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Too late to die young now

Monday, Jan 30, 2012 - Posted by Rich Miller

* While you’re reading my latest Sun-Times column, you should probably listen to the song the column is built around: Todd Snider’s “Age Like Wine”

* And here’s the Sun-Times column

“Old timer, old timer, too late to die young now.”

I’m turning 50 soon, so I’ve been planning a big party in Chicago on March 31 to distract myself from my own mortality. As Todd Snider confides in his song Age Like Wine, “I thought that I’d be dead by now . . . but I’m not.”

The party will be a benefit for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, one of this state’s most indispensable organizations. The featured presentation will be a roast of yours truly. Cash bar. The last thing I need is some of these roasters sucking down free drinks and then taking to the microphone to tell jokes about my many, many faults.

Carol Marin, this paper’s political columnist, has graciously agreed to roast me, as has the acerbically witty Roosevelt University Professor Paul Green. Politicians like Senate President John Cullerton (our event’s emcee) and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka have agreed to join the fray. The rest of the list is pretty long, but no less distinguished.

Actually, the most difficult part of planning this event has been limiting the number of roasters. It isn’t every day that a media type gives those he or she covers carte blanche to say cruelly funny things about him in front of an audience. They’re coming out of the woodwork to be a part of this thing, and I guess I’m not surprised.

I’ve been pretty rough on them over the years, so they’re eager to exact some sweet revenge.

“Old timer, five and dimer, trying to find a way to age like wine somehow.”

Fifty used to be old. It used to be that when you reached 50 years of age, you were considered somehow wiser than others. Now, the baby boomers have decided to change all that and dub 50 “the new 30” and keep treating people like me as if we were kids.

But I clearly remember when my boomer friends turned 50. They were all horrified out of their minds. As they aged even further they’ve tried to pass off the milestone as no big deal, as if 50 isn’t even middle aged.

Let me tell you something, my friends, there’s no way on God’s Earth that I’ll live to be a hundred. Trust me on that. Middle-aged my eye.

“My new stuff is nothing like my old stuff was.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is 52, not much older than me. As I write this, Kirk is in a Northwestern University Hospital intensive care unit recovering from a major stroke. Most of the comments I’ve heard by his fellow politicians were about how young he is. People, he’s not young. Face facts here, man, bad things start happening to your body when you turn 50.

The night after we all learned about Kirk’s stroke, I found myself in a supermarket shopping for some sliced ham for my lunches. I remembered I was also running low on toothpaste, so I went to the “drug store” section, and before I realized what I was doing I’d filled my basket with vitamins for people over 50, various stop-smoking aids and Slim Fast. And then I returned to the grocery section and dumped the ham and picked up some turkey instead. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized what was going on. I’d been freaked out by Kirk’s stroke more than I cared to admit.

Get well soon, senator. And don’t let those graying boomers fool you.

You’re not nearly as young as you used to be. Neither of us are. Like it or not, we’re both getting old. Let’s try to make the best of it.

* The March 31st event will be held at Maggiano’s in Chicago. And I can’t wait until you see the menu. Mm-mm… good. This ain’t gonna be no rubber chicken political dinner, baby.

As of now, cocktails will start at 6:30. Invites will be mailed soon and tickets will also be available for purchase online here and at LSSI’s website. It’ll be high dollar, but it’s tax deductible. I’m mentioning it so early because I want people to save the date on their calendars. March 30th is the last day of session before spring break, so we needed to make sure folks didn’t zoom outta town before the party on the 31st. We tried to schedule it for the 23rd, but the date didn’t work for President Cullerton, and I specifically wanted him to emcee.

Our old friend Dave Kohn’s band Voodoo Pilot will be playing.

More details will be released soon, but there may be at least one big surprise that’ll be saved for the event itself. The idea is to raise lots of money for LSSI and throw the party of the year. Yes, it’s a tall order, but that’s one of the reasons I chose Lutheran Social Services of Illinois as the beneficiary - they have the experience, time and skill to put on a big to-do and I don’t.

Anyway, be there or be square.


  1. - Robert M Roman - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 4:14 am:

    Best of luck with the fundraiser, Rich, and I hope it’s a happy birthday. I’m in the middle of planning an event myself (for a month later), and it occurs to me that PART of the bad reputation political chicken has is that it’s so universal and the attendees pay so much for it. Oh Lord! More chicken and you paid maybe $100 or more for it?

    But then, in Chicago at least, the hotel charged the organizers $50 to $80 a plate for the meal (including tax and gratuity).


  2. - One an - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 6:41 am:

    This list is long and distinguished….

    Just like my….

  3. - soccermom - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 6:50 am:

    I hate it when people say “Be there or be square.” the two are not mutually exclusive.

  4. - Wensicia - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:00 am:

    “Be there or be square.”

    You’re old; nobody says that anymore, it’s not even retro.

  5. - bored now - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:04 am:

    50 ain’t so bad. you’re as young as you feel…

  6. - Boone Logan Square - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:05 am:

    The ticket is likely a small price to pay to hear what Paul Green might say about an aging Rich Miller.

  7. - Louis G. Atsaves - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:20 am:


    I crossed the 50 threshold 6 years ago. And I’m sad to report not everyone I grew up with made it, and a few have had issues like Mark Kirk, who I would see often when he was in town since he lives just a few blocks from me. Before that I kept telling everyone I was 39 and got away with it for a long, long time as I haven’t grayed much and the added weight somehow makes me look younger. I stopped when I celebrated my 31st wedding anniversary two months ago, when one wiseacre surmised that we registered when we were married at “Toys R’ Us?”

    It’s the little things, the new aches, the nagging old ones, being stiff when you wake up, the vision stuff and certain lifestyle changes that get me frustrated. Climbing ladders onto the roof. no more. Heavy lifting. Pretty much eliminated. Long car trips? More frequent stops. Stamina to do all nighters? Still there, but now I really pay the price.

    So welcome to the club. To quote my late great friend, Senator Adeline J. Geo-Karis, “You are as young as you feel.” And Geo had a ton of similar quotes on that subject. Of course, she always behaved like she was still 30, which explained a lot. And she won her first office as State Rep. in Springfield after she cleared that 50 marker.

    I plan on being on there and will be watching for the invites.

    Congrats! Your just getting your second wind!

  8. - Shore - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:22 am:

    Can’t make it-good luck. I hope wordslinger gets to roast you.

  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:35 am:

    Meh. 50.

    When Paul Douglas was 50, he was a Hyde Park liberal alderman raising hell with The Machine.

    At 50, he used clout to get himself into the Marine Corps as a PFC so he could get himself blown up at Peleliu and shot at Okinawa.

    Coming out with a permanently bum arm, he still went on for three Senate terms.

    Fifty ain’t so bad.

  10. - Hon. John Fritchey - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 8:36 am:

    I am so in for this escapade. (Shocking I know) Makes me realize just how long we’ve known each other Rich.

    Although rumor has it that your beard is actually turning 65.

  11. - gathersno - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:13 am:

    At age 82, I see you as a kid, Rich.

  12. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:15 am:

    Rich, I hit the big 50 last July and let me tell you what you can look forward to:

    New staffers and liaisons saying things like, Who was Pate Philip?

    People who don’t remember why we needed a bill room.

    People who think Play It Again Sam has something to do with the Cubs.

    People who think Carter has always been a lobbyist and Steve just a guy who comments on Cap. Fax.

    I could go on but you get the idea.

  13. - mokenavince - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:18 am:

    Your reaching an age when a girl says no you say thank you.

  14. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:33 am:

    I wouldn’t miss it Rich. BTW, just last weekend I went to a friend’s surprise 50th party. In my head I was thinking, wow, that’s so old. Then I realized that I had just turned 47 and it kind of whacked me in the face.

    When I was a kid we used to make fun of our parents and say that their next birthday will be 52. It’s kind of sobering.

  15. - doug dobmeyer - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:33 am:

    Congrats rich…wait to u r 62…50 is nothing. Illinois

  16. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:59 am:

    I’m looking forward to playing this gig with Voodoo Pilot and helping Rich celebrate his 50th B-Day! As I told Rich, when you work on government/public policy matters all day, hitting drums is very therapeutic…and I think it delays the aging process.

  17. - Ann - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 10:14 am:

    I’ve never met you, but I’m going to be there if I possibly can be. As a not-for-profit director, though, I should warn you against saying “it’s completely tax deductible,” unless we’re only going to be fed bread and water.

  18. - Angry Republican - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 10:25 am:

    Congratulations! You now get 5 more min to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 10:43 am:

    ===I should warn you against saying “it’s completely tax deductible,” unless we’re only going to be fed bread and water. ===

    True. Changed the wording.

  20. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 11:09 am:

    I stopped smoking a little over 3 months ago, Rich. It’s not as difficult as you imagine it is. The big thing is to find something else to do during those moments you would otherwise be lighting up.

    I smoke constantly in my dreams now.

  21. - Coach - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 11:55 am:

    === there may be at least one big surprise that’ll be saved for the event itself ===

    Too bad Rod will be locked up by the time of your party, and you can’t book him to sing Elvis classics.

  22. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 12:13 pm:

    Coach, he ain’t coming. Even if he wasn’t scheduled to be in prison, I wouldn’t allow him to attend. This is supposed to be a fun night, not a bummer.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:09 pm:

    Glad you gave some notice, I am scheduled to be out of state, but would love to celebrate the big day with you, and support a good cause.

    Will there be Cannoli?

  24. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:38 pm:

    I’ll be 52 in a couple of weeks, Rich, and know for a fact that 50 is not too old to get roasted and/or toasted (per any definition)–and then live to boast about it…as long as it’s all done in moderation, of course.

  25. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:06 pm:

    ===Will there be Cannoli?===


    I can’t remember the desserts.

  26. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:35 pm:

    Cannoli or not … great reason to celebrate and a good cause to boot!

    It will be one great nite.

  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:47 pm:

    =LOL…I can’t remember the desserts.=

    Exactly. And once you’ve hit 50, the gift of a selective memory and keen ability for plausible deniability also help.

  28. - Doug - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 3:43 pm:

    I so need to be on the list of Roasters…..come on…don’t be skeered

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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