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Monday, August 01, 2005

The Countdown Begins

It's the first of August, folks, and for those of you who don't know, that means the countdown... is on.

Yes, there are a mere eleven days left until the twenty-third anniversary of my birth.

I've gotten a reputation around the store for being obsessed with birthdays, primarily my own. I've been known to start laying the foundations of my plans (which never end up amounting to more than dinner at a nice restaurant) as early as February. It's annoying for those around me, and really does nothing but further my image as a self-centered egoist, but there's a reason for it.

My dad's birthday is (well, was, anyway) six days after mine on the 18th. He was a lifelong resident of Ohio, and like all denizens of that hellish land, he had an intense fascination with the beach. So every year, like clockwork, he'd make the drive and we'd spend the week there.

Which is all fine and dandy, except that I hate the beach. I liked spending the time with my dad (I'd show a picture, but at the time I had a sweet power mullet), but I can't stand heat, I sunburn easily, my ears hurt if I get so much as a drop of water in them, I hate seafood, and my sister almost drowned me.


On the same trip.

These alleged "accidents" aside, pretty much the only thing Pop and I enjoyed together was ogling girls in bikinis, which he did with aplomb. I don't think I've been back to the beach for more than a few hours since he died.

Anyway, continuing my apparent goal of sounding like the most ungrateful child ever, my mother's efforts were no better. Now I love my mom dearly. She's great. But I hate surprise parties, and she threw them for me for three years in a row.

I realize that I sound like a total bastard about this, and it's not that I don't appreciate her efforts, I swear to you, but I asked her specifically not to have them. It's hard to explain, but I'm actually a fairly private person, and when I'm ambushed, even by friends (although Mom has a knack for inviting people you hardly know to your party), I end up just feeling an intense pressure to be fun and entertaining. I enjoy the company of my friends (ask anyone at work--I hate to eat lunch alone), but when I'm ready to be alone, I get extremely uncomfortable around people. Not that you'd know it from the ISB, but I'm actually a very private person about some things, and in forced social situations, I feel trapped.

Now for a bit of clarification, I don't want you to think that my birthdays were some terrible ordeal or anything--they weren't bad at all. And the last surprise party Mom threw for me, with Jennifer, Edward, and the rest of my crew taking me out to lunch as a distraction, was the best birthday I've ever had. I just never really looked forward to them too much.

Which is something I decided to change two years ago. When I got the job at the shop, and the new friends that came along with it, I decided I wanted my twenty-first to be a big shindig. So I started plotting and planning, taking Tug's joking suggestion to have it at Frankie's Fun Park, a local mini-golf and laser-tag emporium, seriously to the point of figuring out the cost.

I was actually pretty surprised when nobody wanted to take the day off for it. I mean, who wouldn't want to skip work and get in eighteen holes of miniature fun?

So I went to Plan B, and had a dinner at Hops, where I failed spectacularly to drink roughly four ounces of beer. This has become legendary at the store, and MG3 will act it out at the drop of a hat, flailing his arms at the part where I take a sip of the lager.

The next year I moved to a swanky Italian joint, and my pal Billy surprised me by flying my ex-girlfriend down from Canada (she was real, damn it!). It was a great time.

What I've learned from the whole experience is that my birthdays tend to turn out better when I take matters into my own hands. So it's become a day that I really look forward to. I take a few days off from work--scandalous, I know--and kick back. I think that someone's birthday is when you tell them you're glad they were born, that they exist in your life. So I do my best to enjoy myself.

And I stay the hell away from the beach.


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