Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Birthday

Well, it's come and gone- been gone for twenty one minutes now. I'm not sad to see it go, but I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised by how my fortieth birthday went. I guess I got all the 'melancholy soul searching' as I phrased it on my Facebook status out of my system before the actual date. I mean, I woke up in a good mood, and that never happens. The best I can usually hope for is foggy indifference to consciousness.

I think the key was the low expectations. I didn't do much that was out of the ordinary, and that helped a lot. The pancake breakfast was something of a disaster, what with the smoke alarm going off and the griddle being too hot and everything getting kinda... burned... plus the fact that the Brazilian family reacted as expected to this breakfast treat. My stepson wasn't here, so he didn't eat any but probably wouldn't have anyways as he thinks maple syrup is gross. My wife claims she ate two pancakes, but she doesn't like sweet stuff in the morning (so why give the kids cake and chocolate milk for breakfast?) and I didn't actually see her eating them... but I leave the place of honor for my darling four year old son. He does like maple syrup, proving once again that he is not 100% Brazilian, but was not interested in the pancakes, even the not-burned ones. He insisted that ketchup be applied on top of the maple syrup (just like pizza), then he licked it off and left the pancake part behind. Needless to say, I didn't finish those pancakes for him. However, everyone did like the bacon.

And I gotta say- Facebook. Wow, man. Everyone from childhood friends to college buddies to coworkers to family to my mother's ex-boyfriend's niece wished me a happy birthday and it was great. When I first got here, I was going to buy a shortwave radio so I could listen to Voice of America and not feel so isolated. Now, six years later, I have Skype and Facebook and NPR and the Savage Lovecast to keep me company. They say that when the transistor was invented, there was no way to know that it would lead to the invention of the integrated circuit. Now the internet has transformed our lives (at least mine) to an incredible degree in a span of about ten years- what will it look like in twenty more? What is it that we can't possibly imagine that is going to happen?

So- I was talking about my birthday. Very nice, very low-key, I worked some, I hung out with my kid, I went to the bank. I have written about past battles I have waged with Brazilian ATM machines, so I was quite surprised when I realized the one I was using was wishing me a happy birthday. That's never happened to me before. Turns out I left the machine a gift, and not just the deposit I made.

Things started to get wonky on the way to dinner. We heard on the radio that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital- I didn't think much about it.

Dinner was a disappointment. We had our favorite dish, shrimp mukeka, at our favorite restaurant, and it was surprisingly bland, along with most of the side dishes. We were so surprised we wondered if they had changed cooks.

Things really started to go south when I went to pay for the meal, and my trusty debit card was not in the little plastic sleeve I call my 'wallet.' No need to panic, I had cash, but still had to borrow from The Wife to pay for the meal (which reminds me, I need to pay her back). I was going to be antsy until I got home and had a chance to look for the card.

Then on the ride back we heard that Michael Jackson had died. I was more upset than I would have thought- although I'd long found him absurd, Thriller came out when I was just starting to be a teenager and I'll never forget the day that the Thriller video was released. I started to think about my birthday and how mellow it had been to this point, and that I would probably remember it in years to come mostly as the day that Michael Jackson died. Oh well, it could be worse- I have a brother-in-law who's birthday is September 11.

Then I got home and after catching up briefly on the Michael Jackson tragedy, it became clear that my debit card was gone. I'd most likely forgotten it in the friendly ATM that wished me a happy birthday. Now anyone who knows me well knows that I don't deal well with stupid mistakes, and if a stupid mistake has to be made, it is much better that I make it rather than anyone else around me. It's not that I berate the person, yelling and screaming and carrying on like a proper Brazilian would (only kidding, kinda) but I get real quiet and furious and make my displeasure known to the world in all it's hideous and loathsome anti-glory. When I can clearly place the blame on myself, I'm a lot more vocal about it, and I say bad things at loud volumes. I'm sure all my neighbors think I'm a complete psycho.

It's not the end of the world. Chances are all my money is safe. Tomorrow I'll go to the bank and work it out. I just wish that what had otherwise been a surprisingly pleasant day hadn't been capped off with a extremely asinine mistake and the resulting stress fest.

Someone told me a long time ago that men stop losing their hair at age forty, which means that after fifteen years of a gradually receding hairline, I can relax again. And you know, I'm okay with this head of hair. My dad tells me that life begins at forty, at least it did for him. Sounds good to me.


Mei said...

I liked your dad's quote! Cool.

Do you feel weird sometimes when you think about your children not loving those American things that we adore (pancakes! maple syrup!)? Do you chalk it up to culture, personal taste, or both? I always wonder how it will be with my kids- thought maybe you could shed some light on this.

markuza said...

I do feel weird about it. On a larger scale, I feel weird about a lot of stuff that my wife and kids don't really care for about my culture, and also the things that I don't particularly care for about this culture. Although I've pretty much resigned myself to both my wife and stepson not developing a taste for many of these things, I still think that Lucas is young enough to be malleable... we'll find out soon enough after two weeks in the States!

To answer the other part of your question, I think it's both personal taste and culture. Part of my even being here was having been raised in an environment where I was encouraged to try new things and learn about different cultures- my wife and stepson weren't so lucky. And ironically it was a big relief for me when I finally let myself accept the fact that not liking something about Brazil didn't mean I was close-minded!