First 38 Birthdays

I originally wrote this piece as "First 30 Birthdays" for print in my regular newspaper column "Going For It." It has now been revised and updated....

In writing autobiographies it is difficult to remember details. Some are fudged. Let’s go back to your childhood. Capture a particular day that happens every year and trace it to the present. Like a birthday. The birthday is the most important day, it belongs to you, it’s yours. Although I have a bad memory for dates, people’s birthdays are the best! For this piece I have decided to trace every single birthday that I have had, with the help of my Mom for the first few.

Age 0: I was a caesarean section. No labour for my mother. I didn’t know this until now but my birthday was picked out over a two-week period. I was the fourth and youngest of boys, just boys. My Mom chose my Aunt Bertha’s birthday of May 30th. My Aunt said to my Mom, "Supposed to get a girl."
Age 1 and 2: Family parties.
Age 3: Picnic with cake. Though my Mom didn’t say, I think she was single at this point spelling out many days of powdered milk with which to wash down the cake.
Age 4: Small birthday party with four little friends including, says my Mom, "…Two little girls from across the street."
"I don’t remember them."
"Don’t you? You played with them all the time."
Age 5: Says my Mom, "You invited four little girls and one little boy. You had fortune balloons. Everyone had to jump on the balloons to break the balloons to get your fortunes read."
"What were the fortunes?"
"Whatever I could make up. That you were going to take a trip or get a new outfit." I did get sent a new outfit from my birth-Dad, it was itchy with too many buckles. I hated it.
Age 6: I remember my Step Dad, who wasn’t married to my Mom yet, becoming my Dad around this time. He snuck into my room and took a polaroid of me dancing to songs from the Dumbo soundtrack with a paper bag on my head.
Age 7: "For one birthday, I think your seventh, you got a great big robot." A Shogun Warrior that shot plastic bullets from its’ chest. All of the bullets got lost within three months, of course.
Age 8: "You invited 12 kids!” Except Kenny- him and Steve were fighting. They made up but it was too late to invite them both. My brother Frank ran the fish-pond. My birth-Dad sent me a giant plush Smurf doll that, years later, was turned into a Smurf-skin rug by my friend Chris.
Age 9: My Mom: "I know we went rollerskating. The whole kaboodle of us. A Hell of a go. Most of us had never been rollerskating before…and neither had I!"
Age 10: I had a broken foot. I pouted as my friends played. I should never have jumped off of that fort! It was too risky! And it ruined my birthday!
Age 11: Don’t remember.
Age 12: I wanted a pie fight but was told it was too messy. I was really into old slapstick. And I had a Jack Benny obsession.
Age 13: Got mocked by friends for renting The Muppets Take Manhattan but that movie marked the first appearance of The Muppet Babies! A real milestone.
Age 14: Tried to rent Devil Dog, Hound of Hell but my Mom made me take it back before we could even watch it due to its’ questionable scary content. Renting movies was a real novelty at this point.
Age 15: Don’t remember.
Age 16: As a member of student council, I invited the rest of them over for my birthday party. My mom made cheesecake. My friend Colin Gilberstad came, too. He hid in the freezer, jumped out at a pivotal moment, and we broke into a lyp-synch of a "Weird Al" Yankovic song together. We were really into lyp-synchs. Years later, I bumped into “Weird Al” Yankovich at a vegetarian restaurant and told him about these lyp-synchs to his music. He said, “Really? What’s your name?” I told him my name. He shook my hand. “Weird Al” is a very nice man.
Age 17: My rowdy friends and I had an official McDonald’s birthday party normally reserved for young children. People sneered at us, we had fun. We were goofs.
Age 18: Don’t remember.
Age 19: Most likely involved drinking far too much and dancing to the recorded music of The Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Northwoods Inn.
Age 20: Ditto. But with acid as well.
Age 21: Working up in Fort Nelson. A co-worker made me a fish dinner that I puked up on the air vent in the bar that we all went to later on in the night. For this I was asked to leave, even though I said, between burping and coughing as the bouncer backed away from me, “I’ll clean it up.” I was wearing a bright coloured sports coat. Outside, some hicks in a big truck looked at me, laughed, and said, "Are you in some kind of clown show? Heh heh heh." I hate Fort Nelson.
Age 22: Vancouver. When asked my age I curtly reply, "Old enough to know better." Just started dating my first love, who bought me dinner, she tells me that she’s falling for me. And me for her.
Age 23: My first love made me a mix tape.
Age 24: Most likely spent with my first love.
Age 25: I was devastatingly single and crashing at the gloriously named Bastard House where everyone was somehow really fucked up, a transitional point for all of us. They threw me a party. My friend and band-mate Julian showed up with a Mike Nesmith album for me. Met my friend Victoria for the first time.
Age 26: Don’t remember.
Age 27: My birthday party was held the night before my birthday at the late, lamented Pig & Whistle. Lotsa people, including my brother Frank who bought me scotch. I sang on stage for an hour. After that, a few of us went to a mellow party where I broke a pinata given to me by my friends Claire and Louise. It was full of soya sauce which burst and exploded everywhere. Uh oh! Claire and Louise later explained that, as a bachelor, they put in such items as soya sauce as I would need it for my home.
One member of my rowdy entourage attempted to steal a framed Kiss photo that was photographed by the person who lived there. The almost-thief got his head punched in by the photographer. The frame was cracked and I had to later try to track down money for the frame. The person who threw the party still won’t speak to me. The next day I met a girl that I was to get obsessed/entangled with.
Age 28: Badly spent with the girl I met last birthday. I was at the very depths of obsession with her. I was a confused wannabe boyfriend with touchy-feely tendencies that fed on her attentions. The night culminated in a lot of tears and her yelling at me on the sidewalk. Luckily, I would never hit those kinds of depths ever again.
Age 29: Off the anti-depressants and ready to do karaoke at The Dufferin Hotel Lounge, a legendary gay establishment. I felt better than I had felt in years. Bobby, the bartender, gave me the stuffed bear I sang with. Someone there warned me of blood and semen stains on it but I didn’t care. My friends Cory and Macey gave me a prosthetic ear. I was showing off a great haircut from my personal stylist. My friend Dean gave me a big bag of awesome clothes.
Age 30: Everybody says that Thirty is supposed to mean something. What? What does it mean? Why is it important? My 30th birthday was spent on tour in Australia with Canned Hamm, the act that I sing and dance in, opening for The World’s Funnyman Neil Hamburger. I had the most delicious vegan cake then we all went to sing karaoke. The possibilities, at this point in my life, seemed endless. It felt like I had nowhere to go but up. The expected 30th birthday life crises did not appear to me because of this.
Age 31: My Mother was in town. And she bought dinner for all of my friends at the Buddhist vegetarian restaurant. My brother Frank showed up but he made it plainly clear that he only eats meat. My girlfriend Charlotte wasn’t there; I think it was because she was scared to meet my mother.
Age 32: karaoke with pals.
Age 33: Most likely karaoke with pals.
Age 34: I was no longer drinking so I believe that I tried to have a mellow dinner with my girlfriend Charlotte.
Age 35: The crises that were expected to happen with my 30th birthday happened here. All the possibilities seemed not so endless now, there was an air of uncertainty. I had made some serious life changes, I was surrounded by some wonderful long-time pals at my karaoke party, yet Vancouver seemed to be holding me back. More changes needed to happen. My new girlfriend Heather was out of town which made me sad as well. Afterwards I went to The Royal Unicorn club for dancing with my pals Sonja Ahlers and her pal who gave me a energy crystal. The crowd was so young that it scared them away before they even got in the door. This was indicative of Vancouver. Something had to give.
Age 36: Glow-in-the-dark party bowling! Heather and I did romantic stuff, she bought me a nice dinner after visiting her parents. She gave me clothes that I thought, at first, were too conservative but then started wearing lots, I told her that I am like that with all gifts from loved ones: approach with caution then embrace. Lots of synth players at bowling: Szam, Blaine, Scott and a couple more.
Age 37: Trish’s backyard BBQ. A tad too cold but what the hey. Cindy and Reg gave me a pair of translucent nylon ribbed navy and red patterned socks, the kind that old bluesmen and pimps wear. Were there murmurs of Heather moving, putting our relationship in a tentative stage?
Age 38: First single birthday in years but it was okay! Really. Sonja threw a party at Grant Heaps and celebrated the birthdays of me and Shari Boyle (who was wearing her "Over the Edge" style over-alls) as we have birthdays close to each other, we blew out each other's candles on the decadent cakes that Elisa made. Earlier in the day the ladies at the office bought cupcakes and sang Happy birthday! Jopelle gave me two cacti that looked like Laurel and Hardy-perfect bachelor plant! Shea gave me a classic Ditko Dr. Strange comic book.