With the words ‘The die must be cast, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and, having made good headway, reached Ariminum before dawn.
When last we left our intrepid adventurer, he was stretched out upon a bed in his red jammies, eyes glazed over, head straining, as his tongue poked out, like a lizard, to sip from a martini glass, in a frantic effort to suck one or two drops from the cosompolitan nectar of the gods. It appeared that Father Time had finally dealt a killing blow to our boy from Creta, leaving all to wonder, "Where does he go from here?"
Ah, it's all good.
We ended up at the Marriot, that Saturday night. Corb had said that he was going to take me out to dinner, but had to stop of "just to pick up a gift certificate." I waited in the car, singing along to "Lazy Line Painyer Jane," the woeful song of a chap who contracts a sexual disease.
A few minutes later, he came back out. "My friend Coleen wants to see what you look like. She never has."
I started to smell a rat. "Well, tell her to come out here, and she can see me all she likes." But my butt had already started to make its way out of the car seat; my hand was on the door.
Sure enough, I entered, and there was a group of people, smiling wickedly, all crouched behind the front desk.
"Surprise!" they all said, and I looked over at Corb and Josie in wonder. They had been planning something for a month, it turned out. We partied in a large conferenced room that they had spent hours decorating. And by the way, this melodramatic bag of bones totally did not feel worthy.
The most pleasant surprise of the night was the appearance of Bill, a professor that I had developed a close friendship with in college, and his beautiful wife, Jeri.
Bill's had a tough year, involving several operations, and the sight of him limping toward me, all of 70 years old, was frankly a shock. He still has a very youthful face and sense of playfulness, however, and the memories that I have of our adventures in playwrighting, as well as our month spent in Edinburgh Scotland, will forever remain one of my life's highlights. We had lost touch through the years; needless to say, I spent a lot of time with them during the party.
They presented me with a gold commedia del arte mask that they had purchased in Venice. It was incredibly fitting, especially since one of my favorite playwrights has always been Pirandello.
My conversations with Jeri were incredible that night. Both accepted my newly-minted life with grace and humor, and marvelled at the way that Corb and Josie and Annie interacted. But Jeri was just so fascinating to talk with, as we discussed old friends and the way that there are some people in your life that never leave you, and others that are only in your life for moments in time--moments when they're needed, who then seem to move on.
I had the sense you get when you're truly connecting with someone, but also feeling somewhat at a loss, because you know, that, intellectually, the person you're connecting with is light years ahead of you. That's how I felt talking to Jeri, and it produced a lightness of being that lingered throughout the evening and into the next day. But it was a warm, playful light, certainly not judgemental, certainly loving, and it made me realize how lucky I am to have some of the people that I have in my life.
My musical director Tony and his wife attended, as did Buns and Pauline, and Bob, and Corb's family, and old friends I haven't seen in way too long, such as Tom and Debbie.
My favorite moment of the evening had to be toward the end, after many people had left. We decided to play one of the board games at the party, a silly thing called "Would You Rather..." The game was just my kind of thing, with silly questions such as, "Would you rather wake up to find a cockroach sucking from your tearducts, or two rats fornicating on your stomach?" However, Bill and Jeri were still around, and I was really worried about how they were reacting to the whole thing.
As it turns out, they were great sports. Especially when Bill received a challenge question. In his most theatrical voice, he read the card. "You can either: perform a lap dance on someone of the same sex, compose a 60 second rap song for someone in the room, or use condiments to decorate your face like a clown," he intoned.
Bill chose the rap song, and I have to tell you, and decided to sing about me. I tell you, the whole exchange was so completely absurd, so utterly uncharacteristic of Bill, that it will have to be included in my highlight reels, when I ever reach the great big finish line. It made the entire evening priceless.
Haul wise, I did fantastic.
My favorite present was Corb's, who purchased Sirius satellite radio for me. I've been looking forward to getting that for months, so I literally was like a little kid at the end of the night, and I woke up extra early on Sunday, in order to set it up.
Josie bought me a great game (we played it on Sunday, once again, Josie--it was fun!), and I also picked two others. Bookwise, I made a killing, including the complete poems and selected letters of John Keats, Casar: A Biography; and Tab Hunter: Confidential. I know, I know, quite an eclectic mix. Oh, and also, Brian Wilson's new Christmas album and Bewitched, Season One.
Making the Jump
This past week or so, I've been making a big show about this birthday, but really, I've been having fun with the whole situation, way more than it's actually impacted me. No, I really didn't feel that life was going to stop once I hit the next zero. No, I really didn't lace my martini with cyanide, in an effort to avoid facing the next decade of my little story. No, I really didn't have sexual relations with a minor league baseball team...that was a total lie, and whoever was spreading that rumor is going to pay, I tell you!
When you get right down to it, I'm the same guy I was one week ago. And also, a pretty lucky guy at that. I've got good friends, I've got a great family, I'm in great health, I love what I do, I'm not financially unstable any more, and I like the journeys that I'm taking. And while I've lost some people along the way...I would have given anything to have had Nana sitting at one of those tables on Saturday night...I'm quite satisfied with the train ride that I've taken, and the passengers that have hopped on and journeyed with me, some for a few hours, some for a few days, and some, lifelong friends, that have lasted through the decades.
Thank you to my forever partners, Josie and Corb, for what they did to make the night so wonderful. As I looked in that room, I realized that there were three other people who had turned 40 that year, and not one of them had received the introduction into a new decade that I had. And for that, I'm humbled beyond words.
So yes, I'll actually be happy to open up that new window in the passenger car. That one that ushers in the fourth decade of perspective from behind these eyes. And I can only hope that the view from this window is as colorful, and fulfilling, as the journeys that have preceded it. I'm looking forward to many many more stops along the way, filled with lots of singing and laughter...and good, solid friendships.
Oh, and polka dancers. Lots and lots of polka dancers.