Keith MacKenzie 26 letters. A million and more words. No limit to stories.

Happy birthday to me

Today’s my birthday.

At about 4 a.m. in London, Ontario, in the year of our Lord 1971, out I came with great aplomb. All 8 pounds and some 11 ounces of me, ready to take on the world as we knew it to be at the time.

We were in the midst of a weird world. Vietnam was all the rage, as was Black Sabbath. The Beatles were no longer together – that was all taken care of before the turn of the decade. The great mission to put a man on the moon just couldn’t wait any longer for my arrival, so they went ahead and did it to much fanfare.

Starsky and Hutch wasn’t even a concept at the time – perhaps it did exist, but only on a beer-soaked napkin in a bar somewhere in America. Martin Scorsese – probably my favourite director – was just getting started with Who’s That Knocking At My Door? and then The Big Shave. Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull – his three great contributions to modern cinema – were yet to happen.

But of more importance, and more relevance to my situation as a man born on November 1, 1971, I have two things I learned today that I did not know before. In fact, I’m sorta gobsmacked that I didn’t know these things before.

First: did you know that November 1 is National Author’s Day in the United States?

Neither did I, until today.

I’m a writer – or I try very hard to masquerade as one – and while I have yet to see one of my books in print, it’s fair to say that I’m an author, and that this day has been declared to commemorate people like myself. So, thank you to Nellie Verne Burt McPherson who came up with the idea of recognizing us starving, miscreant writers with a day of our own.

And the second thing? I spent most of today on my own, with the wife and son off to the Big Apple for the weekend. I decided to treat myself to a few things – none the least, a visit to the JFK Presidential Museum and Library. What an interesting experience. I didn’t learn a lot I didn’t know already about the man himself, but what I did learn that made my jaw drop was that he was 43 years old when he became President of the United States.

Yes, he was 43. The same age as me.

Well, holy shit. That’s kind of surprising and a little bit weird. I’m not the young, spritey little fella I once was in earlier years. JFK wasn’t the youngest president in history – that claim to fame lies with Teddy Roosevelt, who assumed office after the assassination of William McKinley – but Kennedy was the first to be elected to office.

As for Canada – of course I include prime ministers, because of my heritage – the youngest prime minister to hold office was one Joe Clark at the age of 39, to put an end to the Trudeau regime (or whatever you’d like to call it), although Clark headed a minority government that barely survived a year. The second youngest was Brian Mulroney, but he was already 45. Still, by my own standards, that’s pretty young.

So what came to light in the midst of this little epiphany? The realization that I am at that age where I can do great things. I can accomplish great things. I have done great things. I am still able to accomplish great things.

Actually, you know what? It doesn’t matter. Some people accomplish great things when they’re 12. Others do it when they’re 85. That was my other epiphany. Does it really matter how old you are when you’re doing stuff? No, not really.

So what did I do on my first day as a 43 year old? I certainly wasn’t in the midst of a presidential campaign. Rather, at first light, I took my family down to Boston’s South Station for their trip to New York City, and moved forward to meet with a fellow scribe from my writer’s group for a cappuccino and breakfast.

Thereafter came the JFK museum, followed by a drive through torrential rain, wind and storms (remember, this is still New England in November) along the shores of South Boston, also known as Southie.

I then braved the weather for a quick walk on Castle Island, then on the way back, noticed a hockey rink with cars parked up and down the street – evidence of something going on inside. I went in, and there was a peewee hockey game going on, 14- and 15-year-olds busy chopping up the ice and fighting tooth and nail to get that puck into the net.

Chatted with one of the men who was fixated on the game – turned out he was a grandfather watching his grandson play, and used to go to the Gah-den (uh, the Garden) for $7 to see Orr, Espo, Jean Ratelle, Derek Sanderson and the whole lot of them back in the 1970s. Still goes to the big games, especially the Habs. Talked about how great the Montreal peewee players were.

Once the second period was up, I got back into the car and headed down Broadway – the main artery cutting through Southie – and over the now-iconic Yakim Bridge, down and around to the Tobin Bridge, up into Revere where I stopped at the local rabble-rousing labourer’s dream grocery store Market Basket for some food, and picked up a bottle of wine on the way home.

I am now currently nursing that bottle of wine and have finished dinner. Getting ready to take in a movie. Not sure which one yet, but one shall surface on Netflix that best meets my tastes at this present time.

Yes, kids, I am now 43. The same age as the youngest elected American President. Older than the youngest elected Canadian Prime Minister.

Can I say that I haven’t done shit because I’m not President or Prime Minister now? No, I cannot say that. I have done many interesting things. I worked in the United Nations. I’ve been to Chernobyl twice. I’ve written four books and am working on a fifth. I have short stories running around like children in an Irish Catholic household. I nearly died on Giant’s Causeway on the northern coast of the Irish isle. I am a father, and I am a husband.

Are these laurels I can sit on? Yes and no. I cannot sit on these laurels and say I’m done. Three of my four grandparents made it well into their 80s. My fourth didn’t quite make it that far, but he certainly squeezed that much life into his shortened years. These days, being a centurion isn’t such a far-fetched idea, so I may actually hit three digits in my age come 2071.

If that is any indication, I’m only halfway done here on the third stone from the sun. I will think about what I’ve done today and what I’ve learned: that writers are indeed recognized with an official day of their own, and politicians can indeed attain the most powerful office in the world at my age.

We still live in a weird world. Where there was Vietnam, there’s now Iraq, Syria, ISIS, Afghanistan, etc. We are now slowly approaching that day – and believe me, it will come – where the first man will actually set foot on Mars.

I’m not sure I’ll be that man who sets foot on Mars for the first time, but I have something more important in mind: the future is for me to decide. It’s for me to clarify. I have my own personal Mars out there. Where it is, when it is, I’m not entirely sure.

But as I move forward into my 44th year on this Planet Earth, I shall find out.

Or more accurately, I shall determine.

In short, it’s all up to me.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Keith MacKenzie


Four books in the fire. Dozens of short stories fluttering about. Mission: To get the word out.

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