I had an actual birthday party last night, or as close to a party as anyone my age really needs. I went out in the morning to get an overdue haircut, then down to the south Sound for dinner with friends and our movie night. Twenty-odd people showed up for Local Hero, with a potluck dessert to prep our minds and stomachs, and I had a cake and candles and a song. It’s hard for me to imagine a better way to spend my birthday, and I’ve done some imagining in my time.

And once we’d figured out some technical issues, and the lights were down and the film going, I snuck into the back and got me a slice of that cake, are you kidding? Chocolate and a little more chocolate, and I was the birthday boy. That’s a guilt-free dessert right there.

Not that I was in danger of feeling guilty. July has been a good month in terms of sugar indulgence, and it’s not like I have to worry about calories.

And maybe we could unpack that last phrase. Maybe in a bit.

The air conditioning in our car has stopped working, critical in other parts of the country and just sort of annoying up here. Open windows and wind do a pretty good job when it’s in the 70s or low 80s, and a little sense when it comes to cracking windows and such generally does the trick. The amount of time we’d normally use air conditioning during the year is measured in minutes, I’m sure; this is not a priority.

But when we got to the restaurant, around 4:30 on a very sunny and warm-ish day, it was prudent to park under some shade, toward the back of the parking lot. And as we got out, for a second I had the feeling that I’d put on my shirt backwards. It wasn’t much of a feeling, just a stray glance at a seam that for a moment looked unseamly.

And during that moment, I glanced backward at the shady area where we’d parked, and I thought about slipping back there, yanking my shirt off, turning it right-side out, and solving the problem. Five seconds of minor self-consciousness and problem solved.

Of course, the shirt was fine, and we moved on. The situation felt strange, though, echoes of past years starting to bounce around. For much of my adult life, I probably couldn’t imagine a more embarrassing situation than having to reluctantly shed my shirt. Like a lot of us, I wear my sins on the outside, and just on general principles I think America has seen enough of old guys with their shirts off.

But push to shove? Minor, as I said. My naked torso is nobody’s idea of a pretty picture, but you know? It’s not as bad as it was, by a long shot, and so there we are.

You should write another book, a friend said to me last night. I hear stuff like this, I smile, I nod, I ignore.

But this is a thoughtful man, smart and not prone to speculating about stuff he hasn’t considered. I listened. Having just retired, my friend appears to be concentrating more on health and fitness these days, and he’s spoken to me a couple of times about this, and my situation. I spent a lot of years 100 pounds heavier than I am. More than a few years 100 pounds lighter now, too. He thought that maybe I had something to share about that, about changing later in life and staying changed.

Maybe. I certainly have lots to say, if someone was interested, although I’m not sure anyone really is, or should be. People are complicated, with our own quirks, weak spots, strong points. I lucked into something that worked, trusting that after years of frustration and finally surrender to obesity, I had a few moments of clarity and stumbled across a simplicity that appealed to me: Just pay attention.

So, maybe. If I thought I could help. Maybe I’ll just blog.

And as I careen toward 60, if I come up with any ideas I’ll pass them along, absolutely. Just keep your shirts on.

Chuck SigarsComment