Some thoughts while blowing out candles.

Today is my birthday. I’ve had quite a lot of them. I hope to have more.

A few years ago, I worked on an advertising campaign for Viagra. Our insight was that the men most likely to have erectile dysfunction were the age I have just become, what we called in AdSpeak “the age of male mastery,” a time when we are have achieved competence in most aspects of our life.

We know how to do our jobs well, we are as good as we’ll probably get at understanding women, we have raised children to adulthood, we have shed the gloss of youthful fumbling and incompetence. We are mellow but still alive.

We used this insight to say to men: look, you know how to do most things well so, rather than hiding and avoiding your wiener’s unfortunate behavior, be a mensch, talk to your doctor and get a prescription for these blue pills. You know how to solve most problems and you know how to solve this one too, so get on with it and get it on.

I do know how to do a lot of things. But I’m not particularly interested in those things I have mastered, in sitting back on my laurels. Instead I am aware of how many things I still need to get better at. I want to read new books, hear new music, go to unvisited lands, embrace new ideas, technologies, and improve myself each day. Tackling new things is what keeps one young.

Not that I need to be young. In fact, when I was young, I wanted to be old.  When I was ten, I read adult books. When I was thirteen, I tried to grow a mustache. When I was fourteen, I bought my first record album: “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.” In college, I wore thrift-store suits and smoked a pipe. My friends joked, “Danny’s grandfather said he’d pay his tuition if he wore his grandpa’s clothes.”

I can feel the old man in me and I don’t like a lot of things about him. I am ready for bed at ten. I wake up at five. I have three pairs of reading glasses. I drink half-caff.

I still go to the gym a few times a week, not to be rippling and bulging but to make it easier to tie my shoes and carry groceries. My body is like a car from the early ‘Eighties — still running, but a bit bulkier and noisier than necessary. It needs its oil changed more frequently, it pulls more slowly away from the light, and I have to watch for rust. Girls ignore it.

I see a tendency in myself and my old friends to want to talk about the past in a rueful way, to lament the closing of a long-time business, to bend young ‘uns ears with stories of the good old days before we were all glued to our phones and tattoos were for sailors, truckers and convicts. I assume I am boring my friends in their lush beards and man buns when I talk about seeing the Talking Heads at the Mudd Club down on White Street, about outlaw parties in burned-out buildings on the Lower East Side in the early ’80’s, of going to Studio 54 when I was in high school. Now the rebel anthems of my youth have become Muzak. Joe Strummer’s long dead and they play “Lost in the Supermarket” in my supermarket.

I have pretty good DNA. Both of my parents are alive and fine. My grandparents all lived into their eighties. My paternal grandfather died in his sleep at 98. So I live each day assuming it probably won’t be my last.

My birthday means a lot less to me each year. I often have to do a little math to remember how old I actually am. I don’t especially like the reminder. Or the attention. There’s nothing I want or need as a present besides the love of my family, the warmth of my friends, the hope that this one won’t be the last.

But today, I will be celebrating me, this older, and, in many ways, better me. I will indulge myself all day long and do some things I like. And I will look through my real presents, the many things I have to look forward to.

I am excited about my various new jobs, about my son’s adventures in Rome, and lucky to be in love with my beautiful, wise girlfriend. I have new books being printed, new ideas percolating in my head, new art I want to make. I am about to go to Basel, Prague, Doha, Hanoi, and Reykjavik to meet new people and to spread my love of drawing. I just shot a new klass for Sketchbook Skool yesterday. In so many ways, the year ahead will be the best one ever with loads to be grateful for.

So screw the wrinkles. Let’s have cake.

38 thoughts on “Some thoughts while blowing out candles.”

  1. Joyeux anniversaire! I see the quack about once every 25 years and on the last occasion, two years ago, I asked for a Viagra prescription. Two weeks later aged 71 I happened to have a heart attack… I remember him ringing the nurses in hospital demanding they ask “eef I ‘ad taken ze pills for ze sex?” Now he won’t prescribe them, and advises me to do more cycling and deep breathing exercises instead… so that’s him finished as far as I’m concerned for another 25 years!

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  2. Happy Birthday! Please go through this day, and everyday, knowing that you’ve touched many lives (including mine!) with your inspirational stories, wisdom, and art. My gift to you today is an acknowledgement of what you mean to me and countless others. Thank You, Danny! Have a fantastic day!!

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  3. Happy Birthday, Danny! Have an Awesome Day!
    Age is just a number, nothing more. Age does not define me. Being an active participant in life and not just an observer, makes me still feel young. Thanks for the cake, 🎂🎈 🎉 🎁 and 🍷.

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  4. HAHAHA! I too became a year older this week and had many of the same thoughts as you. I guess we reach a certain age when birthdays carry a different meaning. I spent most of the day eating pancakes and chatting with a good friend of the same age, both of us happy in the knowledge we have achieved success in attaining our goals we set for ourselves… raising good kids, reaching the top in our professions, having traveled to places far and away, etc. We spent the next hour plotting the rest of our life’s journey. A few tweaks and concessions need to be made to our travel plans to accommodate new knees, bad backs, and other minor health issues… but that’s not going to stop us. As the old saying goes… If your rest, you rust! Our visit ended and before leaving the parking lot she presented me with a home baked coconut cake… and a fork… with a reminder it was OK to eat as much cake as I wanted, and I didn’t have to share! Living on my own an entire cake seemed daunting… however, you haven’t lived until you realize you can dig into the cake with wild abandon, instead of having to cut a slice and demurely place it on a plate, sit at the table with a napkin in your lap. Nope… just dig your fork in and ‘have at it’. What a priceless gift!!! That is the true lesson in life… Dig in… and ‘have at it’!
    Happy Birthday Danny!

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  5. Happy birthday Danny! Enjoy your cake and I wish you many more happy birthdays and adventures. Thank you for sharing yourself with us all, you truly have been such an inspiration on good days and bad days. Hugs x x x

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  6. Happy Birthday Danny! Love what you wrote here and since I am probably 10 years older than you it definitely all resonates. So blow out those candles and light some more. Happy travels can’t wait to hear about your next adventure.

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  7. Happy Birthday, Danny! Live the rest of your life to the fullest. As they say….Yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is a promissory note, today is a present, so enjoy it.

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  8. I’m glad you are having a birthday. In the way of hobbits , you’ve given me a gift this year-end discovering your wonderful blog, books, and artwork. What wonderful gifts. May you have a most delight-filled birthday and many more wonder-filled New Years to come!

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  9. Happy happy birthday Danny! I’m the opposite sex, my daughter reaches adulthood in 2 weeks time and so much of what you’ve written here resonates with me… And I LOVE that photo!

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  10. Best wishes to you on your special day, because my friend you are a very special person. Rock on my friend many more years I’ll be right along with you.

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  11. Here’s to you laughing into, up and around, through and over all that’s being created through YOU Danny! Happy day of birth! xoxo Sharon

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  12. Happiest of birthdays, Danny! You have changed many lives for the better in your years, simply by following your passions and sharing them. You gave us a gift! Heres to feeding old passions and pursuing new ones. May you grow older, but never “old”. PS I just starting taking electric guitar lessons and high school was 40 years ago…

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  13. Happy Birthday, Danny, and thanks for taking the time to share this with all of us today! Oh….one more thing. Three pairs of reading glasses is child’s play!!! When you have three in everyone room, you’ll need more than Viagra! Lol

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  14. Happy Birthday Danny! Your comments are appreciated and understood. Keep learning, keep moving, and keep sharing. Remember birthdays are a celebration for those who love you as much as a celebration for you.

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  15. Happy Birthday Danny! Enjoy your day! and when you come to Basel, if you are holding a lecture or a speech or whatever, will you let us know? I would love to finally be able to come and attend 🙂

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  16. Yes, screw the wrinkles and I’ll have two pieces of cake please! Your thoughts in this essay certainly resonates with me. I feel like sometimes I want the years to slow down as I’m just getting started…so much to celebrate, experience , write and create. Looking forward to an adventurous year with you at SBS! Cheers and happy birthday…Darlene

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  17. Love your comments about exercising to do the mundane. My husband and I spend time most days (shooting for every day) rolling and leaning into various balls, doing stretches and strengthening with only our body weight as counter-weight. Exercises taught by physical therapists as much as personal trainers. I wonder if and when we will take one of our bedrooms of our empty nest and dedicate the space for these activities, as I so want to go on living and moving with gratitude and minimal pain as long as possible! Just had no idea how important this kind of maintenance is…that and making art! Great writing, as usual. Best.

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  18. Happy birthday, Danny. I hope you don’t tire of hearing this – but it us really true – you have changed my life and inspired me to do art again on a daily basis. I am the daughter of 2 artists and a Pratt graduate but I had put art on a back burner while I developed a career and family and life got in the way of doing it. Then it became something I was going to pick it up again somewhere down the road. You helped me start a daily practice and now I can’t wait to do it each day. I am eternally grateful. Enjoy your cake.

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  19. feliz feliz cumpleaños MAESTRO !!!!! y gracias . thanks a lot for everything you have taught me, including : how to enjoy life and live to its fullest!!!! excellent maestro

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  20. Your post reminded me of a bumper sticker I saw recently: “I may be old, but I got to see all the cool bands.” Happy birthday, Danny!

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  21. Sending out happy birthday wishes to you Danny. Me thinks you have already filled your years with so many great and wondrous things and no doubt will continue to do so. Hope you do not wait until your next birthday for another day of indulging.

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