Birthday candles come from an old pagan tradition of sending your prayers to the gods in smoke. And I can see why. This cake makes me want to dance around it wearing nothing but a pelt. It's a party unto itself!
So in the last year I’ve either gotten smarter or I’ve just gotten old.
Or maybe both?
The thing of it is, I know all these people who spend all kinds of time and money and energy going out and whooping it up every weekend and buying things they don’t need and coveting those who are rich or acting like they’re rich or ‘have it all’ or any and anything in between.
And I wonder what it is that makes that fun?
If you ask me, I suppose it’s the hope of meeting interesting people or seeming like one yourself, the desire to have a laugh, the indulgence of fine food and wine, and the overall allure of ‘the glamorous life.’
And the thing of it is, all that bores me.
Well, minus the food and wine…but if you have me around, I can at least take care of the food part. Just bring me some champagne, and we’re square.
Anyway, I find that the more energy one puts into looking fabulous or being impressive, the less they often actually have to offer as a human being.
At this point in my life, my ‘best night ever’ would involve a few cherished friends or beloved family members, great food, a little too much wine or other inebriating substance, and maybe a board game. Or a late-night swim on a warm night. Or a great conversation. Or live music. Or a hilarious movie. Or a beach bonfire. Or a guitar sing-a-long on a night I’ve taken it easy enough on the inebriating substances to remember the chords. Or a storytelling session. Or watching shooting stars. Or laughing just because. Or whatever.
Let’s start with the first three ingredients and see what happens…
Meanwhile, I realize I’ve been lucky enough to have several of these occasions in the last year:
If any of you wanted to drop by with this cake, I wouldn't argue. Much.
In Sequim, Washington at the “Clam Cottage” where I actually won a game of Trivial Pursuit! (In your face, sucka!)
In Washington, D.C. watching “Strangers with Candy” episodes on a laptop.
In Wildwood, New Jersey where I saw my dad laugh so hard he cried.
And even just this Saturday night when I had some great friends over, one of whom is one of those remarkable people who always makes you feel smart and fascinating and impossibly clever.
More than that, I have some other fun times to look forward to before 2009 is out.
And for all that I’m super grateful.
So on the eve of declaring myself yet another year older, I suppose it could be a lot worse. I could be wasting my money and my time chasing illusions of youth and glamour and hoping to meet some fabulous people under a disco ball…but I’m happy to find that I’m pretty damn content just being me and living the life I’ve made.
It ain’t perfect, and I still have things I’m (majorly) striving for…but what fun would it be without all those hopes and dreams, anyway?
A few of you owe me this cake (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), but no need to bring it by.
As a strange irony, I was sent a link during the course of writing this post, and it fits in perfectly, natch. It’s entitled “Nine Secrets of Truly Happy People, and I’m sure now – like me – you’re dying to know them. There’s a longer, more detailed version you can find here, but for me, this abbreviated list is crystal clear as-is:
1. They know what really matters
2. They choose just two or three important projects for each year
3. They put time aside for them each day
4. They surround themselves with people who motivate, inspire or build them up
5. Happy people eat well
6. They take time to play or to just ‘be’
7. They learn not to make excuses, justify, or cop out
8. Happy people take time to be grateful – for themselves and for others
9. They get something done
Another year bites the dust. Happy birthday to me!
And you know what? I think this list is dead-on.
So to my birthday twins (Cliff, Cesar, and Paul Simon) and to all of you: Salud, Mazal tov, and Here’s looking at you, Kid!
Cheers to this list and to life!
Tomorrow, if I get my act together, I’m feeling kind of inspired to post a couple childhood pictures for you. The major roadblock involves my scanner…
And yes, this entire post has come to you in my birthday suit.
I woke up kind of late this morning with the words to Lou Reed’s “What’s Good” in my head.
All told, it’s a bummer of a song on a bummer album (Magic and Loss), but at the end his spirits lift a little with the words:
Life’s good – but not fair at all.
And all fairness aside, somehow those words inspired me. And without really thinking about it, my brain started compiling this list, and after about twenty minutes of such thoughts, I thought it might make a nice little blog. Thus, without further ado (or adieu, which for some reason I typed first), here are my first-thing-on-a-Saturday morning list of what’s good:
Waking up and realizing you deftly avoided a hangover
The movie ‘The Hangover’
Sitting next to someone uber-cool on the airplane and having a great conversation
The Dalai Lama
Picking up the guitar for the first time in over a year and finding out you can still play it pretty well
A good book on a rainy day
Marshmallows roasted over a camp fire
Completing a goal
Huge dogs that stick their head out of the sunroof while riding down the road
Remembering someone’s name
People who say, “You’re going to succeed! I just know it!”
Earl grey tea
Feeling comfortable in your own skin
Helping somebody else
The knowledge that if you had to run really fast for a really long time (like to escape a predator or win a bet or something) you could probably do it
The sound of the ocean
Showing up and finding that people are truly happy to see you
Tooth whitening technology
Pursuing your dreams
The smell of a baking pumpkin pie
The way a dog looks at you when it loves you
The way a person looks at you when they love you
Turning someone onto a great book
Fendi Palazzo perfume
Winning an iPod touch from www.Googlewaveblogger.com!! (Made even sweeter by the fact that the only thing I usually win are door prizes I don’t want, like a giant container of ‘Weight Gain 2′ I “won” at the gym once.)
Gin martinis a little bit dirty with three olives
This post is so self-indulgent it seemed only fitting I put a picture of me next to it. This is last night before the events that led up to being grateful I’m not hung over this morning. Those pictures behind me I took in Ayutthaya, Thailand ten years ago.
People who remember your name (and spell it correctly)
Throwing a great party where everyone has fun
Honey crisp apples
Making a meal so amazing that even you can’t get over how good it is
People who read this blog
The feeling when you’re looking at a Jackson Pollock painting in real life.
Facebook for helping me find old friends I’d been missing
Every article of clothing and footwear and undie-thing Victoria’s Secret sells
The smell of freshly ground coffee
Growing your own vegetable garden
Being 36 but having everyone always guess that you’re 27 or 28.
Getting through a really tough workout without stopping once or cheating it the whole time
A real wood fire in the fireplace
Happy memories that make you laugh
Ruffles sour cream and cheese potato chips
The excitement of believing something good is going to happen
Chicken noodle soup when you feel like you might be coming down with something
Knee-high leather boots
Remembering a joke and telling it right
Hot, sunny days
Really connecting with someone
Writing something and feeling proud of it
Making someone laugh
The color yellow
Getting through several hours of painful editing, and feeling like you’ve accomplished something worthwhile
Really good red wine
Spoiling someone who’s not used to it
Fighting off a cold
Photographs that capture good times
The Turkish baths in Budapest
Liking who you are
Black jelly beans
Imagining a happy future
The smell of leaves
Kauai (all of Hawaii, but Kauai in particular)
Receiving something unexpected in the mail
Good grammar and spelling
An outdoor hot tub on a snowy day
The feeling of belonging
Overly buttered movie theater popcorn
Good running shoes
Manhattan (the movie and the place)
The rush of being ‘free’ that comes once in a while for no good reason whatsoever
To love and be loved
Oysters on the half shell
Learning something new
Going on an adventure
Fairy tales with happy endings
Getting an email from a stranger who says that the blog has really touched them in some way or made them laugh on a bad day.
Going on a long run and feeling happy and powerful and strong the whole time
Turning a bad experience into a hilarious story
Having your dad always request that you make Chicken Picatta for him (even if you’re there just one night), and having him gush that it’s the best meal he’s had in a year.
The beginning of the Hall and Oates song “You Make My Dreams”
Believing in yourself
Giving someone a gift that they truly love
Every word in Desiderata – “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe if unfolding as it should.”
Putting together an outfit that’s so damn cute that strangers are compelled to come up to compliment you on it.
Standing in front of a Mark Rothko painting
People who ask you to help them because they truly believe that you can (and will)
The Carl’s Junior Portobello Mushroom ‘Six Dollar’ Burger
Encouraging someone else that they can achieve their dreams and seeing them do it
Getting an article of clothing you’ve had your eye on for months at clearance prices
Being conned into being a Christmas elf for someone’s charity event because “You’d make such a beautiful elf, and the children DESERVE beautiful elves.” And then learning that the children are four and five years old and believe they’re on a trip to meet Santa. Magic!!!
The New Yorker magazine
Anything written by David Sedaris
Anything having to do with Amy Sedaris
Someone randomly finding this blog and then sticking with it
Planning a trip (even just mentally) to a place you’ve never been
Laughing so hard that tears roll down your face
People that trust you with their house keys
The self-control to resist showing up at the home of a friend for which you have their house keys wearing a black robe and a ’Scream’ mask
Realizing that you’re starting to feel overly silly and ending this blog before you devolve into nonsense
I’m sure I’ll think of dozens more things throughout the day, but I’ll try to resist coming back and editing this fifteen times!
Feel free to add your own additions in a comment!
I went to the gym immediately after publishing this, and cannot turn the list off. Here’s everything I jotted down in between machines:
Breakfast in bed
700-thread count sheets
Lobster with melted butter
The adorable old lady at the gym who wears the denim shorts hiked up to her boobs
The knowledge that I have quite a few years left before I’m wearing shorts hiked up to my boobs
Counting Crows Adam Duritz’s voice
Old men who smile + wave at me at the gym
Men with well-developed pecs and and arms
Holes in the wall with live blues
How good food tastes when you’re really hungry
Maoz Falafel in Barcelona
Stand up comedy
Swanky hotel rooms
Really good kissers
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Sleeping w/the windows open
Buffalo chicken wings
Bloody Marys with a pickle in them
Winning in vegas (even just $20 or $50)
Volcanoes (the non-deadly kind, like the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii)
Being bumped to first class
New car smell
Perfectly worn-in jeans
A hot slice of New York pizza on a cold day
A room lit by candles
Yellow jeeps with the top off
Getting rid of the hiccups
Chinese take out
Standing under a waterfall
Coming up on a deer and having it not run away
Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major as performed by Yo-Yo Ma
Walking barefoot on the beach
Going on vacation and thinking you forgot your phone charger and later finding out you remembered it
So when I get home it will be November, and I’ve decided – in addition to the blog and the book I’ve been working on (slowly) during this trip – to do NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org) – National Novel Writing Month (and just a few letters more than the overly rich BC coconut dessert bar thingies). This is something of a community support site to write a novel in one month. It may not be realistic to try to do all these things at the same time, but if you want to change to a career as a writer, I figure it’s best to write. A lot. And maybe the ‘God helps those who help themselves’ effect will kick in? Or I’ll eventually write something someone wants to pay for!?
Meanwhile, I have a Kindle (Amazon’s electronic book device) with me (I love it. I keep meeting people who say they heard they don’t work, but mine has been flawless and a life-saver. It’s so small. Like the size of a DVD case. And the battery holds a charge – allegedly, I’ve never tried – for 14 hours. I can attest to at least ten hours of battery life. The Kindle was worthy every penny if you read a lot and travel a lot), and as a rule I’m aways reading three or four books at once.
Along with The Book Thief, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, and The Art of Racing in the Rain (all sad books, really), I’ve been reading this book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Actually, I’ve been reading it in small doses. It is arguably the saddest book of them all, and I find it incredibly upsetting. I really enjoyed Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, about the intertwined evolution of four plants (potatoes, tulips, and apples, and marijuana) in conjunction with humanity. All told, it was very interesting and thoughtful, but in no way distressing.
I guess that’s why I was unprepared for the Ominivore’s Dilemma. If you read Fast Food Nation, that was for children. Seriously. The situation Pollan paints is so dire that in some ways it seems unfathomable. And sitting on the Blue Star Ferry from Naxos to Pireaus (Athens) right by the “Goody’s”, I watched as dozens of overweight people bought themelves and their chunky kids what are no doubt corn-syrup and corn-derivative based “chicken nuggets” and “Goody Burgers” and “Star chickens.” and you start to wonder where it all ends? What happens when we literally deplete every fossil fuel on the planet and cannot develop antibiotics smarter than the bugs, but we’ve mutated our cows and our salmon and god knows what else to eat corn, and eat other cows (which is where mad cow comes from. Apparently a similar disorder occurs in human cannibals as eating the flesh of one’s own species carries a special risk for infection.) What happens when all we’ve eaten for several generations is garbage that has more or less been made in a lab and super fueled with antibiotics?
And admitting I have not very well explained the book, but drilled down to the worst of it. And even if Michael Pollan’s research is inaccurate or one-sided or prone to hyperbole (and I don’t know that it is, I’m just playing devil’s advocate), it occurred to me that the end game of this dilemma would make a damn good story. And although science fiction is not something I know anything about, I figure as long as my science is solid, the rest is fiction. So there you go.
And as what I’m taking as a ‘thumbs up’ sign from universe (BTW, is there anywhere that’s rude? I read not to slap a fist into an open palm or make the ‘victory’ sign in Turkey – but I don’t do these things anyway. I DO, however, throw around thumbs like I’m The Fonz. Ehhhhhhhhhh! Essentially, now that the head nodding and shaking is out, it’s how I try to convey to non-English speakers that I’m okay, or my backpack is on now and you can let go and stop whimpering, or I understand that the large white boat is the ferry or whatever. No one has ever looked offended, but I’m not always the best judge of subtleties. Let me know if thumbs up = something bad and where).
So I totally interrupted myself there. Let me try that again: As what I’m taking as a ‘thumbs up’ sign from universe, within ten minutes of coming up with this idea, I stumbled across a quote that strikes me as a compass for the storyline. It comes, quite auspiciously, from the brilliant science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
So now I guess we know (to some extent) what we’ll be talking about come November…
Meanwhile, the Italians have NOTHING on the Greeks in terms of aggressive male behavior. The Greeks are in a league of their own (which is not necessarily a good thing). On the upside, I have had three men tell me they love me today. On the downside, I don’t know any of their names. More on that tomorrow…
As I’ve worked on this tonight, I can hear an Australian guy on the phone in the hall lamenting to person after person how someone picked his pocket on the subway today. I would like to take a moment and offer up some heartfelt gratitude.
TO THE POWERS THAT BE: THANK YOU SO MUCH that NOTHING of any kind (minus a cold, which was truly no big deal) has befallen me the last three months! Just let me know what form of alms you would prefer. Having been to the Archeaological Museum today, I’m up on Egyptian, Classical Greek, Estrucian, etc. etc. etc. Or if just reminding myself and anyone else who cares to notice how infrequently we stop to be grateful is good enough, then so be it. I’ve noticed…and muchas gracias!!!
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