Today is my birthday. Yea for me! I’m like a little kid. I love birthdays. Everybody is nice to you, and you get cake. What more could you ask for? I can’t believe I’m 43. My parents can’t either. I saw Zeke and Baby Ruth this morning, and they were shaking their heads that they have a child that old. Every year, on my birthday, Mama always tells the story about the day I was born. It seems she sat down and ate 2000 ears of corn and 16 gazillion tomatoes all by herself and to this day, she believes that’s why I love corn and tomatoes. During the summer, I eat about three meals a week of just corn and tomatoes.
I was one of 4,027,000 babies born in 1964. So were Chris Farley, Courtney Love and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. It was a good year, don’t you think. On the day I was born, six days of race riots began in Harlem. I’m not sure my mother noticed. She was too busy eating corn and tomatoes. Dad was too busy trying to scrape up money for the hospital bill. It was also the day Pete Rose hit the only grand slam home run of his career. Within 24 hours the South Vietnamese Prime Minister would call for expanding the Vietnam War into North Vietnam and in less than three weeks the U.S. would begin bombing Vietnam. I had no way of knowing then that the baby faced Uncle D. who held me in my first days of life would be forever changed by that war. Even though he had a much tougher edge after the war, he still had a soft spot in his heart for me. He would buy me a banana split at the DQ, even though I couldn’t eat it all.
The average yearly income in 1964 was $5,880, but my parents were scrimping by on much less. President Johnson had declared a “War on Poverty” that year, and Baby Ruth and Zeke were fighting it with everything they had. A gallon of gas may have cost only 25 cents then, but it probably seemed like a million-dollars to a young man fresh out of the Army and his bride of one year. He alleviated his stress by puffing away on Camel cigarettes. 60% of folks still smoked then, and it would be another decade before Dad kicked the habit.
Television was a growing influence. A lot of the shows that debuted that year, “Bewitched”, “Addams Family”, “Gomer Pyle” and “Gilligan’s Island” were the shows that became my favorites when I got a little older. I wish I had a nickel for every time I watched a “Gilligan’s Island” rerun after school. I would be rubbing elbows with Warren Buffett. “Another World” debuted weeks before I was born, and mama was hooked from the beginning. During my preschool years she and I would have snack time during “Another World”. We usually ate oranges. I think it was her way of keeping my mouth full and quiet while she watched her soap. I came out of the womb yakking.
On the surface a lot has changed in the last 43 years. TV is definitely edgier, and the cost of living is a whole lot higher. But some things aren’t so different. Mama says it was a long, hot summer the year she gave birth to me. It’s hot and sticky now, we’re still fighting the war on poverty, and our troops are in a foreign land battling a war we can’t seem to get out of. What's that old saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same. I think this world needs more cake.
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