I turned sixty-six on Friday. Had I waited, I would now be eligible for full Social Security benefits. Sixty-six is what the Social Security Administration calls “full retirement age” for folks born between 1943 and 1954. But I started drawing my monthly payment about three years ago so nothing about that changed on Friday. Sixty-six is not a particularly exciting birthday. At sixty-two I became eligible for reduced Social Security and sixty-five brought me Medicare but there are no more birthdays with benefits in my future. There was a period, in the distant past, when every couple of birthdays brought something new and wonderful. Turning thirteen made me a teenager, I could drive when I reached sixteen and buy 3.2% beer at eighteen. Twenty-one brought the possibility of buying whiskey and voting. Twenty-two brought nothing. Thirty, forty, fifty, and sixty were all big deals with the first three being celebrated mightily but not one birthday between twenty-one and sixty-two brought new privileges and neither will any in the future. Sixty-six is like twenty-two with more aches and pains and a much earlier bedtime.
Of course the lack of new privileges did not keep me from enjoying the day. I got it started with some phenomenal pecan pancakes at one of my favorite breakfast spots, The Original Pancake House. I hung out at home for a bit then headed out again in the early afternoon. My first stop was at the place pictured to the left and at the top of this post. Not only was it my first stop of the afternoon, it was my first stop ever at Weber’s Cafe and, unless I get back there one of three days next week, it will be my last. Weber’s is closing next Wednesday and it was a news article about the closing that brought the neighborhood bar to my attention. The place couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming but it really is a place where friends gather. I drank a couple of PBRs and had delightful chats with both George and Nancy (who appear in the article and accompanying video) but in the end I was a tourist who could admire the comradery of the regulars but who was certainly not part of it. Those guys are really going to miss this place. Heck, I’m going to miss the place and I was only there once. There’s a nice blog post from a few years back here.
Next up was a drive to Wilmington to meet buddy John. We met at Daluca’s Dugout and I really should have grabbed some pictures there because Deluca’s (perhaps better known as Sal’s) is a blue collar place with its own set of regulars and its own set of sports memorabilia though its memorabilia isn’t quite in the same class as that at Weber’s. John is a regular and I’m becoming a semi-regular and it’s a very comfortable place to down a few brews. From there we headed to MacD’s Pub with intentions of having one beer and ended up splitting a pitcher while chatting with John’s boss, Norm, who graciously bought a round of Woodford for the three of us. This had developed into a bit more of a celebration than I had anticipated.
My next move was partly, but not entirely, spontaneous. John and I had devoured a couple of baskets of chips at Sal’s but the idea of seeking out some real food seemed a good one. Over the last several days, the thought of a special meal for my birthday had occurred a time or two. One of the places I’d thought of is in Dayton. I can reach Dayton from Wilmington in about the same amount of time as I can reach home. Of course I’d still need to get home from Dayton but I saw that as a detail that could be dealt with later. Dayton was where I headed.
The Pine Club is an old school steakhouse with a mile high reputation. Though the restaurant and I are the same age, I’d eaten there just once. On that one visit, however, I was served what I believe was the best steak I’ve ever eaten. I certainly do intend to enjoy another one someday but that’s not what was on my mind this time. In addition to a variety of steaks, the Pine Club offers a nice seafood selection and some sandwiches including hamburgers. I really was surprised when I first saw Pine Club and hamburger mentioned together but it seems the restaurant has been showing up on best ‘burgers lists for quite awhile. I’ve lusted after one of these babies for a long time. The lust was justified and the drive rewarded. This is a high quality and tasty hamburger that is neither over-priced nor over-hyped. Happy Birthday to me.