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The "Nine Years" Jack Benny, and Woodstock | blog.deanland.com

The "Nine Years" Jack Benny, and Woodstock


The "Nine Years"

The "nine years" are those in which one is always about to turn another age, a decade, usually a birthday of note and observance.  When one is 9 years old, becoming ten means no more birthdays with a single digit.  To a kid, that's a step of note.  When one is 19, it is the final year of being a teenager, an exit from adolescence, maturing into the earliest stage of Young Adulthood.  9 and 19, though, are of lesser note.  In the case of 9, one is still in grade school, and the decade mark is no big deal in most cases.  The changes -other than the additional digit-- are not of major significance.  19 gets less play, despite the end of the teens, as the end of those years marks one more year until all sorts of eligibility.  The grandeur associated with turning 21 (legal age!) dwarfs the transition from 19 to 20.



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When one is 29 the entire year is spent turning 30.  Asked one's age when one is 29, the response to the answer will almost always be a catalyst for, "Oh, turning 30 soon, eh?" or, "Heh, remember back in the day, 'never trust anyone over 30?'" or something very close to that.  Same at 39, when one hears for the umpteenth time, "Life begins at 40."

At 49 one approaches the half century mark.  That's a biggie.  I remember mentioning this to my late friend Larry Bach (15 years my senior) a year or so after I turned 50.  His response, a terse, cold, "Wait until you turn 60.  Now that's a wake-up call!"  These days, with a few friends who turned 60 this year, and with it not too far off on my personal  horizon, I wonder how the 59 year will seem.  Or how 60 will feel, when I get there.


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The coming of Spring this year, October-like though it has been in New York, brought about thoughts of seasons, what's around the bend, and, of course, Baseball.  Looking at the calendar (reading, as fate would have it, the Yankee schedule) I noticed some June and August dates and thought about Summers past.  Then it dawned on me that a few anniversaries of note are coming.  Personal anniversaries.

They took place the same year.  It was also the year of the Man on The Moon -- twice, but who ever recalls the second mission?   The Jets won the Super Bowl, the Mets won the World Series.  Hurricane Camille, the ancestral predecessor of Katrina, decimated the Mississippi coast.  Golda Meir became Israel's first female prime minister.  The Manson cult murdered Sharon Tate and many others.  Chappaquiddick (if you don't recognize it, don't ask).  The first artificial heart transplant took place.  The Beatles, in their last public appearance, recorded Get Back on the Apple Records roof in London.

It was 1969.  The year I graduated from High School.  The Year I began college.  The Year during which I worked the Summer as a professional drummer in a Rock Band at a Catskills hotel. 

Jack Benny

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Many years earlier, as a little boy, I liked watching the Jack Benny show on television.  My first recollection of Jack Benny comes before I'd had my 10th birthday.  These were the days of houses having a single television set.  A Black and White set.  Jack Benny had a number of famous routines.  He could do the slow burn and the long comedic pause as well as anyone. 

There's the signature Benny skit on which a mugger approaches him intent on doing a stick-up:  Mugger: "Your money or your life!"  Long pause.  Impatient mugger: "WELL?!"  Jack Benny, after the slow burn: "I'm thinking." 

Less comedic than, perhaps, iconic, is another longstanding Benny classic.  Whenever asked his age, Benny would answer, "39."  Benny turned 39 until he died at the age of 80.  Some newspapers carried obituaries with the headline,  "Jack Benny dies at 39."  Asked why he remained 39 all those years, he noted that he always celebrated his birthday on the air.  It was a comedy program, he explained, and his reasoning was that "there's nothing funny about 40."


Woodstock

1969 was also the year of Woodstock.  I had tickets, but sold them in
favor of going on a family vacation to Jamaica, W.I., before heading
off to college.  After all, I'd already seen most of the bands that
interested me, and I'd been playing gigs and battles of the bands at
hotels all  over the region where Woodstock would be held.  I'd kinda
sorta had it, and was a little burned out on live Rock music at that moment in
time.


It was the Summer of 1969.  Woodstock Nation emerged as a reality.  Suddenly there was unity and a common these among a group of people who had been somewhat disenfranchised.  The gathering at Woodstock gave a sense of community, of belonging, of no longer being out of touch or out of step.  Woodstock legitimized and brought into focus the fact that there were hundred of thousands of peace-loving, music loving, so-called hippie types.  And Woodstock was without violent incident.   Even in the rain and the mayhem of the weather, peace was the order of the day.</p />
<p>To many of us, this was as important an event as some other days of historic note.  We all remember where we were during Woodstock, who we knew that went, and how it felt to us.</p>
<p>How, to some degree, it still feels to us.

To many of us, Baby Boomers most, Woodstock was a defining moment of the time.  There was war in Viet Nam, but there was music, peace and love (and a lot of rain and mud) at Woodstock.  It was declarative to and of our generation, it eventually gained the moniker "Woodstock Nation."  Abbie Hoffman gave that title to a book.  Woodstock has become an icon, a moment, an industry, a movie and album, and a statement of sorts.  You say Woodstock and people tell you their stories, or the stories of their friends who went there.  Or my story of how I actually sold my tickets and went to Jamaica instead.  Charles Schulz named a Peanuts character Woodstock.  Schulz made no secret of the fact that the name given to the cute little bird character that first appeared in 1967 but lacked a name until 1970 was inspired by the Woodstock festival.  In the early 70's some insanely groovy psychedelic young parents named kids Woodstock.  To many the site of the festival is the most hallowed of ground.



Groovy beads, man<br />




So what's this all about?  Here's the bottom line.  It has been 39 years since Woodstock.  39 Years since I graduated High School and entered college.  39 years since Woodstock.  39 years since man set foot on the moon.  39 years since Chappaquiddick.  39 years since the final public Beatles performance. 

39 can be an eerie number.  It is the name of a Queen song, with a SciFi sort of story contained in the lyrics.  In Ali Baba we recall what happened to 39 of the 40 thieves.  We also know what happened to those who walked down the 39 Steps of a certain cliff in the Hitchcock film based on the John Buchan novel. 

Jack Benny became somewhat ageless by being eternally 39.  "There's nothing funny about 40," he said.


There's that number 39 again.<br />