Birthdays have never meant much to me before. I suppose it is an excuse to go do something fun. I actually can't really remember all that many birthdays. I remember my fourth or fifth one, it was in Mexico, I had a cake made in the shape of a boat. It was at a place called Cortijo (or maybe it was the other one who's name I can't remember), a popular swim spot outside of my hometown of San Miguel. I remember my twenty-first, for the fact that it was so completely insignificant - some stupid bar in San Diego, drinking because I was supposed to, and going home bored and lonely. My twentieth was pretty amazing - alone in a small flamenco bar in Tossa de Mar in Catalunia, drinking sangria, dancing with a rowdy full-figured Cuban girl and writing in my journal as I answered questions that the singer had for me when the clock ticked over and the 24th arrived. He asked me if I had any requests. I said Gypsy Kings. Seemed appropriate at the time, but in retrospect it is a rather embarrassing choice. My twenty-seventh found me helping my brother continue to exist after a particularly debaucherous previous day in Las Vegas (when he found himself having to help me continue to exist) during the tail-end of the three week roadtrip we took shortly after mom died. I slept that night in a tent at the Green Lake campground in the Sierras - mom's favorite place to take us camping when we were younger. We awoke the next morning to hike up to the lake and throw the small jar of blessed ashes she asked us to put on her body after she passed into the water. It was the final stop before we returned to San Francisco and our "normal" lives. Last year, my twenty-ninth, was special too - a first-time trip to Jacmel with Mathilde, after having to rip her away from work for the day. Stubborn one, but one long, beautiful tap-tap ride later we were walking around the city, getting rained on and drinking Prestige and happy but sad because we both knew she was leaving the next day. "Thanks for making me do this." You're welcome. Come back, we'll do it again.
As for this birthday? No set plans. I'm sure I'll inevitably end up a bit shitty, speaking my broken but passable Creole at a speed that is a bit too fast for my brain to keep up with with who knows who at some silly hour. Paddy will be there. He'll inevitably laugh at me, and that makes me smile. But before that, we have a project management training course that runs all day. I'm looking forward to it. Always good to know how to do things better.
I didn't realize when I was in Miami how much I missed Haiti. Once the wheels hit the runway and the doors opened and I could feel the air - thick and hot and dirty - I couldn't help but smile. I sat next to a Haitian guy who hadn't been back to Haiti in years - before the earthquake. He was a funny one, praying before the plane took off and unsure of how to fill out his custom forms so I did it for him. "Is that Haiti?" he asked as we approached the island. "Wi. Sa se La Gonave, e Gran Groave la, Leogane la, Carrefour la, Port-au-Prince la men nou pa kabap we li kunyao paske li anba nou." He was a bit wide-eyed as he exited the plane, as was the pretty girl who caught my attention in the airport lobby in Miami. She was born in Haiti but left when she was four, having only returned twice, both times before the earthquake. I gave her a few tips - "Walk like you know where you're going as soon as you leave the front gate or you're going to get swamped. If you have sunglasses and headphones, use them." Shortly after I followed my own advice, big backpack strapped to my back, small one to my front, earbuds in pushing Netsky, sunglasses on. So nice to be able to ignore people you know are trying to get your attention and money without feeling like an asshole. The moto ride through the madness that is Port-au-Prince, myself and the driver both lost in our respective MP3 players, was beautiful. What was once intimidating now feels alive and vibrant. It's still incredibly sad, but it's special too. I missed it. There's only one Haiti, beautiful and fucked up as she is.
Until soon. In the meantime, listen to these, and mesi anpil to Paul for turning me on to them: