Another Year Older and Deeper in Debt

I turned 34 about an hour ago. Somewhere between sorting my winter clothes (which I didn’t do when I moved into this place in February because, in Vegas, “winter clothes” means little more than long pants…) and packing up my tapes and stereo. It didn’t feel very birthdayey. Oh, well. Capped off a wake-period (what passes for a “day” in my life) in which someone rear-ended my new (well, new to me) car (a ’99 Ford Ranger — me, a pickup driver!!), virtually totalling the front-end of her car but only smooshing up my bumper and gashing a fender — hooray for trucks. She hit me hard enough to shake me up for the rest of the day but not hard enough to do any serious damage, or to stop me from teaching two classes, and doing — I think — a bang-up job of it. I’m kind of afraid to go to sleep, though — I know I’m gonna be achin’ when I wake up, and I don’t wanna be all achey and bitchy on my birthday. I made an appointment to see a chriopractor, but with the holiday, I have to wait until Tuesday; tomorrow I’ve gotta call my doctor. Just want to make sure everything’s ok — I’m kinda sore today, but that could just be from shock and standing in the Vegas heat (108 degrees!) for an hour while waiting for the police to show up and write a report. They use PocketPCs to log into the police database and file the report — that was kinda cool (I took a picture with my phone, will post it in a moment).

I suppose now is a time when I should be taking stock of my life — but I don’t feel like it. Things are going pretty well for me, aside from not being able to find time to write my freakin’ dissertation. But keeping busy is good for me — like my father says, “Waxes work best when Waxes work.” He’s full of snappy little sayings like that, the product of a life spent gleaning wisdom from wherever he can find it. “If you don’t make dust”, he’ll say, “you eat dust.” (The aged and wise among you will remember that as an Elephant floppy disk ad in the early ’80s.) “The business of business is business”, he might note, riffing on the famous the-business-of-America quote from Pres. Truman or someone notable like that. Do I know what he’s talking about? Absolutely not, but he’s my dad, so I nod and look like something’s resolved.

We had lunch the other day, my dad and I — his birthday was on Tuesday, so I took him out for, IIRC, a grilled ham-and-cheese on rye. We talked for a couple hours, which is something we don’t normally do — not that there’s bad blood between us or anything, just we don’t tend to speak the same language, if you know what I mean. Him and my brother are a lot more alike — they get each other. Anyway, something he said stood out; he said that my brother and I had never done anything he’d ever told us to do, and somehow we’d both turned out ok anyway. He’s in that kinda “I’m getting old and need to take stock of my life every chance I get” phase, and I think feels like he’s failed in some important way. He’s one of those Old School Men, whose first and last priority is providing for his family, and he’s had some pretty big spills, business-wise. Of course, normal people are more concerned with the values and compassion a parent instills in his kids, but if you have parents (or grandparents) from that generation (born during the Depression, came of age in the Cleaverite ’50s), you know, they’re not normal.

Anyway, he was wrong about us never listening, even though we haven’t really taken his advice all the time, or even most of the time. But we had something not a lot of my peers had — we had a father we could go to for advice — neither of us ever felt like we had to hide our problems or failures from our parents, neither of us ever felt that, if our parents didn’t approve of or understand something we were doing, they would stand in our way and try to prevent us from doing it. Even when they have completely opposed something, they’ve tried to support us (I say “tried” because nobody’s perfect, and sometimes things have been said or done in spite of their best efforts). One of the things I’m proud of is that my friends and my brother’s friends would come to my parents with problems, and my parents always listened and took them seriously. That’s pretty cool!

So maybe I am taking stock a little, not so much of my accomplishments and failures but of where I am right now. Not where I want to be, exactly — I really want to get out of Vegas, and hopefully will have a PhD and an academic job by this time next year — but emotionally and spiritually (if I can wax spiritual for a moment, which I rarely do), I think I’m on the right track. The year before I came to Vegas was a tough one — my research was floundering, my financial situation was bleak, and my relationship was slowly crumbling away (and finally dissolved completely a few months after I came to Vegas). I met my 33rd in a state of near-despair; I meet my 34th feeling that life is pretty sweet, and if I’m a couple years behind where I thought I’d be by now, well, I’ve lived a lot in those couple years.

So, with that said: happy birthday to me.

It’s my birthday and I’ll do what I want to
Fuck you it’s my birthday.
A special holiday only for me, so do what I say,
it’s my party, I’ll make you cry if I want to…or leave.
Fuck you, it’s not your birthday, so do what I say.–The Vandals

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