Monday, February 18, 2008

Turning 30

Back when I was a kid, I remember watching this great episode of Full House where Danny Tanner has a 30th birthday rapidly approaching. For this momentous occacion, Jesse and Joey decide to get him new seat covers for his beloved car, Bullet. Of course, things go terribly wrong when Uncle Jesse accidentally drives Bullet into the bay, the result of which eventually leads to the famous bidding war at the car dealership between Jesse and Joey and a mystery bidder on the other line (the mystery bidder ends up being Danny, of course). This is obviously a classic episode, but what has stayed with me most over the years from that particular episode was Danny's inability to say the word "Thirty".

At the time I remember thinking that this was just a quirky little gimmick that the writers had included for comedy's sake, this grown man being unable to admit that he had reached an inarguable stage of middle-agedness, the affects of which being so profound that he was actually incapable of saying the words. I also found it absurd that anyone would ever have a problem reaching a particular age, that age being little more than a number that nobody really cares about... And besides, I was nine years old at the time; I loved birthdays. I loved everything about them: the cake, the candles, the presents, the people... I even loved the idea of getting older. It was cool. Getting older meant that you could do more things and go more places and rent movies with gratuitous nudity. The whole thing about Danny Tanner freaking out over his birthday just seemed so far-fetched that it was almost impossible to believe. I mean, what the hell did he have to worry about anyway? The guy was, like, a grown up? He didn't need to worry about fooling anyone into believing that he was young and hip. The guy was old. Get over it.

Well, fast forward 21 years (wait... that was 21 years ago? But... That can't possibly be!), and I am Danny Tanner. I am 30 years old. And the prospect of life as a middle-aged man (again... that sentence can't possibly be accurate) is nothing short of terrifying.

I can't possibly be 30. I like to funnel beers up in Sauble on the May 2-4 weekend. I like playing Beirut and doing the Century Club until someone vomits violently. I still haven't even played Edward 40-hands yet! Can't anyone see that there are things I need to accomplish in life before moving on!

Here's the thing: if you had asked me when I was fifteen years old what my life would be like when I was thirty, I'd pretty much describe the way my life is right now, only the exact opposite. When I was fifteen, the life of a 30-year old involved a wife, some kids, a place in the suburbs, and maybe a dog or something. What it most certainly did not involve was the kind of raucous party on the eve of my 30th birthday that will probably result in my eviciton from the place that my girlfriend and I currently rent in the city. That would have been something that I would have never seen coming. But you know what? I couldn't be happier about it.

We had billed Sunday night as a "Dirty Thirty" party, but I was thinking of it more along the lines of an impromptu wake for my fading youth. We spent all day Saturday shopping for provisions (the difference between a guy throwing a party and a "couple" throwing a party: the guy buys beer and a couple bags of Doritos; the "couple" buys a variety of rare cheeses from Global Cheese in Kennsington Market, $200 worth of groceries in order to make a gigantic cauldron of clam chowder from scratch {it was phenomenal, for the record}, 8 quiches, various salads, veggies, spinach dip and bread bowls, 70 samosas from some famous samosa place in the most easterly reaches of Scarborough, desserts, soft drinks, a variety of wines... and beer and a couple bags of Doritos), and most of Sunday morning cleaning.

This was kind of a two-tiered party, with my family showing up Sunday afternoon for lunch, and then making way for the riff-raff later that night. It was great to have my family over because most of them hadn't been to our place, and there really is nothing we like better than entertaining. The tunes were going strong all afternoon (Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Son House...), and it didn't take long for the Steamwhistles to start flowing. My uncles presented me with a beautiful bottle of Scotch (The McCallan 15-year old Fine Oak), which we proceeded to put a major dent in. Needless to say, by the time my aunts and uncles left, we were feeling pretty good, the charge being led by my dad who decided that what the carpet needed was about a half-litre's worth of red wine to help bring the room together. He also managed to convince some of the others to stay the night with a well-timed offside proposition.

When people began arriving at about 8pm, that's when things started to get a little blurry. This is what I remember:

- Everyone arriving at once. At least that's what it felt like. Sammy was the first guest to walk through the door (surgically repaired knee and all), and about fifteen minutes later, there were 30 people in our living room.

- Browner and DVZ giving me ridiculously good gifts despite my pleas that I wouldn't be accepting anything... But it's tough to argue with 5 pieces of virgin vinyl (Feist, Broken Social Scene, Jason Collett, Stars, and Amy Millan) courtesy of Browner and the good people at Arts and Crafts, and a copy of Taboo II from DVZ (as has been explained previously, Taboo II is the single greatest pornographic movie ever made).

- An obscene amount of food for people to chow on.

- The Wayner making an appearance, as well as the countless other people I didn't necessarily expect to see. I have to say, as a guy who isn't "live" on facebook, there really is something to be said for its ability to bring people together. I'm pretty sure that at one point there were 50 people at our place.

- Blowing out 30 birthday candles and almost passing out in the process.

- Receiving more contributions to DJ Eric Foreman's collection (including a James Brown record courtesy of Sweet Nate and Jen, and a pile of classics from my mom and dad {The Everly Brothers, Ben E. King, Jan and Dean...}, as well as more bottles for the honour bar {12 year Dewars from Skeets, 18 year Highland from Foley}... Donnelly also made me the coolest shirt ever... Really, for blatantly explaining that there were to be no gifts accepted, I think I did alright. Completely unnecessary on everyone's part.

- Everybody from the 'burbs who made the trek into the city. You guys are the best.

- Having the guy-t0-girl ratio at about 5-to-1, and Donnelly refering to the entire affair as a "dick picnic".

- My dad deciding to take a nap in my office (on the floor, on top of an air mattress that had yet to be inflated) - the same office where every jacket was located - and in the process becoming a human tripwire for the next 45 minutes.

- My dad waking up for a few minutes to socialize, then deciding to take another nap, this time on the couch, and this time for a good hour and a half. In his defense, he had been going strong since 2:30 in the afternoon. And as one of the guests put it: "You think it's tough turning 30; just imagine what your dad feels like having a son turn 30!" I guess a little over-indulgence was to be expected.

- Having my neighbour across the street complain about the noise on multiple occasions.

- Having DVZ take over on the turntable, and in the process play some records that I didn't even realize I owned (Styx, Quiet Riot, Nazareth, Frankie Goes to Hollywood...)

- Being welcomed into the dirty thirty club by my 30-year old friends. It really did feel a little bit like a support group. At one point, some of them gathered around me and had me recite the words: "My name is Sean McCallum, and I am a thirty year old", making me feel like an alcoholic in more ways than one. Big thanks to all of the old guys who showed up to talk me through it, and to let me know that life doesn't necessarily end after your twenties. They say that misery loves company, but I think turning 30 needs it more.

- Having 70 samosas disappear in less than 3 minutes.

- Almost every person assuring me that "30 is the new 20!". Not sure if I'm buying it, but I appreciate the sentiment.

- Doing multiple shots of spiced rum and bad whiskey... ugh...

- The City All-Stars being in full effect.

- Not getting the chance to talk to some of the people I wanted to catch up with. I felt like a real dick when some people left and I hadn't gotten the chance to talk to them. Just a little too much going on that night. My apologies.

- Running out of beer and having to drink white wine.

- Trying to pick a wedding song for Rosco and Dev, and failing miserably.

- Joel McConvey making an appearance all the way from Korea... what a legend.

- B*Rad trying to get his jacket from out of the office at 2 o'clock in the morning and kicking over the glass of water my parents had set up beside their air mattress. My parents were laying in bed at the time, and B*Rad, in his attempt to fetch his jacket, proceeded to fall on them not once, but twice. An outsider would have assumed that it was one of those slanted rooms in a fun house the way B*Rad kept falling. One of the funniest things I've ever seen.

- Putting on Taboo II at 2:30 in the morning, and in the process weirding out all of the remaining girls, including those adults who were trying to sleep upstairs but could hear every last disturbing sound...

All in all, it was one of the best nights I've had in a long time. Of course, I'm probably a little biased, seeing as I knew every single person in attendance, but nonetheless. Thanks to everyone for showing up and for making it such a great time. A special thanks to my parents for making the trip, and to Ronnie for making it all happen.

One more note about reaching this alleged milestone in life. In the weeks leading up to my 30th birthday, I had a number of people ask me about how I felt about turning 30. My first response was to say that I was probably going to kill myself before my birthday so I wouldn't have to worry about it. But then, all kidding aside, I always found myself going back to that fifteen-year old's vision of what it meant to be thirty, and my response, almost without exception, was to say that I had no problem with turning 30 except that I just expected to have so much more accomplished by this point in my life. You know, things like: I'd love to have more writing published, I wouldn't mind owning a house, I should have probably thought more seriously about making my mom a grandmother by now... And really, I think that's the hardest thing about getting older: it makes you take stock of what you have (as well as where you've been, and where you're heading), which isn't necessarily the easiest or most enjoyable thing to have to do.

But you know what? After this past weekend, having been surrounded by so many great people with so much love and with so many good times, it's impossible not to appreciate exactly what it is you have in life, even if it isn't the kind of life you thought you were supposed to have back when you didn't know any better. Because 30 is the new 20, right? (right?!?!) And with that in mind, it's impossible not to look forward to this next decade, as we all should, with the knowledge that we can all continue to grow up, together, without necessarily having to grow old.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I prefer to grow old versus grow up, but between my propensity to hurt myself, my bad back, and my general distaste for social interaction, I'd say I've been old for a long, long time.

Either way, well said. There aren't many men I'd willingly drink a glass of scotch for, but again, that may have a lot to do with a really bad experience after a couple of really bad decisions. Ah, the folly of youth. I guess, unfortunately for you, you don't have that as a crutch anymore.

Happy bday buddy. To many, many more.


Anonymous said...


It sounds awesome. I wish I was there. I love it. 30 RULES!!!!!!!!

Lisa xoxo

Anonymous said...

I finally got around to returning the empties: 207 beer bottles and cans, as well as 17 bottles of hard liquor... Not bad for a night's work.


Anonymous said...

Sorry I drank all your Scotch again. It is tradition.

Anonymous said...

I'm turning 30 tomorrow, and I have been thinking about that same episode occasionally over the last month or so, even though I haven't seen it since I was a kid either. I found your blog when I was searching for a video of the episode.