Monday, February 27, 2006

"Hey, beats the alternative..."


I had a birthday last week.....my fifty fourth to be exact. Hey man, it just happened. No hoopla. Did my radio show in the morning. Went to work....came home. A friend took me out to dinner a few days before. Got a couple of wishes the day of. I'm not good at mentioning my birthday. I don't like a fuss...... I think. But you know that feeling you get...... that by the end of the day if your birthday hasn't really "happened" you get a little depressed? I've been lucky. I've had all kinds of birthdays. A couple of surprise parties...three .....and one I even helped plan. Not my idea. The other two I suspected strongly. Had a heart stopper one time. When I moved from Plainfield to Piscataway in eighth grade my pal Jimmy Lyons (no relation) threw me a humdinger. Not birthday related but still a tongue swallower. It almost didn't come off 'cause he was having a heck of a time getting me to his house. But he pulled it off. Alright Jimmy.
This last one I had a solo gig the day after. It was at a cabin in the woods of Hunterdon County that an organization called The Arc turns into a coffeehouse once every few months. It's a wonderful room for a bash. Nice wood floor....cool stage...great acoustics. Reminiscent of any "sock hop" you ever went to. (Did I just write....sock hop?) They bus the crowd in so it's empty ten minutes before showtime, then packed for two hours, then empty ten minutes after showtime. I liken it to a Fellini movie. Nice crowd and the Arc folks are great. I was sitting there about an hour before....no one around....a lot of creaking and wind and cold. A wave of depression settled over me like a fur coat. And that's not me. But this time I wore the coat for awhile.... and then the buses pulled up, the music rolled, packed up, hung a little with the Arc folks and left feeling....satisfied. My father and I used to have this birthday ritual. I'd bust on him for getting old and he'd say, " Hey, beats the alternative." Amen. I've come to terms with"the alternative." I never bought into the whole punishment, burn in hell thing. You're telling me, (I'm talking to all my old Catholic school teachers now) that if I missed church on Sunday I'm gonna burn in hell for eternity? ETERNITY!!!! That's a long time! And this from a God who loves us. Could you imagine...... But I love watching a good Sunday preacher. Not because I buy into it, I just enjoy the snake oil salesman part. A good chunk of the message resonates. It's just the messenger I'm not too sure of. How 'bout Jimmy Swaggart? Now that's entertainment. He brought his message with a sountrack. What a great band...and all Peavey equipment. He's a cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. Unfortunately he had a little trouble in a hotel room somewhere down south but hey.... we're only human. That's the problem with too much finger pointing. Eventually it points back. There's a guy out there that I kinda like named Joel Osteen. He wrote a book, "Your Best Life Now." He's a Sunday preacher who doesn't bible thump a whole lot and just has a positive message. Give a little. Be good to your friends, neighbors, kids.....and stay positive. I'll buy that. Now don't disappoint me down the road, Joel. "Fame....I'm gonna live forever........."
But you know what's even better than celebrating your birthday? Celebrating the birthday of someone you really care about with that someone. Getting the right gift....the right restaurant....hotel....B&B......HAAAAA-AAAAAAY!!!!!! Nothin' better.
Y' know, I like being fifty four. Everything about it. I like "now." I like current music, my current job, women my own age, where I live, friends my own age. Hopefully all of these things will move to the next level...SOON!!! Reflection is good....necessary. But you don't want to be Patty Duke in "Valley of the Dolls" wandering around a bar trying to convince people that you used to be somebody. Of course, first you have to be somebody so that won't be a concern for most of us.
I got together with a couple of old friends over the weekend. We played some old songs, laughed about old times, drank some old....er...cold beer, ate, belched.....all the stuff guys do when they're on their own. Man, I'm glad I went..... almost didn't. There's nothing better than being around people you have a history with. You can't get away with anything.
Birthdays. Ain't they a kick in the butt? "Talkin 'bout my generation", "When I'm sixty four", "Don't trust anyone over thirty"..... HA!! "One for my baby...and one more for the road." Friends....family. ....dogs....cats. "In my life....I've loved you all."

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