I knew on my birthday that I wouldn’t be alone.
This may be strange to say, but remember, my last birthday was spent staring into the arms of someone who loved me, swaddled in some sort of lovey-dovey haze.
Even though I’ve managed (as of very recently) to de-romanticize some of that romance, the part of my birthday which ends in kisses and eventually sex was one I knew would be conspicuously absent from this particular day.
Instead, we would be bowling.
24 didn’t feel like a very significant number to me and still doesn’t.
When I turned 23, I thought about what in my life I should be accomplishing now that I was out of college, my joblessness, my depression. It was probably when I really started leaning on my relationship to get me through the day.
When I turned 24, I guess, I had a job I liked, I wasn’t in love, but I was trying and I had friends and some sense of peace in not knowing.
I felt settled in my mind. Unhurried. Who the fuck knew what they were doing anyway? And if they did, namaste, fine. There was something nice in that acceptance.
On my birthday, I was surrounded by friends.
Frank Orio, who I’d only seen rarely over the past few months, my best friend from middle school, stayed with me most of the day, with lunch with my parents, Super Smash Brothers with Matt Chao on my dusty Wii, the movie “Terri” at the Angelika and bowling at Brooklyn Bowl.
The last part, though, almost didn’t happen. We almost left, but I smooth-talked our way in, trying to be nice to the manager, who afforded us our lane for two hours.
My dad bowled the first round and beat us all, leaving his credit card, incredibly, in my hands to pay for it all as he headed home to search for parking spots.
Matt Chao hobbled on one crutch or hopped to throw the ball exuding great delight that we received as I yelled manically over more and more beer: “Cripple Bowling!”
I for my part, was and still am terrible at bowling, bowling even less than Matt Chao the last round we played, much to my friend’s taunts and jeers.
Pitcher upon pitcher was laden in as more people showed up: my comedian friend Jon Bander, sometimes-“goob” Blake LaRue and Andrew Parrish and his unduly hot girlfriend Kelly, among others.
We drank and ate and ate fried chicken and macaroni cheese, for which Brooklyn Bowl (a division of the Bromberg Brothers “Blue Ribbon” empire) was famous for.
It looked like this:
Cheesy and gooey, covered in breadcrumbs, with salty skin-on fried chicken, reminiscent of the “Combo Meals” I used to get at Fresh Farm grocery as an elementary school student. We feasted and feated.
We danced a bit, Brooklyn Bowl is a hip venue and finally we went to the Soft-Spot, a bar down the street where you drink free if it’s your birthday.
And that day it was.
I drank more than I should have of course and nearly bit my friend Ashna’s ear when she showed up to the party, in a drunken, amorous, stupor.
I remember towards the end of night, sitting by myself surrounded by people, introspective with a Whiskey-Ginger Ale in hand.
I realized what I had at the beginning of this post, that no one was coming home with me. That there would be no loving arms, no sense of “I love you”, no neck to nuzzle when you awaken.
I got sad, is what I’m saying.
But in the end, ol’ crutchy Matt Chao ended up missing his train and staying at my place.
And don’t worry, I didn’t moves on him.
But we did get brunch afterwards.
And I did appreciate, for that night, not being alone.
I woke up the next morning, realizing there was the bleach from my bathroom where my water bottle should be and, soon after, staring into a coffee that looked like this.
I can’t really explain either one of those phenomena.
For all the drunken sadness at the end of it (predictable) it had been an excellent birthday.
My birthdays (July 3rds) are usually marked by the absence of friends, of a big party, because usually everyone’s gone for 4th of July and even if they’re back, they’re back on July 4th Eve to see the fireworks and it’s not longer my birthday when they’re there, just the nation’s and my belated.
In this way had been a good birthday, surrounded by friends and food and movies and family, the things I love.
But I still had a hangover, that I tried to combat with food and Excedrin and coffee.
Matt Chao hung around crutching a while, through my barely-coherent phase in the morning, trying to forestall my hangover into oblivion, with a mix of time, video games and episodes of “Community”.
“Chris and I used to quote this episode.” Matt mentioned, naming his female best friend. “It features LeVar Burton in various strange positions.”
Matt left eventually though and the sort of ennui that comes post hangover on a day with nothing to do combined well in me, sending me towards reading a book.
Well that and this article I spied on the Times’ most emailed, a review of the book by the interesting “sex-ologist” Annie Sprinkle.
The book was called “Paying For It” by the cartoonist Chester Brown and I went down to Barnes and Noble and read it in the Starbucks next door all in one sitting.
The book is nominally about a man who becomes a “john”, a patron of prostitutes in Canada, after being dumped by his live-in girlfriend.
This could be a straight story of “breaking bad”, or someone going on a bender of self-destruction after their break-up (his is kind of a doozy) but he is instead as R. Crumb names him “an advanced human”, an introverted intellectual who sees the failure of his relationships as a sign that romantic love isn’t for him and thus tries to engage an alternative.
The book is interesting (especially given it’s graphic novel or “comic-strip” format) but it’s not as much about a “john” and “whores” as it is about one man’s search for love and meaning in the world.
In particular, he rejects monogamous love as something for “people with fragile egos who need to be told the words ‘I love you’ in order to feel ok.”
This, I admit, hurt.
I wondered about this as I wandered the street and ended up, upon my plan to give the book to fellow graphic-novel enthusiast Blake LaRue.
But I ended up, with my lack of 4th of July plans, partial hangover and severe doubt about my capacity/reasons for love, I found myself snuck into a pier full of food trucks, surrounded by my food-truck vending friends, a beautiful view of the fireworks and one pretty amused-by-it-all Blake LaRue
I worked when I could there, somehow snuck in to a paid event, trading items between food trucks and skimming a taco or a souvlaki off the top before bringing the rest back to Blake’s immobile food truck co-workers.
I was stopped by people for pictures (it was a food event), I found some pretty good port-a-potties and I had lots of different cuisines in one and shared them with friends.
Doug Quint of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck grabbed me at one point and kissed me on the cheek in front of his customers when I kept talking him up.
“Well, in case you wondering about the name…” I told the on-lookers.
We had front-row seats to the fireworks on the pier in front of our parked truck.
We had a left-over pizza, some Greek Fries covered in Feta, some Smart Waters provided by Coke, we were there, sitting together, through the sunset, the terrible stylings of Nick Lachey and the impressive-looking fireworks.
At some point in the day, my friend Mark Zhurovsky told me in response to my worries about love that it’s “fine to not be whole when you seek it” as long as it isn’t “the answer to your problem”, which at least made sense to me.
“Or you could just pay for sex.” Blake suggested as we sat towards the edge of the pier.
“No thanks.” I told him. “Guy’s an interesting case, but I think everyone needs some sort of romantic love in their life. Keeps us interesting at least.”
I hopped a ride in the truck towards home or at least off the pier, wending out way through bumps.
For the time, I felt a part of something.
And now that I’m home, even with that sad stuff in the middle, I look back on it all with some pride and happiness.
So I haven’t found love. So I didn’t have anyone to stare at in the morning other than my 3DS and a comatose and entirely-clothed Matt Chao.
I know what I want. I feel like I’m struggling towards truth, asking questions and finding, well, some answers.
I have friends out there, people who care about me. I’m inherently valuable to them, worthy of something.
I can feel ensconced by that, I can feel good.
“There’s a difference between feeling happy where you are in trying to find romance and feeling happy in your romantic life.” I once told my ex-quasi-roomie John Beamer.
I can count on that, I guess, some goobs and some fireworks, some cripple bowling, some chicken.
Some time together.
12 Piece Fried Chicken- $23.00 (Mac and Cheese Extra)
Wythe Avenue between N. 12 and N. 11th Sts. Williamsburg, BK
L to Bedford Ave.