The main reason I organized my trip this year the way I did was so that I could be in Paris for the 50th birthday party of a good friend, Dominique. We met in 1991 when I was living here, and have been friends every since. Last night, with a group of about 50, we celebrated and ate and danced and shared a bunch of stories and laughs and love for Dominique. It was especially interesting to me to see his friends and his family come together in the way they did. His family is a large, Morrocan Jewish one that spans several continents, yet they remain incredibly close knit. They also run the gamut from totally secular to highly religious, and it was fascinating to see them all come out for Domi’s birthday and mix with his (largely gay) friends and ex-boyfriends. I would guess the crowd was about half friends and half family, and I was really touched by how much love was in that room. And Dominique’s partner Anthony seamlessly planned the affair and navigated the huge variety of guests with surprising grace. I was also impressed by how all of the family and friends took turns dancing with Domi, including his parents who are well into their 80s. It was quite a trip down memory lane for me, as Domi and I share many friends from that time who were there as well, most notably Arnaud, Sonia and Bruno (but also others I had not seen in many years).
A few days before my birthday, I was talking to my friend Craig and he asked if I was planning anything. When I told him it would be nice to do something low key with a few friends but that I had not yet dealt with it, he kindly offered and I accepted (the best birthday gift for me is not to have to plan anything for my birthday, so this was perfect). At first, I was a little sad about the fact that several of my close friends are out of town, and for some reason I was under the impression that many who were here would not be able to attend. I sent Craig a list of emails of people to invite, and to my surprise almost everyone showed up. The weather was perfect, and we dined outside on the patio of one of my favorite restaurants. It was funny, I realized that most of this group did not know each other. I am not someone who generally keeps my friends in separate compartments, but when I think about it, I guess New York is a lot about going out in smaller groups and seeing people individually for more focused, quality time. That said, everyone seemed to get along really well, and we were quite the diverse group with five separate nationalities in attendance (American, French, Irish, Mexican, and Serbian). I had a fantastic time, the evening and company were perfect — a surprising and wonderful birthday.
For some reason, this one really snuck up on me. I of course have known my birthday was coming up for some time. But the number 45 only really struck me a couple of days ago. And it hit me hard enough that I began asking myself if it was really true. Really? 45? Aren’t I only 44? No…1967, that would make this…wow. What is it about our propensity to mark things in 10 year increments, and then find milestones in half of those? Let’s face it, 50 will be a biggie, but 45 puts me on the downside of this decade doesn’t it, and somehow calls for a little greater reflection than the mere 4,3,2 and 1 years that preceded it. It has more weight, more heft, and makes me a little more reflective about where I am at this moment in my life. In some ways, things have never been more stable and certain. I have a wonderful place to live, family and friends, plenty of work to keep me busy. The terms of my life are largely the ones I set. I am smart enough to know that there is no such thing as true security, and to be comfortable in my freelance life, knowing that sometimes there will be an abundance, and sometimes a lack. And not just with work, everything changes — it is the one constant in life, and we are all a part of it.
45 makes me think a lot about the ages of the worlds we occupy, and what that says about our culture. Americans (perhaps more than any other group) are a youth-obsessed nation, in complete denial about death, always attracted to the shiny and new. Even this past weekend’s gay pride made me reflect on that in a number of ways. I have been out long enough, and have participated in enough party weekends to have been a little nonplussed over it. And the idea of going to some all night dance party, which once held such a great appeal to me, now seemed like a lot of effort for not much benefit. But even so, there was a pull, something tugging at me. And that tugging was a wistfulness for something lost in the transition from younger to older. This is where I am right now, and I want to honor it, be honest about it. Every moment in our lives is a new one, a new place, a world in itself. In very real ways we live a new life in every moment, but there is no guidebook, and nor should there be. So who really knows how one should be at any age? When you think about it, it is really strange how we alone among the animals experience time in the way we do, have memories of the past, experience of the present, and project ourselves into the future. But all the experiences I have had have pointed me over and over again to the most striking beauty of the present moment. And in this moment, I see the sun rising (because I am always an early riser), and feel a nice breeze coming in through the window. New York is waking up, I can hear it starting to shake with the movement of people and construction and the flow of traffic. My coffee is in hand, I am standing at my desk writing this, I am thinking about taking a walk, I am alive, and well, and here.
I was a little low energy from the weekend yesterday, and not really expecting much from my birthday this year. Olaf was still in Berlin and I had plenty of work to do anyway, so I headed down to the office and spent a fairly productive few hours on various client work. Then Nico came down to wish me a happy birthday and tell me he was taking me out for lunch. The weather was amazing outside (finally) and so we got on the bikes and he took me to a nice alternative neighborhood in Hamburg that I hadn’t seen before. We then decided to do a little bike tour of Hamburg, and we headed down to some areas I had seen before (Hafen City) and some that were new to me (Altona). All in all we must have biked about 20km, and all over the city in some beautiful weather, stopping here and there for the view or a beer. We got home at around 7, just in time to meet up with Olaf and Werner to go out for a birthday dinner in the neighborhood. And then I came home to over a hundred birthday emails. Sweet.
One of the things you have to love about the age of Facebook is how many people know it is your birthday and so send you birthday wishes. Some people might find it superficial, but I will take any and all wishes as lovely signs of kindness and affection. Being that this is gay pride weekend, there are all manner of events going on, but last night Olaf and I eschewed the ridiculously expensive (like 100 dollars) parties in favor of a more low key beer or two at the local leather bar, The Eagle. Except that it wasn’t low key at all, it was jammed packed and people were really friendly and birthday drinks and shots were nicely offered from all corners. Some other friends of mine showed up as well, and I ended up meeting and chatting up a really sexy guy from Queens. And just before getting to the bar, at exactly midnight, I got a call from friends in LA and San Francisco wanting to be the first with birthday greetings. All in all, it was a nice beginning to my 44th year of life. Thanks everyone!
My friend Olaf is in town for a little bit of work and to visit me. We are having fun running around, in between the copious amounts of work I have to do. It seems a lot of my clients suddenly have deadlines that need to be met very soon. When it rains it pours, as they say. This weekend there is so very much happening. It is gay pride in New York (and other places), and it is also my birthday. Every few years my birthday falls exactly on gay pride Sunday, as is the case this year. What that means is that like those poor souls born near xmas, my own celebration gets lost in the shuffle. Or, looking at it in a more positive light, I could say that the entire city seems to be celebrating my birthday with me (at least all the gays and their admirers). In any event, my cousin Josh was asking me the other day what I wanted for my birthday and I told him “just not to have to plan it myself”. Like the doll he is, he has gathered a group of friends for some drinks tonight, and I didn’t have to do a thing. To me, that is a great birthday present.
When I turned 40 about a year ago, A few friends from (very) far away places made an extraordinary effort and extraordinary trip to come (literally) half way around the world to come help me celebrate in Thailand. One of those very dear friends, Maureen, told me at the time that no matter where I was in the world, I was obligated to come to her 40th the following year. And so I came back from Mexico (not very far at all really) to attend her birthday bash last night in Glendale. It was a lovely party, with all of her friends (and a few of mine) in attendance, great food and great fun. Happy birthday, Mo! You deserve all the happiness and love there is to be had.