“So,” my niece, Victoria asked me Friday night, “how does it feel to hit the Big Seven-O?”
She was calling from Colorado to wish me a happy birthday, but being Victoria, of course, she had to wrap it around a brick and hurl it straight at my fragile ego.
“No,” I shouted into the phone. “I’m 61—I’ve got a few years to go!”
Victoria has this gift for getting on my nerves. She’s been doing it for years and I sometimes wonder if she was genetically hot-wired in some secret government laboratory just to bust my prunes.
Even she noted that our relationship has always had this backhanded quality to it.
“It’s the same way with torturers and their victims,” I replied.
But seriously, people, no birthday would be complete without a harassing phone call from Victoria.
In addition to this familial abuse, my most wonderful sister took me to dinner and then to a production of Eugene O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey into Night in downtown Brooklyn.
And on Memorial Day I’ll be having dinner with my sister and auntie, so except for the shockingly high age number, this year’s birthday is shaping up very nicely.
I put an extra effort into keeping out the negativity out of my head for 24 hours, a tough, but worthy goal. I even refrained from posting hostile political messages on Facebook, which is nearly impossible for me.
My Ears Hear a Symphony
As part of my recovery from my nasty fall in December, I take a 40-block walk around the neighborhood most mornings to build up my battered knees.
I always see dog owners letting their pets roam around a field in Shore Road Park, but on Thursday I spotted this one four-legged fellow that I can’t get out my mind.
He was a black and white mutt and as he charged by me I saw he had a chew toy in his mouth. Periodically he would drop it, run away, and then turn to get down low and stalk the thing as if it were his prey—which it kind of was.
I got a kick out of watching this guy making things happen. He wasn’t waiting for his owner to throw the toy for him. He was taking care of everything himself. I think there’s a lesson in there for me.
As I watched this happy fellow bouncing around, I thought of a song by Bob Dylan—with whom I share a birthday—called “If Dogs Run Free.”
Up until last week it was my least favorite track from the 1970 New Morning album, an LP I loved so much when I was a teenager that I played it every single day for months.
I always skipped over that particular tune, though, because I didn’t enjoy the scat, jazzy beat poetry thing that Dylan was going for in this song.
It actually made Rolling Stone’s top ten worst Bob Dylan songs list, but that pooch in the park last week brought it all together for me.
"If dogs run free," the song asks, "then why not we, across the swooping plain?"
Dylan goes on to tell us to “just do your thing, you'll be king” and that true love “can cure the soul, it can make it whole.”
Words to ponder as I march toward the Big Seven-O.