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Ed Sullivan died on October 13, 1974, at the age of 73.
October 13, 2018.
I turned 43 years old this week. Like all ages, 43 seems so much younger now that I’ve reached it that it ever did before. It’s funny how every age becomes more acceptable to you as you approach it. Right now 50 seems impossibly elderly to me, but it’s right round the corner. (It feels like I was just 36.) When I reach 50, it’ll be entirely normalized to me, and 60 will be decrepit. Then I’ll hit 60. (26 doesn’t seem that long ago either, and I’m as far from 60 as I am from 26.) I am certain it is always like this: The person who understands your age the least is you. I’m reminded of Roger Angell’s 2014 essay about being 93 years old: Decline and disaster impend, but my thoughts don’t linger there. It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now. It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again. “How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!” they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, “Holy shit—he’s still vertical!”
Forty-three is an odd age because it is both old and still quite feasibly doubled. I could make it to 86! That’s not so crazy. When you take the sum total of my life experiences — a life that still feels like it’s just getting started, still trying to make a little sense, but in actually contains, as it turns out, quite a high number of happenings already — and then tell me that I will get to live that exact amount of time again ... well, that doesn’t seem so bad. I feel a creak in my bones when I stand, and there’s a crease in the middle of my forehead that cuts in a little deeper every year, and no matter how much I run and try to stay in shape there’s just a ceiling to how well this body’s gonna look and work. All those things are just going to get worse. But I could still, quite reasonably, have 43 more of these years left. People live to 86 all the time. Ellen Burstyn is 86. Dabney Coleman is 86. Loretta Lynn is 86. Gay Talese is 86. Now, it’s possible that there will be no place on this planet to live in 2061, and that making it to 86 is a fool’s errand for any of us. But it’s at least on the table.
I don’t make a big deal out of birthdays anymore. We had a big party for my 40th birthday, with a bunch of friends coming in from out of town, and it was a good time: I’ll always remember it fondly. But 40 is 40. There is no need for any more parties until my 50th, and probably not even then. Now it’s just another day out of the year to stay off Facebook, a day when friends text if they remember but you don’t really mind if they don’t. The boys forgot to say happy birthday this year, and it was fine. They think 43 is ancient too, and they’re probably right.
I am the age that my father was when I started my senior year of high school. Here is what my father looked like at my high school graduation.
This is my father now, 25 years later.
I am OK with looking like that 25 years from now. And there is of course a little person in that picture who wasn’t there 25 years ago, wasn’t there 10 years ago. He’ll be in his early thirties in 25 years. His brother will be about to turn 30. I am sure they will look at pictures of me taken now and compare themselves to them. Will they think “I’m OK with looking like that in 10 years.” I wonder.
When does the point come when we start to feel our age? Never, right? It can’t. We will always feel that we are different, that other 43-year-olds, they might look or feel 43, but me, not me: I’m young. In the new movie Private Life — which is excellent, and on Netflix — Paul Giamatti’s character says he’s 47. 47! Paul Giamatti! 47! That’s four years from now!
It was a small relief to discover that Paul Giamatti, in real life, is 51. But that’s not very far off either.
If anything, turning 43 has given me a little bit of urgency. I might not feel old, but I am old: There is not nearly as much time left as I think there is. If there is an opportunity to be taken, I should take it. If there is a chance at something I need, I should take that chance. If something is missing, I should try to find it. There is a clock ticking. You don’t get to do this twice. I might not be any wiser than I’ve been in the past, or any more certain of who I am or how the world works. But I’m old enough to know that you have to find the things that make you happy and go after them. Because someday you won’t have the energy to try. Someday someone will look at you and say, “holy shit ... he’s still vertical!” It’ll be here before we know it. We gotta make it count by then.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Review: “First Man,” Paste Magazine. I was surprised at how great I found this film. I did my best to explain why.
2. It Would Be Wild If This Were the Dodgers Team That Won the World Series, MLB.com. The 2006 Cardinals comparison you didn’t know you wanted.
3. Review: “22 July,” Paste Magazine. “United 93 with a dramatization of The 9/11 Commission Report tacked onto the end” is the best way I can describe it.
4. What Happens When the World’s Most Famous Athlete Is Accused of Rape? New York. They launched their Intelligencer site this week, and I wish I would have given them a better piece to kick it off with.
5. The Thirty: Each MLB Team’s Greatest Postseason Moment, MLB.com. I remember when my team had poostseason moments.
6. Odd Angles on Every Potential World Series Matchup, MLB.com. [shrugs]
7. Debate Club: Best Superhero Costumes, SYFY Wire. Codpieces!
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
“Scrubs” reunion! Donald Faison and John C. McGinley were special guests and best friends on “The Will Leitch Show” this week. Watch it on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, the “A Star Is Born” show, along with “Venom,” “Private Life,” “The Hate U Give” and “Major League.”
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, recap of the Vanderbilt blowout, previewing the LSU blowout.
Seeing Red, no show this week.
I will be at the LSU-Georgia game today.
If I survive, I promise to tell you all about it.