This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
I was in the men's urinal at a rock concert doing something men aren't supposed to do.
Instead of staring straight ahead or feigning interest in the five-star-rated biodegradable urinal cakes below me, I was glancing left and right, eyeing off the dozens of men standing alongside me.
They didn't notice me breaking the cardinal law of the urinal - Do Not Stare At Others Lest They Suffer Performance Anxiety Or Think You Are A Creep.
Obedient buggers all, they remained focused on the wall in front of them, concentrating on the job at hand.
But I was gobsmacked. These men were my age. Yet all I could see were grey whiskers, sagging paunches, balding heads spattered with liver spots and tufts of silver shoulder hair sprouting through fraying T-shirt collars.
"What happened to these guys?" I wondered. "Have they given up?' But as I washed my wrinkled hands and spied hairs masquerading as thick ropes dangling from my ears, the old guy in the mirror winked back at me with an eye trampled by crow's feet. "Get over yourself, mate," he said. "You're one of them."
I'd just turned 60, an age the American humourist David Sedaris calls "officially old, the young part of old, but old, nevertheless".
Past birthdays had never meant much. But this 60 thing had been troubling me for months.
As it approached I encountered the same despair many mountain climbers experience after successfully scaling a summit. They report a hollowness after reaching the peak, an emptiness in their souls - the realisation their great adventure is complete.
They should harden up, of course. At least their downhill journey doesn't involve grappling with falling testosterone levels, rising cholesterol counts and swelling prostates.
Turning 60 meant I was three-quarters of the way through the average male lifespan. Turning 60 created that same sinking feeling you experience when an enjoyable road journey ends and you must pull into the driveway of your in-laws for a long weekend. Turning 60 meant a Seniors Card in the mail.
Turning 60 meant I was the same age as Johnny Depp. Have you seen him these days?
Having given myself a stern lecture in the urinal I made my way back to my seat. I'd decided the only way to shrug the gloom of turning 60 was to return to the past. So I'd splurged on tickets for the entire tribe - my wife and I, our kids and their partners - to see the last Australian concert of the world's greatest rock act, KISS.
Don't nitpick. I never said they were the greatest musical band. But no group has ever surpassed KISS's theatrical, pyrotechnic-laden stage performances. I'd seen their first Australian concert when I was 17, sleeping the night before on the bitumen floor of the stadium car park to secure a close view of the stage.
As I reminded everyone in the family for the umpteenth time, we didn't have smartphones 43 years ago containing digital tickets with barcodes guaranteeing comfortable seats.
The tribe had high hopes for a show featuring screaming guitars, soaring flames and KISS members in face paint and six-inch heels. I hoped for the best but had serious doubts. Other guys my age - the same ones I'd observed in the urinal - whispered similar concerns as they squinted regretfully at the far-away stage wishing they hadn't left their glasses and binoculars at home.
We'd convinced ourselves that little good comes with old age. The two frontmen of KISS - Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons - are in their 70s. Surely they couldn't strut, pose, shout and sing through a two-hour show with the same energy they'd displayed four decades earlier.
Our best hope was to pretend we were young and back in our glory days where, as I explained to the family for the umpteenth time, to call a taxi to get you home you needed 20 cents in your pocket and a phone booth that hadn't been vandalised.
But guess what? KISS rocked the house. We rose to our feet - delicately because of the corns and ingrown toenails we must endure - and applauded an astonishing age-defying performance.
Afterwards, dozens of old men crowded the urinal, happily breaking the cardinal rule, celebrating the show, our advancing years no longer depressing us as we fumbled with zippers and tried not to suffer urinary performance anxiety.
A band of ancient rock stars had made us feel young and we vowed to never feel old again.
But, hell, that long walk back to the car park was bloody murder.
HAVE YOUR SAY: When you reached a significant milestone how did it make you feel? Did you celebrate or dismiss it as just another day? Do you have a philosophy about ageing? Do you know older people who still act like they're young? Email us: email@example.com
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- A mild winter and soaring rooftop solar output have driven electricity demand down to a record low and halved wholesale power prices. While stressed households grapple with surging power bills and other living costs, the wholesale price of electricity and gas has fallen sharply in the past three months, suggesting consumers can expect more moderate increases in charges in coming months.
- Palestinians are paying the price for Hamas' "barbarism" and have been subjected to dehumanising language, cabinet minister Ed Husic says. The industry and science minister said Australia needed to acknowledge the human impact on Palestinians.
- Work on new homes has slumped to its lowest point in more than a decade, deepening the nation's housing crisis and increasing the inflation risk from further rent rises. Construction commenced on just 40,720 houses and apartments in the June quarter, a drop of almost 40 per cent from two years ago and the weakest result since early 2013.
THEY SAID IT: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional." - Chili Davis, American baseballer
YOU SAID IT: Some lines are not meant to be crossed. Lethally hot chilli is one of them.
"Some years ago when living in Sydney we went to the famous Thai restaurant on Sailors Bay Road and tried their chilli crab," writes Alan. "It was served with deep fried chilli and the first one or two chews were beautiful as it had that deep dark flavour of sweetness. Then it hit me. My mouth was immersed in frightening, solid and dark heat. It was a delirious sensation I couldn't shake off as I desperately tried to tear my mouth out and throw it away. And nothing worked to tame the beast - not milk, cold water or Coke. Never again. Once in a lifetime is fine for me."
Sue writes: "I suspect my hot chilli is the equivalent of your mild version, but I know and enjoy my limit of heat. Growing up in the 50s there weren't many ethnic restaurants. Italian and Greek were gradually added to the Chinese, which essentially provided the only takeaway alternative to fish and chips, or hamburgers. Now, wonderfully, there is an amazing range of ethnic dine in or take away eateries, but I couldn't find an Australian Indigenous restaurant in the ACT although there are some which highlight specific Australian Indigenous foods. Love the Echidna. Keep the flag flying."
"Many years ago," writes Jan, "I was learning Indonesian and was invited to an Australian-Indonesian weekend, somewhere in the Pennant Hills area. Having never eaten Indonesian food before, I followed the fellow in front of me as we walked the buffet line. I did as he did and, at the end, I added sauce as he did, in the same way I have always added tomato sauce to a meat pie! Wow! With the help of the generous supply of rice and pieces of cucumber, I was able to consume my meal! Thus began my love of Indonesian food but with a conservative hand on the chilli sauce."
Arthur is adamant: "I hate spicy foods, full stop. Indian food is the worst. Spices, pepper, and curry are no nos. Why ruin good wholesome food with poison?"