Thursday, June 29, 2006

the day before

i'd love to be with my entire family for my birthday -- my parents, my brothers, my grandmother and my aunts and uncles and cousins. when i was a little kid, that was the way every birthday ever was and ever would be. it was fun but the predictablity about all of this made the event a non-event. now that my grandfather is gone and my father is 89, having all of us all together feels like something that happened in a dream, or rather, an idealized world that i could only have imagined because saying it now sounds like someone else's invention. how green was my valley? no one would ever believe it.

in a perfect world that is now, i'd celebrate my birthday by going to the beautiful fiji islands for a week or so with my friend. we would wander around doing as little as possible, wearing as much sunscreen as possible. there would be exotic foods to eat and perhaps a spa visit here and there, i suppose, because he really needs a massage and i can always use a facial. i'm not sure about all of the details, except one: at the appointed hour, i would straddle the international date line and stand in yesterday and today simultaneously. and my friend would take my picture as i did so, to prove it to the world. i would frame it elaborately to remind myself of what it felt like to be in two places at once.

oh, well. maybe next year.

i knew that i would have gigs today and tomorrow at swing 46 awhile ago but i decided to make the best of it and celebrate anyway. my friend has to work on friday night so tonight he took me to one of my favorite places, a moroccan tapas bar called kemia conveniently located two blocks away from the gig. i found this place because of renee, who had her going away party there when she went on the road with thoroughly modern millie for more than a year. we've been coming back fairly often ever since, in part because of jamal, the algerian who runs it. renee says he showers us with cocktails whenever we show up because i look so african but i think it's because he's such a charmer. he makes me wish i could speak french. whenever i tell him that, he laughs and says i will someday. i hope he's right.

it was sunny when i left the house but i took the umbrella anyway as an afterthought. when i stepped out of the subway, it was pouring rain. my friend was already there, of course. strangely, our outfits matched -- i wore a white wrap dress with small black polka-dots and cap sleeves, and he wore a white shirt and black pants. it made us look visually coordinated in a strangely appropriate way that pleased us both. it's nice when such moments happen so spontaneously.

jamal was his usual charming self. he had a friend with him, a pretty african woman named eli from togo who was about to relocate to denmark in a month, to be with her boyfriend. friendly introductions were made all around. later, she remarked that my friend looked scandanavian, to which i remarked that he was part norweigan but that he was definitely from america. you can't get more american than new jersey. how interesting that anyone from the other side of the pond can pick him off so effortlessly -- but that's what happens when you travel and are used to looking at people from countries other than your own. actually, eli assumed that i was african as well -- she said that as we chatted, she was waiting for me to tell her where in west africa i was from, and was genuinely surprised that i was american. that's a high compliment in my world. eli invited me back the following thursday -- a haitian friend was having what she called a modern baby shower and she wanted me to come. jamal made a point of inviting me back the next night, to have a drink before my gig. great idea. i made a mental note to bring ralph and jack.

my friend had never been to kemia before and really seemed to like it a lot. he doesn't like to go to bars because he works in one -- but maybe this will turn into a spot for us.

the gig with jc was painless and fun because the band is such a good time and everyone gets along so famously. lots of goofing off and inside jokes and soloing and riffing and such. it was over before midnight, which made me giddy. the next thing i knew, i was one year older -- at least, technically. not surprisingly, i was born at lunchtime.

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