I turned 35 this year. That means as of last Sunday I am legally eligible to run for President of the United States of America.

I have no plans ever to do this, but for whatever reason I’ve always measured birthdays this way. Some of them are obvious – 16 you can drive, 18 you can vote and buy cigarettes and porn and stuff, 21 you can drink – but I still do this well past these obvious milestones.

I turned 25 and I thought, hey, I can rent a car now, and my car insurance rates go down! At 26 I had to buy my own health insurance. At 30 I could run for United States Senate. I have no idea why I do this. Perhaps it’s my amusement at the seemingly arbitrary nature of some of these milestones. Why would someone have to be 30 to run for Senate? And why would you theoretically be able to run for Senate at 30, but not until five years later could you be President?

I realize these are perhaps unanswerable questions and can largely be chalked up to the rote explanation of, “Well, that’s the way it’s always been.” Thing is, I’ve basically run out of milestones until I’m 55 and automatically join the AARP mailing list, and then 65 when I can collect full Social Security benefits (assuming it still exists in 2046).

And that’s what makes turning 35 sort of psychologically strange. Once you reach 35, you’re fully an adult. You’re halfway to 70. You’ve compiled some professional experience and no longer have that professional young person stink on you. Kids going to college this year maybe weren’t born yet when you made that same bright-eyed jaunt yourself. Many professional athletes your age have either retired, been firmly on the downward swing of their careers, or will retire shortly. That’s all weird, and if you’re in the wrong mood, extremely dispiriting.

HOARY CLICHÉD INSIGHT COMING: I now have two kids, and watching them grow and experience the world with fresh eyes is invigorating. Their laughs are unfettered. Their joy pure and uncut. They are fully unspoiled by the world, and it’s a joy to get to at least partially bask in that radiance.

But it also reminds me of how I don’t miss my youth. I like being an adult. When you’re a kid, while the world is fully open and new and fresh and exciting; it’s also terrifying and unknowable and impossibly big and potentially dangerous. As a young adult, you generally hold terrible, uninformed opinions and frequently get broadsided by that which you don’t see coming, yet with hindsight that which seemed easily avoidable.

Adulthood is autonomy. Adulthood is freedom. Adulthood is, true enough, bills and responsibilities and why the fuck is our water pressure in the house low – there’s a pond in the yard with water that won’t stop bubbling from somewhere underneath – let’s call the lawn guy and get it fixed – and goddammit how much is this going to cost now? – but instead of the helpless panic that plagued your 20s, you know you have the capacity and wherewithal to fix it.

And maybe that’s what 35 is. Maybe once you get to this point in your life and have successfully triumphed over enough minor and major crises of all stripes that collectively it makes sense that you can be President.

You are irrevocably an adult. Your youth is over. You’ve managed an increasing level of responsibility and complexity in your career, your family and your life. When you consider all that, maybe that’s the first hurdle to being eligible to have access to nuclear launch codes.

But don’t let the gravity of such thoughts weigh you down. You’re an adult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still bust out a mix CD (Christ, I am old – maybe I should call this a Spotify mix or some shit even though I’ve never used Spotify in my life) on your birthday.

So, onto the random crap that informs this year’s mix.

  • While most of this mix is comprised of shockingly current music, I open with the song that scores the opening sequence of Why? Well, importantly it’s the movie I’m most ridiculously nostalgic for. But as for why it’s this year, this episode of These Things Matter got me all ginned up it. They do a musical break in the middle of each show, and this was the song guest Ben Jones chose. I happened to be in my car when I listened to it, and when he said he wanted “Break the Ice” I pumped my fist, cranked the volume and rocked out. Hell yeah.
  • Going down the list, why is Vanessa Carlton on here? First, as noted by Tom Ley, this song is “an all-time banger”, and a song I secretly adored as far back as when it came out initially, despite being an insufferable, nay-saying shitass. Second, I laughed for maybe four days straight at both the USA Basketball team rocking out to this and Carmelo Anthony’s grumpiness in this video.
  • I note every year which song the mix is built around. There’s always at least one song that is the fulcrum. This year: “Domino” by The Karma Killers. It’s my current obsession.
  • Also an obsession? The Struts. Absurdly fun cockrock that I cannot get enough of. In early drafts of this mix, I had five Struts songs under consideration for inclusion. I count it as an extremely noble act of restraint that I got this down to two songs in the final draft.
  • The award for biggest disparity between actual musical aesthetic and expectations of musical aesthetic based on their name: Diarrhea Planet. That’s an absolutely unforgivable name, especially for a band that plays extremely agreeable pop punk. Although it’s fun when someone asks you who you’re listening to, and you get to respond: “Diarrhea Planet.” Watch their face when the words “Diarrhea Planet” escape your lips. Tremendous experience.
  • I challenged my best friend Jason to make both an Ultimate Less Than Jake mix and an Ultimate Rise Against mix. He unquestionably made the better Less Than Jake mix, and I think I made the better Rise Against mix. I had to include songs from both artists in here for that reason.
  • Also, a hearty hat tip to Jason for introducing me to Beach Slang. It does my heart good that bands are still making quality punk rock in 2016 that I can discover.
  • Grace’s current favorite song is “Handclap” by Fitz & the Tantrums. When we get in the car, she points at the radio and starts clapping her hands. It got so insistent, that I finally pulled the car over and just downloaded it right there.
  • One of my most unpredictably popular Facebook status updates this year: “Hot take: Jamiroquai was way underrated.” Listen to Jamiroquai.
  • Your requisite wrestling reference: I grew to love that Phillip Phillips song thanks to this Dusty Rhodes tribute. I can’t not love wrestling.
  • One of the benefits of being self-employed is that I generally get to set my own schedule. This means I’m usually home during the afternoon, and frequently I’m in the basement playing with my daughter. One day I looked at my phone for too long, so she ran up to me, grabbed it, and started banging away on the apps. She ran away from me, and I could no longer see my phone. All of a sudden “The Artist in the Ambulance” by Thrice fires up, and she starts rocking out. When I managed to wrest it away from her, I realized she opened Pandora, which was set to my Strung Out station. However, I prefer to think she chose to listen to Thrice. My daughter the punk rocker.
  • As a final note, I will never understand parents who subject themselves to awful kiddie music shit in the car when they’re driving around. Kristin and I listen to what we’re going to listen to, and don’t condescend to our children with Kidz Bop or any of that other mercenary, pandering tripe. They’re going to find real stuff on their own. Maybe don’t exoticize it by only exposing them to horrible facsimiles of real music. You are the guide for your children. Show them your taste and expose them to as much as you can. My theory is you’ll create well-rounded children with varied and interesting sensibilities. Or maybe they’ll be monsters because we rock out to Face to Face and No Use for a Name and stuff. I don’t know. All I know is kids’ music is generally terrible and you’re better off rolling the dice.
  • Here’s the mix:
  1. Break the Ice – John Farnham
  2. Less Than Jake – Anchor
  3. A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
  4. You Give Me Something – Jamiroquai
  5. Geronimo – Sheppard
  6. Phillip Phillips – Raging Fire
  7. Domino – The Karma Killers
  8. Strange Times – The Black Keys
  9. Outta My Mind – The Arcs
  10. Put Your Money On Me – The Struts
  11. The Loudest Songs – Less Than Jake
  12. Fitz & the Tantrums – Handclap
  13. You & Me – The Hunna
  14. Always Where I Need to Be – The Kooks
  15. Platinum Girls – Diarrhea Planet
  16. Lightning Strike – A Silent Film
  17. Times Like These – Foo Fighters
  18. Everchanging – Rise Against
  19. The Artist in the Ambulance – Thrice
  20. Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas – Beach Slang
  21. Kiss This – The Struts

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