Each week, Bro Jackson’s deep roster of writers and degenerates takes on hot-button topic. Put on your party hats, folks. We’re talkin’ birthday stories this time.
My boyfriend was leaving town for an extended period of time to a new job site right before his birthday, so we decided to celebrate early. I made him cupcakes and, when he arrived, I had a single lit candle in a cupcake waiting for him along with a card and a bagful of Laffy Taffy (his favorite). We had dinner at the Plaza Grill at Millenium Park (kobe burgers, soooooo good), went to see “The Book of Mormon” (SOOOOOOOO GOOD) and had drinks after at the Palmer House (soooooo expensive) and THEN…we celebrated, if you know what I mean, heyyyoooo. I orchestrated and paid for the whole thing and I was really proud of myself. One of the better birthdays I had ever planned. He said he loved it.
So then he left town and I had massive separation anxiety. 1 I had a terrible time getting through that first week. I saw friends, I made plans, I wrote in my journal like goddamn Taylor Swift. I was still totally freaking out the next weekend. I woke up that Sunday morning feeling sadder than ever and I was terrified that I was going to betray how I was feeling if I called him. So I determined that I wasn’t going to call him. It was seriously minute-to-minute getting through that day. I spoke to everyone in my family that day on the phone, went on a long bike ride, watched like eight episodes of “Elementary,” all the while working myself into a total frenzy that even though I was determined not to call him, why hadn’t he called me? What the hell was going on? Had me met a new girl at his new job site? What was he doing while he was ignoring me? 2
He finally called me around 5 p.m. and I was so happy when I saw his picture come up, I almost cried. I pulled myself together and answered the phone. We had a long, interesting, laugh-filled, typically great conversation and at the end of it as I was signing off, he said “Aren’t you going to say happy birthday?” IT WAS HIS ACTUAL BIRTHDAY.
Man, girls be crazy.
To the right is a picture of me on my 30th birthday. My friends took me to the Chicago Brauhaus for dinner, during which we passed a gigantic glass boot full of beer around the table until it was empty. Then we hit the dance floor; the polka band playing was made up of a trio of gentlemen whose average age was 70. The gentleman in the picture asked me to dance, and afterward he came over to our table and gave me the bear. We’re not sure where the bear came from–perhaps he brought one every Saturday night and gave it to the girl who caught his eye? The bear ended up being a favorite toy of my cat Rocky, who eventually tore his head off and carried it around in his mouth.
The premise, they tell me, was to relate to you my best birthday party, but I don’t care to do that here. I could tell you about how in the third grade a kid peed on the electric fence at my farm and it knocked him on his ass. I could tell you about how my dad, brother, and I got in a bar fight on my 21st. But I want to talk about something much more important and culturally relevant: People who celebrate their birthdays in public and act like they’re somehow special.
Now I’m not opposed to birthday parties, per se. You want to gather some friends together at the local watering hole and swap stories over some Lime-a-ritas and play some pool quietly, have at it. Want to invite some folks over to your house for Syrah and a rousing game of cribbage? Knock yourself out. But after your 21st—which, granted, should be about getting blind and making tragic, life-altering, regrettable mistakes—don’t go out to celebrate your birthday.
The problem I have stems from 30-somethings going out to celebrate at some restaurant and making a spectacle of themselves. No one gives a hopping penguin fart about you and your birthday. You’re 32-years-old and for some reason you felt it necessary to gather 15 of your insufferable friends and tell the owner and server—and anyone within earshot—that it’s your birthday. The hope in your selfish, demented mind is that you get a cupcake with a candle and all your friends croak out a sappy and vomit-inducing version of happy birthday in public. And you know some asshole will add “And many more!” when the song is finished. Or, worse, you actually bring your own cake to the restaurant. Are you fucking serious? Did your mom not buy you a cake when you were a kid? Did your uncle drink too much Canadian Club and slap your aunt when she got mad at him for making a long distance call on her land-line phone during your 10th birthday? That happened to me and I don’t go out to restaurants and act like anyone should give a crippled rat’s ass about my birthday.
Get over yourself. Stop celebrating birthdays in public. Have a little self-respect. The world is sorely lacking in that department.
This past weekend I went to my friend’s birthday party in Oakland. After partying until the early morning, I made the decision to walk home since my car was in the shop. As I walked home through a neighborhood straight out of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” a cop drove by me and appeared to be approaching. He ended up driving past and pulling over three sketchy-looking people literally hiding in the bushes. I continued walking, feeling a sense of relief. That was short-lived. Instead another cop slowly drove by then reversed and pulled up to me. “You have ID?” the cop no older then me said. “Yup,” I stated as I showed him my driver’s license. He motioned for me to enter a nearby trailer park, and then the circus began.
It all got weird and fuzzy when the cop got out of the car and began stating orders to me as though I was in the opening scenes of “Les Miserables.” I quickly texted my buddy that I was getting arrested with a succinct but vague message: “I am getting arrested.” So now the cop assumes I’m tipping off a potential drug dealer/customer (Granted, I am in a trailer park, now.) and draws his gun. After about 15 minutes of being searched and fucked with, two more officers appeared, one looking like Humpty Dumpty and another who resembled that of Archie from the outdated cartoons.
The beat cop, as he wanted to be referred to, continously mentioned how “I was on his beat.” I sat on the curb with my hands cuffed around my back while the two new cops searched the trailer park for the meth they were sure I had. The cop asked, “When was the last time you smoked meth?” “Never! I’m a fucking therapist,” I said. This really didn’t go over well as I was hit with a barrage of angry spit from the “beat cop.” Meanwhile, my friends at the house party are calling the local slammer looking for me only to get no response.
Then I thought, what if they do find meth here? It is a trailer park, meth does exist, what would I do? Thankfully they didn’t find anything and the cop to concluded the two-hour endeavor by telling me that my “drunk ass has to run home before he can drive there or he would arrest me.” To make things worse I was so ashamed that my friends thought I was arrested I lied and claimed that I was arrested to save face.
Don’t hang out in trailer parks, kids.
I went to jail on my 21st. Actually that’s not true. I bought a six-pack, went to the movies, and watched “Inside Man.” But that weekend I went to jail. The top five most memorable things from my 24 hours in jail:
1. Taking my mug shot and recognizing the cop doing my paperwork. We’d previously worked together during my security guard days at the convention center. One time we stood next to each other for eight hours. He had a badge and gun, I had a flashlight and a red vest.
2. I get a striped jumped suit but they only had XXXL-sized gear in stock. County-issued suit in hand, I learned that inmates don’t get to wear anything else (including underwear).
3. When they let us out for lunch, the jail’s courtyard television was showing “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” It’s probably the best of the Potter films.
4. When you see the judge the next afternoon, they don’t like to waste his time so he sees a linked chain gang of recently arrested people. He didn’t like my attitude and kicked me out of the room.
5. I apologized to the guy cuffed next to me for getting him kicked out of the room too (because, again, his right arm was cuffed to my left). He said, “Man I’m not going anywhere for a long time. Don’t worry about it.”
I never understand people who don’t love their birthdays. The kind of people who say “Oh, we probably won’t do anything, I don’t make a big deal about my birthday” can go suck an egg as far as I’m concerned. The anniversary of the day you came spilling out of your mother is something that should be celebrated with gusto, and I like to plan something big whenever I can. There are some great examples of this, including, but not limited to:
1. Throwing a party at my parent’s house when I turned 19 the summer after my freshman year of college which included multiple kegs of beer, a stripper, and notes placed in my neighbor’s mailboxes detailing the party that my parents were throwing me (I wrote the notes while my parents cruised to Alaska). I started inviting people during winter break, and at one point someone told me it reminded them of the party in “Can’t Hardly Wait.” 3
2. Going to Vegas for my 21st birthday and having Ice-T record a profanity-laced outgoing voicemail message, which included the phrase “He might get back at you if your ass is fat enough and your titties are hanging right,” causing my conservative father to tell me that “I may never do anything as impressive as that voicemail message.” 4
3. For my 30th birthday, I dragged 10 of my friends to Chicago for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, a music festival headlined by my favorite band on the south side of the Windy City. When they announced that Ben Folds (the solo version of my second favorite band) would be playing on July 9 (my birthday), I was ecstatic. It was as if the music gods were rewarding me for surviving thirty years. We rented a party bus to take us to and from the festival, and if you’re wondering whether DMB rewarded my survival by busting out the live rarity that is my favorite song, wonder no more. We were doing it big.