The Joy of Birthdays

Today’s my birthday, and I hate birthdays. Ok, I really have to stop writing “I hate” in the first sentence of my blog pieces. Anyway, to quote George Carlin, so far, this is the oldest I’ve ever been.

Yeah, yeah, so what’s your point?

Famous dead people I share my birthday with include Ronald Reagan, Bob Marley, Eva Braun, Babe Ruth and Rick Astley. I’m exaggerating slightly. Technically Rick Astley’s still alive but his music is getting a bit stinky.

Me, in my twenties, before I became a brainy and deep Aquarian.

If you’re into astrology, I’m an Aquarius, an air sign whatever that means, so according to constellational magic theory I’m:

Shy, and quiet. On the other hand, an Aquarian can be boisterous, eccentric, and energetic. Both are deep thinkers with a love of helping others. Highly intellectual, this is a sign of fierce independence that prizes intuition tempered with logic. Both personality types have an uncanny ability to see both sides of an argument without prejudice, making them excellent problem-solvers. The keyword for this sign is imagination. The Aquarian can see a world of possibilities even when there appears to be none.

Brainy, eccentric, shy and deep. Like it.

Each successive anniversary of the day you emerged kicking and squealing apparently gives you enhanced status. We’re supposed to become incrementally wiser and more worldly than the previous year. What a load of bollocks. All I really feel is I’m older than I should be, and I’m fighting a strange urge to give unwanted advice to younger people.

But I am feeling slightly better today than a few weeks ago when I caught the #99 bus from UBC and a well-meaning youthful student –presumably with diminished eyesight- got up and offered me his seat. I’m 6ft 1 with grey hair, and yes I admit a few pounds over weight, but I don’t stoop (yet) and do I really look like I’m about to fall over when the bus hits 20kmh? Fuck me. I’m 56 for pete’s sake.

The 99 bus. Scene of my biggest humiliation yet.

Birthdays seem to come around faster and faster as you get older. And less and less people remember, which makes sense as all your friends are getting older too. I spent my 22nd birthday pretty much on my own in a single men’s hostel at Vaal Reef’s mine, in what was then the Transvaal in South Africa. I was just learning the ropes as a young mine geologist down a deep level gold mine. On my 30th I was working in northern Turkey on the Black Sea coast, loving the exploration business and enjoying the sights and sounds of that wonderful country. My 40th was in Vancouver shortly after my wife and I moved back to Canada, after having 2 kids in 3 years in London. It was a stressful year of trying to find work, renovating a house and retraining while raising 2 toddlers.

My favourite birthday was my 50th. We cleared the furniture out of the main floor of our house and hosted a massive party with a band, food truck, costumes and endless booze; basically the full monty. The houseful of students next door were warned what was coming but still looked a bit shocked at the fall out the next day. I remember Lang, the young Californian woman who’d rented the house, leaning over the fence as we picked up the empties the next day, asking “What the fuck was that last night?”. Our back yard was littered with bottles and cans but not the 2-buck-chuck shit students drink, oh no. Our recycling pile sported craft beer cans, empty bottles of fine wines, champagne and a handful of good bourbon and cognac empties. I think they realised they’d been out-partied by a mob of well-financed grey hairs. They moved out shortly afterwards.

Point Grey circa February, 2013. Count them. There’s 50 of them.

My worst birthday was the following year when I turned 51; nobody gives a monkey’s about 51. You’re quickly forgotten; condemned to drift morosely into your fifties as gravity gradually wins the battle twixt body and diminished youth, with nothing really to celebrate until you hit 60, and won’t that be fun?  

Which brings me to my favourite old person joke.

An elderly couple, both in their 70s and both sick for a while, have blood tests at the same clinic to see what ails them. When the results come back, the doctor calls in the old man and explains to him:

Bad news. We got the tests back. One of you has alzheimer’s, and the other is HIV positive but the tests were mixed up and I have no idea which test is yours.

The old man looked shocked.

So what do I do now?

To which the doctor replied:

Tell you what. Drive your wife downtown and drop her off. If she finds her way home, don’t sleep with her.