On turning 50 and celebrating my 25th anniversary with Linette on the same day

I’ve now been with Linette for exactly half my life.

Today marks not only the 50th anniversary of my birth, but the 25th anniversary of our first date.

Saying that I shouldn’t just be sitting around the house on my 25th birthday, Linette drove out to Ann Arbor, picked me up, and took me for my first drink at the Tap Room. [John Farres, who had owned the place from ’41 to ’93, was still working behind the bar back then. He would have been about 94 at the time.] Linette and I known each other for a few months by that point, having first met at Cross Street Station, where Ward, the bartender who ran the place, had made the mistake of booking my band. Linette, who, as I’d come to know later, had been a fixture at the bar since moving to Ypsilanti at 17 to attend EMU, was kind of perched on the back of a booth directly across from the foot-tall platform that served as a makeshift stage. [I’m told George Clinton used to show up unannounced and play on that same stage, but I never actually saw it happen.] And, unlike everyone else in the bar, Linette actually stayed once we began screaming and assaulting our instruments with power tools.

As cell phones didn’t exist at the time, there are no photos. According to Linette, I was wearing an “Akron” t-over a short, silver dress, which sounds about right, given where we would have been in the evolution of the band that would go on to become Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink. Linette, as I recall, was dressed like she was on her way to a Dexys Midnight Runners costume party.

Linette came up after the show, and we talked for a while about her unwillingness to be moved by our ‘songs.’ As I recall, she told me that she was studying graphic design at Eastern, and offered to help us with t-shirt designs, if we ever decided to have any made. And that was about it. Over the next several months, though, our paths kept crossing, and eventually numbers were exchanged at a house party somewhere. And we started talking. As I was going to school at U-M, and working at both the Hands On Museum and Sava, I didn’t have a lot of time, but we started calling one another in the evenings. And that went on until my 25th birthday came around, and she offered to drive out to Ann Arbor, pick me up, and buy me a beer. [I didn’t have a car at the time.]

Given my awkwardness, it didn’t exactly go well. After a few drinks, panic began to set in, and I asked to be driven home. As I recall, there was a blizzard, and her car slid sideways the whole way back to Ann Arbor. But the wheels had apparently been set in motion. The late night calls became more common, and, a few months later, when both of us graduated from college with absolutely no plans as to what we’d do next, we decide to move to Atlanta together. The plan was to eventually get our own places, but that just never happened. We moved in with one another, found a mattress in dumpster, built some furniture out of cardboard boxes, and the rest, as they say, is history. And we’ve been together ever since, moving back and forth across the country a few times, but always returning to Ypsilanti, where we first met.

Here, I believe, is one of the first photos of Linette and me together. This was taken at the family home of Linette’s college friend, Tracy Wells, in Wixom. It’s worth noting that, while I look stoned, I wasn’t. The fellow next to us is Linette’s friend Ken Boyd, who had driven with us out to Wixom in Linette’s giant, wood paneled station wagon. [Accord to Linette, he’s holding a green M&M.] Looking back, I guess he may have been our chaperone. All I remember from that night is that Linette’s friend Tracy introduced herself to me with an axe in her hand, and Linette almost got us killed, turning across some railroad tracks just seconds before a train passed, as both Ken and I screamed our heads off.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like birthdays. Linette and the kids wanted to throw a big party for me this weekend to mark my 50th, but I said no. Partly, I think, I stopped them because, deep down, I’m painfully shy and hate attention. Mostly, though, I just couldn’t accept the idea of publicly coming out as being 50. I know it’s stupid, but I’ve never liked talking about my age.

It’s not that I’m embarrassed of being middle aged, exactly. I don’t, after all, mind the wrinkles or the grey hair. What bothers me is the idea that I haven’t done more with the time that I’ve been given here… I mean, Orson Welles made Citizen Kane when he was 25, and I’ve yet to move beyond zines and blogs… I know it’s a stupid thing to beat myself up about, especially when I’m doing what really matters, and contributing toward the raising of two good kids, but there’s this part of me that thinks I should have worked harder and done more. And, with each passing birthday, this feeling just continues to grow more intense, feeding into the depression. So, up until just a little while ago, I wasn’t planning to mention that I’d turned 50.

I’m not sure what changed exactly… I was just sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, after having come in from shoveling snow, and I started thinking about Zsa Zsa Gabor, and the fact that, with every passing decade, she’d shave a few more years from her age, to the point of absurdity, where, for her math to work, she would have been 8 years old when she won Miss Hungary. And I guess I decided that I didn’t want to go down that same path… And it just seemed dumb to hide from the fact that I’d turned 50, especially as someone who talks somewhat publicly about other highly personal things, like living with depression and OCD… So, yeah, I got my AARP card in the mail a few days ago, I just switched over to vitamins that say “50+” on them, and I’ll probably never make a film as good as Citizen Kane. On the plus side, though, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I’ve helped to create one hell of an awesome little family.

While I still didn’t have a birthday party, Linette and the kids did a lot of great stuff for me this weekend, starting with a mysterious drive to Saline, where I was introduced to a man who measured my hand for a bowling ball. [I recently decided to pick up the inter-generational baton from my 93 year old grandmother, and join a bowling league.] And, from there, I was taken to Webber’s, where we spent the night eating calamari, swimming, and watching old movies. [As I got to choose, we watched Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and Dinner at Eight.] And the kids gave me gifts. Alro presented me with a box of 50 monster drawings, like this one of a monster that shoots rocks from its body. [Almost all of them have missiles and grappling hooks.] And Clementine, while still not done with it yet, showed me that she’d started knitting a bust of my pale, white, tiny little head.

So far, it’s been a pretty good life. To be honest, I never thought that I’d make it this far. I never imagined myself being 50. And I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be married, or have kids. I just didn’t think that’s what my life would be like. [Someone told me relatively early on that I’d never find anyone who would love me, and I guess I kind of took it to heart.] But I got incredibly lucky. And I think that’s why, at least in part, I’ve always had such a fondness for Ypsilanti. It was here, back in ’93, that I met Linette and started to think, not just about making it from one day to the next, but actually building a life with an eye toward the future… Life can be pretty incredible, and I’m so glad that I never gave up.

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  1. Posted February 11, 2018 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    The author as a child.

  2. Posted February 11, 2018 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    When I was born, there weren’t even color photographs.

  3. Patty
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Aw, this got me all misty eyed. I sure am glad that Linette was attracted to young men in skirts and if you feel underachieving, just think of how the rest of us poor sods feel. Happy birthday, old man!

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    How could you possibly work harder? There’s a lot of life left. My 83 year old dad was recently told by his doctor that he likely has at least 10 years left. At that age, they check you out like an old car and tell you how much time you have left on your engine. So my dad told me he has to figure out what to do with all that time. You have been lucky and you appreciate your luck, which is more than most. I’m grateful for all the work you do. I’m excited for any new projects you take a stab at. Happy Birthday, Mark. Here’s to a well built life. Onward.
    And so it goes…

  5. Demetrius
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    What a great story.

    Happy birthday, happy anniversary, and thanks for sharing!

  6. Tommy
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    As far as birthday wishes go … I hope for once that this thread does not turn into the pile of hijacked garbage that is, sadly, all too common as of late.

    Congrats old man! Glad you made to the 50+ crowd!

  7. Iron Lung
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    The Mr. Warlord has a fetish for old men, be prepared to have him move in on you “like a bitch.”

  8. Ken Boyd
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Maybe we actually got hit by that supper train and this has all been our life flashing before our eyes.

  9. Iron Lung
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Beating yourself up over not having made Citizen Kane at 25 is stupid since Orson Wells already made the movie. If you had made it, it would have just been a bad remake and now you’d be embarrassed.

  10. site admin
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Mark, from an earlier post, explaining why he doesn’t show his kids here:

    For what it’s worth, I’m not covering their eyes here because I’m ashamed of what my kids look like. Their eyes aren’t incredibly ugly or anything. And I wouldn’t really care if they were. I just decided several years ago that, barring some kind of blogging emergency, I would’t post photos of them here. Too many bloggers, I think, cash in on the cuteness of their kids, and I didn’t want to be like that. I didn’t want to have either Clementine or Arlo look back in years to come and accuse me of exploiting them, like some kind of Mama June like character. And, more importantly, given how pervasive surveillance culture is in the world today, I thought they deserved to have at least a few years of something approaching privacy, before the floodgates opened for them. With all of that said, though, you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that, if you were to see either of these photos without the grey bars obscuring the identities of Arlo and Clementine, you’d say, “Damn, that’s a really handsome family.”

  11. Eel
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Mark with a jheri curl. Very nice.

  12. Citywatch
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Well I got all weepy while reading this and thought “..what a great story” because it read like a novel, or a movie plot. However Mark Maynard and Linnette Lao, this is your life. Your children are so lucky to have you and Linette as parents. You are both great examples of creativity and thoughtfulness toward others, as well as sharing thoughtful, considered opinion. I am over 50 years old and I measure my life with a very critical ruler also. I remember saying “half my life is over and what the hell did I do with it?” And I said it out loud too. Recently, I decided to just keep living and doing and let others take the inventory of my accomplishments. I am too critical to take a look back. As my friend’s mother who is 103 years old said when asked her secret to a long and successful life, “Look ahead. Just keep moving and just keep doing”.

  13. Iron Lung
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    ” I just decided several years ago that, barring some kind of blogging emergency, I would’t post photos of them here. Too many bloggers, I think, cash in on the cuteness of their kids, and I didn’t want to be like that.”

    When your kids apply for jobs, their potential employers will start doing deep searches of their online presences, even deeper than today. You could be unwittingly preventing them from getting certain jobs because of their association with certain aspects of this site.

    This is not a joke. The surveillance culture in this country is now out of control and will most certainly be worse by the time your kids enter the employment market.

    I think it is something worth being careful about.

  14. anonymous
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    This is Trump’s America, Iron Lung. We don’t even care when people grab pussies, commit pedophilia or beat their wives.

  15. Eel
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Try as you might, Mark, you will never achieve warlord status, not even in this imaginary world which you have created.

  16. Iron Lung
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    “This is Trump’s America, Iron Lung. We don’t even care when people grab pussies, commit pedophilia or beat their wives.”

    The private sector cares very much. You can be rendered unemployable because of your online activity and the online activity of the people you know.

  17. X
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    From my perspective, you’ve played the hand you were dealt incredibly well. You have no musical ability, but you have a band. You aren’t a famous pundit, but you’ve developed your own channels. You’re in a small rustbelt town, but you made the best of it. There’s probably an inspirational book in it.

  18. Elizabeth
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday Mark and Happy 25th to you both!!! I fondly remember stalking you with Linette.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I would suggest, all in all, it’s better not to follow Orson Welles’ path. Citizen Kane or not.

  20. Lynne
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday!

    Everyone looks back at some point in middle age and everyone concludes they could have done more. Yet, most of us have probably done more than we realize.

  21. Kit
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    The Warlord must respect you. He is exercising great restraint by not shitting all over this post.

  22. Jean Henry
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Iron Lung, I think maybe you forgot to say some version of happy birthday or at least ‘glad your still here’ to your old friend.
    Warnings about State surveillance of ones children are perhaps not the ideal 50th birthday gift to a friend with OCD.
    Or, on the other hand, maybe it’s perfect.
    Sweet dreams, Mark.

  23. Iron lung
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Birthdays are meaningless. Every day is an excercise in survival.

    There is no tomorrow. Yesterday is gone. Only today.

  24. Posted February 13, 2018 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Happy birthday, Mark! Thank you for not posting any photos of yourself in a short silver dress!

  25. Anonymous
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Two quotes come to mind.

    Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

    Galaxy Quest: “Never give up. Never surrender.”

  26. Barry LaRue
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Tom Lehrer once said “It’s a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for two years!”

  27. Todd Spencer
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Love this, Mark. Thank you.

  28. stupid hick
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    “I know it’s a stupid thing to beat myself up about, especially when I’m doing what really matters, and contributing toward the raising of two good kids, but there’s this part of me that thinks I should have worked harder and done more. And, with each passing birthday, this feeling just continues to grow more intense, feeding into the depression.”

    Well, you are better looking than you were in your youth. How hard did you work on that? Maybe it’s not too late to consider a career as a model.

    Did you let your kids watch the Super Bowl this year, with normal American snacks? Didn’t think so. When will you stop depriving them of traditional American popular culture, you commie? So you can still do better.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By How we measure success in this life on February 15, 2018 at 8:03 am

    […] and, at some point, we kind of lost rack of one another. A few days ago, though, shortly after I’d posted about turning 50, lamenting the fact that I hadn’t accomplished more, I got a note from Steph, who is now apparently married and living in Pittsburgh. Here it […]

  2. […] Having just turned 50, I’m not terribly keen on the idea that older people need to die in order for there to be positive change on issues like climate change and guns, but I can see the logic in it. As people become older, at least from what I’ve seen, they tend to become more set in their ways, and less receptive to new ideas. Sure, some folks become more contemplative, and begin thinking more about the big picture, and the world that they’re leaving the next generation, but I suspect, statistically speaking, we’re talking about a very small minority. For the most part, I think, people, by a certain age, feel as though it’s their right, after a lifetime of busting their asses, to just slow down a bit, and enjoy what they’ve built. And I suspect, in times of uncertainty and political turmoil, like we’re living through now, that can’t be easy. I suspect quite a few older people just want all the shit to stop… all the protests, all the talk of rising sea levels, all the kids asking why people of there generation didn’t step up and do something, etc. […]

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