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Wednesday, 15 December - link

one to thirty

tomorrow is my thirtieth birthday. Hurrah! I made it! I didn't choke on a thin heroin balloon in the Mission district of San Francisco or freeze in a puddle of brown urine in a Japanese backwater lodge. I haven't caught any life-threatenening diseases, how hard I've tried. Haven't gotten myself shot in spite of a few close calls.

Limbs all present and accounted for. Eyesight deteriorating but usable. Hey I should make a web page about my poor vision -

I'm thirty; that's an age when I'm supposed to have some sense of my strengths and weaknesses. What do I have to show for myself? A several thousand page hypertext about my life to date? more writing! keep up! or explore other media.

I wonder what my life's work is. Living! That question of purpose looms less large with years. Life can be an art. I want to make art. I want to have kids. But right now I just want to get my shit together.

Wondering what to do with this personal holiday, I thought I might be alone. Facing some black page and writing. Wandering in the forest. Maybe I should have -

but Ben talked about his own birthday collective, friends came and stayed together in tents in a warehouse space and my mind was suddenly blown open. I realized I liked holidays and I'm always working to understand and augment intimacy. So I planned a birthday patterned after my Christmas experiences growing up - relatives coming from far and wide and sharing bathrooms and eating each other's foods. I opened my house for a three day thirtieth birthday party and invited friends I spoke with to drop by, sleepover and talk.

anna lo svanteTo jump-start it all, I invested some of the frequent flyer miles I had piled up - I spent 150,000 miles to fly Svante and his family over here - his 2 year old daughter Lo, and his baby-mama Anna. Svante was the reason I visited Scandinavia over ten times during my 20s; he found my web site in 1995 maybe and promoted me as a speaker there. It lead to a ton of work for me and a chance to visit places like Arbrå and Demonbox with him. So I thought I would repay the favor and use a far off visitor to anchor this party.

Open-ended: come over and hang out! I said. Anytime between Friday and Sunday. It was dangerously unstructured - some friends threatened to disrupt anything too peacable and sensitive. But enough people showed up with good intentions - with supplies from Sharon's basement I brainstormed art activities for the daylight hours, so Saturday people sat with scissors and glue and sparkles and crayons and made masks and hats and drawings and sculptures.

The entire weekend was girded neatly by loving food - the first day I was in a panic because my self-appointed chef Lulu didn't arrive until the night and I had nothing to feed my guests. Fortunately I had some perishable mail waiting - Ryan had sent a cooler full of Salt Lick BBQ we devoured until Lulu arrived. She then proceeded to feed us pecan pancakes with strawberry syrup, homemade refried bean tacos. Blessed vegetarian love magic. Gentle food binding! A reason to wake up. I baked cookies and cauliflowers - three flavors of cauliflower including chili-lime-butter cauliflower which was everyone's favorite. Who knew?

People came and left. Some slept inside, some slept outside - somewhere between five and seven people were sleeping here both nights. I was worried beforehand - about blankets, about one tiny bathroom. About forks. But it went well enough to almost be considered relaxing. Not what one thinks when one imagines a "three day sleepover 30th birthday at my house." I didn't have designs on debauchery, but it's hard to imagine predominant sobriety with that much unfocused time. Still, somehow that's what emerged - Robin wrote on her site afterwards: "I went expecting to sleep very little and drink a lot - but the exact opposite occurred".

drawing talkingSo it was a healthy affair. Perhaps the heart of that was a conversation on Sunday morning - around a table a group of us sat; I asked each person to talk a bit about the year behind them, the year ahead, and some personal goals. It was fascinating to hear my friends present themselves; many of them are facing choices about what to do with their lives - where to live, what work to pursue. People in motion, reaching for fellowship outside of their locality.

This stood in marked contrast to the Swedes, Svante and Anna, who spoke of having so many wonderful nearby friends in Stockholm where they live, even in their apartment building, that they can share child-rearing, work and social pleasures together. They were the last to leave, Tuesday morning; we spent Monday enjoying the wintertime sun and surreality at Venice beach boardwalk. It was strange to think they would be landing in a place dark at 3pm and snow deep just a day later - deep in community bound by heavy weather.

Leaving me all this social energy to absorb in the sunshine of a starkly empty home. The days after this party were tough. There was a bit of a crash, a depression really - I was sick, my house was empty, I had memories and left-behind crafts to handle. And I think that was good, like pickled ginger for the mind. I was left from my birthday with a portrait of my social surroundings. Many of my fellows appeared to be in flux, inbetween a commitment to ideals, a curiosity about family-making, a desire to get a handle on money and some urge to settle mostly in spite of their hyperactive curiosity.

I was left wondering who I was - do I have too many choices? Thinking back to the talk around the table it was easy to wonder if too much travel or exposure had left some folks listless. It was a nourishing occasion, I think - what I wanted: friends mingling like family, familiarity, proximity, surrounding, creativity, making stuff, enjoying people, casual. The fire pit stayed lit for most of the weekend. There's some strength in that. Maybe enough strength to stand back and see myself with less fear.

Some of my life-choices appeared in high relief. What am I doing in school? Does that really match my goals? What about some of the long-term intimate relationships in my past that are now more distant? Could I have worked them out better? Should I have? Have I learned the lessons I needed to, to be a better partner in the future? Do I want to keep from being alone?

fire pitI stood in the doorway of my empty office - set up as an ideal I remember it from my cyber-maven twenties so it's neck deep in media products and screens. No space for clay or paint, I notice. Not much space to roll the bones. I've hemmed myself in with circuits. And that's fine, and optimal some nights.

But maybe it's not too late to switch up. It can't be too late! It's still only yesterday, with a bit of tomorrow and a ton of today. Man I got a few phases ahead of me, right? Aging is evolution.

but I can see a life taking shape around me - I'm not dead but I have to cop to my choices and the life they outline. For one, my terrible computer-aided posture: I am a web wraith, you can see the curl in my bones. Someone this weekend said I had translucent skin.

Post party is the first time I've been sick in about a year. After quarterly coughs, I learned how to be well - guzzle Emergen-C and sleep a lot at the first signs of sickness. But the party planning pushed me into a throat scraper. So I have chicken soup on the stove, and I'm drinking white wine from the bottle. Something to take the edge off the ache in my back.

Tomorrow on my birthday I have a meeting about the USC Interactive Media department web site. I think I might catch a museum show of plasticized bodies (close as I'm likely to get to cadavers just now). There's a 7.30 showing of The Life Aquatic with Souris and Silvio; I expect that will bring me some joy (like their photos did). With brewer's yeast on top. Great pleasures here. Always work to be done to be worthwhile, to contribute. I feel strong for the people in my life. Touched, honored, grateful.

A month of winter break confronts me now - I'm waitlisted for a 10-day silent meditation retreat in the middle of nowhere - ten days of no talking, no reading/writing, just sitting silent. I'm eager to see what that would do to me, after I get over the media-withdrawl shakes I mean.

But I'm waitlisted, and if I don't get in there's plenty of other projects to keep me busy. I say to myself, when are you going to pick one? Pick one thing and just do it? Heh. I've decided to grow a mustache. Until it hangs over my lips! All sixteen blond hairs. Why not? Something to do when you're thirty.

Posted on 15 December 2004 : 21:45 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.