Today marks the forty-third year I’ve spent on this earth. It’s not a monumental occasion, nor is it without merit.
The last two years I’ve gone out on the road, claiming adventure and finding things out of the way and off the beaten path. That path and those trips had been conducted alone, sharing them with friends and family after, but it matched my desire to travel and just go away . . . leaving behind grief, losss, stress, all of that.
This year, though, was the third birthday since our story began and the first one I’ve not had alone.
The last two years I went to Los Angeles, the first one fairly mundane. I went off the path, wandered side streets and avoided the normal touristy things.
Last year I went to a little jazz club and saw a jazz great on the stage . . . staying at a landmark hotel.
Today, though, I’m home after a weekend trip closer to home . . . to San Francisco.
It was not a trip to see the city in the wake of the Prop 8 Gay Marriage decision. That was a coincidence, though I do have gay friends and I’ll be honest . . . I don’t have a horse in that race. I really don’t. But still, the weekend made for great people watching. We saw those with a cause . . . and we also saw some with no cause but looking for opportunities to dress scantily and act like they, too, should be center of attention. All were interesting fodder for writing and photography in my eyes, so I stayed in the background.
Abbi and I wandered streets avoiding the commonplace. Sure, we were on Market, eating lunch at a fantastic little diner that looks far less impressive than the food it serves. We walked down the street and got chocolates from an amazing shop.
Then we walked, from Market, back to Mason Street, close to the water. We went through Chinatown. We sauntered through the Italian sector . . . and I found the journey fantastic. Not the tourists that wandered the front end of Chinatown but the end of it and the dozens of Italian restaurants that were off Columbus.
Abbi and I had amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant. We wandered into a hole in the wall printing company and saw art-deco like prints made by an artist who happened to be in the press shop that night. The one tourist thing we did was wander into the Wax Museum and poked fun, in the most blasphemous terms, sometimes, of the figures we saw in the alcoves deep in the bowels of the old wharf warehouse.
The next day we headed to the Presidio and . . . like a little kid all over again, we saw the exhibit of art from Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are and Chicken Soup with Rice. The artwork was both real and whimsical and truthful. I could hear my Mom’s voice behind me saying “In January it’s so nice, while slipping on the sliding ice, to eat hot chicken soup with rice…” Abbi marveled at the beautiful work done by such an amazing artist.
We saw the Walt Disney Family Museum. We wandered to the back of the museum and saw the Golden Gate, shrouded in fog, and slowly mad our way back toward Sacramento.
It may seem a little thing to you . . . small points of a minor trip that any of you might have made on a weekend trip to the City. But would you? Have you been to the same spots over and over again and not changed your routine? We randomly picked a restaurant and had the most amazing Italian dinner we’ve had in years. I saw the signs for the Sendak exhibit two weeks prior and could have thought “Presidio is too far away” but instead sought out the exhibit because I knew it would be amazing.
I’m forty-three today. I don’t feel it. It’s not the whole “you’re only as old as you feel” mentality. If that was the case, the two bulging discs and 20 pounds I still cannot lose and the constant exhaustion would point to the fact that I am, well, 43. But until I look in the mirror and see the belly diminishing slower than I’d like and the grey moving from specks to a more than light dusting in the black of my hair, I don’t think I’m that age.
I still marvel at kids’ books. I loved the Sendak exhibit and was intensely moved by his philosophy of life. “I cry,” says Sendak on a video monitor, “not because I simply miss the people who I have lost. I cry because I remember them, honor them, and because I miss their presence, their impact, every day.”
That, you see, is the purpose of the birthday trip. It’s not to be alone or to travel, it’s to make new memories. It’s to have the amazing journey and make new adventures . . . and to share them. To have that impact and make it on others.
I may have little to offer the world . . . but to me . . . the world has so much to offer. We just have to look and be willing to accept it. Sometimes, it’s on a birthday. Sometimes it’s when you least expect it.
Seeing those amazing things, and never ignoring them . . . that’s the birthday wish for myself.