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.