Sunday, January 11, 2009

31 = Best Birthday Ever.

January 10th was my 31st Birthday. I know, I'm officially old - but that's alright. As you may or may not know, my twenties were for crap. And I've had a theory for a while that since the twenties sucked ass, and since now my life is much more together what with the job and the lifemate and the significantly increased happiness and all, maybe the thirties are my decade. So far, so good. Granted, 30 wasn't exactly perfect. But compared to some other years I've had it was a goddamn cakewalk. 27, for instance. Or 28. Well, with 31 I want to get some things accomplished. So I wanted to make sure that I started the year off right. I began by making a wish in this here wishing well... and no, I won't tell you what I wished for! Nosey buggars.

January 10th was a cold, cold day here in New York City, but plans are plans, and our
plan was to go to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and see what there was to see. Now, it being the middle of winter, what there was to see outside was mostly a lot of dead stuff. But the glory part is that they have lots of insides - fantastic greenhouse-like domes of different themes which are warm and lush year round. It's kind of awesome to stand in a tropical paradise, peering through the glass at the 26-feels-like-17 weather beyond. They have three such rooms, actually, joined together by a central indoor pavillion courtyard type space; upstairs from there is a sort of lush tropical garden of its own and the bonzai room. Now, as far as feng shui and chi are concerned I'm against bonzai trees. But the good ones are truly gorgeous, and the examples they have there are about as good as it gets. I just wonder about the spirits of the trees, trapped in bondage, tortured and unable to grow; they must become demented and somewhat evil by the time they're 150 years old like a few of them are there. But that's neither here nor there. We saw many beautiful flowers and enjoyed being surrounded by living thriving plant life while outside it was beginning to snow.

And snow it did. There had been flurries all morning, but by the time we went back outside from the greenhouses it was really working. There was a white dusting building up on everything, including the ponds outside of the Palm House. (Incidentally, if you'd like to have a wedding at the Palm House, quite a lovely venue, on a Saturday in March, it will cost you a bare minimum of $40k.) The ponds at
warmer times are home to koi and water lilies; this time of year the lilies are long gone, but the koi are still there - doing what they can under two inches of ice. I've always known this is what big goldfish in such ponds did; the ice actually insulates the water beneath keeping it above freezing. This is why it's imperative that you don't go walking on it - if you crack it the whole system is ruined and you may kill the fish. But I've never actually gotten to see the fish under the ice. They were just hanging out down there! Swimming around! Sticking together in little clumps! So, so cool. I wanted to take some video of it, but the view wasn't the greatest through the ice and snowdusting, and I never knew when one would choose to swim a little; they mostly stayed in place. Ugh, still one of the awesomest things I've ever seen though.

Now, snow in New York in January is not so very unusual. But this, my poppets, was no
ordinary snow. Due to the extremely cold temperatures, the snowflakes looked like snowflakes. Like, little water crystals with hexagonal structures - pretty and white and perfect like the ones you cut out of paper when you were a kid and hung from the ceiling, like the glass ornaments that may have adorned your tree in December. I've seen one or two "real" snowflakes before, but never anything like this. The perfect shapes just kept coming, some so small they could barely be made out, some half a centimeter or more in diameter. Like magic falling right out of the sky.

On our way back to the subway, we saw a little girl maybe eight years old waiting for the bus on Flushing Avenue: arms akimbo, tongue out to receive frozen sparks from the sky, smiling, giggling, twirling and spinning in the tiny perfectly falling flakes. The epitome of happiness. Sometimes it's the little things.

From the Botanic Gardens (a place that I truly love and if you live here and haven't been there go right now) we headed to Chinatown. It was determined that there was no better way to eat a birthday lunch than to do Dim Sum at Buddha Bodai, our favorite of the three all-vegetarian places in Chinatown. We were joined by Monica and Josh, and by Kathy and Robbie. They appeared with flowers and other awesomeness, such as long gloves and a slingshot planner - oh, yes. If you're wondering why you weren't invited it's either because a) I don't know you, b) you live in a different state, or c) trying to seat more than 6 people together at that place is neigh impossible, especially at dim sum time. As it was we had to wait 20 minutes for a table, standing out in the freezing cold of Mott street. There's also the fact that it was planned extremely last minute (can you say Friday?), because I had decided not to do anything for my birthday. You know how it is. Anyway, we had the most extraordinary lunch, as usual. If you go there, you MUST get the baked veg meat buns - it may be the best thing I've ever had. Then there are my standard favorites, the sticky rice steamed in lotus leaf, and the roasted veg meat. Every time we go there we are overwhelmed by choice - with the exception of a few dishes with egg, everything is vegan and delish. The six of us gorged and there was still plenty left over... all for under a hundred bucks. Beat that anywhere in NYC, I dare you.

After that, I got a giant tattoo. Yes, really! Also a somewhat last minute decision, though not really. I always think about getting more, and I'd actually wanted to get one while I was in New Orleans but the I got sick instead. So the idea didn't get really fully formed until the 9th. As such, we figured I'd just be going in for a consultation type meeting when we walked up to Adorned on 2nd Avenue after our dim sum bliss. Imagine my surprise when, at 4:30, I was told that Damion Ross could do my tattoo at 6!

So it was that I was able to get a fairly huge tattoo of a hybrid blooming dogwood/cherry tree branch on my 31st birthday. The original plan was to get the same thing on both shoulders; that was before I was under the needle, remembering exactly how much it actually hurts to get a tattoo and finding out how my shoulder muscles react to being worked on. I realized that if I wanted to get any sleep for the next week (or two or three) it would be prudent to wait until one side healed before doing the other. That was probably in part a plan of my tattoo artist - It's more expensive to do it in installments. But whatever. I think it's for the best. And I will get the other side done, oh yes - I'm thinking Valentine's day will be optimal timing. Both for healing, and because I'm working on conning Jonathan into getting just one of the flowers tattooed on him somewheres. Hee. Wouldn't that just be freakin' adorable?

I will now digress into showing you pictures of pretty flowers.

The outline completed, no color. For the most part the outline hurts the most. But then the skin is good and irritated, so even though the shading and coloring is less difficult procedurally it can hurt just as much. But ain't it perdy?? Once I saw this, I knew It was all worth it.

I went in with a fairly vague notion of what I wanted, mostly just with a lot of pictures of dogwood flowers. Damion took it from there. The branches came out significantly more elaborately than anything I'd been thinking... and not at all like dogwood branches. But they're gorgeous, and the flowers are obviously dogwood flowers, so I'm not really worried about it.

The flowers are actually distinctly more white and less pink than they appear here - a lot of the color that you're seeing in this picture is, um, blood. I promise to post pics when it's healed. Interesting note about the branchwork: he put in the flowers via stencil, and then just drew in the branches by hand with a sharpie.

After you get a tattoo, they bandage you; you keep the bandages on for a couple of hours to soak up the blood. They use these pads that are made for putting under slabs of meat (like steaks) when they get packaged in styrofoam and covered over with plastic wrap - so that dinner isn't sitting in a pool of blood when mom goes shopping at the grocery. I can't decide whether it's weirder to use these pads as bandages or as blood sinks for steaks. I want to say that the meat packaging is weirder, but then I think I might be biased.

Finished with the tattoo adventure we wanted a little pick-me-up, so we headed to Think at the corner of Bleaker and Bowery - which now has beer! As you may know, I worked for Think for a while, and as luck may have it some of my friends are still around. As a matter of fact and as an extra special plus on my birthday I must say, one of my favorite people ever, Miss Elizabeth (the Vixen) was there. She made me the most beautiful soy hot chocolate the world has ever seen. See? As she would put it, her liberal arts education is paying off. And kittens, if you ever stop by Think, remember what angry penguin says: Bus Your Table!

So yes, I stand by my verdict. Best birthday ever. I spent the whole day being happy, enjoying the world around me, and feeling loved. Thank you to everyone who came out, called, texted, and otherwise took part in the day. Thank you to the snow, a startlingly perfect conspiracy of clouds and air. Thank you to the magical, if somewhat painful, transformation that is receiving a beautiful new tattoo. Thank you New York City, exquisite backdrop for fantastic days of tromping, exploring, and living. Hurrah for January 10th, 2009 - may you be a good omen of things to come.


Dan said...

nice tat! happy birthday!

Tom said...

I don't remember if I felt old on my 31st, but I sure as hell did a couple of months ago on my 39th. Saturday night some dude asked me how old I was, and I just told him I was forty - figured it was just as well to get it out of the way.

I love that you got a tattoo. I've started thinking about getting one. It's either that or a dacshund, and I'm not home enough to care for a pup.

If I'd known your birthday was coming, I would have done that giant bee I still owe you. I guess I have to get on that one. It won't look as nice as your dogwood, though.

Genevieve said...

Mel, that tattoo kicks ass! I love it! And I didn't know that ice isulated the water and that if you crack it you could kill fish. Yoiks.

Tom, duuuuude! Join the tattooed! My dad just got one. My sisters and I were so proud.

Tom said...

Tattoo...I need to stop thinking about that, and yet I love the artistry of it! Fortunately, I'm a little broke, so maybe I'll just look. Yeah, sure, THAT'S harmless! There was a girl working at the photo lab last night who had a hawk that was three different shades, and it made me really wish I was capable of follicle growth again.

Yeah, water is warmer below the ice, and dirt's warmer below the initial surface. In graveyards they throw heating blankets on the ground where they need to dig a new grave. Under the first foot or so of froze ground it's just like regular, loose dirt, so it doesn't need to heat very deeply for them to get started. Just thought you'd want to know that.

melissa bastian. said...

Aww, Tom. Just get a tattoo already. It's good for you, builds character. And while it does require some initial care and maintenance, it doesn't take nearly as much work as a dacshund.