solipsism, thy name is alcohol


It just turned my birthday, May 26, a few minutes ago, so I waited until the two most important women in my life went to sleep, found my bottle of 16-year-old Lagavulin scotch, poured a glass, and am now taking 10 minutes to myself. 38 is a peculiar age in that it isn’t peculiar at all – it doesn’t sound much older than 37, and hasn’t the sharp precipice of 39. All I know is that I lived longer than Jesus or Mozart, so I count my blessings.

When I was about 31 or so, stuck in Los Angeles and freebasing Rumplemintz, the clouds would occasionally part and I’d map out what I’d like to be doing in my late thirties. For some reason, it was important to me that my parents – especially my mom – see that I had children. “Hmm,” I thought in 1998, “I’ll need to be in a relationship for at least three years before I contemplate marriage, and then at least another two years before I can contemplate a kid. Since I know I’ve got at least another 18 months of misery here before even meeting someone close to bearable, I think I’m not looking at a kid until the year 2005, if ever.”

Very analytic, utterly stupid, and yet, in the final analysis, pretty much accurate. Another odd thing happened around the same time: one night I flopped my mattress a bit out the window, stuck my head out, and slept under the three stars you can see at night in Los Angeles. I wondered if I was going to get married, and if so, where was she right now?

The voice in my head answered very clearly: you already know her. “How is that possible?” I countered, “How could such a detail be eluding me?” I calculated that I was “acquainted” with about a thousand people first-hand, but the number of people I “knew” would be right around 500. Why this number? No idea. I’m sure someone out there has done the research, but 500 sounded right.

So I began to go through everyone I knew, starting chronologically, going through Iowa (unlikely), Virginia (again, unlikely), London (possibly), Chapel Hill (possibly) and California (astronomically unlikely, as I hated every person I saw). There were a few friends who fit the bill – and you know who you are – but I just couldn’t see it happening.

If you want to get to sleep fast, don’t count sheep; count your friends. I think I got to about 80 before the sun rose and I’d been out for nine hours.

I should note that Tessa had been in England the same years I was (1977-79), in Chapel Hill when I was (1987-1991), in Los Angeles that very year (1998) and in New York when I moved there in 2000. I had run into her at a show in 1995 and she seemed a little skittish and depressed. Ten years later we had this great little kid together. I pray I get to be with her until we’re 99. Actually, she’ll be 97, but hopefully we’ll have forgotten the details.

Many things had to happen for me to be born. My mom’s first husband had to die at the wheel, and she had to have three miscarriages. My dad had to survive his abusive father long enough to get married to a woman who already had two children. Diseases had to be overcome, planes had to land, and Chip and I had to talk each other out of drowning at Jordan Lake in 1993.

I’m so happy to be here. I lift this glass of scotch to all of you, and I bow in humble, magnanimous humility at all the things that went to make me, Tessa and Lucy possible.


25 thoughts on “solipsism, thy name is alcohol

  1. chip

    Happy Birthday Eeyun, you paper towel thief. Thanks for talking me out of drowning in 1993. That would have almost been as bad as the people who maimed themselves with the homemade light sabers made out of gasoline filled fluorescent bulbs.

  2. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Goddamn — I like the way you think and write! Have a wonderful birthday. It truly is amazing to think of all the twists/turns/minute decisions that lead us to where we are now. Sometimes I look at my daughter and think that if she were conceived on any other day or any other time, she would be a completely different person. Of all the millions of sperm and egg combinations that were possible during the time we decided to have a baby, here she is. Anyway, happy birthday.

  3. Susan

    I was at UNC 87-92 and loved your Wednesday’s child column then. Stummbled across your blog a couple of months ago and have really enjoyed the “conversations” here. Keep up the good writing and have a great birthday!

  4. e.mckeown

    ian… oh damn… i cant begin anywhere except to say happy birthday. so simple. but happy birthday. i arrived home last night to find the usual HUGE pile of mail and there was the announcement of lucy and also the arrival of my friends tessa and ian back into my life… please send a me phone number and an email… its just been too long. x erin m.

  5. Betsy

    well dang. It’s 65 and cloudless here in caroliny at 9 am, so I assumed you’d be in luck and have 65 as your high, at least, and have at least partial caroliny blue sky, but I guess despite all good things converging to triangulate you and t and lucy, the weather is still fucking you. looks like you’re in for 60 and raining all day. Happy Birthday. and squeeze Tessa extra ’cause I missed hers like a major looser. or loser, even.

  6. Annie

    Happy Birthday Eye-on! U R D best and I will see you (and Tessa and LUCY) tomorrow night! Around 9:30 I hope.
    (Reminder: I need your # at the farmhouse so I can let you know which train I catch)

  7. brent

    Happy Day of Birth, thanks for taking the time to do this everyday. Give yourself a birthday present today by listening to Ben Fold’s new song he wrote to his daughter, Gracie Girl. I couldn’t help but think about you and Lucy when I heard it.

  8. Kevin

    Happy Birthday big guy. Make it a good one, and I lift my own cocktail (boodles gin up, just a glance at the vermouth, and couple of olives) to you and yours.

  9. Anne D.

    Have a fucking fabulous birthday, Ian!
    Oops; what was that pedantic lesson I delivered about cuss words a few postings ago?
    “Have a nice day.” :-)
    – Anne
    who is much, much older than you, married nearly 30 years (3 kids) — so anything is possible

  10. Bud

    How are ya, old man?
    Having been 38 for 6 months now, I find 38 has the gravitas 37 lacks, without the ‘edge of AARP’ connotations of 39.
    Have a good time. Drink yourself stoopid. Okay, stoopidER. I shall do the same, in solidarity.

  11. cullen

    Travel safe Ann Humphreys, among Jartacular 2005’s Spartacular Southern guest Stars and literati. Bring us some sunshine (and sugarcake). Ya’ll sang some up at the farm.
    NCGSW ’87

  12. eric g.

    Happy birthday! When I get home tonight, I will raise a glass of Macallan 12 to you. (I don’t know how you can drink that peaty mess Lagavulin. Heartburn in a bottle. But single malt is single malt, and I’m glad you had some to enjoy.) Congratulations on everything. Yesterday’s pic of Lucy sleeping should take the Pulitzer. Photos of war-torn countries are great, but that picture captured the essence of what it’s all about.

  13. Kmeelyon

    Happy B’day, Ian. How funny. Two of my favorite people in the world also share your b’day. I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Have a great day.

  14. KJF

    Ian – the only positive thing about the election of 2004 is that i discovered your blog which is really a daily treat. thanks for sharing your world with us. happy birthday!

  15. Kristin

    Happy Birthday and grazie mille for the great blog. Came for the Duke hate; stayed for your amazing writing and insights on life.
    Hey, Cullen – I got some letters for you WFHS ’89; UNC-CH ’93.
    Drop me a line, losah: (formerly Kristin M)

  16. Andrew

    Don’t forget that your head will be banging tomorrow morning when Lucy wakes and you will say to yourself “boy, I really should not have had those last [insert number of drinks you probably could have done without] drinks.”
    Happy Birthday.

  17. Amy S.

    I always knew you had a sweet streak, Ian. I love seeing it come out in fatherhood.
    Happy birthday!

  18. KTS

    Similar to Kmeelyon, I also have a close friend whose birthday is today, and he’s Irish.
    ‘Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo!’

  19. Rebecca

    It seems I’m always a day late and a dollar short…
    Hope you had a great 38th birthday. You are now closer to 50 than 25. I hope my little redheaded boy (Henry – who knew he’d have red hair!) grows up to be as wise, thoughtful and liberal as you!


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