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Yesterday was my 49th birthday. Now, I’ve never been very good at math, but according to my calculations, 49 is only one year away from 50. BUT THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY BE RIGHT.

I celebrated the day the way I’ve celebrated every birthday for the past 15 years or so: at home, watching TV alone, reading, and drinking alcohol (this year: Sam Adams Summer Ale). Oh, and cake! Red Velvet, which is quickly becoming a tradition. Any day that includes beer and cake at some point is usually a good day.

I also donned my headphones and listened to a ton of music I haven’t listened to in a while. I’ve become obsessed with The Grass Roots. I’ve always “liked” them – a band I thought was good but not one I would think about too much or decide to go out and buy all of their albums – but I’m now of the opinion they were one of the great bands in pop/rock history. The vocals, the melodies, the way the horns have a way of both lifting you up and driving you forward. Put your own headphones on and listen to this:

If I were to list my 10 favorite songs of all-time, that would be one of them. I could listen to The Grass Roots all day long. And yesterday I’m pretty sure I did.

I also did some serious things. I made some hard decisions about my career and my life in general, the things I have to do and the things I shouldn’t do anymore and the things I shouldn’t have done in the first place. I guess when you are rapidly approaching the half-century mark in age these things come into sharper focus, with a power they never had before. This is a good thing. And it was a good birthday.

I wrote a piece for Esquire, if you missed it last week, and I’m working on a podcast which will launch late summer. I have a fantastic first guest lined up.

Have a great week!

FX: Then and Now

It’s the 20th anniversary of the FX Network, and for Esquire I write about the differences in the shows they had when they launched (Breakfast Time! Collectible FX! The Green Hornet!) with the original dramas and comedies they’re known for now (and apologies: the two Breakfast Time videos are in the wrong place, but you should be able to figure out what’s what).

Second thoughts

After giving it a lot of thought (second, third, even fourth thoughts) I’ve decided to end The Letter. It’s not the easiest decision because I really enjoy doing it, but it’s not doing quite as well as I had hoped and I’d rather put my energies into other things. Of course if you have a current subscription you will still get the entire year of issues (I’ll send a few larger, seasonal issues until the end of the year). But after that I’ll stop it.

There are still plenty of places to keep in touch though! Besides bookmarking/favoriting this site or following via RSS, you can sign up for an e-mail every time I update the site (the form on the lower right), and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter and read my web mag Professor Barnhardt’s Journal (now in its 12th year!). Lots of other good things coming up (including a podcast), so stay tuned. (And thanks for subscribing!)

You can freeze them you know

The following took place – where a lot of things that happen in my life seem to take place – at the supermarket.

I was buying some Thomas’ English muffins (I’m a nook and cranny guy). The cashier rings them up and she obviously puts in the wrong price because the total is wrong. She sighs a couple of times, trying to figure out how to correct the mistake, and then finally asks me, “These are on sale, buy one get one free. Do you want to run and get another one?” I’m sure this pleased the woman who was behind me in line. I say no thanks, one is fine. She doesn’t say anything and after a struggle corrects the amount on the register. I run my card through. Then she says this:

CASHIER: You can freeze them you know.

ME: I’m sorry?

CASHIER: You can freeze them and they’ll still be good.

ME: Not if you don’t have room in your freezer.

CASHIER: [silence] [blinks eyes three times]

It never occurred to her that an individual might turn down a store’s offer to buy double the amount of food they need because that individual, a. will never eat that many English muffins before they go bad, or b. doesn’t have enough room in their freezer to store bags of English muffins they didn’t want to buy in the first place. Look, I’m obviously an adult because I’m bald and need to lose weight and I’m using a credit card, so I’m quite capable of deciding whether I want to buy a second package of English muffins, thank you.

I almost wanted to say to her, “how am I going to fit a package of English muffins in my freezer when I already have so many animal parts in there?!” but decided against it.

Now, some people (maybe even you) might think that I’m being too hard on her, that she was just trying to help me get more English muffins for free or maybe just making conversation. I don’t think either was true. She was irritated by the fact that I didn’t want to grab another package, causing her to have to take some time to correct the mistake she made on the register. If I ran back 8 aisles to grab another package she wouldn’t have had to figure out how to correct the mistake. Then she tried to make a point by saying “you can freeze them you know” and couldn’t understand why I didn’t bite.

I’m not a buy-in-bulk guy (probably because I’m single). I’m not going to go to Costco and buy a 5 lb. jar of pickles or a 1000 count box of Q-tips. I’m not going to start buying extra bread so I can freeze it or jar preserves or buy 3 bottles of ketchup because “it’s on sale” or “it’s cheaper that way.” If that means that I have to pay full price for another package of English muffins the next time I’m at the store then so be it. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.