Personal Pieces postsSunday January 20, 2013
50 Birthday Cards
My first thought was, “Hey, I got a birthday card!”
It was Thursday evening and there was a stack of mail on the dining room table when I got home from work. The top-most was in the red envelope of greeting cards, hand addressed, so I picked it up to see who it was from. Then I saw a similar card behind it. Then another. And another. “What the hell?” I thought. I'd been expecting one, maybe two cards for my birthday. It was my 50th but I know people tend not to send cards much anymore. Me, either. You get e-cards and emails and birthday wishes on Facebook. But here, on one day, three days before my birthday, I'd gotten ... how many? Five? Ten? And three from my brother? What the fuck? What was he on?
It was when I noticed the numbers on the backs of the envelopes—11, 12, 14. 32, 33, 34—that the other shoe dropped.
“No,” I thought. “They're not sending me ... 50 cards ... for my 50th birthday ... are they?”
I immediately suspected my sister Karen and called her up. They were in the basement watching “The Big Bang Theory,” Jordy's new favorite show, but she denied culpability. She knew about it certainly, she'd participated in it certainly, but she didn't organize it. So who did? My sister, who is an editor at the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis, has always been a good reporter, in part, I think, because she keeps digging at people until they give her answers. She just doesn't accept no. And she may be good at this because she knows the power of secrets and the overwhelming desire to spill them. Which is to say she gave up the name in seconds: my friend Kristin, who runs a Waldorf school in south Minneapolis, loves crafts projects, and is a sweetheart.
The next day, when I got 20 more cards, I phoned her.
Me: So how long have you been planning this?
She (feigning innocence very poorly): Why do you think it was me?
It was such a great idea, I was curious if, a) she'd thought of it, and b) had done it before. Yes and yes. She came up with it last year for her friend Chrissy's 60th birthday. Chrissy lives by herself in Boston, she has all these people who love her, so what was a good way to let her know that? Out of such dilemmas, great ideas are born.
I love the numbers on the envelopes. When I was putting them together on Friday, I felt like I was a kid again collecting baseball cards. Ok, I have 3, 4 and 5, but I still need 1 and 2. Plus 50. Don't have that one yet. And dude I'm totally missing most of the 20s! Saturday I got 1, 2 and 50. I still needed about 12 more to complete the set. I opened more than half yesterday and put them on my desk for my 50th birthday party. Saved some for today. Which I'll open soon.
It is such a lovely idea, feel free to steal it. It makes getting the mail actually a pleasure. Remember those days?
In the Shape I'm In
Among the 6400 items in my iTunes library are four birthday songs: The Beatles' song, first and foremost; “Happy Birthday, Lisa” from “The Simpsons” (and Michael Jackson); that Altered Images' song from the early 1980s, which I associate with a girl I had a crush on; and Loudon Wainwright's song “The Birthday Present,” from his album “The BBC Sessions.” The one I've listened to the most is the Loudon Wainwright song. No contest. I guess I'm the right age for it. I already wrote about it on this blog three years ago but it's worth repeating, particularly since today is the day. I've reached that ripe young age, that halfway point, when life surely begins. Here are some of the lyrics:
And I know that in nearly four years
I’ll be hitting 50
That ripe young age
That halfway point
When life really begins
But Saturday let’s celebrate
Neither the past nor future
But the present
Here I am
In the shape I’m in!
Love that last line.
Countdown to 50
Question: What's a good, smart answer to: “So how does it feel to be 50?” Since I'll most assuredly get asked that question. An answer that doesn't involve punching anyone. I usually miss.
ADDENDUM: Early front-runner: “A lot like 49. But rounder.”
Your faithful blogger, far left, in tennis sweater, age...7 (?), behind his best friend Mark (in tie), at the birthday party of lifelong friend Doug (center, with flag). It's our version of “50 Up.” Doug was born the day before me: January 19, 1963. Our mothers used to have to consult so our birthday parties didn't conflict.
How's Your New Year Going?
New Year's Day, morning, Patricia and I are moving a heavy mirror in the bedroom. She recently bought a new bed frame that we put together (with the help of our friend Vinny), but which necessitated moving the dresser, which necessitated moving the heavy mirror above the dresser. We were doing this when I slid my hand on the bottom of the mirror to get a better grip. And that's when I got the sliver. Deep sliver. It took about five minutes of wrangling with tweezers and pins and hydrogen peroxide to get it free and clear, and even then I thought we'd missed the brunt of it. Right near the wound I saw a thin blue line that looked like a sliver deep beneath the surface, and which reminded me of the sleek blue shadow of a shark beneath the surface of the water. I stared at it. I pressed on it. I compared it to veins in my hand. It looked like a vein. Surely it was just a vein. Or was it? (It was.) But I wasted half the day obsessing over it. That was my first day of the new year.
Yesterday afternoon, the second day of the New Year, I was returning to work with lunch, chicken coconut curry soup from Metropolitan Market in lower Queen Anne, when I felt something splat on top of my head. Things have landed on my head before, of course, but they invariably turn out to be water from a nearby air-conditioner, or some such, but this felt different. It felt wrong. I had napkins in my hand for the soup and I rubbed them on the back of my head ... and the napkins came away smeared with the yellow of bird shit. I spent the next 15 minutes cleaning up at work in the bathroom, then showered when I got home. The chicken curry soup for lunch didn't look or taste as good as it ought to. That was my second day of the new year.
A new year is an artificial construct, of course, which gives us the illusion of a new beginning. I enjoy that illusion—for a day or a week or two. Sometimes I look for signs in it. What will the new year bring? Will the first few days tell me what kind of year I will have?
Per the signs this year: I will be obsessed with the inconsequential; then I'll get shit on.
Today's the third day of the new year. Here I come, world.
HOMER: Sitting here and complaining isn't going to do anything. You got to pull up your diaper and be the best damn Barney you can be.
BARNEY: HERE I COME WORLD!!! (Runs outside and into trash can.)
My Weekend in iPhotos
After work Friday I walked from my office in lower Queen Anne to the new ferris wheel along the Seattle waterfront, envisioned by Hal Griffith, called “the Seattle Great Wheel,” and recently opened for business. Patricia wanted to ride on it for her birthday, which was over a month ago, but it took this long to get a Friday all her friends could attend.
On the way, I encountered more people than I'd anticipated. Lower Queen Anne, Belltown, the waterfront: they were everywhere. They were also ... how shall I say this? ... really stupid-looking. One woman in a bikini was topless. Most eyes were glazed. I assumed a concert was going on so I asked one of the passersby what the what. “Hempfest, dude,” I was told and he encouraged me to come along. It was a spirited crowd. But man did they look dumb. Not the best advertisement for their product. The Associated Press has a good article on the Hempfest crowds, some of whom, believe it or not, are against legalizing marijuana via I-502. I'm in favor of it—the crowds I encountered notwithstanding.
Finally I arrived. P was already there, with surreptitious margaritas, and we were soon joined by her brother and sister-in-law, Alex and Jayne, her brother Jack, his significant other, Tess, along with friends Laura, Paige, Vinny and Ward.
I was actually nervous about the Ferris Wheel. It goes way up and I'm kinda afraid of heights.
It turned out to be completely enclosed and incredibly smooth, and it was a beautiful night for a ride and a view. We had to split up—the max is eight to a compartment, and we had 10—and our group of five (Alex, Jayne, Patricia, Ward, me) enjoyed ourselves, although some thought that along with a HELP button (a red button on the top of the comparment) there should be some kind of ADULT BEVERAGE button. To better toast the city. And ourselves.
Ward and Patricia talking adult beverages.
Alex in his element.
The southern view: Smith Tower, stadia, Rainier, the Bainbridge ferry.
Then we went to Green Leaf in the ID for dinner—the place that is fast becoming my favorite restaurant in Seattle:
The next day, P, Alex, Jayne and I hiked Annette Lake. I did it last year and remember it being a breeze. This year was a little tougher. But it's been a tough year.
That night, my friend Tim and I took in a game at Safeco. The M's won their fourth in a row, 3-2, on a sac fly in the bottom of the ninth. Mid-game I bought some Ivar's fish-n-chips and a beer and realized that it cost the same as my portion of the fantastic meal at Green Leaf.
Sunday, as is the tradition, I rested.
How was your weekend?