Thirty-Nine.  It sounds so… penultimate.  It’s a transition number, just leading into the next.  It’s a placeholder… a stepping stone.

And it’s so meaningless.  There’s little that’s particularly interesting about the number 39, except that it is the number just before fffff…foorrrrr… well, the number that follows.

In past years on my birthday, I looked for information about the age which I was turning, just to give some fun facts about that number.  And in most cases, there were some interesting things to find out.  For 39, there were just a few.  For instance:

  • In religion, Jesus was scourged with 39 lashes at the pillar before he was crucified.  The law stated that a criminal was sentenced to “40 lashes minus one,” or 39, because the belief was that 40 lashes would actually kill a man.  In other words, 40 is fatal.  Lovely.
  • Also in religion, there are 39 books in the Old Testament.
  • In arts and entertainment, Jack Benny claimed to be 39 years old for over 40 years.  Sounds like a good plan to me.
  • The bands The Cure and Queen both recorded songs with the title of “39.”  Queen’s song coincided with the 39th song released in sequential order on their albums to that point.
  • In history, the U.S. Constitution was signed by 39 different people.
  • The number of Scud missiles that Iraq fired at Israel during the Gulf War in 1991 was 39.
  • And at age 39, Martin Luther King was assassinated; also at age 39, Amelia Earhart went missing.

So what does all this mean?  Nothing, really.  Except that today I am 39 years old, and I really don’t feel a day older than 29, or even 19.  (OK I do feel a little older than 19.)  I’m happy and healthy and in a much better place in my life now than I was even a year ago.  I feel optimistic about the year ahead, and am hopeful for some wonderful things to come my way in 2010.

Today, I will be spending my birthday with 128 of my dearest friends, on stage, singing my heart out in the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus’ holiday show, “Christmas Follies.”  If you’re around the Chicago area and have a few bucks and a couple hours to spare, stop by for our show at 3pm or 8pm and celebrate with me.  Because, as one of our songs says… I can’t celebrate without you!  You can find out more at

Thanks for being with me for another year.  Looking forward to the next 39 years!

Holiday Giving

Each year at the holidays, we are encouraged to give.  Because giving is better than receiving.

I believe in this mantra.  I think it’s noble and just.

But times get hard.  Money gets tight.  And no matter how much we scrimp and save and try to make ends meet, we sometimes come up short.  And sometimes we come up short more often than we come out ahead.  Especially the way things have been going lately.

So this year, I’m going to set up my own Holiday Giving plan.

Yep, that’s right.  I’m officially declaring myself a Charity Case.

Hey, it’s been a rough year.  I had a hellish move, where I lost my sofa; I had a break-in and lost most of my stuff; and even though I have tried to cut costs and make things easier for myself, I still can’t seem to catch a break.

So, hey, can ya help a brother out?

OK OK I know this is pathetic.  It’s also totally tongue-in-cheek.

But in reality, how many of us are putting up a brave front this year in the face of adversity?  How many of us are just one bounced check, one lost paycheck away from total devastation?  I bet it’s more of us than we really think.

I have to admit (and here’s where I’m being serious), I’m really very, very lucky.

With everything that happened in the last year– and believe me, there’s more than I’m even mentioning here — I have still managed to stay both sane and afloat.  That horrible move turned out to be an incredible lucky break for me, because I now have a really great place (despite the break-in).  I still have my job.  I still have my friends and the chorus.  And of course I still have my family.

Things could have been a hell of a lot worse.

But I can’t help but wonder about those who have had it a lot worse.  Do they really and truly need the help, but are too proud to ask for it?

And if they did ask for it, would any of us lend a hand?

Maybe that’s what the Holiday Spirit is really all about.