Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Amazing 2009 Birthday

Most of my birthdays come and go without a whole lot of hoopla, and that's the way I like it. But this year I was showered with gifts and surprises, and I'll remember it for a long time. It's not a Big One ending in a zero or even a favorite number. It's just plain old 46, divisible by 1,2,23 and 46 itself, and that's about it for whole numbers.

The Language and Literature Department at BCCC has an annual Women Reading and Writing event where women faculty, staff and students read the work of women, their own or someone else's. I haven't read in the past, and I wasn't planning on reading this year especially since the event fell on my actual birthday. It's hard to resist people I like, though, and when a few of the organizers asked me again to read, and then pleaded because they had an empty spot, I relented. I thought that might happen, and had quickly grabbed something of my shelf at home. (Yes, I work in a library but I know my own books best). The chosen passage was a piece of Frances Mayes' A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler. After "the book that changed my life" as she calls it (Under the Tuscan Sun), Ms. Mayes had the freedom and the funds to spend a year travelling to places she might like to live. Most importantly, she attempted to live as the natives live in each place. This is what she wrote about. This is how I introduced my chosen passage about exploring Madrid, a city I'd actually visited myself. I was concerned about the Spanish words that might trip me up, especially since I am physically unable to trill Rs, but there were no such words in this passage except for maybe churros, but I figured most Americans would know what they are. What I didn't see coming was the word 'penis' as in a wish candle sold in a black magic shop Ms. Mayes visited in Madrid. So there I was in front of colleagues and students, reading this favorite piece of travel writing and knowing that I was soon going to have to say the phrase 'big pink penis' into a microphone. Well maybe if I plowed right through no one would notice, but if I showed any anxiety they surely would. Some students in the front snickered (imagine a librarian saying that), but my colleagues were too busy to notice, I think. I survived, I read something unique, and I got some attention. I don't look too frazzled, either:
That evening was the birthday treat I was waiting for. As part of the Philadelphia Speaker Series that Sue and I have attended for five years now, Jane Goodall would be speaking and, for the first time in Speaker Series history, signing books. I love signed books. I love author talks. As expected, Dame Goodall was fabulous. She talked about the chimps and demonstrated a couple of their calls, talked about her life and how she got involved in this research, and finally told us about her Jane Goodall Institute (www.janegoodall.org) and all the good things they do for the environment and education. I admired her passion and I was in awe of her schedule, on the road 300 days of the year! I joined the line afterwards with my book fully expecting to be there rather late. To my surprise, I was near the front of the line and it went quickly. Not only did we get our book signed, but Dr. Goodall posed for a picture with each and every one of us! Her staff had this down to an efficient operation, and handed out business cards with instructions for downloading our photos in 7-10 days. Here's mine:
What an amazing birthday!

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