Mom: Is your knee better?
TC: It’s still a little stiff, but it’s better.
Mom: Well, you’re aging.
TC: I’m 23 for the third time. That’s not ancient.
Mom: No, but it’s starting. You peak in your early twenties and then things just start blowing out, like a Dodge Dart. You’re lucky to get a week between acne and gout. I only really felt healthy for one day in 1976, but then your father…
TC: Did you want something, or is this your usual “remember, man, that thou art dust” Sunday call?
Mom: Yes, I called to ask what you wanted for your birthday! Are you excited?
(Spoiler alert: She called me back to tell me to “just pick out a nice wallet and she’ll send me the cash.” I do love her.)
So, in no particular order, here’s what I want for my birthday (although cash is lovingly accepted):
A tape recording of my mother telling the story of my birth: My mother was in labor for about 62 hours. I have heard about it for 23 and three years. If you want a gay son, start with a “sensitive” child and then tell him about the awful things that can happen to female genitals. My whole childhood, every birthday, she would tell the story ritually like the Seder:
“About now, eight years ago, I was trying to enjoy some pumpkin pie when I noticed a twinge. And then a tearing pain.”
“Yes, about now, ten years ago, the midwife said ‘This child’s head is the size of a cantaloupe. I’ll deny it if you tell anyone I said this, but moonbeams and patience aren’t going to work this time. We’d better go to the hospital.’”
“Twelve years ago tonight, the man you think is your father was feeding me ice chips as you rent my loins asunder.”
Sunrise, sunset. My grandmother thinks this is the funniest thing she’s ever seen and jokes about it every time I speak to her:
“Have you talked to your mother?”
“Yes, she’s fine.”
“Did she talk about childbirth? Did you tell her that if it lasted as long as she said it did, she’d have had to give birth on the steps of the high school and send you directly to class?”
So, for my birthday, I’d like this to be immortalized. I plan to hijack those radio towers and shoot it into space and see what it does to the aliens.
A cardboard stand-up Garrett Hartley: I always wanted a cardboard stand-up and I never knew how to get them. People I knew had them, but they were never of people I liked (how does an eight-year-old even know who Tallulah Bankhead is?) and they were always vague about how they got them:
“Oh, you know, my cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s… Siamese twin’s… boss’s… birth mother… works at an f.y.e….”
I don’t even know if you can buy them or if they just work through the cycle of store -> kid’s room -> garage -> dorm room once the celebrity in question becomes “ironic” -> bonfire topper.
An engraved flask: I read a comic once in which a character owned a flask that read “The People vs. Character’s Name, Exhibit A” and I thought it was the funniest thing I ever saw. I always half-meant to get my flask engraved with something similar – Delaware vs. Tulane Chris, Exhibit A or similar. It has to be a weird jurisdiction, I think. Some “why were you there?” kind of place.
An exotic pet: When Giant Camel and I were first dating, he took me on a terrible date. (I may have mentioned this.) Not the “I’m lost in the woods and the only prescription is more Entourage” date, but down there. We went to the “Austin” “Zoo.” “Austin” is in quotes because it’s several miles out of down some “Your Mom Kills and Eats Passersby” dirt roads, and “Zoo” because zoos are fun, and this place is anything but. All of the animals are rescues, which is noble, but they all have hardcore shell shock. They don’t scamper or scurry or eat little things with their paws or make sounds. They sit in their enclosures and try to heal, and it is grim, grim, grim. Fully half of the animals were rescued from “a traveling religious circus,” which fascinates me completely. Their two “features” animals – their pandas and elephants – were a binturong and a New Guinea Singing Dog. The only notable fact about the binturong they’d put on his label was “many people think binturongs smell like Fritos.” They do, so now of course I think Fritos smell like sad, abused tree mammals and can’t eat them anymore.
I’ll believe that the binturong was real, although it may have been a wet carpet sample, but I call applesauce on the New Guinea Singing Dog. A-pple-sauce. It was clearly a dog, but… no. I don’t buy it. It wasn’t singing or violently masturbating, which is what Wikipedia would have me believe is what they do. So, for my birthday, I want an actual, factual, screaming, masturbating, New Guinea Singing Dog. Failing that, I want any creature whose name fits the pattern
[exotic island] [activity] [general animal]
Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Tonga Worrying Thrush
Greenland Vomiting Sloth
Sri Lanka Critical Hen (“You call this a coop? This is a shithole. Bok.”)
These are starting points, obviously.
Tickets to the Traveling Religious Circus: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I have to know. Is it one religion or kind of a smorgasbord? How closely do they hew to the circus theme? The bearded nun! Shooting a rabbi out of a cannon! Orange-robed Buddhist monks on the flying trapeze! A human pyramid of whirling dervishes! (Yeah, I know it’s probably just a buzzkill about hell, but a man can dream.)
A layered meat: Would you believe I’ve never had a turducken, let alone one of those old-woman-who-swallowed-the-fly Bedouin stuffed camels? Granted, I probably couldn’t ever eat an actual camel – I’d imagine my own camel’s sweet scowling little face – but I’m in love with the idea and imagine myself burrowing in until only my fat little feet stick out cartoonishly from the side of a buffalo. “2Birds1blog Investigates: the Interior of a Meat.”
A big Cadillac with longhorn horns on the hood and a horn that plays “The Yellow Rose of Texas”: Because I’m an asshole. I want it to be a garish color and for the stereo to only play Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.
But as I said, cash is lovingly accepted.