Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It's the day before my birthday. Last year on my birthday I was prepping for a colonoscopy, so tomorrow's bound to be a big improvement.

At noon or so I was sitting in a McDonald's with a latte and a small oblong "apple pie"--better than what I was ingesting last year at this time—having just re-filed my unemployment claim. I could have been auditioning for a country & western song.

"You're a freelance writer?" the Unemployment rep had asked. She did not sound like she wanted my autograph, but I said yes proudly, as if she'd asked if I were a veteran. "Are you a veteran?" she asked next. I admitted I wasn't.

She leveled a severe look at me. "Are you trying to repeat your ironic charade of last Groundhog Day (see 'The Groundhog Variations,' 2/2/10), in which you drew facile and frankly obscure parallels between collecting unemployment and seeing your shadow?"

She had me. I was forced to sign a character release form and write 100 times: "Groundhog Day comes but once a year, except in the movies."

Just kidding. It was only fifty times.

Anyhow, I resisted going home to pursue the occupation I had admitted to. It was fun sitting there surrounded by Happy Meals and looking out the window at the hoi polloi who were mostly all younger than me, and who all had birthdays too, days scattered through the calendar like candy eggs of rare design.

A great tradition, is it not, this celebrating the day you entered the world (usually) headfirst? You get to own your day, like that deed to a square foot of Alaska that used to come in cereal boxes. And if you tell people it's your birthday, even total strangers, they often automatically wish you a happy one, and maybe even encourage you to do something nice for yourself.

Candles are lit in your honor. Cake is served. Gifts proffered. Why? Just because you've completed another orbit. And because you entered the orbit in the first place. It's kind of a way of stamping your passport.

The good thing about the day before your birthday is that none of that stuff has happened yet. It's all in the future, but the very near future, just like you were the day before you were born when you were awaited with (hopefully) the highest of expectations, your entry prepared for, your relatives gathered on the lee shore with toys and kind dispositions. C'mon! Over here! That's it! Look what we've got for you!!


On the way home I took a detour to visit late October with a bike ride around Fresh Pond. It was warm. The trees were a tunnel of gold and red and green. Leaves fell as if a movie were being shot and they had to get it right on the first take. I pulled into a new wayby they'd built between the big pond and little Lily Pond, with benches and railings. Very nice. I saw off to the right what I took to be a hawk silhouette in a tree. A little more neck than hawks usually showed, but I wanted a hawk. It was a hawk. A guy with a camera came and sat down. "A hawk in that tree," I told him. "Ah," he replied. Then I saw a couple of other silhouettes one tree over. "And more over there," I added. "Comrades," he said with a slight accent. "Right!" I said, appreciatively. "Comrades." Of course, when I pedaled over for a closer look, I saw that they were not hawks at all. "Cormorants" is what the man had really been saying. But comrades was right, too.

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