They Say It’s Your Birthday

What’s more personal then your birthday? It’s perhaps the most personal thing you could put on your own website. However, sometimes what makes your special day so personal is that it is actually tied to others. There’s a picture of my first birthday sitting bare-chested in front of birthday cake that I was entrapped into destroying. Next to me is my Uncle Lonnie. Lonnie and I share the same birthday and seeing myself as a brand new one year old sitting to what appears to be grown man has always stuck with me. Now that I’m 45 today, and Lonnie is 70, seeing us next to each other doesn’t seem to be such a radical age gap. Having a relative with your same birth date is pretty cool, but having the same birth date of a super star is super cool.

Frank Jr's first birthday 1970 in Alaska

September 21st seems to be a popular date in the stars. Fellow same-day Virgos that I know of their works are Stephen King, Liam Gallagher, Faith Hill, Alfonso Ribeiro, Larry Hagman, Luke Wilson, Ricki Lake, Leonard Cohen, H.G. Wells, and Cheryl Hines. However, for me, my favorite special day person is none other than Bill Murray. I have always liked Murray’s work since seeing him on Saturday Night Live. Over the years he just seems to be getting cooler and cooler. He’s got 19 years on me, but I think it would still be fun to party with him.

Perhaps better than sharing a birthday with a real-life super star would be sharing it with a fictitious one. For me it’s not just one, but TWO. The first is Doogie Howser, M.D. I’ve only ever seen a few snippets of the show, but on one that I did see they made a reference to it being September 20th and Doogie’s birthday was going to be the next day. After a bit of Googling and Wikipeding, I’ve discovered that the first episode of every season is tied to his birthday. A show I did watch religiously and discovered a related birthday was 30 Rock. In season 3, episode 13 “Goodbye, My Friend,” it is revealed that Dot Com birthday is September 21st as he’s filing his nails: “My birthday is September 21st. Not that anyone asked.”

But perhaps the most glorious of birthday honors is if your special day is glorified through song. To this I thank Earth, Wind & Fire and their 1978 number one hit – September. It starts off with the classic line: “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” The song has such magical staying power that NPR even just did a segment on how the song has stood the test of time, and even how they picked the 21st as the date.

So when you’re birthday comes rolling along give it a once over and see what’s going on. Maybe you’ll find a little gift or two.


The Spirit of Quals Eve

Today is the day before I am to receive my questions for the qualifying exam of the PhD program I am in. We call them “quals” for short. The quals begin as four questions – one from each of your four qual-panel members. For me I have two areas of study with two panel members in each. What I will need to do at 9:00 tomorrow morning is pick up my four questions from the school, and choose one question from each of the two areas. From that point I will answer my two chosen questions in the form of two papers of 20-25 pages each all over the course of 10 days. This is the gauntlet we all must run to prove we have the mettle to be scholars. There’s also an oral review we do approximately two weeks after that, but that’s another story for another day.

So today I realized that it was Quals Eve. With it being Quals Eve I must prepare in some way for quals. For the most part that means to not freak out. In truth I have been preparing for several weeks, and in truth of that I have been preparing for two years of course work, and in truth of that there were the previous two years of master’s work, and in truth it’s really all of the actions of my life that have lead me to Quals Eve. I am all of my “mes” today.

I have been toying with several analogies of what the quals are like, but perhaps the best, which is probably really a metaphor, is Carlos Castaneda’s book where he goes out into the desert to find himself and is guided by his spirit animal along the way. It’s from a series I believe, but I had only read the one book. And there’s a lot of hallucinogenic drug taking as well. That might, or might not explain a lot. Anywho, Matt Groening has emblazoned it in my memory through The Simpson’s when Homer, after eating a super hot pepper at Springfield’s Chili Off, is lost in a desert and then guided by a Johnny Cash-voiced coyote. Homer asks if he should get rid of all of his worldly possessions, and after a guttural guffaw, Johnny Coyote answers, “If anything you should get more possessions – you don’t even have a computer.” Classic.

So toying with this some more in my mind today I was wondering what animal would be my spirit guide through this mysterious journey called quals? My 10-year-old daughter and I were walking around the corner of our apartment before dinner this evening and we were startled to see a baby squirrel sprawled out on the sidewalk. The little critter was about 7” with tail and it looked extremely young. It was still breathing and actually looked more like it was napping. We poked it a little here and there and it moved different parts of its body. It’s eyes never opened, so we surmised that it was to young to see, and probably fell out of the tree we were standing under, and doing the only thing it really knew how to do. Chill out.

It became clear at that moment that I had found my spirit guide. Though at that moment I failed to understand how this lethargic little creature was going to engage my inner spirit and guide me through one of the most important moments of my life – or at least the most important moment at hand. I have always been partial to squirrels, so that was maybe something? But then I remembered a paper we had read in one of my first PhD courses and the author related some story to squirrels and they had impressed me as someone who knew very little about wild creatures, and had probably never even taken the time out of their lives to just observe those around them. And in “those” I mean creatures other then humans. It is easy to put us on the top of the list of Animals That Communicate to Each Other the Best, when we as humans are the ones writing that list. Further more, maybe we only came up with writing so that we could make that list? Don’t get me started!

It was obvious that we were not going to be able to keep my newfound spirit guide, so we needed to find a place to bring him. And so the journey was revealed. The closest, and perhaps only place, to bring my wayward friend was the Wild Baby Rescue Center in Blairstown, NJ. That’s an hour and 40 minute one-way drive from my house. That’s over three hours of driving for those playing at home. However, the time was not to be questioned. It was only a human construct that I must measure in to bring the baby squirrel where he needed to go. (We discovered that he had a penis at the center, which is an amazing place and could well do with your donation.)

I see that it’s now 12:02 AM and officially Quals Day, and I have seen what my spirit guide had to tell me: relax, write, and the time will pass. Thank you, Spirit Squirrel.