Today is my 50th birthday. Dear God, I am a half century old, how the hell did that happen? Needless to say, the only present I want this year is our son coming home with us and I feel so incredibly grateful that this is finally happening. As of this morning, the plan is for Charlie to be discharged from the NICU in a week to ten days. We’ll have a lot of doctors’ meetings next week to discuss follow-up medications and procedures and we’ll have to learn how to administer the oxygen that he’ll be coming home with for a while. He had his circumcision today which went very well and was performed by the fantastic surgeon who did three of his four surgeries. I said some prayers and sang a bunch of Hebrew songs. Our rabbi is coming by tomorrow morning to do some blessings. I once swore that I’d never bring up circumcision again on this blog because of the attacks I’ve received from Google-crazy anti-circ extremists (note to all members of that group: please do NOT comment on this post!) but I wanted to mark this moment. We didn’t expect it to happen today but the surgeon suddenly had an opening. The crazy thing is that Kendall and I already had a reservation for a birthday dinner tonight at a restaurant we’ve been dying to go to at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Guess what it’s called? Cut! Oy. Braised foreskin, anyone?
While I’m having a hard time comprehending that I’m 50 years old, I must say that the events of the past four months have made me drop of a lot of my self-consciousness about having a baby in my geezer years. The NICU is the great levelizer—differences in age, religion, race, or economic status don’t seem to matter much when you have a child in jeopardy. Did I already mention one of my favorite NICU moments? It was back when we were in a different bay several weeks ago. Across from us were new triplets, born to an Orthodox Jewish couple from Israel. Next to us was the premature son of two very devout Catholics. One late night found the 50-ish Orthodox father going from incubator to incubator with his siddur chanting prayers in Hebrew. At the same time, the very young father next to us was reciting Hail Marys over and over again. Me? I was holding Charlie and singing…you guessed it…showtunes! It was a great bonding moment for the three of us dads because we realized that we were all doing the exact same thing even though it took a different form for each of us.
For the past five years on my birthday, I’ve been observing the odd tradition of looking at my life through the lens of the Best Picture Oscar winner from the “year “of my age. So, when I turned 46, I contemplated the 1946 winner, “The Best Years of Our Lives.” In 2006, I prepared for 47 by examining the 1947 film about anti-Semitism, “Gentleman’s Agreement.” When I hit 48, I analyzed my connection to a range of dark performances from 1948, from Laurence Olivier’s tortured prince in “Hamlet” to Olivia de Havilland’s descent into mental illness in “The Snake Pit.” Last year, as my 49th birthday coincided with the furor of the presidential election, I looked for personal connections with 1949’s “All the King’s Men,” a story of political corruption and betrayal.
1950 was a banner year for movies. The nominees for Best Picture include three of my all-time favorites: “All About Eve,” “Born Yesterday,” and “Sunset Boulevard.” I also loved “Father of the Bride” starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor but I’m not sure how “King Solomon’s Mines” made the list. Not that it’s horrible and but as far as films shot in Africa go, I much prefer “The African Queen” which came out the following year. I might have given that last spot to “The Third Man” or possibly “The Asphalt Jungle.”
All About Eve” won the Oscar that year. It’s hard to argue with that choice—even though “Sunset Boulevard” probably would have won any other year. I wrote about “All About Eve” following Kendall’s birthday last year. After finding out that Bette Davis was her age when she made the film, Kendall morphed into Margo Channing for several weeks.
Who am I most like from that film? I'm embarrassed to admit that I can relate to Margo’s paranoia and fears of intimacy but I also understand Bill Simpson’s desire to make everything simpler than Margo allows. Am I more like playwright Lloyd Richards who is so obsessed with his own words that he can’t even see the emotional tailspins happening all around him? Maybe I resemble Celeste Holm’s Karen Richards, too trusting, a bit passive aggressive, never feeling totally part of the group, and bending her natural inclinations to survive the whims of those around her. I’m sure I have a few dabs of George Sanders’ vicious Addison DeWitt coursing through my veins, using my poison pen to eviscerate others (hello Henry Jaglom, Jennifer Aniston, and Ashton Kutcher to name a few just from my previous post!). I don’t feel like I have that much in common with Anne Baxter’s conniving Eve Harrington but part of me wishes I did. I could use a healthy dose of Eve’s unbridled ambition and her uncanny ability to get where she wants to go, at least in terms of career goals. Maybe my only true soul mate in that film is Thelma Ritter’s Birdy with her world-weary outlook and her use of sarcasm and humor to mask the pain and frustration of her own life. Physically, I’m starting to bear a striking resemblance to producer Max Fabian, played by Russian Jewish actor Gregory Ratoff. I remember thinking how ancient Max was when I watched the film, but when he made “All About Eve,” Ratoff was only two years older than I am now. Yikes! I’m now five years older than Birdy, six years older than Addison DeWitt, eight years older than Margo Channing, 11 years older than Lloyd Richards, 15 years older than Bill Simpson, 17 years older than Karen Richards, and 23 years older than Eve Harrington. Fasten your seat belt, kid, it’s going to be a bumpy decade!
Speaking of my decrepitude, Gloria Swanson, who so brilliantly portrayed the sad, aging, completely delusional former silent film star Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” was exactly my age when she shot the film. Help, I AM Norma Desmond! This realization will bring new meaning to the words I always shout from my car window as I pass the spot in front of Paramount every morning where Swanson delivered her famous line: “Tell them without me there wouldn’t BE any Paramount Studios!”
“Born Yesterday” was one of the most sparkling films of 1950 or any other year. What would you expect from a film directed by George Cukor, written by Garson Kanin, and starring one of the most endearing casts ever to meet on a soundstage? Judy Holliday (age 28!) achieved the impossible and snatched 1950’s Best Actress Oscar out of the hands of Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson for her role as Billie Dawn. It was a surprising upset but who could deny the radiant Holliday any accolade? I'd like to think that I have some of Billie Dawn's innocence and goodness but I know I'm much closer to 31-year-old William Holden's character with all his hopes and disappointments. And remember Holliday’s over-the-hill sugar daddy—corrupt businessman Harry Brock played by Broderick Crawford? Crawford was only 48 when he made this film. Egads, I am older than Harry Brock! Make it stop! Let's not even get into the fact that silver-haired Spencer Tracy was also exactly my current age when he made "Father of the Bride." Where was HIS new baby?
But again, who cares about age? In many ways, I feel more alive now than I ever did and certainly young at heart. I’m so very grateful for the love of my family and friends and I’m awestruck by the support I’ve received from the blogging community. Thank you all for making the hellish parts of this past year seem more bearable and for for continuing to help me celebrate all the joyful parts. I’ll never forget it.