOT bring…the GUN!”

I know these weren’t my thoughts, because mine were arguing why I should bring the gun.  This area is super sketchy.  Sure it’s not Mogadishu, but it ain’t Mayberry either.  Lots of other folks are bringing their guns out there.  In fact, this is one of those places that seems like it was invented just for bringing a gun to.  And…this is a fucking awesome gun to bring.

“Don’t…bring…the gun.”

It was so weird that I finally did get spooked.  I started to think.  Dude, remember when you didn’t listen to that voice those last twenty-two thousand times?  How fucked things got?  Maybe this time, because it seems so clear and persistent, you should heed it.

I decided not to bring the gun.

I get out, and head down Central, and start walking to Jack’s Pizza.  A low-rider pulls up slowly along side of me, I see a barrel stick out, and hear a small shot, and feel a burning stinging in my side.  It felt like a small-caliber round, like a .22.   I look down at where I was hit and see a splatter of red on my shirt.  Oh you fuckers!  Time to die.  I reach for the gun that is under my mattress back at the motel.

The low-rider speeds off, un-blasted.  Oh what bullshit.  I run into the first open place, and it’s a porno store.  (And no, they didn’t have my tokens ready for me)

“I just got fucking shot!” I yell to the clerk.

“Oh shit!” he says.

I pull up my bloody shirt.  There’s only an angry red welt.  What the…?   Holy shit.  It was only a paintball.  A red one.

I was glad I left the gun at the motel.  Best idea I ever had.

Then there was the drinking issue.  Little problem.  A little too much.  And all my attempts to reel it in, not seeming to work very well, with consequences piling up faster than traffic on the 405.  Things were getting a little too crazy.  Even for me.

Then one night, while I was trying to hold down a beer to keep away the D.T.s or a seizure, and kept gagging it back up, and then having to swallow that, I caught sight of myself in the mirror, and really saw myself.  And what I saw struck a chord of compassion for that miserable retching wretch looking back at me.  “God, you need to help that guy,” I said out loud, “Nobody deserves to live like that.”

Two days later I wound up in rehab, and have been sober now for 8.5 years.  There have been so many of those strange saves via Deus Ex Machina, always proceeded by some petition for divine intervention, no matter how brief or desperate, that I can’t begin to recount even a tenth of them.  Sure you can write them all off as coincidences.  Last I checked, you are free to think whatever you want.  I’m not out to convince anyone of anything.  Like I mentioned to a friend the other night, people who try to convince me of anything, irritate me.

I just personally felt like if I kept getting a bunch of those kind of “coincidences” and kept writing them off,  at some point, I was crossing the line from healthy skepticism to just being some sort of a stupid, clueless asshole.

And I’ve been one of those long enough to know that that is a tough role.

So, I’ve decided to believe that there’s something out there that has my back.  I can’t prove it, but I can say that believing it (or deluding myself so), tends to make me freak-out less.  It also makes me a more peaceful, happy person, and when I’m like that, more people seem to enjoy being around me.  Over the past fifty years, I’ve made some of the greatest friends any man could hope for, and getting to be around, to have them want to be around, is the best fucking birthday present I could ever get.  Thanks everybody.  And thanks G., good looking out.

The balloon says I’m “special” so it must be so.


40 responses to “If You Don’t Die for Long Enough, You Turn Fifty.

  1. turning 50 IS the best thing that could happen. well, it would
    be for me anyways. these have been the best years of my life.
    thanks to some very good direction in sorting this whole thing
    out. happy early birthday my friend.

    • Ah T, that was a great Fourth, no? You taking us out on the harbor at night in your L.Ron Hubbard psuedo-Captain’s outfit and slouchy sailing cap. Pipe clenched in teeth. Navigating the narrow straits of obscenely expensive yachts and being all “Ahoy Mr. Wilson” to the neighbors and shit. Then Mel standing up in the boat, rocking back and forth like his old self, but sober, reading John Adam’s letter to Abigail during the bombs bursting in air. It was magic. Thanks to you and Ginger for all that. And for being a bro. Come on, time for a bro hug. C’mere ya big lug!

  2. When you jotted down ‘What’s it all about, Alfy?’….you know who came directly to mind, right? Right. Alfy, that’s who. Alfy will still flash through my mind sometimes…and also the circumstances of his Exit. Anyhow, I’ll be 51 on the 16th of next month. It could all end anywhere and my life feels like a little story. Peace be with you… and also with you.

    • It’s a good story too, Jeff. I don’t anticipate it ending anytime soon either. You’re not going to be free to leave the planet until you fulfill all the requirements of The Iron Diktat that we sign all those years ago. Vim-squared to the most finger-snapping, carpet-biting, eyelid trembling max, brother.

  3. The best part about being of an advanced age is seeing a bigger world. Some of it is for you. Other parts aren’t. Life isn’t fair. We all die. Love is good, feeling is good, small blessings are good, creativity is good, forgiveness is good.

    I saw the 127 Hours guy in person today. He said EXACTLY what Nando Parrado, one of the Andes plane crash cannibal guys said – the opposite of death is not life. The opposite of death is love.

    So love you ass off. Keep loving. And try – even though I know it is hard – to feel the love others have for you.

    Happy Birthday. Love, Sue Ellen

    • Ok, big old choke in the throat. Fuck. Thanks, I guess. So hard to gulp.
      The opposite of death is love. I really like that. That one rings some bells. You know when that happens? Ding. I needed that. A very good navigation bearing. Thank you for that and everything else, and that goes back to Dr. Diane Heineken’s anthropology class. Heineken. I made a funny joke. You have been a TRUE friend, Sue, for many and many a year. And that really counts. Love, Marius

  4. Naw, never saw the Mentors. Had the chance to, but missed ’em. Bummer too, because apparently it was the show where this anarcho-punk girl-Melissa, the singer for Abolishment-got up onstage in Tacoma and tore El Duce’s hood off his head. I always missed the good ones back then.
    Don’t miss the good ones Marius. You’ve still got a lot of ’em ahead of you, especially since you’re no longer actively engaged in the petrification of your liver.

    • I named my liver “Champ.” He’s a fighter, alright. A few standing eights, but never knocked-out. I just remembered another one, The Dwarves. Ever see them? I didn’t, but I don’t know if that would have been one of “the good ones.” Thank you too, dude, for being around these days. Makes 3AM in Cyber Slum less lonely.

  5. Brilliant post, Marius as is usually the case. I will be forty in November unless I get hit by a truck or choke on an onion ring. So I get the “landmark birthday” thing. But what you’ve touched on here is the key to surviving birthdays or just normal Wednesdays and that’s gratitude. Your perspective and humor make me realize I too have a lot to be grateful for! Thank you for that. I have to say I totally agree with the sentiment on your mylar balloon– you are special. And not in a Corky from ‘Life Goes On’ kinda way. Have a great birthday! – Sean

    • Thanks SPM, As you know, for us just making it to our individual milestones is a miracle. I think we gleaned a little wisdom along the way, or at least some experience that people might mistake for wisdom, and that’s all I care about anyway–how I come off to other people. I’m as shallow as hole for planting radishes. Hoping Colorado is doing you and yours well. Peace out. M.

    • Actually Mel, I have heard from several reputable sources that in real life, he was great with kids, and was actually a wonderful babysitter, and (ironically enough) a mentor to at-risk kids. That whole blown-out drunk thing was just an act. Like Dean Martin. And Foster Brooks. And Shane Macgowan.

  6. Great post, very thought provoking, and I LOVE the title.
    Always trust ‘the voice’ it knows what’s best for us even when we don’t. Mine shrieks at me, usually just one word, like “DEFLECT” or “PARA ROLL” and I’d be a fool not to follow it’s advise. As for prayer, I’ve only tried it in sheer desperation and hey, it works but I don’t push it for fear of pissing off the Universe. I have a problem with the G word.
    51 has been good except for the forewarned becoming invisible thing which perhaps only applies to women but I can live with that and it tends to weed out the assholes and separate the wheat from the chaff as ’twere. Here’s hoping that you, Champ and Andrius have a terrific birthday. Love your ass off!

    • Thanks Alexa, I didn’t mean to provoke anything, especially something like thought. Thought has rarely served me well. Insight on the other hand. Or hunch. Or gut feelings. Those guys never seem to give me the bum steer. My worst ideas usually came from long rumination and thought. The more thought out a plan, the deeper in shit I would land when it went wrong. Champ and The Intrepid say “hello” my bud in Ubud.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Avasmommy. Yes, when Sue says jump I ask “Off of where?” She has what the cops call “Command presence.” And, she doesn’t need to blast anyone in the face with pepper spray to establish it. I really appreciate that. Thanks again. Marius

  7. Eustice the Sheep wants to with you a happy birthday. I want to tell you a story… At my step-grandpa’s 100th birthday party his great-grandson said “wow Grandpa Harry you’re 100 years old and you’re not even dead yet!”

    And the sage grandpa, who was also a rabbi, said “That’s how you get to be old little one, you just don’t die.”

    • Eustice, First off, I’ve really gotten a kick out of your handle, “Eustice the Sheep.” Wondering how that one came about. And yeah, gotta give it up to your step son’s Hebrew Sage grandpa, and that Talmudic wisdom. “Don’t die,” really covers a lot of ground. Sure, like all good advice it’s easier to agree with then to apply it, but this one is really critical. If you die, all the other good advice is pretty much worthless. Except maybe some of the directions in The Tibetan Book of The Dead. Thank you for visiting. Please come back. I’ll try to straighten up things before you get here. Peace.

  8. Suebob sent me here to tell you Happy Birthday. I’ve never pondered the whole why we’re here thing. I’m here because I am. But I think turning 50 just means you can eat ice cream for dinner with out guilt and buy a really loud motorcycle. Age is just like time. It’s relative. Enjoy every moment and Happy Birthday,

    • Thanks for coming to my party, Cindy. Sorry we don’t have any booze (or ice cream) but I wasn’t expecting anybody. Thanks for the reassuring reminder of the relativity of age. The best thing I read about turning 50 was from Sharon Stone, of all people. She said the best thing for her was being able to turn down an invitation to something without having to give an excuse or lying. Boy, I’m not there, yet. “Oh my God! I just LOVE amateur dinner theater! But, I have to get this pesky brain tumor removed.” Getting a motorcycle is easier. Thanks again.

    • Thank you for stopping by, please help yourself to any left over cake and cordials. We can make them to go. Put your Drambuie in a Tupperware sippy cup. Don’t be a stranger.

  9. Pretty part of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to say that I get in fact loved account your weblog posts. Anyway I¡¯ll be subscribing on your augment and even I fulfillment you get entry to consistently fast.

  10. Marius, what a thoughtful rumination on that which those of us lucky (or whatever) to have reached a certain age, many of us, anyway, face at certain points (or have put all up in our face, depending…) and lay awake at any time and think, “What’s it all about,”—oh, yeah, you touched on that already. You’ve touched on it better than I am able to,so I wish you a beautiful birthday and a year full of health, peace, love and joy. And, nobody (including you) has to read this, and I’m not a FW-er as a rule, but someone sent me this and while it has a sublime beauty to it, I, personally, am so very happy for you that you write what you do, and not like this:


    Bonne Anniversaire, mon amie d’Internet…

    • Thanks Mort, that was so delicious. I had no idea that there were vegans in Brooklyn, first of all, and that anyone could get excited by a Def Leper/ Lita Ford concert was also an eye-opener. I’m very grateful to you for sending this. And grateful too, that I don’t write like that either. But, good for him. Fuck what we think, at least he’s DOING something. My best to you and whoever is considered yours.

      • Thank you for your best, Marius, much appreciated. And you’re absolutely right—at least he’s DOING something, unlike, well, one of the two of us. And I, always threatening to start my blog but not there yet, over and over….I was going to write that the cherry on top of that link post was that the author is a vegan from Brooklyn (who knew?), but I’m taking away more than that…I am taking away motivation and inspiration. Now, I just have to hold on tight! Take it easy, looking forward to what you churn out this evening. Another good thing about getting older—I can kinda remember spending some time with Il Duce back in the day, saw The Mentors once or twice, and am going to see “A Prairie Home Companion” at the Hollywood Bowl tonight. Our generation RULES!!! I will clearly be the most ass-kicking person at the Hollywood Bowl tonight, out of an estimated 10, 649 persons, and it will be so obvious, people will look at me and be in awe! And I’ll be wearing my sweater vest and I’ll be their GOD, man!

  11. Marius, if you read any of the link I included in my previous comment, just read the irst two paragraphs…I think you’ll appreciate the writing style…

    • Woah thanks for that Mort I’m having a ‘Springtime for Hitler’ moment reading this. Mouth hanging open totally gobsmacked. How many beers and pees did he have? I’m sure if Def Lepperd needs an air guitarist or Lita Ford finds herself horribly disfigured they’ll be knocking on your door Dave.
      I love your Prairie Home companion response. I will probably end up at Napi Orti watching Abu and Friends Totally owning ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ and I’ll be rockin’ it in my flip flops.

      • Hi, Alexa! Isn’t that just…I can’t even think of the exact adjective (I don’t think there’s just one) for that post but it’s brilliant, no? And, guuurl—ROCK IT IN YOUR FLIP FLOPS! Nice “meeting” another Marius fan. Have a great one! Mort

  12. Marius, done, and done. Thanks for the tip. I shall now be leaving overlong, tedious comments for Alexa, as well! (And enjoying another great writer, of course!)

  13. Oh shit, I hope I did not come off in my previous post as implying that Alexa leaves tedious, overlong comments! In that case, I refer to myself only! Just in case that wasn’t clear…

      • I think we’re good, I know you’re napping ( I hope happily) and what I meant originally was that now Alexa, in addition to you, gets to be the “lucky” recipient of MY tedious, overlong comments. OK, naptime for me now, too…over and out!

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