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This time of year, my calendar is full of birthday celebrations for many friends and family.

October begins this birthday marathon with celebrations continuing straight through to New Year’s Eve.

Seems like most of my family and close friends have birthdays that fall within this three-month time frame. Makes you wonder how people were staying warm during those cold winter nights back up north in January, February, and March many moons ago.

My own birthday falls in the midst of this marathon in early December. I have never really been bothered by turning a particular age- 30, 40, 50…..but this year, it’s hitting me like a brick- 60!! A recent newspaper cartoon caught my eye and pretty much sums it all up to a tee.  Picture two people walking down the block chatting with the caption reading, “Forty might be the new 30 and 50 might be the new 40, but 60 is still 60!”

I will spare you the drama of my personal journey coping with this milestone birthday. The end result for us all is that we are alive, which is a darn good reason to celebrate and enjoy every moment we have with loved ones, friends, and those around us. Each and every day we are born anew to make a difference in this world. Unfortunately at sixty, it might take a bit longer to make that difference, but we can still do it!

So let us move past me singing the birthday blues and let’s see what is happening here in our island City and beyond our borders. News headlines continue to surprise me during my morning cup of coffee. It’s as if we woke up from a dream into a strange new world where everything is a bit off-kilter.

In a Wall Street Journal article this past week, the wealthy 1% were complaining about plans to strengthen the IRS, which was gutted under the previous administration. This is the same wealthy 1% that has seen their wealth and income grow at staggering rates but yet complain about poor folk getting government handouts. Never mind that the U.S. Treasury is losing billions in uncollected annual revenue from this unreported and hidden wealth. A strange world where such greed is so openly displayed by a wealthy few complaining about paying their fair share of taxes and protecting their tax havens, but there it was in the morning paper.

Other headlines telling of abortion bans in Texas, of states enacting laws that restrict voter access, of COVID conspiracy theories, increase in drug overdose deaths, and of growing poverty rates leaves me a bit bewildered. Where am I? It just doesn’t seem right, but unfortunately it is all too real.

This sense of strangeness seems to have also penetrated local news. Recent collaboration by local groups to bring art into public spaces has been met with a bit of resistance by some in our city government. Granted, placing art in city parks needs to be vetted and not pose a safety hazard. However, the excuse that children might play on it as a reason not to install a particular sculpture seems a bit of a stretch. Children are going to play and interact with mostly anything. Just remember when we were kids playing in city parks.  We climbed over statues, played in fountains, stuck our heads through openings in park sculptures- that’s the nature of being a child. Using safety concerns as criteria pretty much excludes any art installation in a city park. Unfortunately in today’s litigious culture, we are forced to live in a society where excessive precautions are taken in most public spaces.  Those of us who want to bring art into public spaces might just have to look elsewhere and perhaps not blame city staff for having to make decisions based on such realities.

Another local news story leaving me a bit off-kilter was the announcement this week of the new Three Bridges Neighborhood Association of East Wilton Manors. What happened to the other neighborhood association already on the Eastside? Perhaps the new organization should be called Four Bridges, cause you might need to build another bridge to span the gap between the residents in that community. On a serious note, I understand the many years of frustration by Eastside residents who have been prevented from fully participating in the East Neighborhood Association due to the roadblocks of a select few individuals. Hopefully the community will take this as a wakeup call and come together more openly, to respect a difference of opinions from neighbors and work together.

Here on the Westside, as president of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors, I welcome all to come to our meetings, to get involved, to voice your opinion and to volunteer serving on our board of directors. Please do it in a timely manner so that this soon to be sixty-year-old can fade into the sunset knowing that current and newly energized leadership will keep the Westside Association moving ahead into the future, right along with our city, our Central Area Neighborhood Association and hopefully just one but possibly two of the Eastside neighborhood associations.

This love and commitment by so many throughout our city are what makes life just better here…

Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.