Thursday, March 5, 2009

At 4:59PM today I turn 39! Which means that I will have exactly a year left to do all those things I was going to do before I turned 40. Some of the things I was going to do -like invent high-definition television, start an internet auction site called eBay, and invade Iraq and depose the tyrant- have already been done, so I got a good out on that. There's still the robot-vacuum that does stairs, the cheap solar-generating interlocking roof tiles and road pavers, and the viable technology for remote-controlled toy helicopters that need perfecting, so I'll be busy through the summer. Also, I've been meaning to disappear Kim Jong-il, the bastard. I'll get right on it.

Like Kim Jong-il, I have my own cult of personality on Facebook, where I have received today more birthday greetings than any other birthday I've ever had. (Thanks!) Unlike Kim Jong-il, my birth was not foretold by swallows or heralded by the miraculous appearance of double rainbows across the land and a new star in the heavens. I am rather, the quiet, unassuming, middle-child born around the Ides of March when Caesar was assasinated. I share a birthday with the guy who painted this:

and the actor who messed on my childhood with this:

...but also this fine actor, who was knighted by the Queen:

...and won an Oscar for perfectly uttering one of the best final lines in any movie: "Where the devil are my slippers?"

Also, this guy was born on the same day as me and in the same year but on the other side of the country:

(John Frusciante, guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I'm not much of a fan, but he's all right.)

Also on this day in history: John Belushi committed suicide when he OD'd on cocaine and heroin in bungalow #3 of the Chateau Marmont, 5 civilians were killed at the hands of British troops in what became known as the Boston Massacre (sparking the American Revolution) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into effect after ratification by 43 nations, (though it arguably didn't do any good.)

So I carry that with me. In college, I was rooming with a guy from my home town who was born the day before me, on March 4th, also in 1970. We were laying in our beds staring at the ceiling in the dark one night, chatting, and we discovered that we were born in the same hospital, hours apart. The two of us were probably in the same maternity ward cry room in a couple of beds, a few feet apart, and here we were 21 years later, a couple beds apart. Life is amazing that way. For all the times you notice moments like that, there must be a thousand near-misses when you don't.

What do I want for my birthday? A new SUV, a new boat, a new iPhone, World Peace after the defeat of all the enemies of America, and Global Climate Change limited to the four seasons and a hella storm every now and then so we can be reminded of our miniscule place in the universe and still get some good pictures. Also: free gas for life. What do I really want? The day off to work in the garden and gift certificates to every nursery in town. What am I really getting? I get to work on someone's patio cover, which is more than I can ask for, but I'm going to not rush anything and demand that everyone on the job site kindly back off. (Come to think of it, I may just do that every day from now on.)

Birthdays and holidays are troublesome to so many. All the magic and wonder and power they had in our youth, is somehow distant and misplaced in adulthood. The truth is it's the adults who made all that wonder and magic happen when you were a kid. Now that you're old, it is you who are the conductor of the wonder, the one with the wand. Use it, or be miserable. But be miserable on your own time. The hardest part of growing up is being put in charge of that wand, and then being surrounded by all the other grown-ups who neglect to use theirs.

The Little Ditchman just came up to me and grabbed me by the cheeks with both hands, planted a kiss on my mouth and said simply, "Happy Birthday, Daddy." And then she gave me a hug and high-fived me. If you were planning on getting me a gift, don't sweat it. You won't be able to top that. (But I'll accept your high-five all the same.)

I'm looking forward to her next birthday way more than my own. It's what keeps me young.