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Essay: A Memorable Birthday

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Antti T. Nissinen
/
Flickr

Lake Effect essayist Elaine Maly's birthday is tomorrow.  But as she looks ahead to the next one, she also looks back at a notorious one from her past:

My birthday is January 8th. Two weeks after Christmas and one week after New Years, in the dead of Wisconsin’s winter. It’s usually not much of a celebration. I’ve had a birthday gathering that was canceled due to a six foot snowfall. A birthday when no one, not even my mother, remembered to send a card. Oh, and then there was the year I turned 40. I had an emergency tonsillectomy. Yep, at best, my birthday has been just another day for my entire adulthood.

Except for last year. I was turning 59, the last year of a big decade, and I had just quit a job that paid well but sucked the joy out of life. It was time to get out of the god forsaken freezer we live in and let our friends, California Dave and his wife, Misao, show us a good time. Dave and Misao live in San Jose and are wonderful hosts. My husband, Tom, and I had visited them many times before and they knew exactly what I would like. The morning of January 8th we set out for a long hike in the red woods of Henry Cowell Park and had a picnic lunch. Then on to wine tasting at Beauregard Winery. Late afternoon we headed to Bonny Doon beach to watch what promised to be a glorious sunset.

As we started our slightly tipsy descent down the sand dunes with a blanket to find a comfortable viewing spot, something besides the setting sun caught our attention. A paunchy middle aged naked guy with shoulder length white hair, who had a remarkable resemblance to my husband from a distance, was running laps between dunes.

“Hey, that guy could be Tom’s stunt double,” said Dave. A humorous observation. There were distinct similarities. But seeing a naked guy wasn’t a big deal. We’d been to this beach before and been exposed to similar situations. This is a nude friendly beach but we’re not the type to indulge.

We had just settled down on our blanket to watch the sunset when Misao inexplicably got up and took off after Naked Guy. Most of the time, Misao is pretty quiet and reserved but every once in a while, she surprises us. Like the time she yelled “Heat it up, heat it up” at the craps table at Potawatomi. Or the time she leaned over the balcony to blow kisses to the cast of Jersey Boys. Or the time she scolded me for being impatient with my husband. She later apologized for “going all Japanese on me.”

We could see that Misao and Naked Guy were exchanging a few words and then they turned and ran back to the blanket together.

“Oh, no she didn’t,” I said and had serious thoughts about running the other way.

“I hear it’s your birthday,” said Naked Guy.

“Yes it is,” I said trying to avert my gaze.

“Well, happy birthday,” said Naked Guy with a shrug and returned to his jiggly lap running.

“Nope,” said Tom who had the same close up view I did. “No way that guy could be my stunt double.”

I laughed so hard I snorted merlot out of my nose. “If I was going to see a naked guy on my birthday, couldn’t it have been Antonio Banderas?”
 

Essayist Elaine Maly is the 2015 winner of the Wisconsin Writers Association’s humor writing contest.  She writes about her life as a native Milwaukeean at her website.

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