Look at this beard. The grey hairs are taking over. Even a week or so ago when I was getting my hair cut the stylist said “Whoa…you’ve got a lot more grey since you were here last.” A month ago?? I grew that much new grey hair in a month? I thought she was crazy. Then I looked at this picture and thought uh oh….maybe she’s right. And seeing as today is my birthday, I might not be able to shake it off as easily as I normally do. But the truth is that I don’t care much about aging. It is what it is and you can’t change it, so why stress? Besides, it’s not actually the age that freaks people out. It’s the age against the backdrop of whatever they haven’t achieved yet. I’m ok with what I’ve achieved thus far. Don’t get me wrong though. There is still a long, long list that hasn’t been touched.
But I really feel compelled to sit myself down and bang out a quick journal entry right now. The driving force, odd as it sounds, is that I feel really good. All too often I catch a wave of misery and ride it straight into my journal. It’s not often that I sit down and write when I feel good. (Maybe also important to add is that I don’t often feel good, not lately anyway). But I do today. I’m relaxed, not anxious. I feel balanced, not out of whack. It’s a Friday so I know I don’t have any impending work to worry about, at least not in the immediate future. In fact, on the contrary, I know as soon as I get home I will walk into a celebration with Ava, Lily & Rhonda. Then there will be a long weekend of nice weather. That all makes me feel even better.
I woke up early, in a big bed at the Renaissance Hotel with sun shining on my face. My first call of the day was my two girls singing me happy birthday. I was on time for my not-too-early flight, which made the cab ride leisurely. I over-tipped the bellman and the cab driver because they were pleasant and I felt good. Traffic was thick, as usual, with all the people coming into the city for work. Not for me though. I was going home. I sat back and let the sun continue to warm my face, watching cars and speculating about what jobs people were going to, what their role was and how they were feeling this morning.
Now I’m sitting in a restaurant in the Atlanta Airport eating lunch. Usually I’m not fond of layovers, but today I am looking to spend some time floating between strangers, observing and thinking about things that I usually pass by and making assumptions about everyone and everything I see. A secret truth is that I love airports. There is something curious and pleasing about them to me. They aren’t a destination in and of themselves. Rather, they’re a conduit to someplace, a portal to a million different realities and therefore inherently transient and always interesting. It is almost 100% guaranteed that anyone you see or meet in an airport will never come into your life again. I find that fascinating. I really do travel a lot. People say that, but I don’t usually process it all. In my life and the life of most people, airports are merely a means to something else. Not today though. Today I am living inside them.
The plate that was just set in front of me is heaped with steaming food – shrimp & grits and collard greens. The shrimp are perfectly cooked. The grits aren’t like any I’ve ever had before – they’re deep fried in a great big ball. I like it. I love it. For the third day in a row I am seeking out southern comfort food. I’m not sure what that’s about but think it’s entirely possible that I am channeling my dad.
Even though today is my birthday, I’ve had two good nights in DC leading up to today. When I arrived on Wednesday, a group met at Old Ebbits – one of my favorite places to hang out and eat oysters. After that, some of us peeled away and went to Georgia Brown’s…another favorite of mine…high end southern cooking. Mmm mmm… I had the chef cook for me and I don’t even know what he came up with. It was delicious though. Spicy as hell, but delicious. I was with a good group of people too…a bunch of my work folks plus Joon. I even made two of our junior staff come with us because who the hell ever takes those guys out for a good meal?
But it was last night that was my official birthday dinner. Another gaggle of folks went to Acadiana – a yuppy-ish Cajun place that Joon introduced me to a few years ago and I love. A culinary parade of frog legs, redfish, bbq shrimp, and blackened duck revolved past my mouth, followed by good wine…all of it delicious. Such a perfect place to take me. I want to make a solid mental note that one of my co-workers, Georgie, set up the majority of DC-based activities and I appreciated it so much. She and I haven’t always been on the same page but lately we have found our common ground and I am considering her a good friend.
After Acadiana some of us guys went and got cigars, then bed down at Potenza – a classic Italian joint with a patio right by the White House. Love that place. They have a bakery and make fresh sandwiches, plus there is a high end restaurant, though I’ve never had more than a few drinks and a sandwich from there. We sat outside and drank tall Peronis and smoked cigars – all of us men. I scanned the group. Though most of them know each other, I know them all from different places. I thought about 39 year old men, like me, who these guys are and how we were all engaging right then. It felt good. I was with a bunch of professionals in my chosen field and we were enjoying ourselves, relating with one another and relaxing. I don’t have anything like that in Lima. Also, I am pretty sure no one knows this but Potenza is where my family is from in Italy. I think that added to my level of comfort.
Also worth logging is that I didn’t pay for a thing. Ever. That may not seem like something to add in a journal entry but the fact of the matter is that I always pay. Others do as well, but there isn’t often a time when my cash and credit cards stay in my pocket. I kept an eye on Joon too. He was making sure I was taken care of. I’ll remember that. As the night went on Happy Birthday messages keep pouring in on my Facebook page. I know that, for the most part, it’s a mindless activity that Facebook facilitates…but it still felt good. Some of the people aren’t folks that I would send a message, so maybe I learned a little something too.
I’m on my way home now. I can almost taste the cake my girls are making me. The frosting so sweet I’ll have to scrape a few layers off to avoid going into sugar shock. It will have so many sprinkles that eating it will be like chewing through a mouthful of sugary bb’s. In short – everything will be perfect. I don’t know if I’ll get to my usual birthday introspection. For some reason it seems as though I’ve been inside myself for years and therefore doing the annual analysis of my life continuum isn’t necessary. I’m not going to fret about it. Today is my birthday and I am feeling good and looking forward to feeling that way for awhile. Done and done.