50

Being sick probably isn’t the best way to spend your birthday, stuck on the couch, watching movies and writing and reading and resting. But then I remembered: that’s exactly how I’ve spent every birthday for the past 10-15 years. The only thing missing this year was the celebratory cocktails I usually have. But I’m not going to mix those with Advil.

Yes, I turned 50 the other day, and I keep thinking that there’s been some mistake along the line. A mistake in math, on my birth certificate, some time-travel glitch. 50? How is that possible? This is a big one. I didn’t feel old when I turned 30. I didn’t feel old when I hit 40 either. But 50…yeah, this puts me into a whole new chapter of my life (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious).

Other things that turn 50 this year: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Brooke Shields, I Dream of Jeannie, “Ticket To Ride” by The Beatles, SpaghettiOs and The Pillsbury Doughboy.

My sense that I’m getting older is enhanced by the fact that I suddenly have all of these little health things troubling me. My doctor has added a second pill for high blood pressure to my daily regimen. I can’t see the clock from across the room anymore unless I have my contacts in. And lately I’ve been having some sort of constant pain in my left hand that is probably carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. It’s like the warranty for my body has ended and I’m starting to have all these problems. Oh, and since I’m 50 I have a colonoscopy to look forward to. Well, it is my birthday so I guess I deserve to do something just for me.

So what should I do for my birthday post? How about answer the Proust Questionnaire? That seems like a 50th birthday-ish thing to do. (This is a mix of the Vanity Fair and Inside The Actor’s Studio versions.)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Fall, when I know that cold weather and the holidays are on the way.

What is your greatest fear?

I can’t swim so probably drowning. Also: I hate bees. The worst would be drowning in a sea of bees.

What living person do you most admire?

Anyone who has a career doing what they want, has a good family and remains a good person.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Jealousy. Over-thinking. Procrastination.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

People who don’t say thank you. Over-reliance on snark. People who seem proud that they’re ignorant. People who don’t know how to shut up. People who jump up and down and go crazy on game shows, before they’ve even won anything, which is like buying a lottery ticket and jumping up and down before you even scratch it.

What person do you most despise?

Whoever invented auto-play videos on web sites.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Books. Also, I always buy brand name products at the supermarket.

What is your favorite journey?

From the start of the page until the end.

On what occasion do you lie?

When telling the truth would hurt someone needlessly.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

Weight.

When and where were you happiest?

1985. 1990-91. Early 80s. Mid 70s. Next year. Ten years from now.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I made a lot more money (and knew how to save it).

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

I wish they weren’t so attached to their smart phones.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Staying a writer for three decades.

If you died and came back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A dog. Eat, sleep, play with a ball, and someone is petting you all day.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Long-term unemployment and having no money.

What is it that you most dislike?

Heat and humidity, reality television.

What sound or noise do you most love?

Rain, the clacking of manual typewriter keys, laughter.

What sound or noise do you most hate?

Smart phone ringtones, car horns and alarms, a dripping faucet.

What is your most treasured possession?

Pen and paper.

What is your greatest regret?

That I’m not married (yet…)

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

See previous answer.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d love to know how to play the piano (I had three lessons and then stopped). I’d also love to be a cartoonist.

What is your current state of mind?

Stunned (that I’m 50).

Where would you like to live?

Anywhere but here.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Sense of humor.

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty and understanding.

Favorite words?

“Wonder.” “Fantastic.” “Noir.” “Thank you.” “Elixir.” “Neon.” “Danger.” “Nostalgia.” “Smoke.” “Zero.” “Pickles.”

Least favorite words?

All those overused Internet phrases and abbreviations.

Favorite curse word?

“Fuck.” It’s perfect for so many situations.

What words or phrases do you overuse?

“Cool.” “No.” “Sucks.” “Interesting.”

Who are your favorite writers?

Raymond Chandler, Andy Rooney, Charles Schulz, Peg Bracken, E.B. White, Ray Bradbury, Ross Macdonald, James Sallis, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fred Allen, Nora Ephron, Aaron Sorkin, John Updike, Stephen King, Erma Bombeck, too many TV/film/advertising/song writers to name.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Rob Petrie and Bugs Bunny.

How would you like to die?

92 years old, at home with my family, at the computer, just finishing my last book.

What is your motto?

Keep writing.

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