Well, the Rose Alcantara Birthday Season has closed the books on another year.
Since the day she was born — on Sept. 7, mumble … mumble– the world has often felt a rather frenzied uptick in activity and happiness in the week’s preceding this event.
Long before I met Rose, her birthday season was filled with road rallies, theatrical skits and dancing, scavenger hunts, magical enterprises and most importantly, lots of friends and family.
My idea of a birthday celebration is the sound of the escaping hiss from a single can of beer in an otherwise vacant and monastically enshrouded livingroom. Or on an empty beach. It is in April and usually, that means a cold and rainy and empty beach.
I’m just like that. I am inept and unimaginative when it comes to celebrations of all sorts.
Just ask my kids.
So, setting aside the mystery of what Rose saw in me as a spouse …
… This was a pretty nice birthday, I think.
As always, it begins with the “Cascade of Small Presents.” During the weeks leading up to Rose’s birthday, I desperately try to turn everything I spend money on into a “pre-birthday present.”
I’m also careful not to buy too many things for myself, because that would be wrong. That is my biggest problem with Christmas. I head out for a day of shopping and usually come home with a shirt, pair of shoes, toothpaste, and a book — all for me.
Come to think of it, that is almost how Rose and I met. I was going to be spending Christmas in San Francisco with my sons and ex-wife and her husband. My very wise sister-in-law Kara assigned one of her very best friends to meet me in the city to help me with my shopping. That was Rose.
I say almost how we met because we connected just before Thanksgiving, fell in love, and were a hopeless sort of item by the time Christmas rolled around.
I didn’t yet know about the Birthday Season.
This year, I managed to attach quite a few lunches, bottles of wine, groceries, flowers, coffee and pastries at Buonforno’s, the Friday copy of Atencion — I did the dishes and took out the trash in celebration — and got Chamber music concert tickets to add to the pre-birthday present train.
I must have said “Happy Birthday” a hundred times after buying the ordinary things we need to buy. Oooh, so clever …
I wasn’t always successful.
High on my list was matching plastic flyswatters. Much to my chagrin, while I was busy buying myself two shirts and a pair of pants at the Tuesday Market, Rose came back with two swatters. And a comal for heating tortillas … which was also on my list.
I countered with two bags of savory trail mix from the confection concession at Liverpool. She didn’t see that coming.
Some items were hits — a stone mortar and pestle for the kitchen and an Oster batidora de immersion, to replace the one that broke.
Not everything was a household item. A very nice black-and-white embroidered peasant blouse from Chaskis Galleria Artesanal in Centro was maybe the biggest hit. (OK, I did walk out of the story with a nice burgundy Guayabera, a gift from my friend Efrain Gonzalez and his sister Etelvina Pillajo who owns the store. ) I must say, it looks beautiful on her.
Pre-Birthday Party at Hank’s on Friday:
Friday night for a pre-birthday celebration, Rose decided on happy hour at Hank’s in Centro and while she discretely invited a few people to join us, I, of course, went on Facebook and invited the entire world. We ended up corralling the back room and it turned into a fine time with wonderful people.
The Hank’s crew even brought out a piece of chocolate cake with a candle in it.
And all the angry people on the San Miguel Civil List will be pleased to hear that all the drunken male Trump fanatics who bullied a woman out of Hank’s last week — well, they didn’t show their ignorant pusses in the back room. Maybe because there were a half dozen large men at the party. MAGAs are cowards. Let’s face it, they move in packs and prey on the less-strong.
Opening of Yo, San Miguel gallery:
Last night, Rose and I went to Casa Nostra for dinner. We love that place. Not only are Marco and his staff a great bunch of people, but the food is also delicious. What makes it though, is that the presentation is a mix of high art and theater.
Dinner at Casa Nostra:
Our new friends Mark and Pam Mekjavich joined us for dinner and helped make the night special, with great friends and conversation.
Many of our friends from the previous night at Hank’s showed up just as we were leaving for dinner. It felt suspiciously like the party never stopped.
Of course, the celebration isn’t completely over. Don’t tell Rose but I have one more blockbuster gift for her. If I can get my act together and purchase it.
Meanwhile, Facebook has been graciously serving up Memories of Birthday’s Past. That’s what made me realize (once again) what a hoot it is to be married to Rose and to get to hang out (or hang on for dear life) with her.
I have Facebook memories of Rose’s birthdays going back to 2010. We’ve had some really good times!
Thank you, Rose! Thank you for celebrating life with a passion and never aging, even a month.
2010 — Pine Run
This was big. For her birthday, I brought Rose out to the family compound — 22 acres of forested land on the Clarion River in north-central Pennsylvania. She got to meet some of my seven brothers and my sister and their families.
Mainly, she got to meet my folks. Taking a woman out to the forest to meet your folks on her birthday — how scary that must be!
She got to see the annual Clarion River regatta, an event that has occurred spontaneously for more than three decades.
We stayed at a stone cottage beside the river, just a little downstream from Pine Run.
2011 — Hmmmmmm.
I was still living and working in San Diego, while Rose and her daughter Caira were up in the Bay Area, between San Francisco and Sacramento. It was a commuter relationship.
I don’t remember her birthday that year, and I suspect for good reason. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook that day:
“Power out in Southern Cal/Mexico and I’m just realizing some stuff: stars will be beautiful tonight with no lights. Driving home will be creepy with no lights. I’m locked out of my gated garage. I’m locked out of the electric front door. My flight to SF tomorrow morning is canceled.“
Update: Virgin America rebooked me for Saturday morning. From Facebook: “7:10 am flight to SFO was canceled last night by Virgin America. Earliest I could get a seat is Saturday. Still in time for breakfast with son Ryan and Chinatown bar crawl with gang for Rose’s birthday.”
That’s why I couldn’t remember! Chinatown Bar Crawl. It is all coming back to me …
2012 — A big improvement.
Leading up to Rose’s birthday, we decided to take several days to bicycle around San Francisco Bay. The road trip began with a ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. We stayed in Marin County with Kara, my sister-in-law who introduced us, and pedaled down the shore and across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Pacific Beach area and more friends. On the third day we just pedaled all around San Francisco.
The journey culminated that night in a three-way birthday celebration upstairs at the Wayfare Tavern near San Francisco’s Financial District and a night on the town with old friends.
2013 –Celebration in Belize, Part 1
We combined an exploration of Belize, our future home, with Rose’s birthday. On Sept. 7 we landed at Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn between the Garifuna settlement of Seine Bight and the one-time sleepy Creole fishing village of Placencia. Turtle Inn is like some sort of fantastic movie set with quasi-rustic cottages decorated in Polynesian art and architecture.
Birthday dinner was in a restaurant where you couldn’t tell where the beach ended and the dining began. Magical.
2014 — The Blue Hole, Celebration in Belize Part 2
Now living in Belize, what better way to celebrate than by taking an all-day dive boat out to the Blue Hole?
2015 — Sand bar, Celebration in Belize Part 3
This is how you celebrate birthdays on Ambergris Caye. You charter a boat, invite 20 of your best friends, bring ten gallons of rum punch and other beverages and food enough for 40 people.
Cruise around to the back of the island and chase dolphins and manatees for a while before pointing the bow into a smoky white sandbar. That becomes the base for the day, as you sit in a big circle in five inches of warm Caribbean saltwater and just chill.
A day like that is equal to a two-week vacation in the States.
Update: In 2014, I bought Rose fenders for her beach bike in Belize. Not the sexiest present for a girl, but, oh, so practical. In 2015 I bought her a gently used roof for Monch 59, our badly abused golf cart.
Who says I’m not a romantic?
2016 — I don’t remember! What’s up, Facebook!
Something in Belize, I’m guessing. I’m sure I bought myself a very nice T-shirt.
2017 — Merida and Chicago — the band, not the city
By now, lots of friends were drifting away from Belize. We spent Rose’s birthday in Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula with a bunch of them, including Steve and Sue Blair who opened a ridiculously charming B&B called Casa Dos Lirios .
Chicago was performing at the new Coliseo Yucatan the night before Rose’s birthday and the next night we ate at Oliva Enoteca, a great little restaurant.
2018 — El Charco in San Miguel de Allende
With San Miguel de Allende in Mexico now our permanent home we decided to explore our base for her birthday. What better way than hiking up to El Charco for the day? I think we also celebrated the installation of three stents in my left ventricle artery and a return to good health.
In 2020 — ????
Next year, I think we’ll go really, really big … In 2020, I think we’ll spend all of September working in the states for whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is.
“Here, Rose, for your birthday I’m giving you the head of Donald Trump on a platter. ”
Top that as a present, I dare you.