Well, there is goes…yet another birthday for me. I now have as many years under my belt as a pair of 24-year old twins. I only wish I had the energy and flexibility of a 24 year old! Now that I am older, I find the need to celebrate slower. This year, my day fell on a Wednesday, so I blocked off the entire week to celebrate. Dinner with the family on Sunday, an evening at the local watering hole with friends on Wednesday, and a date on Saturday night highlight a week of free lunches and well wishes from friends and family.
It got me thinking about some key birthdays from the past that I shared with my firehouse family:
First, there was my 16th, when I was given a shiny new Cairns Philadelphian helmet by my parents. It was a nice surprise. It was a Wednesday night, and it would be the first fire company drill I would officially attend as a member. The Philly helmet was a huge upgrade from the WWII style Fiberglas helmets usually issued to new junior firefighters. I am not sure if I ever really made the choice to join the fire company, but when your father is the fire chief, and your mom is the president of the ladies auxiliary, there are certain unspoken expectations!
The fire company played an interesting role on my 18th birthday as well. It seems the members conspired to have me “man up”. Much to my surprise, they hired a local “dancer” to come deliver the happy birthday message. She was quite a sight, and I bet she was a hottie… yeah, maybe when she danced for my grandfather’s 18th birthday!!
First, there was the embarrassment of being on the spot… with an exotic dancer…in a room full of dudes… including my FATHER! Then there was the generation gap! She was sparkly and feathery from across the room, but up close? YIKES! There were wrinkles on parts of her body that I did not know could wrinkle, and the make-up caked in the chasms of her face was fooling no one! She reeked of whiskey and cigarettes, and her legs were rough, like a cheese grater, spotted with scabs, chapped flakes of dead skin and stubble stiffer than horse hair. Her make up looked nearly clown-like. Not a Happy clown, either, but the scary evil clown. When she smiled, the gray roots of her real teeth contrasted the red lipstick that somehow got on her teeth as well. Her chest, thank God, stayed contained by the silky layers of her “outfit”, because I am certain it could have like taking a beating from grapefruits tucked in the toes of a pair of pantyhose.
She was nothing like the girls I had seen in the magazines that were “hidden” in the drawer of the trophy case. She was old, and she was scary. My only consolation was knowledge that some of the guys literally pissed their pants they were laughing so hard. I smiled (or maybe I was clenching my teeth), and was a polite recipient of her suggestive gyrations that seemed to last for HOURS! All I had to do was sit in the chair and survive, yet I remember being weak and sweaty when it finally ended; sweatier than she was! I was convinced I was going to catch one of those diseases you get from loose women I learned all about in health class in high school!
Then there was my 21st, which was a bit depressing, because I went to a bar with the older firefighters and did not get carded. I waited all those years to go to a bar, and I didn’t get carded??? What a rip-off. Hell, last year, I went to a club and was carded by a doorman with bar-code reader, which not only read my license and calculated my age, but flashed it in big red numbers! “Thanks pal”, I thought, “That will impress the ladies in line”.
After that, the birthdays just kept coming. Every year at the same time, another one would fly by. I lost count, and now have to do the math to calculate the answer to “How old are you?” Forty-eight, if you really need to know. Maybe one day, I will blog about THIS birthday. However, I did not get a new helmet (I like my salty off-white one), I didn’t even take my ID to the bar on Wednesday (first name basis with the bartender), and unless tomorrow night’s date goes way different than what I am expecting, I wont be egged on by my buddies to “motorboat dem thangs”! Oh yeah, my dad wont be there, either!