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Please join me on the occasion of mythirty-ninth birthday. Drinks will be served,esp. the mixed ones that announcelounge-weary sophistication: old-fashioned,lime rickey, chocolate dancer --though I onlydrink Schlitz Light. Gifts are not necessary,but should you be strolling downtown and seesome nicely framed limited-edition printof a sad battlefield where a general'scaprice cost thousands of lives, or a pairof antique binoculars, or a vintageboard game where the Happy Days charactershave to rush Fonzie to the hospital,knock yourself out. Even a mail-ordercertificate that allows me to performwedding services in the Philippineswould be a nice touch; but no funny cardsabout aging, please, no To My Friendon His One Hundredth Birthday, No You're NotJust Getting Older.Àæ You're Losing Hair Too!And even if you have bought me a ticketoverseas and secured a seat for meat the finest hash bar in Amsterdam,don't even think of saying, 'Welcometo the Netherlands.' There will be hors d'oeuvres,the tiniest of tiny foods, tastyminiatures of already miniature snacks,baby corn so small it'll look like Niblets,taquitos so small, so diminudo,they will be called taquitoitos andthey will look like the bits at the bottomof a bag of corn chips. I also have hot salsaI once bought in South Texas, on a dare,which claims to use pepper-spray extractssqueezed from the used big-nozzle canistersof riot squads that have subdued the world'smost determined hippies--drink up, my friends!There'll be a piñata made up to looklike an old college professor who oncepredicted I'd go far, his hands in his pockets,the pink-tissued face making him look likea cartoon pig who sells insurance.I can hardly wait to give that thing a whack.Conversation's the most important thingto me, you know, and I want to hear allabout your trips to Barcelona, yourremodelled homes 'not far from the city,'the radio quizzes that you gamely won,and all about the tipsy, week-longadventures that involve the bronzed thighsof lovers old and new. You need not censoryourself from questionable phrasessuch as 'bony pony' or 'nipple burn.'I live for those stories but, FYI,I have instructed many friends to steeraway from the following potentiallyharassing topics: old hairstyles, jokes pickedfrom Dave or Jay, that time I thought flammableand inflammable meant different things,the summer I said I would 'concentrateon my portfolio' and ended uptaking extra shifts at a frozen-yogurt stand,enduring a long season of conversationsthat were all fro-yo this and fro-yo that.Let's not talk about those heartfelt novelsthat try to adduce the spirit of a deadfather, novels period, pyramid schemesand most things that stink of the eighties.So, the music will be lighter on eightiesnostalgia than many of these gatheringstend to be, but my mixed tapes will astonishyou with their blend of intemperate jugbands, wounded young princes on their brand newStratocasters, logo-savvy DJSflowing trip-hop bright beat jungle, Hawaiianslack-key guitarists who are so laid-backthey make Rastafarians sound like aerobicsinstructors. There'll be celebrations ofGabrielle Destroismaisons, who's known as'the French Britney Spears,' and Lorie,who's also known as 'the French Britney Spears.'Don't worry, if you get a strong desireto hear' 'a little ditty 'bout Jack and Diane'we'll see what we can do. It's all goingto go smoothly, there should be enough spacefor your coats and shoes in my little room,and I hired a Portuguese interpreterjust so I could tell the person who livesbelow me there'll be no need this time to callthe cops: muito pesaroso, dancingwill have to be done in your stocking feetas the linoleum in my place scuffsquite easily. If it gets late and I startsinging along to Mariah Carey's'Never Too Far,' do not get embarrassed,just let me go for the high notes and, asa rule, assume all sexual confusionsare your own. Do not be surprised if, bysheer miracle, my beloved should acceptmy invitation and show up at my door;you will no doubt be awed by her fine glow,by a bone structure that is right nowwaking Rodin from the dead, by a voiceyou will stop to listen to, as if it wereabout to reveal a secret you've been searchingfor since you turned thirteen. My belovedwill then lead us all in a heartfelt roundof 'Happy Birthday,' and we'll share cake!--coconut pillow divine--and storiesof past anniversaries where we'd turn outthe lights, dabble with the leftovers inthe medicine cabinet, lie on the sofaand play a whole year's tape of phone messages.If, unexpectedly, I excuse myselffrom the party and walk into the cold air,even forgetting a jacket, you canrest assured I will not be gone for long,no matter how tempting it would beto go see a movie uptown, alone.I would never think of abandoningthe beauty of your friendship. Répondez,and, please, BYOB, just to be safe.

© McGimpsey David