Thursday, June 14, 2007

a happy birthday, every day

Once upon a time when i lived deep in the heart of the sovereign state of Texas and sang with an outfit called Ro-Tel and the Hot Tomatoes, we'd do all the balls -- The Zoo Ball, The Governor's Ball, The White Ball, to name a few -- and quite often, private parties for such regional upper crust as the Bass brothers and H. Ross Perot. Oh, the stories I could tell, about the food and the instant just-add-money opulence and the tacky gowns and what the nouveau riche turned into when they got ripped and of course, what was said and done to me, once things really got going. Such swank! Such decadence! Such bad taste!

While playing a country club in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (boy howdy, we did a lot of parties in that area -- could have been Plano, could have been anywhere), I distinctly recall meeting a lovely society matron (fourth generation oil baroness, to be exact) who turned me on to Chinese herbology, Creme de la Mer, and the joys of fried ice cream inside of one 15 minute conversation. She was what can only be described as a panic and a caution -- the kind of woman that never calls anyone by their actual name and yet everyone genuinely loves her for it. While we chatted, she called me "honeydip" which (for those of you keeping score at home) is a kind of donut. Bizarrely enough, it's what my brother Emmett sometimes called me when we would have our most vicious fights. Nicknames that are food items are actually a very Southern thing to do. A Yankee would never talk like that. At least, not any of the Yankees I've ever met.

So there we were at some art gallery gala dinner soiree function brou-ha-ha, making conversation. And I'm looking around, I'm looking at all the people and I'm taking it all in, you know? I'm thinking things like, when I have money, no one's gonna know it and other stuff too, like when i'm loaded, i'm going to be the healthiest person on the planet. or else why bother if you're just going to keel over from a massive coronary before you really enjoy any of it? yeah. stuff like that. heh.

Suddenly, we were talking to each other. She said my singing was really, really real and then our chat took off from there.

In retrospect, I realize why we had somehow gravitated towards each other. This old lady and I had a lot in common. She didn't smoke. She didn't drink. She excercised, ate sensibly and in her words, "avoided the sun like it was the shadow of Death." Well, heck. So did I. I had to admit -- she was aging well for a blonde. She also saw a doctor and dentist regularly. And she loooooooooooooooved Jesus. (Check, check and check.) She had more money than she'd ever spend so she decided to give it away, judiciously and carefully and intelligently. Philanthropy! What a concept. I liked that, too.

Aside from the other things she told me about, she mentioned something that she did every year that piqued my interest: she celebrated her birthday not just for that particular day but the entire month that she was born. I loved the idea of that -- lavishing goodies on myself, secretly reveling in my own private funtime, whether it was my birthday or not. It seemed to epitomize my idea of luxury: having the expansiveness to be good to yourself spontaneously, for example. Even if that meant something as simple as taking a walk through the park and enjoying the flora and fauna instead of hopping on the crowded subway like everybody else.

Pretty soon, I found myself enjoying my birthday for the entire month of June. I bought myself that book I'd wanted for so long. I took a day trip to the beach by myself. I skipped that slice of pizza for dinner and had wild salmon instead. And then the next thing I knew, a month stretched itself into a year. And every day became my birthday. I woke up, happy and grateful to be alive and actually excited about staying in bed and playing guitar all day or getting out of bed and going to work all day or whatever. I would do little things for myself all the time and when I did, I would think, well -- it is my birthday. and that would be that.

Well. My Texas time was once upon a time ago. I still don't drink alcohol or smoke anything. I still drink my daily shot of wheatgrass and pour sunblock lotion (with an spf of 30, no less!) all over myself, even on cloudy days. I still go to church every Sunday. Even when I was broke and at my absolute lowest, I was still happy as a lark because my skin was radiant, I was making cool art and I was a size 4. But having a birthday every day has given me a much needed way to spoil myself a little, in the most ordinary moments of my nyc life. Because those ordinary moments, that's life. that's what we live through. Really, when you stop to think about it, that's when we should be happiest. And usually, that's when we're not.

Happiness is a choice, after all. Hm. Maybe all this time I was just choosing to be happy...

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