Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

You say it's your birthday? Mine, too!

08/23/2013 6:30 PM

08/23/2013 6:53 PM

It's going to be my 53rd birthday in a week, which, according to my calculations, puts me at slightly less than the halfway point of my life. 

Actually, a lot of men in my family went down at 54, so I could also be 53/54ths of the way through, which of course causes a person to reflect soberly on just precisely what he or she has accomplished. 

Age is a relative thing, which is somewhat useful. For example, I read that tennis player Roger Federer is thinking about hanging it up , an aging ruin at 32.

32 is an age I have only dim awareness of: I had two kids under four at the time, so I was dimly aware anyway because I was completely sleep-deprived. In public service, 32 is a child. They only let you become a U.S. Senator at 30. Most people in the cabinet are considerably older than I am, with the exception of the president, who is eleven months younger than I am.

I was supposed to be the 52-year-old president with the five letter last name that begins with O.

Something went wrong with my plan.

So I get to draw him instead, and it seems like a better deal; he has grayed considerably since 2008, and I have oranged. Fine, let him deal with Mitch McConnell. 

53 is also an excellent age, because a lot of the time in people's life they're at the peak of their career, unless they're not - my father retired at 56, which seems ridiculously young to retire. My father also didn't draw political cartoons for a living, either, which isn't really all that physically taxing. My mother died at 56, and that is sobering, too. There were lots of external factors contributing to it, but it is very much on my mind these days.

I like being a 52.99 year old who rides a bike, plays tennis, and otherwise moves around pain-free and well, considering everything. When I was growing up, none of my friend's fathers did anything like that. Tennis? Our dads in the 1960s? I simply cannot envision our fathers on bikes; it's like trying to imagine Winston Churchill guest starring on Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

One thing that does bother me about turning 53 is my frame of reference. Sometimes I will say things to my kids that sound ridiculous or out of context, such as "I'm going to dial the telephone" (Princess or Trimline?). What dial, dude? I suppose you want the TV clicker next, and you'll want to adjust the rabbit ears. 

We are products of our eras. A friend of mine in his fifties, a writer, observed tellingly that while we are swooping around at 53 or 59, citizens of the 21st century, somewhere out there still living are 1930s movie stars Olivia de Havilland, Mickey Rooney, and comedienne Rose Marie from the Dick Van Dyke Show (1960s), who was a child singing star of the early 1920s. That was during the Harding presidency, if you recall. 

Watching the television show "Mad Men" for a few years has made me sense that a little more time has gone by than I would have liked, and seeing some of the now-weird looking clothes, cars with pointed metal dashboards, and indoor cigarette smoking makes me feel somewhat out of it.

So, as my father always said around his birthday, it's fine if you consider the alternative. I have, and I'm OK. And I am trying to stay in the present and the future. 

I have to go call Olivia de Havilland on my Trimline phone now. She wants to know where I hid the clicker and for me to adjust the rabbit ears for her.   

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.

 

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