What a difference a day makes, at 21,000

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I'm 21,000 days old today. Yes, sir, the big 21 grand -- I finally made it.

So, not to be presumptuous, but the drinks are on whom?

That's not the way we're supposed to approach such a momentous event, I guess. Some guy named Peter Russell has a website he calls Spirit of Now that will calculate your days for you, and he says:

"The day is the natural cycle of our lives. The cycle of light and dark, wakefulness and sleep, has more significance than the cycle of the seasons. Indeed, in equatorial latitudes ..."

OK, that's enough, Peter. No offense, but you sound like a guy who has sung "Kumbaya" with his eyes closed as a way to unwind, and most of us aren't built that way.

Yet I do agree that this way of tabulating our time gives us a fresh perspective, and I was on to this well before there was any such thing as a website or life coach.

It was two-thirds of my life ago, exactly, when I first hit on this scam -- I mean, this joyous way of experiencing our wondrous journey on Spaceship Earth. Heh, heh.

The legal drinking age in New York required you to be 6,574 or 6,575 days old back then, depending on leap years. I'd spent an afternoon in that spring of 1975 fooling around with a calculator -- still pretty close to cutting-edge technology then -- when I found I'd be exactly 7,000 days old that Friday.

I don't remember who drove me home from Beau Brummel's that eventful night, but I can tell you my pitch to my friends went something like:

"We celebrate birthdays, not birth years, don't we? Do I have to wait another thousand days before somebody buys me a beer?"

I'm sure there could be higher uses for this calculation of your days (now available at www.peterrussell.com) and better minds may think of one. But I can tell you there is something freeing about taking stock of your life this way because, when you say you're some multiple of a thousand days old, the only ones likely to quickly surmise your true age are math professors and "Jeopardy" contestants.

I made passing reference to this in a column just 2,737 days ago when I turned 50. By that I mean years, if you'll please pardon that archaic method of calculating age. (I mean, what are we? Trees?)

I also mentioned it once in 1989, when I was still new to the city and working for The Pittsburgh Press and turning 12,000. Another 12,000-day-old man, grateful for the information, took me to lunch after the column ran.

Not that I'm rattling my cup for anything now. You get to be 21 grand and you start to see life a little differently. You realize, if you're lucky, you might have 10,000 sunrises left, but you have to take care of yourself betwixt them.

So on my 20,998th night, I made fettuccine Alfredo for my 5,074- and 5,667-day-old daughters, with help from the younger. (Oh, those fiery and frolicsome five grands -- such an awkward age, eh?) Then I biked with friends down to PNC Park to watch the Pirates lose (which, coincidentally, felt like the 5,074th time). With me was a buddy who's well past 23 grand but doesn't act it, probably because the cradle robber is happily married to a woman who's just 17 grand and change.

The sun shone brightly on me and my dog Teddy as we walked through the park on my 20,999th morning, too. I got to thinking that my Uncle Bill, the Last of the Great Rob Roy Drinkers, lived more than 35,500 days before he died a couple of years ago, but I'm not sure anybody ever told him.

Don't let that happen to you. Take this knowledge and don't waste a day of it, and I promise I won't return to this thousand-days theme again. I realize three columns in 9,000 days runs the risk of being repetitive.

Speaking of repetition, though, expect me to return soon to my inveterate campaign to reduce the size of America's Largest Full-Time State Legislature. Those Pennsylvania lawmakers must have 5 million days among them by now. You'd think that would be enough time to pass a transportation bill.


Brian O'Neill: boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.


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