1. in which i anthropomorphize both my birthday and my brain
I almost forgot my own birthday this year. Which I think is rude. My birthday was like, “Hey, remember me?” And I was like, “Sorry, gotta grade student portfolios. Maybe I’ll catch you next year when you turn 34?”
Then, lo and behold, I finished grading a day early. Workaholism has its perks. AK colluded with my birthday, and together they made a tasty pasta dinner (with bread crumbs, onions, sardines and parsley, which sounds a little odd but is in fact amazing) and took me to see Greenberg. I was so happy that day that I put Cold War Kids’ “Santa Ana Winds” on repeat and alternately rocked out and cried. It just felt so good to have my brain back—to be able to devote my thoughts to something other than my to-do list. Driving down Avenue 50, I could gaze at people on the sidewalk and make up little stories about them. I could contemplate the characters in my circus novel. I could theorize about whether skinny jeans were here to stay.
But by Saturday morning—my actual birthday—my brain retreated again. I guess it remembered that I needed to clean the house before the book club came over and before another week of traveling. Also, my flu made a brief but attention-getting comeback and the vet called to tell me he doesn’t like OC’s kidney levels or the crystals in his urine. I did not like those things either. And because I was too fried by life to fully register the bad, if vague, news (that my wonderful orange chatterbox is basically a man in his sixties with all the accompanying health concerns), I was just like, Fuck, now I have to go pick up special expensive food?
2. i am like a doctor with many borders
On Easter Sunday, after the earthquake, my sister and I discussed Haiti vs. Chile.
Me: Chile had it rough, but they kind of had their shit together before the fact, so now it’s like everyone’s sort of forgotten about it.
Cathy: I know! But that was a huge quake.
Me: But Haiti had so many things stacked against it before.
Cathy: Yeah, so the earthquake just sort of did them in.
Me: Kind of like how when I was trying to clean my house and deal with the news about OC, I realized my sink was leaking too.
Cathy: Um, yeah, exactly like that.
3. the belvedere tennis club follows me wherever i go
Anyway, I did rally long enough to have a pretty great birthday. When people first started arriving for our discussion of The Book of Illusions/eating of tres leches cake, I found myself annoyed that they’d brought food. Which they wanted to put in my nice clean bowls, on my nice clean table. But then I just surrendered to all of it, including the part where my awesome friends bring me food. Surrendering should sometimes be the first thing you do instead of the last.
I’m reading Anne Lamott’s funny and comforting and deeply spiritual memoir about being the single mother of an infant. Having a busy schedule and a leaky sink is probably not remotely comparable to her challenges (and possibly not Haiti’s either), but it’s still great to be reminded that, “When I’m coming apart like a two-dollar watch, it helps me beyond words to look at myself through the eyes of Mary, totally adoring and gentle, instead of through the critical eyes of the men at the Belvedere Tennis Club, which is how I’ve looked at myself nearly all my life.”
So what if I started my year of being 33 with a mild tantrum? Mary’s cool with it, and AK was too. She drove to the vet and picked up the special cat food. Then we book clubbers ate movie-themed food (hot dogs both veggie and real, Hawaiian-style popcorn with Nori Maki rice crackers, microwave burritos, soft pretzels) and tried to flip a coin when our vote for next month’s book yielded a tie (The Mansion of Happiness vs. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind). There was a lot of “Wait, heads it’s the poetry book? Or heads it’s whichever one I voted for?” and “Dammit, this is a Mexican coin! Okay, so ‘1’ equals heads…does anyone have a quarter?”
We arrived at The Mansion of Happiness, and after a beer and a long nap the next day, I think it’s safe to say I arrived at the duplex of contentedness. But I am still fantasizing about a non-working vacation with AK to any place where someone will bring me a drink with an umbrella in it and not want to talk about publishing.