A decade of birthdays with Traca de Broon
Today this impossibly cute little cherub has officially outlived Jesus, a worthy effort meriting a bit of a retrospective for Traca de Broon (the Irish version her real name, for the curious). It has been my privilege and good fortune to have spent ten of these birthdays with the love of my life, so let's take a stroll down a winding little street called Memory Lane...
1996 - 24 years old
I had known her just six months. We had become friends working together as editors at a certain Bay Area book-publishing company. I got myself assigned as her mentor, and our first lesson took place at a nearby Thai restaurant over lunch. Soon the package of editing materials was casually laid aside as we turned our earnest attention to taking care of the Singhas that somehow kept coming and ended up precipitating a certain tardy, blurry return to our desks. On her birthday, we attended a party at our friend Sat's, who had introduced us, and on the ride back to San Francisco from San Mateo, we occupied the back seat. Don't recall how I managed that, but between us panted my black chow mix, and in the course of our innocent petting of the creature my right hand and her left came into contact, a happenstance akin to when chocolate met peanut butter. A chain reaction of heat and electricity erupted in me. Sweat literally popped off my forehead. Immediately I was cranking down the window seeking relief, to little avail, from the passing highway air. The chain reaction was terminal, though, and soon spread into the rest of our lives, culminating in my decision that I had no desire to go through life without her, leading to my departure from my previous living arrangement and my appearance at her apartment August 17th 1997 with a paper bag of meager belongings and my scooter helmet. She had an orange Karmann Ghia, two cats, and one fork, which she had stolen from the lunch room at work. The object of her grandest larceny, of course, was my heart!
1997 - 25 years old
Cohabitating in her humble studio apartment two blocks from the Upper Haight, we had been invited to dinner with friends at a swank and trendy French restaurant in the Financial district at a time when we had, literally, about a hundred dollars between us. The place was called Plouf, which she later said was the sound of a bag of money being thrown into a river. Afterward, we went to a bar with some of those friends and, I am sorry to say, I stupidly got very high and allowed my insecurities and demons to run rampant for a few hours. This was the birthday of hers that I ruined with an emotional outburst of a pathetic and obnoxious nature, and the fact that she forgave me has since served as a reminder of how just lucky I am.
1998 - 26 years old
T was training for her first marathon, which meant she was being healthy, eating right, not drinking, not smoking. Oh, how I hated the New Way! Again, my selfishness is astonishing and shameful in retrospect, but at least I don't deny it anymore. We spent the birthday evening at her sister's house a few neighborhoods away, a mild event featuring wine and cake and the presentation of her present, which had been split between Tamara, their father, and myself: a hammered dulcimer (T was, and I soon became, a huge Dead Can Dance fan, and if you know the band, the dulcimer will make perfect sense). It wasn't long before I was a lucky and frequent listener, and the song her teacher drilled into her was "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and the apartment was, I believe I mentioned, a small studio with two cats.
1999 - 27 years old
We had moved some months before from San Francisco to Galway, Ireland, because why not, and because T had family on her mother's side all over that charming little island and had spent a lot of time there growing up. For her birthday we arranged to meet Ralph and Vanessa, friends who lived in Plymouth but who were travelling in Europe, in Barcelona. (Yes, chastened, flawed I knew I had some making up to do...) Of course we strutted the Ramblas, looking every bit as hot as any of those curvaceous, classy, couture Catalonians, or at least she did, looked as hot, that is, and we ended up on a rooftop next to a spectacular Gaudi-designed structure, being serenaded by a friend and cotraveler of R & V, who drove a bus in his non-Barcelona life and had brought his saxophone.
2000 - 28 years old
We had moved some months before to Utrecht, the Netherlands, because why not, and because T was getting her master's degree in European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. At this time we were nine months away from getting married, which was going to happen in Holland, meaning family and friends would be forced to leave, briefly, AmericaWorld, and they deserved to be welcomed by a couple that was not fat and nasty, hence an effort was underway to Be Good -- a new New Way, one that I was finally on board with. However, our apartment was over a Middle Eastern restaurant and next door to a hash bar. Outside our streetside window our downfall awaited in the form of one huge bright sign blaring "WIETSTOCK" ("WEEDSTOCK" - get it?) and another trumpeting "SHALOM - BEST SHOARMA IN TOWN" (shoarma = spiced meat hacked off a twirling slab and stuffed into a pita). The rest of that birthday, after we gave in to these twin vices, is unavailable to memory.
2001 - 29 years old
We had moved some months before to Iowa City, because of the reason whose faint traces echo through this blog, and T was delighted to discover that sushi was available in Iowa. We had too much sake and laughed uncontrollably at our little table at Three Samurai in Coralville. It was a Wednesday, and at my misguided insistence we went to TalkArt afterward, where we were shockingly inappropriate, making out in a booth while the poor writer read her story about a rape.
2002 - 30 years old
We packed the Sanctuary with friends and had a classic session for the "home birthday," and spent a couple days in Chicago for the "away birthday," where we pretended we were still in our 20s and went to a dark, divey club on the west side and saw the New Duncan Imperials, a rowdy, legendary bar band. Sure we shook our asses.
2003 - 31 years old
Vegas. Ostensibly for a "PocketPC conference," as we were writing a trade book together about this device (don't ask), but we spent far more time at Slots of Fun drinking margaritas the size of our legs. Our Birthday Gal was served burgers and champagne in bed. Next day we drove to Area 51, and T was so hungover she bought a straw hat to banish the sun and spent most of the drive moaning and taking pictures of her feet. Lunch at The Little Ale'Inn, amid photos of UFOs and Greys, was shaky but fairly hilarious. On our way back we drove right up to the Deadly Force Authorized sign and, sure as shootin', T was able to video a UFO glittering along a mountain ridge deep inside the base that does not exist. The "X Files" birthday.
2004 - 32 years old
T ran the Race For the Schools in Iowa and jetted off to San Francisco to run a half marathon. On the actual birth-day, we had a nice time playing Scrabble at Quinton's with some Big Girls.
2005 - 33 years old
Behold, verily the Jesus Year commenceth. We had gone to Amsterdam for T to run a marathon and go on a job interview, although we woke up in our rented houseboat two hours after the marathon had begun, and we also managed to fit in a visit to her newly discovered half brother Alfie in Dublin. This was some birthday present: a boy born in secret to her mother six years before T's birth, who had recently battled the unhelpful Irish adoption laws and found his half sisters and the rest of the family. T and I met him for the first time at his home, expecting to spend an hour or two there and then go see These Charming Men, the "best Smiths cover band in Ireland." Instead, we all got wrapped up in so many conversations that we ended up staying with Alfie and his wife and two kids. Next morning they even drove us to the airport.
2006 - 34 years old
And now she sits in a tan J-Lo velvet-y track suit and pink fuzzy slippers, which, when I began to mock them, she reminded me all were given to her by my mother, here she sits, Jesus's senior, editing and writing at the dining room table here in East Sandwich, hot as ever, still putting up with me, training again for an impending half marathon, still being the classiest, coolest chick I've ever known. Happy birthday, Trace! Thanks for spending so many of them with me -- and for forgiving and forgetting those times oh so long ago and remote, back when I wasn't perfect. I love you, sweetie, now and forever more. Amen!