94

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So I decided I would use the blog to count down the weeks to my 40th birthday because why not, right? And each Wednesday, I would use the number of corresponding weeks remaining until the big 4-0 as a starting point for that week’s entry.

Hence, last week—95 weeks until my 40th—I wrote a quick little piece about the Indianapolis radio station Q95. This week, I’m looking at 1994, the year I turned 21.

Since the Wednesday that falls 21 weeks before my 40th birthday comes on Oct. 31, 2012 (that’s Halloween for those of you not paying perfect attention), now seems like as good a time as any to look at that magical birthday. Really, once you hit 21, there aren’t a lot more milestone birthdays. 30, I suppose. 40, of course. 50, 65 … you get the point.

There are any number of events from outside my life I could focus on from 1994. There’s Kurt Cobain’s suicide … but I didn’t connect with the music of Nirvana nearly as well as I did with Pearl Jam. Although I do remember cutting out the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when they ran on the front page of the Ball State Daily News.

There’s the O.J. Simpson case, too. But maybe it’s the effect of 17 years of escalating, 24/7 breathless celebrity “news” that has caused the O.J. deal to have little lasting impact on my psyche.

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, baseball on strike, Forrest Gump and Shawshank Redemption, the death of Richard Nixon … all memorable events, sure.

But 1994 was also the year I turned 21, and I could finally walk into a bar or a liquor store and buy my own beer.

True, it’s not the greatest aspiration—I can buy my own beer!—but there is that side effect of realizing you’ve passed over from that limbo between childhood and adulthood.

And did I mention you can buy your own beer?

The thing was, my 21st birthday was on a Sunday. And there are no alcohol sales on Sunday in Indiana.

No problem, my friend said. We’ll hit the bar right after midnight … but first, down about 10 shots of whiskey. You’re a man now.

Thanks, Scott.

Still, as much as this blog is about looking back, it’s also about looking forward. As I write this, I’m coming up on five weeks without an adult beverage of any kind. I think it’s the longest I’ve gone without so much as a beer since … well, since early 1994.

The decision to lay off the beer wasn’t because I had to. No evident medical risks. But you get to be a certain age and you look down at the beer belly that you’ve fed for lo these many years, and you start to think it’s time to give it a rest. Get in shape or start planning for that liver failure or diabetes or heart attack.

I’ll drink a beer again someday. But I’ll do it when there’s a little—OK, a lot—less gut for that beer to fill.

Now, if I could just give up those damn candy bars …

Share your words of wisdom.