TURNED 39 today, feel OK, not gonna make a big deal out of it the way Stallone did on his 39th when he drank a fifth of Absolut and jumped in his Ferrari Testarossa and hurtled through the streets of Beverly Hills at 160 mph singing "Help Me Rhonda" at the top of his lungs until the cops finally pulled him over, teary-eyed and incoherent.
Or maybe that wasn't Stallone. Maybe I'm thinking of Tony Danza when he landed the starring role in "Who's the Boss?"
Besides, what difference does it make? I'm simply trying to make point here, the point being that 39 really isn't that old and certainly no cause for depression, no reason to sit in bed all day in your bathrobe, chain-smoking Marlboro 100s and staring up at the ceiling and reflecting on how little you've accomplished in life, the pitiful salary you earn, the low esteem in which you're held by co-workers -- not to mention that annoying habit your wife and children have of rolling their eyes and leaving the room the moment you enter.
No, I would save all that for when you're really old. Which is, of course, 40.
Forty (I'm sorry, there's no way to sugar-coat this) is OLD. From what I understand, as soon as you turn 40, they toss a shawl around your shoulders and lead you to a rocking chair near the fire.
Every other gift is a box of doilies or plain brown socks. Your days are spent collecting bath soaps or whittling a bird feeder; nights are a numbing succession of "Murder She Wrote" re-runs when you find yourself mumbling over and over: "That Angela Lansbury is quite a gal . . ."
But 39, hell, you're just a kid. Maybe not a kid in the sense that you can simply ignore your own mortality and guzzle 100-proof vodka and drive a $250,000 sports car like a freaking madman, the way Stallone might or might not have done. (More I think of it, it doesn't sound like something Danza would do.) But a kid, comparatively speaking.
I'll tell you something else about turning 39, it beats turning 38. Thirty-eight isn't all it's cracked up to be. People talk about 38 as if it were some sort of Shangri-la on the age chart. To tell you the truth, I didn't find 38 to be much different from 37. And 37 was about as interesting as sifting through swatches for a new sofa.
The downside to turning 39 (it's been four hours now) is that people feel compelled to say: "Uh-oh, one more year and you hit the Big Four-Oh."
To which your normal 39-year-old, after glancing about for a weapon, responds: "Listen, pal, I can count, OK? I don't need a weasel like you to remind me that I'm nearly as old as Ricardo Montalban, who, after 50 years or whatever in this country could lighten up with that accent."
(On second thought, 40 really isn't that old. I take all that stuff back about the shawl and the rocking chair near the fire.
(Don't know what I was thinking . . . stressed out, I guess . . . better grab another smoke off the night stand here . . . should get out of this bathrobe, it's nearly 2 in the afternoon . . .
But 41 . . . my God, now you're talking old. The life-cycle curve is no longer sloping gently downward, Jack. It's dropping due south like a car plunging over a cliff, if you catch my drift.
But enough of this dreary introspection. Went to the almanac today to see who else is 39, what famous people I'm joining in this League of the Doomed.
Kurt Russell is 39. Mark Harmon is 39. (It's funny, someone once told me that I looked like Mark Harmon "in a certain light." Although to be fair, it was pitch black in the room at the time.)
Hell, Charo is 39, although the wind still whistles through her ears, if you know what I mean. And she still won't give that "Coochie, Coochie!" stuff a rest. (Earth to Charo: It's 1990. Time to update, babe.)
Here's a good one: Sting is 39. Talk about energy; the man runs all over the world saving the rain forests and chatting up lost tribes in the Amazon Basin and cutting record albums with these people ("I'd like to introduce Inka on slide guitar, Muk-Muk on drums . . .") No, the Stinger hasn't slowed down one bit.
Yet just when you think, hey, 39 isn't so bad, reality slaps you in the face. Three people stop by your desk in the span of 10 minutes to sing out: "Uh-oh, one more year and you hit the Big Four-Oh."
Snarling, you lunge at all three with a letter-opener, missing miserably no doubt due to slowing reflexes. And you begin to understand what made Stallone snap, hit the bottle and terrorize a defenseless municipality the day he turned 39.
If, in fact, that was him.