It’s a little after 7 a.m. on Thursday the 28th of October and I’ve just turned 50.
Right about this time in 1954, my mother, Helen Epstein Lacter, was giving birth to me in the maternity ward of Kew Gardens Memorial Hospital in Queens, N.Y.
I was screaming my head off in those first few minutes of life, but for most everyone else in New York, it was an unremarkable day: President Eisenhower announced plans to campaign for Republican Senate candidates in four states; West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer arrived in Washington to express his gratitude to the United States for helping his nation after World War II; Pakistan was in disarray; and the Queen Mother of England had just visited the Metropolitan Museum. Fall was in the air temperatures were in the upper 50s.
Standard-issue stuff plus, the birth of a certain someone.
And now, 50. Hot damn! To be honest, birthday milestones have never been a big deal for me, but 50? well, that’s a milestone hard to ignore.
So how exactly do I feel?
Mostly, I feel grateful. Like all of us, I’ve had lots of forks in the road and somehow things have managed to work out. I owe that to friends, family and even virtual strangers who steered me in just the right ways at just the right times.
Early on, there was that speech doctor in Stamford, Conn. who got me talking literally (my parents had been concerned because I was an unusually quiet toddler, although I’d like to think it was just my inclination to silently observe the passing parade).
There was my high school journalism teacher who urged me to write for the student newspaper (my first piece was a column on how not to trust politicians), and in the process showed me how much fun this newspapering stuff could be.
There was the publisher of a big-deal newsletter in Washington who tutored me on the ways of the world and why understanding how people look at life in Japan or Russia or South Africa would not only make me a better journalist but a more engaged human being.
There was a reporter friend, also in Washington, who suggested I apply to a paper in California after a job prospect overseas fell through. Within weeks, I was hired as a business writer for the Orange County Register, packed my belongings into a rusted Toyota Celica and headed west.
All those people who make up a life. All those turning points that could easily have taken some other direction.
And all the life lessons: the satisfaction of working hard in pursuit of a worthwhile goal, the importance of being honest at home and in work, the striving to keep learning and creating even when the temptation is to slack off.
Well, like I said, I’m grateful. And if you think this column’s sap quotient is running dangerously close to the red zone, I have one more moment to mention.
It happened 16 years ago, at the Moustache Caf & #233; in Westwood, when I met this cute TV sitcom writer on a blind date. She was funny, bright and interested I mean, she actually asked me questions and even laughed at my jokes (above and beyond the call of anyone’s duty).
She’s still laughing (these days it’s more of a chuckle), and later today, after the Business Journal is put to bed for another week, we’ll be going out to dinner to celebrate.
A half century feels kind of nice.
Mark Lacter is editor of the Business Journal.