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A half-century old but let's say 35
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This day, Aug. 17, 2011, is a milestone in my life.

I turn 50.

I can't say I've been looking forward to exchanging my 40s for my 50s. I felt this way as I was dragged kicking and screaming out of my 30s to enter my 40s. And today, the unthinkable is happening: the half century mark. It seems impossible to be at the threshold of AARP.

It helps, I suppose, to think of the age at which someone is considered "old" as a moving target. Everything is relative, I suppose. What does a teenager know when they judge a 50-year-old to be ancient? But I once did. On the other hand, when I tell 80-plus-year-old friends that I'm turning 50 they invariably say something like, "Oh, just a baby. I wish I was 50."

That's of little comfort, really, knowing that someday - if all goes as planned - I'll reach 85 and look back and view 50 as a "baby." In exactly 35 years - 2046 - I will be 85. Right now I'm thinking 35 is a "baby."

Regardless of my age, I actually feel like a baby. I enjoy perfect health, rarely get sick, run and work out and generally feel happy. In just 10 days I run my first half marathon, in San Francisco.

But the math doesn't lie: 50 years ago today I left my mother's womb and entered the world at Zama Army Hospital in Sagami Ono, Japan. Of course, I endured a barrage of comments growing up that I didn't look Japanese, as if my eyes should be Asian slanted because of my geographical birth. I explained that my father was serving in the Navy. My Japan connection was short lived for I was six weeks old as we boarded a Navy troop carrier, the USS Hugh Gaffney, to make the 13-day journey across the rolling Pacific to port in San Francisco. At lower levels of the ship were men returning from Vietnam. We journeyed past the Hawaiian Islands where 13 days prior to my birth was born a Barack Hussein Obama.

I was raised in the Bay Area and the Valley. Interestingly, half of my 50 years has been spent at the Courier.

Admittedly, 50 does seem "right" when I consider the music I grew up with or the historical events that now seem like long ago history. I remember being a kid standing up in our moving car - we didn't have to be seatbelted back then - and hearing the Beatles' new hit, "Michelle" on the car radio. As a teen I listened to Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" as well as the Bee Gee's, Boston, Journey, Foreigner and my all-time favorite, Electric Light Orchestra. (Yeah, shut up, I know that's old school rock now but I also enjoy Hoobastank and find the Katy Perry Pandora channel is great to run to.)

A half century? I suppose so. After all, the nation of my birth was hit with two U.S. atomic bombs during WWII just 16 years prior. When JFK asked fellow Americans what we could do for our country, I was but a month-old fetus. I was two when Mr. Kennedy was killed and now I'm four years older than JFK lived to be.

Today one can't buy a black & white TV but I remember first watching the NBC peacock pop in living color. Color TV was graphic the night we watched a shot and bleeding Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968.

I remember the sad day when my mother sobbed for hours on her bed when word came that her brother was shot by a Viet Cong sniper (he did recover).

I was 7 when I watched Neil Armstrong take his giant leap in 1969.

Watergate hearings were big in the summer of 1974.

I can still hear Walter Cronkite say "That's the way it is," like it happened yesterday.

I also had my own brushes with news makers of years ago that date me. I was in a stroller when my parents encountered Walt Disney himself in Disneyland in 1965. I was in the crowd as Jimmy Carter became president in 1977, and shook his hand on his Merced trip of July 1980. I also shook the hand of the Ronald Reagan in 1994, and chatted with then Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999. Your teens may ask, Jimmy who?

I also knew my great-grandparents, born in 1898 and 1902. When I was born, Weck Cranford was 65 so he always seemed like an old man to me. Truthfully, they acted old, shuffling everywhere, dressing old, acting old, sitting around in a house quiet only to the backdrop of a lonely tick-tock of their cuckoo clock. They worked hard their whole lives and were just worn old.

That's a huge difference between today and then. A 50-year-old of 1940 looked and acted older than a 50-year-old of 2011. Work was harder for them and much easier for me. I don't, for example, have to slaughter my own animals for food nor have to tend to a garden. I go to the store for all that, which means I have time to run for fun or health or pursue recreational opportunities.

Let me ease into this 50 stuff. I'm not used to it. But I refuse to act as I though I am anything but 35. Just give me this musing. After all, it's my birthday.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at