Whenever my birthday draws near, I get contemplative. I like to think about what I’ve done with my life and what I still want to do. At the risk of being a downer, what if this next year is my last? What can I do in the next few months that will make my life more complete — or, for that matter, make a difference in the lives of the folks around me?
In some respects, this comes down to a list of wishes and unfulfilled dreams. While I believe we should all strive to fulfill our dreams, I’m also a realist. Sometimes our dreams are self-destructive or hurtful to the ones we love. Sometimes they’re damned expensive. Thus, we must temper our dreams with a dose of good old-fashioned common sense and practicality.
It is in this spirit that I tender for your consideration the first installment of my 44th Birthday Wish List.
#10: A Good Massage.
I hope you’re paying attention, Michelle, cuz I bet you give a damned good massage. And, no, I am not talking about ‘sensual massage.’ Once, when we were visiting Karen’s parents in Los Altos, I went to a local masseuse whose name I pulled from a phone book. I’m a shiatsu fan, so I picked a Japanese name out of The Book and crossed my fingers.
So, what do I get? Some old gal whose idea of massage is running her fingernails up and down the insides of my thighs. I wanted to tell her, Lady, if you’re trying to give me wood, get your granddaughter in here to take over, ‘kay? Instead, I suffered in silence and payed my $$, because I’m still self-hating enough to figure a woman deserves that kind of money just for touching my naked body.
As for my wife, any day now I expect her to kill me for the insurance money. And you know? She’ll deserve it, too.
What I dream of: a half hour in a hot tub followed by a skillful two hour massage.
What I’ll be satisfied with: if I rub my back with chicken fat, our cats will walk all over me and give me a good licking.
#9: Dinner at Hoppe’s.
Picture this: it’s 1996. Jake is eight months old and he has already hit the terrible twos. I’ve just finished my remedial year *cough cough* my year as faculty at USC, and I have some down time before San Antonio expects me to show up and, um, be a doctor or something.
Karen and I decide to have one last fling on the California Coast (thank heavens we were wrong about that!) so we drive up north with our screaming, why can’t you understand I am the alpha and the omega, eight-month-old son. We have clams and lobster at a superb seafood joint on the Ventura Pier — which, sadly, has since washed away — and great grub at The Palace Cafe in Santa Barbara. Onward up the coast, until at last we come to Cambria, Morro Bay, and Cayucos.
We have a price fixe dinner at Hoppe’s in Morro Bay. Jake is in fine form; the only thing that will quiet him is constant stroller-strolling. Karen and I take turns eating and pram-pushing, and we both manage to eat a dinner that’s not quite hot and not quite cold.
Guess what? Even given those less than ideal circumstances, we agree to this day that our dinner at Hoppe’s was the best eats we’ve ever had, ever. Perfect food, from the salad to the vegetable garnish.
What I dream of: a quiet, romantic dinner with Karen at Hoppe’s. Jake can eat a burrito.
What I’ll be satisfied with: we had not-half-bad sushi tonight at the NWTEC Internet Cafe.
#8: The best birthday cake in the whole, wide world.
Which requires, natch, a Tahitian virgin.
What I’ll be satisfied with: a forkful of Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecake from the NWTEC Internet Cafe.