As one gets older, birthdays are supposed to be a time of reflection, meditation, introspection, contemplation, deflation, etc. Since I practice that for the rest of the year, however, I tend to avoid it on my birthday. This year, my birthday fell on a weekday so I spent much of the week avoiding anything resembling navel-gazing and looked outward instead. (This blog, in fact, has been a concerted effort to look at things outside my own head, with some limited success.)
The celebration started with a friend getting me birthday lunch in Manhattan. We walked into a random Japanese restaurant (without looking up a million reviews on yelp, google, assorted-crowd-sourced venues, etc). They gave us bento boxes that we happily devoured. Then we stopped at a place that used to have a soda fountain but were told that this was no longer true. So we went to Momofuku’s milk bar and braved something called a pea-nut soft serve icecream. It looked like pistachio and tasted like sweet peas (hence the pea) and not much like almond (yet the nutty name).
Since we are good planetizens who do not throw food, we proceeded to eat our ice-cream and bitch (while narrowly resisting the temptation to give it to toddlers who looked at us enviously). Well, my friend managed to eat hers; I offered some of mine to acquaintances who were gathered at Union Square for the May day parade, and one of them was happy to eat it. My guilt thus assuaged, I was also buoyed by the knowledge that I was carrying a free sample of birthday truffles that the dessert place had handed out (after checking my ID). (I did not let myself think that the truffles would be anything other than delicious and I was right; they tasted like a pedha.)
Fortified by sushi and the almost-dessert, we then proceeded to assemble for the May Day parade, which wound its way down Broadway to City hall.
It was awesome to join people who fight for education, immigration reform, workers’ rights
–and also because it felt like one of Stefon’s recommendations on SNL Weekend Update: “New York’s hottest club is ‘THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!’ This place has everything: Short people* holding ‘Make Wall Street Pay’ signs, tall people wearing Lincoln hats and carrying drum kits
dogs who want to Occupy a fire hydrant,
women with babies in a hood
barefoot co-eds blowing conchs from fire escape balconies
politicians who actually give a crap
giant flags that you can limbo under
students doing poster presentations
and Hare Krishnas doing whatever they do. (No one needs to see a picture of that, Seth!)”
Marching in this parade has got to become a birthday tradition, especially if, as a friend said, one is born to Marx.
After all the hollering and marching (or the occasional Woo! and ambling for an hour), we were parched, so we disappointed a lot of NYPD’s finest by not rioting or pitching tents and just went off for a drink to the Patriot. If you haven’t been there, you should. This place also had everything:
a stuffed alligator with some underpants (and a bra)
a queer anarchic marching band (that moved too fast to be photographed), and Wall Street types pretending to watch something on the bar tvs but who want a woman to talk to them (and are too sad to be photographed).
Some Maker’s Mark (courtesy another friend) and molten-hot fries later, we decided we wanted dinner. This time, we tried to use yelp since it was getting cold and most places in that neighborhood shut down by 9. We agreed on a short walk to Chinatown and were soon ensconced at a large lazy-susaned table (filled with tourists) and slurping down soup dumplings,
eating greasy-delicious scallion pancakes,
and groaning our way through mapo-tofu (#meh)
and Shanghai noodles (#mmm)
Toting our leftovers, we walked back to the subway. By the time I got home, my pedometer read 9946 steps…and counting.
The Greeks saw time as chronos (linear time) or kairos (opportune moment); in this age of youth and eternal anxiety about age, birthdays are seen as a clock forever winding down, as chronos. But birthdays can be kairos: in-between time, liminal time, an opening in time, that moment outside time when you grasp something special. You can guess which one I chose for my (New York) birthday.