Sunday, January 19, 2003

Birthday Redux

Northampton today with Willow and Darcie to meet up with my parents and brother for a slightly belated family 30th birthday dinner at East Side Grill, not to be confused with East Coast Grill in Cambridge's Inman Square, where I spent my 21st family birthday dinner. Both restaurants serve a variant on basic cajun/southern cooking: the East Coast Grill serves mostly barbecue, so the birthday dinner nine years ago was surely something like pulled pork with beans and coleslaw and vinegar pickles and a slice of watermelon, like it should be, from their open kichen; the East Side Grill runs more towards the gourmet South, specializing in a lobster and corn soup, which I did not order but recommended successfully to my brother, and the popcorn shrimp and artichoke-and-mushroom-smothered tenderloin with fried leeks and garlic mashed potatoes I myself enjoyed. At the East Coast Grill I forgot my ID, and had to have my mom vouch for me in order to purchase my first legal drink, which came with a blue plastic dolphin stirrer I keep in the top drawer of my rolltop bedside table. Today, I had a Tanqueray and tonic, the baby whined through the second half of the meal, and I got a J Crew burgundy mock turtleneck and Ken Burns's Jazz: The Story of American Music 5 CD box set from my parents and three Mystery Science Theatre 3000 videos from my brother. I don't remember what I got for my 21st birthday.

I was born thirty years and four days ago at 11:30 in the morning, a half hour before that year's Superbowl kickoff, in Dekalb County Hospital, outside of Atlanta, Georgia, if my parents and birth certificate are to believed (I'm told I was there, but I don't remember much from that part of my life). Being southerner by technicality allows me mostly to justify a love for good southern cooking, from barbecue ribs to catfish to jumbalaya, and a tendency to use the ever-useful contraction y'all instead of the genderist Yankee convention guys when speaking in second person plural. But I certainly don't remember the place; we moved to Massachusetts when I was nine months old, the same week Nixon left office. I'm more and more each year a native New Englander, even as I drift chameleon-like through the stereotypes as time passes, from northern suburbanite to small liberal arts collegian to rural intellectual. I didn't even mind the cold today in Northampton, even though it's 5 below (in Farenheit!) outside now, cold enough you can feel the ice crystals forming in your nostrils and moustache as you step out the door, even colder in the outdoor hottub darcie and I treated ourselves to at East Heaven Hot Tubs because, well, my parents were eager to babysit and we can't resist the soak.

I've been all around the world: Mexico, Holland, Denmark, Ireland, Russia and Estonia back when they were part of the USSR, Finland, Israel, Egypt. I love coming back here, and knowing that we have here to come back to. I love the winter permasnow and the crisp air and the pine tree forests; I love new coats and the reward of spring after the long dark months and snowbright days. The world is nice to visit; I wouldn't want to live there. But if there's a word for it in Creole, or you can cook it best in a half a metal trash can, bring it on. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:03 AM |

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