There are those who believe that you should celebrate your birthday for at least a month after it actually happens, and I have come to share that philosophy. As we grow older my friends and I no longer necessarily have comparable nine-to-five hours and can’t always get together en masse as we used to, so we have to steal time for gatherings by hook or by crook. Weekends are out for me and most of my crew are either currently residing upstate and raising families, or their schedules don’t allow them to come and go on intoxicating adventures the way they once did.
My high school friend Cat and I have held some form of annual celebration for our birthdays for the past fifteen years, starting out on her tenement roof in Hell’s Kitchen, moving to Riverside Park when we both lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and finally ending up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with our largest barbecue crowds (sometimes totaling 100-plus). After that our close-knit tribe began to disperse and move on in life, so it was simply easier for all of us to choose a bar that we could all take over and if the usual suspects could attend then so be it. If not, we’d see each other again at some other time. This year’s Birthday Loooooove Sensation was pushed back from its customary late June/early July slot due to endless scheduling conflicts from all involved, but we were finally able to schedule the shindig for the last Monday in July, less than one week before my buddy Jared’s annual birthday do in Rockland County, so it was likely that if you attended one or both of the gatherings you’d see the whole crew.
Since Monday also happens to be the start of my “weekend,” I went into the city for my usual weekly walkabout, stopping off to see what’s new at Kim’s Video and throwing a plain Wendy’s triple-cheeseburger down my eager gullet. As I made my way over to Library I took the scenic route and waxed nostalgic over the bygone days when the Lower East Side was a truly wild-and-wooly, ultra-dangerous haven for junkies, thieves and killers (remember Daniel Rackowitz, the artist who murdered his girlfriend and ingeniously disposed of her body by making her into soup and feeding her to the local homeless? No, seriously! Look him up!) and also the birthplace of New York’s 1970’s punk rock/new wave scene, with the soon-to-be-closed CBGB serving as the launching pad for Talking Heads, Blondie, and, of course, the Ramones.
The Ramones made the area so famous that there is even a street posthumously dedicated to their frontman.
I made it to Library bar — on Avenue A between 1st and 2nd Streets — at 5PM and struck up a conversation with Becca, the charming bartender who is very easy on the eyes.
After my customary round of Jose Cuervo with a Budweiser chaser I waited for my friends to start arriving and first on the scene was Jared, who’d been kind enough to travel down from his home upstate. After that the usual cast of characters came out of the woodwork.
I chose Library for this year’s location because it’s one of the last good Lower East Side dive joints, complete with a jukebox crammed with punk/metal/psychedelic favorites, lots of my kind of atmosphere,
a projection screen for all manner of questionable cinema, claustrophobic, black-painted, graffiti-festooned restrooms,
and fifties-style booths that appear to have been accented with a dull switchblade.
Among the highlights of the evening were the following:
A reunion of Paul Becton, myself, and Jared, all former grunts on the comics biz frontline in the Marvel Comics Bullpen of the 1990's.
Dear old friend and comics biz goddess Amanda Conner assists me with a beer. Gotta love them Irish chix!
International playboy and gadabout Steve Hughes, freshly returned from a sojourn in Brazil.
The man with the coolest name in history: Paul Frankenstein. I swear, the charismatic motherfucker should be a secret agent or something!
Bill Wrigley and Mark Gilson, two always-welcome reprobates who share my rabid interest in hopeless geekery.
Cat's two-year-old daughter, Cleonir-Rose, showing up and having fun with tribeswoman Lexi.
NOTE: the kid's also my niece, so fuck with her at your own considerable peril.
But the icing on the cake was having one of my all time favorite movies, namely THE STREET FIGHTER, running on the projection screen and exposing newbies to the bone-crunching wonder of Sonny Chiba.
"You tell that bitch who sent you how sorry I am that I can no longer be her friend!" Sonny Chiba shares the love in a scene from THE STREET FIGHTER.
All in all, an excellent way to wind down my forty-first birthday festivities, and with that I will leave you with a solid kick in the guts from good old Sonny.