Red-letter day, blue-ribbon year

Barry SmithAspen, CO Colorado

A mere two years ago I was in my late 30s, then last year I was 40, and now, today, this very day, all that is behind me. I’m now officially in my early 40s. I miss 40 already. Had such a nice ring to it. Kind a biblical, in a way – 40 years of wandering in the desert, rained for 40 days and nights, Ali Baba’s 40 thieves, 40 ounces. … (Those last two not technically mentioned in the Bible, but whatever.) But 41? Ugh. Pointless, asymmetrical and meandering. Last year on my birthday, I wrote a column listing the things that I had yet to accomplish or even gotten around to in my life up to that point – for example, I wasn’t yet the ruler of an exotic, tropical island, couldn’t tie a necktie, hadn’t watched “The Godfather” yet, etc. – but this year, to ease the sting of the awkward age of 41, as well as divert my attention that I STILL haven’t done any of the things on that list, I’m going to take the positive route. I’m going to toot my own horn a little bit and make a list of…Things I have accomplished by age 41, suckers! I have successfully trained myself to use the phrase “toot my own horn” without having to follow it up with any juvenile gastrointestinal or autoerotic double-entendre nudge nudges. Mostly. In fifth grade I won five blue ribbons and one second-place (red) ribbon during Field Day. I swept the three-legged and sack races, egg carry, water balloon toss and obstacle course. My second place in tug-of war was the fault of my weak and undisciplined teammates. Still, 30 years later I’m still riding high from that day. That glorious, glorious day … I can play the bass line for “Smoke on the Water” on the guitar. But I choose not to. Last week, I casually tossed a wadded up gum wrapper at the trash can in my office and it totally went in. I wasn’t even looking! If that’s what life in your forties is like, then bring it on! About 15 years ago I made a short film and got extreme ski legend Glen Plake to star in a cameo role! I managed this because I had no idea at the time who Glen Plake was, he was just some guy with a multicolored Mohawk sitting on a bench at the base of the ski lift, and I asked if I could film him saying some stupid things about Sasquatch. He agreed, and even seemed a bit amused when I asked him – for the sake of including him in the credits – what his name was. And how to spell it. I lived in the basement of a man who I was convinced was the return of Jesus. No kidding. That’s not the impressive part, though – I made Jesus laugh! At the dinner table one night, I made a spontaneous and witty comment about how I tried learning sign language, but nobody could understand me because I had a Southern accent, and this cracked Jesus the hell up! Can you imagine a better feeling than making the son of God shoot an endless supply of loaves and fishes out his nose? Salvation is mine! Elvis died at age 42. That’s not an accomplishment, just a little reminder to myself to cut down on my bacon intake. In 1979, I wrote a fan letter to Gilda Radner, star of “Saturday Night Live,” and she sent me back a personalized, autographed picture. OK, that last accomplishment didn’t actually happen. Not to me, anyway. My friend Tommy Lemonis wrote to Gilda and she sent HIM a picture in return. I was always so jealous that I didn’t think of it first that I’ve been pretending all these years that it actually happened to me. And now, at age 41, I’m still pretending. That’s a long, long time to have been living a lie. So long, in fact, that it’s actually kind of an accomplishment …Cool!(Visit Barry’s blog,, to see a picture of him with his Field Day medals.)