11/17/07 - posted by jb
Today is my birthday and my two (older) sisters took me to lunch at Joe’s of Westlake. I don’t know why I add the “Westlake” save for a bit of reverence to Original Joe’s and all the other Not-So-Original ones.
The fog was done to perfection and the ever-present wait well worth it. Last time the three of us ate there together was 1964 so we ordered a arousing round of nostalgia with a cup of pastina and some filleting of souls. Like 2001; A Space Odyssey, I could see our past youthful faces in the reflections of our eyes and our aging faces, painted on the octogenarians celebrating a birthday in the booth near ours. Moved by a sense of thankfulness and the Corvette, I headed up to Colma to spend some time with my family who no longer wines and dines, although I’m likely dead wrong on this one since it was food and drink that put most of them in their graves.

I like going out to visit cemeteries. I find them peaceful and very much alive. This is a good time to go. The leaves are turning and many of the graves are adorned with flowers hinting at the haunting and beautiful continuum of life’s many cycles. I stopped and bought some bouquets across from the Italian Cemetery because they will split them into two at no extra charge and I had 8 gravesites to attend. I have this path and ritual down to a science but nothing ever goes as expected. “Life is what happens when we are busy making plans.” Alas, I seem to be out of quotes about death at the moment. All I know is that it is seemingly permanent and a fate that awaits us all some day. Colma seems to be growing.

What I find most interesting is the ‘conversations” I share with my dearly departed. Today was small talk because I had to hit the freeway before 3pm or else best pitch a tent. I had a shot of Tullamore Dew with my Dad, made sure my Bubby received the most colorful arrangement and revvvvvved the Vette’s engine along side of my Grandfather’s headstone. I’m certain he heard and appreciated it; he was always a car fancier and bought my sister a new ’64 GTO so she wouldn’t be late for school. I made sure the plaque was placed at my Uncle Tom’s plot, since it had not been during my last visit.

And there it was, big as life. It reminded me of the brass plates that lined and defined the Balclutha’s inner hull, a favorite place he would take me when I was young. He spent a lot of time at sea and for Christmas, we always gave him Old Spice because of the ship on the bottle. The built-in cup for flowers at his grave was filled with dirt and I had to dig it out with my hands to place his flowers. It was a very intimate experience for many reasons; one being that the feel of cold, moist earth on warm skin is a powerful reminder of being alive. It struck me as a wake-up call and may well be the most important and valuable birthday present I receive this year. And as I type, the stains still remain beneath my fingernails, tiny grains falling with every keystroke.
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