The Canadian group, The Rovers, have a song, “Wasn´t That a Party?”that seems appropriate to describing the events of yesterday and the after effects this morning.
“Could have been the whisky
Might´ve been the gin
Could´ve been the three or four six-packs I don´t know
But look at the mess I´m in
My head is like a football
I think I´m gonna die
Tell me, me oh me oh my, wasn´t a party?”
Yesterday, I officially celebrated my 50th birthday, albeit 9 days later, with friends at the Bar Metropole, across from the Hauptbahnhof St. Gallen.
For folks who regularly gather together to celebrate special events or just simply life, the events of last night were unremarkable, but to me it meant much much more…
As I get older (more mature?) a phrase that I find myself trying to live up to more and more is:
Be the change you want.
I had, prior to last night, never had a birthday party before.
As well, I had never initiated or hosted a party before.
Previous birthdays had either been celebrated quietly or low key or had gone uncelebrated.
I knew this would again be the case with She Who Must Be Obeyed.
And though she tried, in her own way, which I do appreciate, to make my half-century mark special by arranging a long weekend at a fancy four-star hotel in the Mosel Valley in Germany, truth be told, I knew that this was not what I really desired.
I am, at heart, despite my occasional ability to string words together semi-coherantly…
I am a gens de pays, a good ol´country boy, a working class hero, just a p´tit gars de St. Philippe d´Argenteuil.
And what I wanted was to let my hair down (what little remains!) in the company of similar souls and share in the warmth of their spirits.
One of the sad lessons a man in a long-term relationship grows to learn the hard way is that there resides inside every man a wild child that on occasion needs to be let outside to play.
This means there are moments when a man realizes it is necessary to do what he wants and beg forgiveness later then to wait for permission that may never come.
I knew that She Who Must Be Obeyed would not approve of my plans.
Money would have to be spent.
Alcohol would bring out the true nature of people that might best be kept secret.
And the fear that I would embarrass her and myself both would remain everpresent and hang over the festivities like a raincloud over a picnic.
I had learned a hard lesson about party-planning from departing colleague Gianluca´s farewell.
With insufficient notice and a location that required forethought on the part of the participants to get there, Gianluca was saddened at how few people there were that responded to his invitation.
I was determined not to make the same mistake.
A month in advance I arranged a place convenient and familar and an invitation that gave notice to those with other responsibilities, and then I let be what would be.
Then, of course, there is the cultural question…
In Germany, and in German-speaking Switzerland, birthdays are done differently than they are in Canada.
Here the birthday celebrant buys the cake, pays everyone´s food and drink tab, so as to ensure that all will go as planned. (Ordnung ist alles. / Order is everything.)
In simpler terms, if I invite you, I pay.
So, despite the international nature of my co-workers, I was prepared for this possibility.
I had considered buying and bringing a cake, but not knowing everyone´s taste or preference, and being from a country where one of the gods of Canada is named Tim Horton (a chain of donut shops founded by a professional hockey player. Very Canuck, eh?) I opted for donuts from a Konstanz donut shop.
To my delight, I had correctly predicted how many people would show and most seemed to love the donuts and were surprised that I had gifts for each one of them as well.
(Maybe I should rethink my career and become party-planner? Nahhh)
I think things went well! 🙂
Now, despite the suggestive name of élan that “Metropole” might convey, the Bar is only a slight upgrade from what one would find in a tavern or a working man´s pub.
It is not quite as seedy a spot as Don Henley´s Sunset Grill, but by the same token being across from the main train station does attract all sorts of colourful characters!
Last night, WE were the colourful characters!
It was a jolly evening.
Fifteen of us were packed around six tables with glasses of beer, whisky and soft drinks, three boxes of 27 types of donuts and a map of the world to show our ethnic origins.
We made a deafening noise, talking at the top of our voices and singing songs we couldn´t remember.
Everyone seemed happy and overwhelmingly certain that the world was a good place and we a most noteworthy and honourable bunch of beings ever to grace God´s green Earth.
This was how I wanted to celebrate and the gods delivered!
On the whole, the hours we spent when we were perfectly and wildly and spontaneously and naturally happy are worth my headache this morning!
It wasn´t the alcohol that made us happy.
It was the camarderie, the shared moment that made life seem pretty damn decent.
From the far flung corners of the planet we gathered to celebrate that thing called Life.
Vanessa and Ben, Julia and Conrad, Nathalie and Ricardo, Yuen, Jackie and Sonam, Ricky, Volkan, Bryan, Agustin and Adrian…
From the bottom of my heart, many thanks for the moment (and the presents and the drinks) and for the intense pleasure of your company.
I am truly blessed.