days of naze
An obnoxiously large
(101k .wav) audio greeting
from the Author.
|April 21, 1999
One More Orbit Round the Sun or
Turned Away at the Church of Elvis or
Feed Me Haiku
A lot of times birthdays suck.
This should not be a big surprise to people, like me, who have had quite a few. Seems that there is a wide divide between the possible (i.e. parades, surprise treasure hidden throughout the house, feasts, sacrifices, gladitorial games, helicopter rides, showgirls, debauchery, ad nauseum...) and reality.
As with so many aspects of life, it's a matter of expectations. One of the things that took me a while to learn is that nobody knows what you want unless you tell them. Even then, pleasure is a gift that ultimately only you can give yourself.
And thus my birthday ritual, which will unfortunately be foregone this year. But first, origins...
About five years ago, I went to work and got a huge, nasty new assignment from my boss's boss, which completely ruined my day. I resolved thenceforth to never work another birthday in my life.
Last year's was uniquely satisfying and worthy of re-telling.
For me, the greatest luxury is not having to rush. This rushing about business is one of several aspects of American culture that makes me wonder if I weren't intended for life in Norway or some other more sensible European state.
I slept in all the way to 7:30 a.m. (woohoo!) which meant dropping the boys off at their respective schools unshaven and unshowered (but clothed). Returning home I took up the morning ablutions in an aimless fashion which would be my standard were I a prince or lottery winner.
And then a short trip to China Town. Dim sum was the order of the day. More and more people I've met have participated in this wonderful Chinese ritual, and yet many more haven't, so forgive me if I'm repeating something you already know. Dim sum (literally "heart's delight") is both a cuisine and experience originating from southern China, but especially Hong Kong.
Fong Chong's features a cafeteria-like atmosphere with cheap Chinese art hanging above and around the wall behind the bar. The ancient Chinese gentleman who I've seen nearly every time I've been here (the owner?) points towards a table. I sit and await the carts. Only Chinese women are allowed to push the shiny aluminum carts. They wend their way out of the kitchen, past each table. If you make eye contact they announce the treats contained in the small covered dishes. "Hum bao? Sui mai? Beef tripe? Chicken feet?"
I took a co-worker to dim sum a long time ago and was very impressed when she ordered and ate (!) chicken feet -- something I have been far too chicken (oo!) to do. Hum bao is a baked roll with a fine sheen of honey on top; the inside is filled with barbeque pork. The parade of food and the buy-what-you-see style of ordering make dim sum especially satisfying.
I've lived in Portland for a while now and yet I had never visited the 24 Hour Church of Elvis. My movie didn't start for another 45 minutes and the Church was only five blocks away. I ambled southward to Burnside, crossed the street and then over to Ankeny. On the side of an old crusty building (with a lot of character I might add), a hand-painted sign pointed up the the stairs. I climbed the stairs with the eagnerness that accompanies a decision to engage in an activity with an element of risk.
The Church was jammed with Elvis bric-a-brac, cut and paste collages and an overall decor that screamed "I've just moved in" or "I'm still tearing this all down". It was in a state of becoming. A besieged-looking late-fortyish artist-type woman sat amongst the ruins.
"Can I help you?"
"I've come to worship."
She stops for a beat looking a little flustered. "It's a performance art thing... I hope you understand. It's just a bunch of junk. Come back with another person."
The spirit of Elvis overtakes me. I reply with equanimity and a smile, "I dig it".
The Church discriminates not on the basis of race, creed, religion or nationality, but whether you constitute an audience. "Are you lonely tonight?" Ah, the cruel irony. However, I am now among a distinct minority who can lay claim to having been turned away from the Church of Elvis.
And that's another thing I've got going for me.
I jumped back into the car and crossed the Willamette on the Broadway Bridge. (A friend who lived on my dorm floor in my freshman year at college played an intense wargame called "Squad Leader". As we crossed the river he remarked, "You take out these bridges and Portland is hosed." Which, though disturbing, was true.) The weather was gorgeous, exhibiting every reason why Spring is my favorite season. Coming off the bridge on the east side, a gentleman in a tweed jacket caught my eye. He stood at the edge of a parking lot overlooking the river and held in his arms an enormous set of bagpipes. The tweed bagpipe player leaned on the railing and stared soulfully at the water. I remember thinking how unusual this was and starting to feel that the populace of the city was somehow part of a grand yet subtle entertainment put together solely for my pleasure.
I pulled into the parking lot of Lloyd Cinemas driving past a (I kid you not) "Up With People" bus and a car with a "If it's too loud, you're too old" bumpersticker. Hmm. I buy a ticket and stop quickly at the men's room to make a pit stop. As I step up to the urinal, I notice that the feet in the stall are clad in what I would call feminine looking sandals. The legs were bare. Hmm. I proceeded with my business. Just as I zipped up the stall door opened. Out stepped a young twentyish woman in a black top and blond hair! "Oh my god! I'm in the men's room!" The guy next to me was momentarily stunned. To her credit, she laughed, flushed slightly and walked quickly to the exit. She must have had to go very badly. There are five urinals and only two stalls. I mean, c'mon.
"As Good As It Gets" was the best movie on that afternoon. I was ready to be underwhelmed but was quite pleasantly surprised. The sadness from the Kinnear character's beating and Hunt's character's sick child centered the film and made the lighter moments sing. I've always dug Helen Hunt. Didn't she win an Oscar for that role? Incidentally, was anybody else out there a little surprised at how much time the camera spent on her breasts? I'm not complaining mind you, it just seemed a little out of control....
Later I decided to work out. When I checked in, the girl behind the counter wished me Happy Birthday. I know it was just the computer prompting her, but I really liked it anyway. I am a creature of habit as you have come to know. I performed my ritual: Lifecycle, bench press with bar bells (weeny weights I assure you), a wacky machine for the upper body called the Gravitron (it offsets a percentage of your body weight so you can do many sets of pull-ups and dips), a modest amount of ab work and then stretching.
Usually I'm in a rush to get back home, but the day was mine. Dessert is to dinner what jacuzzi is to workout. Time for dessert.
I slide back on the bench and let the hot water slide up to just beneath my ears. Aaaaaahhhhh. I love this. And yet the parade of little incidences continues. What would the day be without a little flirtation?
I hear feet stepping around the edge of the jacuzzi. A fine looking twentyish woman in a black one piece with more than a passing resemblance to Agent Scully sits on the edge and slowly places one foot in. As I look up to her she says, as if to explain, "I was wearing heels last night". Her left shoulder sported a sizeable green oriental dragon. (The previous summer Cathy surprised me by showing up at a restaurant where we were meeting friends with a fresh tiger tattoo on the back of her right shoulder.) She got the tattoo in Texas. It took nearly three hours at the end of which, she cried. The conversation turned to music. I talked about some of my experiences at the college radio station and feeling self-conscious explained that this was "well before your time". I had been in the water for a while and was ready to get out.
"That's as much as an old man can take."
As odd as it may seem, I kind of get off on giving blood. I would be there every 10 weeks if they could just pull that Bloodmobile up to the office parking lot. My luck was running out. The Red Cross had severely overbooked. So before a nurse who looks like my mother can interrogate me with the most intrusive and embarrasing questions (e.g. "Have you ever taken intravenous drugs while thinking of having sex with male prostitutes from Haiti that are using Tegecin?") and then suck the life energy from my veins, I sit amongst the other vessels of plasma in Waiting Room Hell.
For an hour.
Not the way I wanted to remember my 40th pint. But I did get my five gallon pin. Weee!
I got home kind of late, just in time to give the boys their bath. (The family was set to celebrate the following day.) We played with the wooden trains and tracks (Thomas the Tank Engine and friends) which I found to be very soothing. Cathy took David to bed, I had Jack. I read him a comic book from my extensive collection of vintage '75-'77 DC: Lois Lane faces The Tarantula!
That was a day that you couldn't stage even if you tried.
p.s. Dear Friends: Want to make my day? Take 3 minutes and send me a Birthday Haiku. It's easy: 5 syllables on the first line, 7 syllables on the second line, 5 syllables on the last line. No rhyming, no iambic pentameter. Profundity not required. And it's a lot cheaper than an Amazon.com gift certificate. I'll print them on the next amazing edition of days (unless of course you're shy).
p.p.s. Happy Birthday to my fellow Taurusaurs: Queen Elizabeth II and Robert Smith (The Cure).
|previously on days of naze:
what have you done for
|May you never be more active
when you are doing nothing.
|in the feedbag:
books: Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, Ph.D. - Not what you're expecting. It's more. Whew! Hot damn! Wish we would have picked this up sooner. Too much information? Not just for marrieds, no pictures; Skywatching by David H. Levy - Lots of pretty pictures.
work: A lifeline is thrown to me as I nearly drown in the Big Project, troop reinforcements plus sage advice from our company Yoda.
film: The Matrix - I'm going to be looking back on '98-'99 twenty years from now as a pretty amazing 2 years for the movies. The film snob in me tells me I shouldn't love The Matrix, but I do. See it.
magazine: Vanity Fair - Duke Ellington's soul mate, Sydney-Hobart storm.
pc game: X-Wing Alliance. Yes. Kudos to LucasArts is almost like rooting for the Jordan era Bulls. Well, maybe not that bad...
|how old i am in lemur years|