Lies and Untruths

Peter Gillette

Last year, my birthday became April 18, 1983, moving forward two days from where it had been before.
No, the new pope didn’t get all zany and change the Gregorian calendar or anything like that – I had signed up for Facebook. Two days before the anniversary of my birth, people came out in droves to wish me a happy birthday.
As I turn 23, though, I can’t help but feel, I don’t know, a little let down. I don’t have any cupcakes to share with the class. I can’t get a free clown cone from Baskin Robbins.
(By the way, those cones are absolutely frightening. I’m not scared of clowns, incidentally, but I’m absolutely terrified by sugar cones. Strange, huh?)
College is just, like, kind of a ho-hum time, maybe.
My freshman year, my birthday fell on a Saturday, and so my mom came up and let me loose in Media Play to buy CDs and DVDs to my heart’s content. It was my best birthday of the college era. We had dinner at the Machine Shed, a restaurant dedicated to John Deere tractors and founded on the philosophy dictates that decor, flavor, condiments, and even serving dishes ought not distract you from the pure, thick, gluttonous taste of meat itself. Then came the Pimps and Hos Party.
For all of my little brother’s birthdays, he gets to take a group of friends to see the Chicago Wolves play some hockey between fights. A couple of years ago, I tried to take a page from his playbook, going to the Timber Rattlers stadium on “Bang for Your Buck” night, which happened to fall on my 21st birthday. I had exactly one dollar with me, and borrowed a dollar to buy a hot dog. The game? Rained out. It was not exactly the “rite of passage” associated with that special day.
This year, I’ll hear Salman Rushdie speak, which I’m sure will be – by the time you read this, was – a treat, and then I get to skip lunch to study Ovid; but the gift of being able to decipher and appreciate the form and grammatical construction of Latin literature by means of a sound liberal arts education is the greatest gift of all.
Each birthday, friends always try to share the gift of history with me. “It’s also Hitler’s birthday.” “Did you know it’s a stoner holiday?” “Did you know that it’s the Columbine anniversary?”
You know, as a high school junior in 1999, I managed to miss the whole Columbine thing. Thanks for letting me know, Tacitus. When people tell me such obscure facts, I always wow them with this one: This past Thursday, Jessica Lange turned 57.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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