Last year my friends Alysia and Tonyehn organized a wonderful birthday party at the 16th Ward in Scranton for me.Reflecting on this gathering during this current COVID-19 crisis, I appreciate even more deeply the stream of people that came through that night to raise a glass with me.My family, my arts and culture peeps, some of my bike club cohort, friends from middle school, co-workers, book club buddies, my McGuigan Monday at the Bog crowd, along with newly made friends.All of these people have helped me evolve into who I am in this present moment.When we are born we come with a set of genetic code which undoubtedly influences us, and the nature versus nurture war has been waged for a long time.But research seems to always show it is both that create who we become.Genetics places us in a territory, but our experiences allow us to adapt so we can choose our own paths.I remember being struck by learning in a training I had when I was just beginning working with what people dub “at-risk youth” that if someone has just one person in their life who cares about them their chances for resiliency and success greatly increases.Humans can thrive in any circumstance when we are graced with the love and kindness of others.This birthday I may have to raise a glass across a Zoom screen to faces in gallery view, but it will be no less meaningful. It will most definitely deserve a journal entry.
April 30, 2001-Berkely, CA
27 today.Not a great birthday.Not memorable like last year’s when Brian and I went shopping and had Filipino food (that was unfortunately really not cooked well) Erica gave me candles, and we went for coffee.I went early and treated myself to Indian food at Bombay Express.Mike took me for sushi. Mary Yo gave me incense.I’m tired this birthday.Crying tonight.Lonely.Exhausted.But thankful for much.
April 30, 2006-Scranton, PA
I’ve always had good birthdays full of love, hope and kind thoughts from friends and family so that all other feelings, even the most powerful depressions I felt in teenage years all through my twenties were swept away.I think this must be a message from God to appreciate my place in the home of the world.A day to rejoice in what we have created out of our lives.What we have become.Some things chosen, some things accidental. People we have encountered and whom we have touched and whom we have been touched by.A birthday is the real New Year’s day I believe.The moment to assess the miracle of our lives.To also make honest reflections on where we want to head next. What we want in our new year.I have completed my 31st year.I begin my 32nd.The past couple of weeks I felt a little shaky I’ll admit.I have been busy.Little things were making me scared and worried.Slightly afraid of aging. But today I don’t feel that.I feel very content.Happy.Joyous.
May 5, 2007-Scranton, PA
Roasted pork with tomatillo and pumpkin seed sauce-that’s what I had for my Cinco de Mayo meal at Javier’s.(aka Don Poncho Villa’s)I actually went to pick up my camera that I left on Wednesday night when Javier had a birthday party to celebrate his which was on May 3, Dan Brennan’s which was May 1 and mine.It was nice.I didn’t stay too long, as this was a crazy week with the Mountain View 8th grade poetry residency and preparing for the production of the garment worker play.My house looks like a tornado went through.I literally fall into bed each night. That’s why today I don’t feel guilty for not killing myself to get things done.I need a day to put myself together and it is so sunny and warm.Heavenly.This is the first time I’ve sat outside my house.It’s peaceful.The wind chimes Anna gave me for my birthday.Birds chirping. Children’s voices.I made some iced tea.For a moment I don’t think of the terrors and sorrows of life.
April 30, 2017-Istanbul, Turkey
My birthday.Turning 43 celebrating in the Patisserie de Pera in the Pera Palace Hotel here in Istanbul with a cappuccino and a “Tarte de Pera”, a delicious combination of chocolate and cherry that they comped for me.Edith Piaf sings “La Foule” over me.The interior is rosy pink and macrons and cupcakes decorated with flowers and leaves are stacked like sweet and magical trees in a fairytale.Just like with people we can fall in love with places instantly, as I did with this hotel.As soon as I walked into the lobby I could feel the unique history, the opulence, the authenticity.A place that has lived through so much.Buildings will always outlive people, usually. But although they are not organic they have a life spirit, as if everyone who passed through left an imprint.
May 1, 2018-Scranton, PA
If I have learned anything in my now 44 years on planet earth it is to recognize the expansiveness of life.The yin yang dance of suffering and joy.Life and death.Life can never be all one-and always shifting, changing even in the most horrible of circumstances.Why I love Viktor Frankl’s writing so much.He was a balm for my soul in my twenties when depression and all or nothing thinking pervaded.I am certainly not an equanimous saint now, even as recent as Saturday I was depressed, but these moods are shorter and not over so many silly things such as not being the best bike rider or not winning some award.And in the midst of that dark mood Rosemary and Tonyehn surprised me and invited me out for my birthday.We went to Bar Pazzo.We had a lovely bottle of the Spinetta Rosé and a meat and meat and cheese platter.Tonyehn gave me a bottle of Jefferson Bourbon and Rosemary gave me everything to make a Side Car.I have over 300 Facebook posts wishing me well.My brother put up a beautiful post and gave me a card and gift certificate to Terra Preta.And the trees are blooming, still a bit chilly, but I think spring will pop today like a champagne cork.